Saturday, August 25, 2007

Making Friends and Influencing People

Monday morning, Ryan awakened early and fixed pancakes for Caitlin for breakfast. Pouring a cup of orange juice and a bowl of cereal for himself, he padded back down the hall and gently scooped Caitlin out of bed. She whimpered and fretted, burrowing her head into Ryan’s shoulder. Chuckling, Ryan set her in her booster chair and pushed her plate within reach. Rubbing her eyes sleepily, her hair a Medusa-like tangle of blonde curls, Caitlin picked up a piece of pancake.

“Uh-uh, stinker,” Ryan reminded her. “Use a fork.” Grudgingly, Caitlin picked up her fork, speared a piece of pancake and maneuvered it toward her mouth. She took a bite, smearing syrup onto her face and hair in the process.

“You’re the world’s cutest slob, you know that?” Ryan teased his daughter, grinning. She gave him a toothy, maple syrup smile in return. “You ready to go to therapy this morning?”

“We goin’ to see Randa!” she said happily.

“Yep, going to see Miranda,” Ryan agreed. “Daddy has to go to work.” Predictably, Caitlin pouted, her lower lip quivering and her eyes misting. Ryan quickly got up from the table and went about running bath water and setting out Caitlin’s clothes. He couldn’t stand to see her cry.

Ryan quickly showered, bathed Caitlin and dressed for work. Her threw her suitcase and his briefcase into the runabout, and wrestled Caitlin into her Dora the Explorer lifejacket. The sky was a washed-out shade of blue, the wind cold on his face as he motored across the basin and beached his boat near the parking area. There was a note fluttering under the windshield wiper of his truck.

Ryan, I’m sorry about tonight. Why is it that lately we bring out the worst in each other? Call me Wednesday when you pick up Caitlin from therapy. – Dawn

The paper was damp, the ink bleeding and smudged from being plastered to his windshield over the weekend. Nevertheless, Ryan smiled as he carefully and reverently laid it on the passenger seat to dry. He drove in to work in silence, a sappy grin on his face.


Ryan stopped at the Krispy Kreme on his way to work to pick up his customary two-dozen donuts and two large coffees. While he dug through his pockets for change, Caitlin flirted with the clerk.

“I want coffee too, Daddy!” she insisted.

“You heard the kid,” Ryan winked at the clerk, nodding toward the hot chocolate machine. “One of the usual, to go.” Grinning, the clerk filled a small Styrofoam cup with hot chocolate and slid it across the counter.

“It’s on the house,” she said as she always did, sticking out her tongue at Caitlin, who grinned and returned the gesture. Chuckling, Ryan carried his daughter back outside and buckled her into her car seat.

Five minutes later, he pulled up to a house on a residential street in West Oneida and honked the horn. A wholesome looking, red-haired girl opened the door and walked out to the curb.

“Running late again, I see,” she said to Ryan, mockingly stern.

“Sorry Miranda,” Ryan said contritely. “We got a late start.”

"Yeah, that’s what you always say,” she teased, opening the rear door of the truck. Miranda Wheatley was Caitlin’s occupational therapist. Six months ago, Ryan and Dawn lived directly across the street. Besides her professional services as a therapist, Miranda often babysat Caitlin on her nights off. Since Ryan and Dawn separated, she had been bringing Caitlin to therapy on the mornings Ryan had to work.

“Hey Randa!” Caitlin said, holding out her arms.

“Hey Munchkin,” Miranda chuckled, unbuckling Caitlin from her seat. Ryan handed her the diaper bag and suitcase through the window.

“We worked on weight shifts a good bit this weekend,” he offered. “She did okay with just a little cueing. She caught a few fish Saturday – held the pole with her left hand and everything,” Ryan added proudly.

“That’s great!” she said excitedly, hugging Caitlin. “We’ll give her a good workout today,” she assured Ryan. “Dawn picking her up from the clinic today?”

“Yep,” Ryan confirmed, “and I’ll pick her up Wednesday.” He leaned out of the window. “Give Daddy a kiss,” he called. “I gotta go to work.”

Dutifully, Caitlin leaned in and planted a wet, chocolate-flavored kiss on his lips. “Bye Daddy!” she said happily. Chuckling, Ryan waved as he backed out of the driveway and drove away.


306 was idling in the parking lot as Ryan pulled into MetroCare headquarters, its emergency lights flashing. Steve Hatfield nearly bumped into Ryan as he walked out the door. “Good, you’re here,” he sighed with relief. “I was about to have to get on a rig with Mark. We’ve got emergency calls holding.”

“Well let’s go,” Ryan answered. “Somewhere out there, Grandma has fallen and can’t get up. Let’s go save some lives and stamp out disease.” Ryan hurriedly tossed the donut boxes on the table, grabbed a couple for Steve and himself and followed his partner out the door.

“306 in service,” Ryan radioed as he climbed into the rig.

“Priority One call at 7800 Constitution Boulevard, #226 on a respiratory,” the dispatcher answered curtly.

“306 rolling.”

Jesus, just what I need. She’ll be punking my ass all day long.

“Yeah, Satan’s pulling an extra shift,” Steve confirmed, noticing the look on Ryan’s face. “She’s on a fucking rampage, too.” Steve hit the yelp button on the siren as he approached an intersection. “Every damned ER in the city is on diversion, too.”

“And the hits just keep on coming,” Ryan sighed, leaning forward to check for oncoming traffic. “Clear right.” The truck’s acceleration rocked him back in the seat as Steve passed the stopped traffic. “Why the hell does she give these vague-assed numeric addresses when she could just say ‘McArthur Square Apartments’ and everybody at MetroCare would know exactly where she’s talking about? It’s only the biggest damned low income housing project in Oneida!”

Steve said nothing, just grunted in agreement, applying the brakes as he approached a line of stopped cars. Several cars, but by no means all of them, pulled over to the right to let the ambulance pass.

Ryan picked up the PA mike and keyed the switch. “Move to the right, please,” he requested to the vehicles in front of them. He waved animatedly at a woman chatting on a cell phone, oblivious to the ambulance directly behind them with lights and siren blaring. “Uh, Ma’am? Yes, you in the white Camry! How about hanging up the cell phone and paying attention to what’s going on around you?” Startled, the woman looked up, searching for the source of the disembodied voice. “Yoooo hooooo! Behind you!” Ryan broadcast as the woman looked into her rearview mirror and hurriedly pulled over, almost running onto the curb in the process. “Thank you oh so much,” Ryan said unctuously as the ambulance eased past the line of cars. The woman angrily gave him the finger as he drove past.

“I love it when you do that,” Steve chortled as they turned onto Constitution Avenue. “You give such polite ass-chewings.”

“All in the name of good MetroCare public relations,” Ryan said smugly. “It does not behoove one to curse the motorists of this fair city when your phone number is plastered all over the side of the rig.”

Personally, I think twin water-cooled machine guns and a snowplow bumper would work better than lights and sirens. The wrecker could just pick up all the shot-up cars, and the cops could revoke their licenses on the grounds of chronic Cranio-Rectal Inversion.

As Steve parked and locked the rig, Ryan piled the jump bag, cardiac monitor and oxygen on the stretcher. Steve glanced around nervously as they paused at the base of the stairs. “I hate this fucking place,” he muttered under his breath as his eyes continually scanned the doorways on either side of the breezeway. “Bring the stretcher up, or leave it here?” he asked Ryan.

“Leave it here,” Ryan decided. “Just bring the equipment up.”

“Leave the stretcher?” Steve asked dubiously. “Somebody’s gonna steal it, sure as hell.”

“Then they should be easy to catch when they try to fence a canary-yellow cot for crack money,” Ryan retorted. “Besides, remember the ABCs.”

“ABCs?” Steve asked with a blank look.

“Ambulate Before Carry,” Ryan winked, slinging the jump bag across his shoulder. “No sense carrying someone if we don’t have to.” Steve shook his head as he grudgingly followed Ryan up the stairs.

Four years before, Ryan and Steve had responded to the same apartment complex for an unconscious person. Steve had been the first one through the door, finding a young man sitting on the floor, slumped against the couch. Steve had knelt next to the kid and gently squeezed him on the shoulder, pinching the trapezius muscle to determine if the young man was unconscious. Without warning, the teenager had come up from the floor with an animal snarl, swinging a looping roundhouse right that shattered Steve’s left cheekbone and knocked him to the floor.

Ryan had walked through the door a second too late to keep the kid from leaping on top of Steve, choking him and banging his head against the floor. Ryan had tried unsuccessfully to pull the kid off, earning only a broken nose for his efforts. He had finally clubbed the kid repeatedly with the cardiac monitor until he had loosened his grip. Steve had spent a week in the hospital getting his cheekbone and orbit wired back together, and nearly a month off before the doctors had cleared him to return to work.

And Ryan never let me be the first through the door again, Steve remembered, and he paid my truck note that month when the Worker’s Comp checks barely paid my rent. He refused to let me pay him back, either. The kid got a slap on the wrist as a juvenile offender, Ryan got a broken nose, and I still can’t walk around this place without seeing a fucking PCP freak lurking around every corner.

At the landing, Steve stood off to one side of the door and looked around nervously while Ryan knocked. The door swung open, and Ryan cautiously peeked inside.

“Hello!” he called. “MetroCare EMS! Somebody call an ambulance?”

“In here,” a woman’s voice said weakly. Ryan walked inside, followed closely by his partner. In the living room, a thin, frail woman sat leaning forward on the couch, her elbows resting on her knees. The apartment was barely warmer than the outside, and reeked of stale cigarette smoke. The woman broke into a prolonged coughing spasm that lasted perhaps thirty seconds. When the spasm passed, she gasped weakly and rested her head tiredly on her hand. Ryan fitted his stethoscope in his ears, kneeling down next to the woman.

“How long have you been coughing like this?” Ryan asked as Steve pulled an oxygen mask from the airway bag.

“Couple weeks, maybe,” the woman answered hoarsely. Steve glanced at the end table beside the threadbare couch and noticed several bloodstained, crumpled tissues in the ashtray. Reaching out and grabbing Ryan by the shirt collar, he tugged gently until Ryan looked up questioningly. Steve kept tugging until Ryan stood up and backed away from the woman.

“What?” Ryan asked, concerned. Steve said nothing, just jerked his head toward the end table and pulled his particle respirator from his fanny pack. Seeing the bloodstained tissues, Ryan’s eyes narrowed briefly and he immediately pulled out his own respirator.

“Have you been running a fever, Ma’am?” Steve asked, his voice muffled under the mask. “Night sweats, that sort of thing?”

The woman nodded, lifting her head up briefly as Ryan fitted a non re-breather mask over her face. “Sometimes I soak the sheets. I been taking Tylenol and cough syrup, but it ain’t helping.”
Ryan auscultated the woman’s chest as his partner checked the woman’s vital signs. There was an ugly rattle of fluid in her lungs. “Scattered rales,” he told Steve, looping the stethoscope around his neck.

“Saturation is 90%,” Steve reported. “Tachy at 130, and her BP is 140/92.”

“Yeah, let’s keep the oxygen mask on her and get her in the rig,” Ryan suggested.

“TB, you think?” Steve asked.

“Yeah, that’s my guess,” Ryan confirmed, then turned to the woman. “Ma’am, do you have any chronic medical problems? Any medications you’re currently taking?”

“I got Hepatitis C, and high blood,” the woman answered. “I ain’t got no money for no medicine.” She rolled her eyes wildly, grabbed several Kleenex from a box, and went into another coughing fit that was painful to watch. Ryan nodded and wrote “Hep-C and hypertension” on the back of his gloved left hand.

“How about HIV?” Steve asked darkly. “Any drug use?” Ryan flashed him a warning look, which Steve ignored.

The woman shook her head tiredly. “I don’t know. I smoke crack sometimes. I been trying to quit.”

“Okay Ma’am, that’s all we need to know,” Ryan assured her. “Let’s get you down to the stretcher and get you to the hospital.” He helped the woman to her feet and slowly walked her outside, pausing occasionally as the woman tried to catch her breath. Halfway down the stairs, the woman stopped and leaned heavily on the railing, chest heaving and breath rattling behind her oxygen mask.

Steve, waiting on the ground floor next to the stretcher, looked up impatiently. Sighing, he trudged back up the stairs and picked the woman up, cradling her in his arms. “What are you waiting for?” he asked Ryan defiantly. “We have to get her to the hospital, don’t we?”

Ryan said nothing, just winked. He followed Steve down the stairs, carrying the oxygen bottle and placing it on the foot of the cot as Steve gently deposited the woman on the stretcher. Ryan followed the cot into the rig, switched the oxygen mask over to the main tank, and gestured to Steve that he was ready to go.

“Oneida Charity,” Ryan ordered, referring to the large charity hospital in the southern end of Oneida Parish. “A nice, safe and gentle trip.”

Steve rolled his eyes as he shut the rear doors.

What else did you expect, Hawkeye?

During the trip, Ryan took a moment to start an IV on the woman, who lay listlessly on the stretcher with her eyes closed. She looked younger than she did at first glance – not much older than Ryan himself. Old needle track marks covered the inner surface of her arms. “You wastin’ yo’ time,” the woman told Ryan tiredly, not even bothering to open her eyes. “I did heroin for six years. I ain’t got no veins left.”

“No harm in looking, is there?” Ryan replied mildly, then asked, “Did you share needles?”

“Yeah, junkies are generous that way,” the woman laughed, only to provoke another painful coughing spasm. “I kicked heroin by myself, but I be damned if I can kick crack.”

“You been tested for AIDS?” Ryan asked as he deftly inserted a 22-gauge catheter into a likely vein. Much to his chagrin, it blew as he flushed the line.

Fuck. Hawkeye Pierce, the all-knowing, all-seeing Supermedic, tragically mortal when it comes to sticking IVs.

“Told you they was hard to stick,” the woman sighed, looking at the hematoma forming under her skin. “Yeah, I been tested. All I got is hepatitis. Don’t matter though. I’ll die of something.”

“How old are you?” Ryan asked as he taped a gauze pad over the infiltrated IV site.

“Thirty-one,” the woman said, shaking her head. “I got three kids and one grandbaby. My mama raisin’ all of ‘em. State took ‘em away after I got throwed in jail for possession the second time.”

Jesus Christ. She’s younger than I am, and she looks fifty. Not even thirty-five, and she’s already a grandmother.

Ryan sighed inwardly as he settled into the jump seat behind the stretcher. Hearing a knock against the plexiglass partition, he turned to see Steve handing the phone through the small window.

“Oneida Charity on the phone,” Steve called. “They want to talk to you.”

“Paramedic Pierce,” Ryan answered as he put the phone to his ear. “We’re on diversion,” a curt female voice stated flatly, without preamble.

“So is every other Emergency Department in the city,” Ryan retorted, rolling his eyes. “Do you want to hear report?”

“You can’t bring them somewhere else?” the woman continued as if she hadn’t heard. “Why are you bringing them here?”

“Because the zoo is closed and there’s nothing good at the movies,” Ryan’s mouth ran away with him. He was met with a long silence.

“That’s not funny,” the nurse snarled into the phone. “Where are you transporting from?”

Nonsense, Ma’am. That was fucking hilarious. If you pulled the stick out of your ass, you’d recognize that.

“I’m transporting from McArthur Square,” Ryan replied, growing impatient. “She’s a thirty-five year old –“

“St Matthew’s is closer,” the nurse interrupted. “You’re supposed to go to the closest hospital.”

“She’s also stable, and requested to come to your hospital,” Ryan retorted just as rudely. “I tried to change her mind, but she’s willing to accept inferior care for cheaper prices.”

“You’ll have to go to the waiting room on arrival!” The nurse spat venomously, hanging up before Ryan could reply.

Guess she didn’t want that report after all. She’s gonna really love us when we ask for an isolation room for a possible TB patient.

Every ambulance bay was full as Steve pulled into the ER entrance at the ponderously named Louisiana State Medical Center and Health Research Institute, Oneida Campus, a sprawling institution universally referred to Oneida Charity.

The ambulance crews simply referred to it as Bad Light Bulb ER, because it seemed everyone who worked there was burned out and not all that bright. Steve drove past the ambulance bay and parked in the fire lane behind an Oneida Police Department cruiser.

Patients were lined up outside the Emergency Department, many of them wearing hospital gowns and pushing IV poles. Others sat in wheelchairs, tethered by the nose to a portable oxygen cylinder, oblivious to the irony as they sat and fed their nicotine habits.

A knot of people clad in purple scrubs nodded to Ryan as he unloaded the gurney. One of them greeted him by name, “Wassup, Hawkeye?”

“Saving lives and stamping out disease and pestilence, as always,” Ryan grinned, to the general amusement of the group. “You know, it always amazes me that of all the hospital staff you see standing out in the weather on their breaks, the ones smoking like chimneys are always the respiratory therapists.”

“Job security for the next generation!” guffawed the one who had spoken to him first. The others chuckled and saluted with their Marlboros.

Inside the Emergency Department, ambulance stretchers bearing patients lined the hallway. There were two MetroCare crews that Ryan could see, and his former employers at Collins Ambulance attended a young man wearing inmate clothing, handcuffs, waist chain and ankle restraints.

“Welcome to Patient Parking,” Kenny Hadden told him wryly. “Pick an empty spot along the wall, the valet will be along shortly.”

“How long have you guys been waiting?” Ryan wanted to know. “Thirty minutes,” Kenny answered, checking his watch. “Mark’s trying to find someone willing to take a handoff report. 304 pulled in right behind us. I’m babysitting their patient while they use the bathroom.”

“Wait here with her,” Ryan directed his partner. “I’ll be right back.” The nurse’s station was predictably chaotic. Nurses bustled about madly, phones rang constantly, and harried residents sat on stools near the chart rack, trying to make some sense of it all as they charted and wrote order. Like every other Emergency Department in the city, Oneida Charity was at capacity. Unlike every other Emergency Department in the city, Oneida Charity refused to deal with ambulance overflow in a timely fashion.

“What’s the holdup, Mark?” Ryan asked quietly, laying a hand on Mark Perry’s shoulder as he stood scribbling in his Patient Care Report.

“Still waiting for someone to acknowledge my presence,” Mark replied in disgust, not bothering to look up. “This shit has got to stop.”

“Can your patient sit in a wheelchair?” Ryan inquired. “How about 304’s kid?”

“Both of ‘em can,” Mark answered. “That Collins crew is the only one that needs a bed for their patient, and he’s a prisoner –“

“Who should be going to the prison ward, if somebody would just get off their ass in here,” Ryan finished.

“Excuse me,” Ryan said politely to a nurse sitting at a computer, laboriously charting as she peered over her glasses at the phosphor screen. She used two fingers to type, and slowly at that. The nurse ignored him. Ryan cleared his throat and spoke louder, “Excuse me.”

The nurse looked up at him in silence, one eyebrow cocked quizzically.

“There are four ambulance crew tied up in the hallway waiting to drop off their patients. Three of them have been there for thirty minutes, and –“

“I’m not the triage nurse,” the nurse cut him off dismissively as she turned her attention back to the computer monitor. “You have to give report to the triage nurse.”

Oh no, you didn’t.

“Mark, it looks like their trauma room is open,” Ryan said loudly, pointing to the patient board. “Tell the Collins crew to put their patient in there. Have Kenny find some wheelchairs and we’ll park our patients in the hallway. Do it now.” Ryan turned his back on the nurse’s desk and walked away.

“Wait a minute!” came the outraged howl from the nurse’s station. “You can’t do that!”

“Watch me!” he called over his shoulder.

In the hallway, as Ryan and Steve lowered the stretcher and assisted their patient into a wheelchair, two nurses came bustling around the corner. “You can’t just leave patients in the hallway without giving report!” the first one said angrily. “That’s abandonment!” The second nurse, the one who had ignored him at the nurse’s station, nodded in righteous indignation.

“Are you the triage nurse?” Ryan asked politely.

“Yes I am!”

Just the person we wanted to see,” Ryan smiled nastily, handing her three pink sheets of paper. “These copies are yours, I believe. Now you know everything we know about these patients. Mine has difficulty breathing, there’s an assault with a head laceration, and some teenaged girl with nausea and vomiting. Another company is dropping off a prisoner in your trauma room right now, too. You might want to go check him first. They’ve been here the longest, and he looked kinda sick.”

“You’re the medic I talked to on the phone earlier, aren’t you?” the triage nurse accused.

Could be, Nurse Ratched. All you fat, lazy bitches sound alike to me.

“You might have been the nurse I spoke to,” Ryan allowed. “Which one are you, the one who always wants to know why we’re bringing them to this hospital, or the one who wants the patient’s birth date and social security number before she’ll listen to the assessment findings?”

“That was you. I’m reporting your ass, buddy,” she threatened.

“Have a pleasant day, Ma’am,” Ryan sighed in resignation and turned to leave. “Let’s get out of here, Steve.”

“I’m calling your supervisor,”
the triage nurse called after him, “right now!

Ryan turned on his heel and marched back to her. Leaning close to her, he extended his nametag on its retractable cord, dangling it three inches in front of her nose. “You’re talking to the shift supervisor,” he replied nastily. “That’s spelled P-I-E-R-C-E, in case you were wondering. Now give me your name, so I’ll know who to report for the EMTALA violation.”

“EMTALA violation?” she sputtered, eyes widening in fear. “What EMTA-“

“You know, the Emergency Medical Treatment And Labor Act?” Ryan reminded her sarcastically. “The one that says the patient is your responsibility once we get within 250 feet of this Emergency Department?”

“But, but, but –“

“You sound like an outboard motor,” Ryan noted, amused. “There is a specific EMTALA ruling prohibiting the practice of parking ambulance patients and refusing to take report. I forget what the fine is, but I imagine you’ll find out in due course. Normally, we look the other way because we know how busy you are. That courtesy ends when you tie up three of our crews for half an hour because you’re avoiding your responsibility.”

He turned his back on the nurse and left here standing there, mouth agape and holding the hospital copies of the MetroCare PCRs. Outside, he and Steve made up the stretcher in silence. The doors to the ambulance entrance whooshed open, and Bob and Linda Collins walked outside, pushing their empty stretcher.

“Hello Ryan!” Linda called warmly, waving and walking over to the back of Ryan’s rig. Bob followed her, extending his hand to Ryan and smiling.

“Bob. Linda.” Ryan acknowledged coldly, ignoring Bob’s outstretched hand as he continued to futz with the straps on his stretcher. Steve smiled and nodded politely, but said nothing. The Collins’ smiles faded, and presently Bob lowered his hand and walked away with his wife.

Steve looked speculatively at his partner. He started to say something, but was interrupted by another whoosh of the sliding doors. Mark Perry and Kenny Hadden walked out, trailed by the crew of 304.

“Another PR bonanza for MetroCare EMS,” grinned David Hendricks, the medic from 304. “You’re always making friends and influencing people, Hawkeye.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Ryan snarled, turning on him.

“Hey Hawkeye, I was just kidding,” David said defensively, bewildered at the viciousness of Ryan’s response. “Chill out, dude.”

“Next time, you wait no more than fifteen Goddamned minutes before you track one of those lazy bitches down and hand off your patient,” Ryan continued hotly. “I don’t care if you have to sit them on the triage nurse’s lap, got it? I better never see two of my units out of the 911 rotation for thirty minutes for this kind of bullshit ever again.”

Ryan angrily loaded his stretcher, slamming the rear doors on the rig savagely. He walked to the passenger door, flung it open and climbed into his seat, leaned back and placed his shaking hands on his lap.

Now where the hell did that come from? Why did I jump David’s ass like that?

Steve climbed into the driver’s seat, quietly shut the door, and clicked his seat belt into place. He started the rig, checked his mirror, and put his hand on the transmission lever to put the ambulance in gear. He hesitated, put the ambulance back in park, and placed both hands carefully on the wheel.

“You wanna tell me what’s bugging you?” he asked mildly, studiously checking his control panel, rearview mirrors, and radio, looking anywhere but directly at Ryan.

“Nope,” Ryan answered, eyes still closed, arms folded across his chest.

“Okay,” Steve acknowledged, trying another tack. “You know I’m your best friend, right?”


“And you can tell me if you’ve got a problem, right?”

“Everything’s peachy in my life, Steve.”

,” Steve rolled his eyes. “You get pissed off at the slightest thing lately, and you’re starting to take it out on the crews.”

“Is there a point to all this?” Ryan wondered aloud.

“You know Ryan,” Steve sighed as he put the ambulance in gear and drove away, “sometimes you can be a real fucking asshole.”

“I know, Steve.”


“Control to 306,” the radio crackled again. Ryan slammed his Coke down on the restaurant table and started wrapping his half-eaten cheeseburger. Cursing under his breath, he stomped outside to the rig. trying the door handle only to find it locked.

Steve calmly swallowed his food, wiped his mouth and keyed the radio mike. “306, go ahead.” Outside, he could see Ryan fuming, lips moving silently, the angry words muted by the heavy glass windows.

“Unconscious person, corner of West Harrison and Greely. Called in by Oneida PD.”

“306 en route,” Steve acknowledged as he walked outside, unlocked the rig and climbed aboard.

“She’s punking us,” Ryan said darkly. “305 is just as close to that call as we are. With the traffic, maybe closer.”

“And yet she entrusted you with the responsibility,” Steve teased. “You should be flattered.”

“She’s trying to piss me off, and it’s working. Fucking Satan,” Ryan fumed, taking a sip of his Coke.

“You know,” Steve observed as he turned at the red light onto West Harrison, “sooner or later, you’re both going to acknowledge this undercurrent of sexual tension between you two.” He tapped the air horn twice and gestured for the driver in front of him to move to the right.

Ryan did a spit take, showering cola all over the dash. “Jesus Christ!” he laughed. “Don’t even talk about that!”

“I can see it now,” Steve teased. “You come home to the marina one night and there’s a strange, yet oddly familiar, car in the parking lot. You get aboard your boat, flip on the lights…”

“Stop, don’t say it,” Ryan begged, hands over his ears and eyes closed.

“…and there’s old Satan, sprawled across your couch in all her glory, all three hundred fifty pounds of her. She’s got candles lit, she’s wearing a slinky negligee, and Barry White playing on the stereo. She’s dolled herself up, soaked herself in perfume, maybe even braided the hair on her back. Waiting there breathlessly for her man, the great Hawkeye Pierce. Just aching to be your latest conquest. Moist. Willing. Wanting.”

“I’m gonna puke,” Ryan warned, making mock retching noises.

“You should slip it to her, Ryan,” Steve grinned as he pulled to the curb at the intersection at Greely Avenue. “Consider it your duty as supervisor. Give Satan a few much-needed orgasms, and she’ll be much easier on the rest of us. C’mon, you owe it to the guys.”

“I don’t owe y’all that much,” Ryan shook his head as he climbs out of the rig. “How about a gift certificate for some D batteries? Would that be sufficient?”

“Well, look who it is!” an Oneida Police Officer greeted him with a sardonic grin. “Our hero! Hey Colonel, you’ve got a gen-yoo-wine rock star taking care of you!” he informed the man sitting on the sidewalk, leaning against a newspaper vending machine.

Ryan recognized the patient, but not the officer. He knelt next to the man and looked up at the police officer quizzically. “Huh? Rock star?”

“I was the other officer on the shooting the other day,” the cop informed him. “You looked great on the news,” he teased.

Damn, I never even saw you. I thought there was only one cop there. Sorry, don’t remember you, dude.

“Oh, right!” Ryan grinned. “Didn’t recognize you at first. How’s your partner?” “Still on administrative leave, pending the –“

“Hang on a sec,” Ryan told him, and turned his attention to the patient, grasping his shoulder and shaking him. “Hey, Colonel! Wake up!”

“Sknxxxx, sssshnork….wha, whazzit
?” the man slurred drunkenly, cracking one eye open.

“Get up, Colonel Mustard,” Ryan ordered. “You know you can’t be passed out here in public like this. You’re frightening the citizens.”

The drunk shook off Ryan’s hand and curled into a fetal position, cradling a nearly empty vodka bottle.

“You familiar with this guy?” the cop asked, prodding the man’s leg with his toe. “

Yeah, his last name is Mustard. Vietnam vet, if you can believe what he says. So, everybody just calls him Colonel Mustard.”

“So this is like a bad game of Clue,” the cop chuckled. “It’s Colonel Mustard, at the bus stop, with a vodka bottle.”

“Well, that’s one way to look at it,” Steve laughed appreciatively. “I take it he’s too drunk to go to jail?”

“Not too drunk for me,” the cop rolled his eyes, “but the jail nurse will send him to the hospital to dry out as soon as we get him processed, sure as Hell. Twice the work for you and me.”

“Yeah,” Ryan grunted, then shook the drunk again. “C’mon Colonel, get up! Don’t make me tote your ass to the ambulance!” he warned. Colonel Mustard, for his part, grunted and commenced snoring. Sighing, Ryan grasped one arm and motioned for Steve to grasp the other. Together, they hauled Colonel Mustard to his feet.

“Git yer Goddamn hands offa me!” the drunk slurred in protest, his breath a fetid alcohol fog.

“You’re drunk in public, Colonel,” Ryan informed him, not for the first time. “It’s either go to the hospital with us, or the jail with the nice officer.”

"I’m a kick yer big ass,” Colonel Mustard informed Ryan spitefully as they steered him to the waiting stretcher. Steve let go of his right arm to lower the stretcher, and as if to demonstrate the point, Colonel Mustard swung a long, looping right in the general vicinity of Ryan’s face.

Rolling his eyes, Ryan leaned back and let the slow-motion punch whiff past. He grasped the drunk’s right shoulder and placed another hand on his back, using the drunk’s momentum to turn him away and push him face-down onto the stretcher in one smooth move.

“Yeah, I love you too, Colonel,” he said mildly, winking at the cop.

“You want me to flex cuff him?” the cop asks.

“Nah, he’s harmless. He couldn’t whip his way out of a wet paper sack when he’s this drunk. We’ll check his sugar, give him some fluids, give him a look-see to make sure he hasn’t hurt himself, and give him a ride to the hospital. He’ll be asleep again before we get rolling.”

As if on cue, Colonel Mustard started snoring again. Steve chuckled and shook his head, rolling the drunk onto his side and fastening the straps on the stretcher.

“Taking him to Oneida Charity, I suppose?” the cop asked.

“Actually, no,” Ryan shook his head. “He’s not indigent. Got a home, insurance, everything. We usually take him to St. Matthew’s. His daughter picks him up and takes him home once he sobers up a bit.”

“Damned shame,” the cop said, shaking his head.

“Yeah, it is,” Ryan agreed as they loaded the stretcher. “Take care, now. Tell your partner I’m glad he’s okay.”

“Sure thing,” the cop agreed as he slammed the rear doors. He slapped the doors twice, leaned over where Steve could see him in the mirror, and made a ‘wind it up’ motion with his index finger.

“Don’t you love it when they do the ambu-slaps?” Steve chortled from the front seat. “Some people watch too many movies.”

Ryan chuckled as he settled into the captain’s chair, picking up the cellular phone and thumbing the speed dial button. The phone rang several times and finally a harried voice answered, “St. Matthew’s ER, this is Heather.”

“Hey Heather, it’s Ryan Pierce on 306,” he grinned. “You ready for some bad news?”

“Whatcha got, Hawkeye?” the nurse sighed.

“We’re bringing in Colonel Mustard with the usual. Better find a dark corner for him to sleep it off.”

“You’re an optimist,” Heather snorted. “We’re full.”

“So is everybody else,” Ryan retorted. “You’ll think of something. I’ll have an IV and a blood sugar checked by the time we get there, I promise.”

“Thank you so much,” Heather answered, her voice dripping with mock sweetness. She hung up the phone before Ryan had a chance to reply.

Ryan moved to the bench seat next to the stretcher, and dug through his jump kit for the glucose meter and an IV setup. Colonel Mustard slept through the finger stick, but snorted and tried to pull his arm away as Ryan inserted a sixteen gauge IV catheter in the bend of his left elbow.

“I fragged ossifers like you back in the ‘Nam,” he slurred, eyes at half mast.

“That’s what I treasure about our little chats, Colonel,” Ryan answered as he attached the IV line and taped down the catheter, “your roguish charm and witty repartee.”


Scott said...

Oh my gosh! That fantasy about your lovely dispatcher is hilarious! Ryan the Chubby Chaser!

Ugh! I feel that guy's pain. With the bottle. Damn alcohol!

Can "Ryan" defend himself? I know medics aren't supposed to, but a cop won't hesitate to lay a beatdown on somebody who attacks them. You ever smacked a paitent with your Mag Light in self defense?

Loving Annie said...

This is already an awesome book !

You've alternately got me laughing, and sympathetic to you two, and then disgusted at cranio-rectal inverted people, interested in the differing calls you get, and then laughing again !

Loving Annie

Anonymous said...

Hey AD thats a new twist with the despatcher. As ever a great read..

Spook, RN said...

AD, really loved how Steve turned the mood around in the story.

You're a damned fine read :-)

HollyB said...

This is gonna be such an awesome book, AD.

knitalot3 said...

Good one, again!

Strings said...

UPDATE! UPDATE! You're approaching "Law Dog/Pink Gorilla" issues here! :P

Richard said...

Soooooo, is there any more to this story? or you having it published so I have to pay for it?