Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Brief Respite

Something was tapping Ryan on the face, gentle but insistent slaps that finally drug him out of his slumber. The sun was shining through the window, and Caitlin was sitting on his chest, patting him on the forehead and laughing.

“Get up, Daddy!” she grinned, her hair still tousled from sleep. “Get outta bed!”

“Since when did you become an early riser?” he grumbled, pulling the pillow over his head. Presently, a blonde head peeked underneath, nose pressed firmly to his.

“Get up!” she insisted, placing a wet, sloppy kiss squarely on his lips.

“Watch it, Miss Slobber Fountain!” he protested, pulling her to his chest and rolling over, tickling her ribs. Caitlin squealed with delight and squirmed away, and the fight was on. For several minutes, they rolled around on the bed, wrestling and giggling in an all-out, no-holds-barred tickle fight. Ryan finally cried uncle and retreated under the covers, leaving her to climb all over him in a vain attempt to worm her way under the covers and continue the match.

“Come on, Daddy,” she pleaded. “I want pancakes!” Still grumbling, Ryan rolled out of bed and set Caitlin on the floor while he made a beeline for the bathroom. She tottered unsteadily down the hall ahead of him toward the kitchen, ankles rolling slightly inward without the support of her braces.

Look at her! She looks great- walking, using her left hand, and talking better than ever. So God, why is it that you can answer that prayer and ignore all the other ones? Is almost losing Caitlin the penance I have to pay for abandoning Renee? Is losing my wife the price I have to pay for having Caitlin whole and healthy? I sure wish you’d tell me, cause I’m still searching for fucking answers here…

“Hurry up, Daddy!” Caitlin pleaded impatiently. “I want chockit milk and pancakes!”

“Right behind you, stinker,” he reassured her. “Do you think we might eat something besides pancakes for a change? Maybe bacon and eggs? How about cereal?”

And sorry about the blasphemy, God.

“Don’t want cer-ul!” she said firmly. “Want pancakes!”

One day, Caitlin will turn into a pancake, or perhaps a chicken nugget. Typical three-year-old tastes, simple and comfortably predictable. Cut the kid, and she’d probably bleed maple syrup.

Her speech therapist had told Ryan that she had become far more receptive to different tastes and textures than she had been just a few months ago.

And a good thing, too,
Ryan grunted to himself. With a steady diet of pancakes, pizza and McDonald’s takeout, the shadow of my ass probably weighs twenty pounds all by itself. I could use some grownup food.

Ryan fixed a couple of pancakes for Caitlin, heavy on the syrup, and poured cereal for himself. “So what are we going to do today?” he asked Caitlin.

She was carefully maneuvering a fork to her mouth, a huge chuck of pancake perched precariously on the tip. Ryan cringed as she shoveled it into her mouth, nearly spearing herself in the eye with her fork. Ryan would have fed her, but Caitlin was a big girl. She insisted on doing it herself.

“Wmpbfh go fithbbnnn,” she said around a mouthful of pancake. She grinned a toothy, maple syrup smile and swallowed. “Wanna go fishin’,” she said more clearly. Ryan grinned back at her.

Well, the rain has stopped, but the river is way too high for fishing. But she doesn’t much care if she catches anything, just as long as she’s in the boat. Fishing it is, then.

“Finish your pancakes, and we’ll go catch a fish or two.” Caitlin hurriedly shoveled more pancake into her mouth, eventually abandoning the fork and using her fingers. “We goin’ fithbbnnn,” she mumbled happily around another mouthful. Ryan chuckled and wiped the syrup from her face.

Okay, so the kid’s a fisherman, Ryan Pierce mused as he motored back to the dock three hours later. Must be the Dora the Explorer fishing tackle. Maybe fish like that brightly colored bobber and chartreuse plastic worms.

Caitlin sat happily in the bottom of the boat amidst empty sandwich wrappers and soda cans and three unlucky perch.

“I caught fish!” she said happily, eyes squinted against the wind. Ryan smiled at his daughter.

Yes you did, stinker. And Daddy didn’t catch a thing. And you’ll be lucky if you don’t get pneumonia if I don’t get you into some dry clothes.

With a typical three-year-old’s attention span, Caitlin had gotten bored quickly and dropped her pole several times, preferring instead to lean over the side of the runabout and splash in the water. She was completely soaked and thoroughly happy. Ryan beached his boat on the sloping ramp and cut the engine, and before he could step out of the boat, Caitlin was scrambling over the bow.

“Hey, hold on there, stinker!” he called out, laughing. Caitlin giggled and tried to run, slipping and falling on the wet ramp.

“Get my fish, Daddy!” she reminded him, pointing. Dutifully, Ryan lifted the stringer of fish from the bottom of the boat and scooped Caitlin up, carrying her inside.

“Whoa, you’re wet!” he scolded her playfully. Her pants and coat were soggy, soaking the front of his shirt.

“I carry ‘em!” she said proudly, taking the stringer and swiping Ryan across the face with fish slime. Ryan grimaced and set his daughter down, taking the stringer from her and setting the bedraggled fish in the sink.

“Come here and let’s get those wet clothes off,” he ordered. Caitlin wobbled over and held her arms over her head. Quickly, Ryan stripped her naked, tossing her sodden clothes into a pile near the door. Sighing, he turned on the television and fetched a beer from the refrigerator, then padded down the hall to fetch dry clothes and a diaper for Caitlin.

“Daddy on TV!” Caitlin said happily, pressing her nose to the screen. Curious, Ryan poked his head back around the corner to see his face on the noon television newscast. Groaning, he settled into his recliner and pointed the remote at the screen, turning up the volume.

“Come here, naked girl,” he called. “Let’s get you dried off.”

“…racial tensions in Oneida exploded into violence late Thursday afternoon in what police officials describe as a buy-bust operation gone bad,” the anchor was saying. Behind him the picture changed to video of the police officers standing over the victim. “According to Oneida Police Department spokesman Captain Rick Wolters, the victim, one Romanto Stevens of Oneida, fled from police after allegedly offering to sell crack cocaine to an undercover officer. Lieutenant Wolters states Mr. Stevens threatened officers by brandishing a knife, and both officers opened fire, severely wounding Mr. Stevens.”

The video showed a wobbly image of the ambulance barging into the scene. Ryan watched himself lean forward, saying something to the police officer. The video didn’t catch the first bottle, but captured Ryan’s flinch and the second bottle quite well. He looked scared on the video as he and Steve picked the man up and bodily threw him into the rig.

Ouch. That move didn’t look very gentle on the video. Well, fuck it. We had to get out of there. The scene wasn’t safe.

He felt vindicated by watching the news video of the crowd beating on the side of the ambulance as the reporter narrates excitedly. Ryan paid no attention to her narrative as he watched the ambulance surge forward against the crowd, knocking one teenager to the ground and narrowly missing him with the passenger front wheel.

Awww shit. We’re gonna hear about that.

The video showed the reporter getting hit in the head with a chunk of asphalt and the camera panning wildly about as if in search of the threat. The camera pointed to the ground and a hand appeared, helping the dazed reporter to her feet. The image then cut to the reporter interviewing Ryan in the ambulance bay outside St. Matthew’s Emergency Department. Ryan was just about to turn off the television when the image changes to the reporter interviewing an irate black woman outside the Emergency Department entrance, apparently just a few minutes after Ryan had left.

“…he ain’t had no knife,” the woman was shouting, gesturing excitedly. “The po-lice just shot him down. I seen the whole thing. He was runnin’ from the two cops and they just opened up on him! Damn cops shot him in the back!”

Bullshit. He was shot in the chest. The bullet exited through his back.

“He didn’t have a weapon?” the reporter asked, eyebrows knitted in a frown of serious concentration. Serious allegations were being made, and Eyewitness News, seekers of truth, were on the scene reporting the facts and keeping viewers informed. Her expression practically dripped sympathy.

“No, he ain’t had no weapon!” the woman said indignantly. “They just shot him down for no reason! You tell me, what two cops gonna shoot down a seventeen year old boy for?” she asked, and then answered her own question. “Cuz he black, that’s why!” She glared defiantly into the camera.

And so was one of the cops, lady. And why was he running? He was just giving some poor soul the directions to the nearest Dunkin Donuts. He only looked like he was slinging rock. What a crock of shit

The video cut to the reporter back in the studio. She was smartly dressed, with no trace of the nasty cut at her hairline. She looked nothing at all like the frightened, dazed woman that scrambled into the back of Ryan’s ambulance.

Damn. No stitches, no swelling, no nothing. What did they do, Derma Bond it?

“…very serious allegations indeed, Catherine,” the anchor was saying. “Is there any word on the victim?”

“No, Frank,” she shook her head. “We know that he arrived at the hospital alive. Citing patient confidentiality concerns, hospital officials have offered nothing other than the fact that the patient is in stable, but guarded condition.”

Thanks in no small part to the timely arrival of the paramedics barging right into the scene because they thought it was three blocks away. And let’s not forget that they saved your reporter’s ass so she could continue to stir the shit and pontificate for the cameras.

Disgusted, Ryan muted the television and lifted Caitlin onto his lap. She giggled and squirmed, trying to get away. Caitlin liked running around naked. “Hold still, you little exhibitionist!” he laughed. “You had better grow out of this by the time you’re old enough to date, or Daddy will be hiding the bodies of your boyfriends all up and down the river.”

“Daddy on TV!” she repeated as Ryan finally succeeded in applying a diaper.

“Yep, Daddy’s on TV,” Ryan agreed. “Daddy’s a movie star and a hero. Now go tell your Mommy that.”


The phone rang early Saturday morning, shattering the stillness. Ryan groaned and rolled over, scrambling to reach the phone before Caitlin awoke. He cursed under his breath as he saw StatCare on the caller ID.

“Yeah?” he snarled into the phone.

“Sorry to call you at this time of the morning, Ryan,” the dispatcher said perfunctorily. She didn’t sound sorry at all.

“What do you want, Martha?” Ryan asked, stopping himself just in time from referring to her by her nickname, Satan.

“System overload,” she answered. “We have two trucks on out-of-town runs, and all available units in town are on calls.”

“So what do you want me to do about it? I’m not the shift supervisor.”

“Sharon is sick and can’t come in,” she informed him, almost spitefully. “That leaves you.”

“Where are the trucks now?” Ryan sighed. “I mean, what’s their status?”

“312 is on its way back from Jackson as of thirty minutes ago. 311 just arrived at LSU in Shreveport. 313, 314 and 315 are all on calls right now.” In the background, Ryan could hear the radio traffic as a unit marks out at the hospital.

“You’ll have a unit available in ten minutes, Martha,” Ryan assured her. “And 312 will be back in the parish within an hour.”

“Are you refusing to come in?” Martha asked icily.

“For fuck’s sake, Martha!” Ryan exploded. “I live thirty minutes away, and this is not my shift! By the time I put on a uniform and drive out there, every fucking truck you have will be available!”

“Are you refusing to come in?” Martha repeated, as if she hadn’t heard a word.

“You’re damned right I am!” Ryan snarled. “I’ve got my kid tonight, and I’m not going to come in and cover someone else’s shift just because you panic the moment you don’t have an available truck! Deal with it, like everyone else does!” Furious, Ryan slammed down the phone.

Fucking idiot. Can’t take the pressure of working on the streets, and can’t take the pressure of answering the fucking phones and working the radios. And sure as hell, she’ll try to stab me in the back because I refused to come in.

Caitlin whimpered and rolled over, awakened by Ryan’s outburst. Ryan sighed and cradled his daughter to his chest and tried to go back to sleep.


Epijunky said...

I'm glad Ryan got some bliss with his daughter.

I'm LOVING the story. Can't wait to read the next chapter.

chaos culprit said...

Still loving your posts AD!!!... Keep em coming...

Medicmarch. said...

I hate that goddamned LSU Shreveport run. Nothing to look at.

Keep it up, AD!


Scott said...

As usual, very good. I look forward to the next chapter.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, AD -- I find myself checking in almost hourly to see if you've posted a new chapter.

Up my order to three copies.

BTW--you've about convinced a 42 year old computer geek to re-up his EMT and change careers...


Old NFO said...

AD, the good arc continues :-)
Nicely done.

knitalot3 said...

Thanks again, man!

JeRRTep said...

dude, whatever you do, don't sell out, they'll make it into a movie and it won't be half as good!!!
I'm just loving this story...
keep it up!!

Angela said...

AD I am loving it even more. Its showing that unbeknowning to others medics to have a soft side. We aren't all cut and dry hard asses. Keep up the awesome work. MORE MORE MORE I must have more!!

Anonymous said...

Hey AD this is a great read I want the Book!!

Loving Annie said...

You have such huge love for that kid of yours..... I'm addicted, AD.