International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
we got? Jim didnt answer. He had been a
paramedic for nearly 23 years now, and this kid was so boot that
he probably shouldnt even be allowed to ride in the front
seat yet. Back in the day, you had to have at least 3 months
on board and have been through a significant amount of hazing before
you could even ask the senior man if you could sit up front.
Things change, thought
Jim, and not for the better. But being the saltiest dog on the
porch, the hospital liked for him to break in these pups on a regular
basis. The kid was looking at Jim now, realizing that enough time
had elapsed since he asked the question to understand that it would
not be answered.
Jim stated flatly. No need to rush. We have to wait
for CSU to finish up before we can go in.
kid turned back and stared out the windshield. He was stunned silent,
having had his newbie enthusiasm forcibly stripped from him moments
before. The kid was surprised that his supervisor assigned him
to Jim as a ride-a-long even though as a full blown paramedic he
rated his own rig. He now regretted not saying something about
that, but what are you gonna do?
man, theres things you gotta understand. DOA pickups are
the worst part of the job. Theres no one to save, no heroics.
Were basically driving a garbage truck right now, you get me?
So dont jump in my truck all hot to trot when all were doin
is taking out the trash!
kid stared thoughtfully as the ambulance tires swished down the rain-soaked
streets, wondering how the families of the dead would feel about that
assessment. He wanted to tell Jim to shut the fuck up. He
hoped like all hell in 10 years he wasnt so goddamn cynical.
Even if Jim wasnt paramedic certified like he was, he still respected
the old timer. He was a fellow first responder. Where the
rubber met the road. A badass. Thats what the kid
wanted more than anything was to be a badass and not some sterile, surgical rat
like his father. The kid wondered what happened to Jim to make
him such a piece of shit. Jesus, the kid thought, have some pride,
you fat piece of shit and grow the fuck up or find another
radio squelch interrupted the kid mid-thought, and he realized that
Jim was still droning on. Ysee, man, theres three types
of DOA s: Stiffs, Stinkers, and Poppers. Jim was completely
confident in his role as Elder and Mentor, and he had enough sea stories
to entertain this punk for weeks on end without ever repeating
one. He had felt bad about being snippy with the kid on his first
day out, so he thought hed lock him on a little.
Stiffs have had rigor set in, and depending on how theyre
in situ, you may have trouble getting the gurney in the back of the
truck. If you lean on 'em hard enough, something will break!
Ha! Jims laugh was rough and explosive, causing the
kid to jump.
A stinkers been there awhile and already begun to decompose.
Gotta watch the extremities on those cause they like to slough
off from time to time. Hell, one night we was baggin a guy
up and when we lifted him me and Kelso was standing straight up, looking
at each other holding his hands and feet like a pair of socks and gloves
with the rest of him still lyin on the deck! Jim was
really talking the kid up, wildly gesticulating and barely keeping hold
of the wheel during his storytelling.
Poppers are the worst of the bunch. Been dead so long the
gases created by the decomposition have filled the body cavity making
the skin split and turn the DOA inside out. Guys pop out the gut,
women from their cootch. Jim took a beat to assess the impact
of this overtly sexual reference and decided not to follow up as the
kid seemed touchy, like a homo. Always carry Vicks Vapo-Rub
and shove some up your nose. Keep you from puking.
The kid remained silent during his lesson. He still
questioned the wisdom of putting a new employee in the hands of such
a wretched individual, but at least it helped pass the time as they
thundered up the interstate.
The Holiday Inn was just off the exit, and Jim expertly glided the oversized
ambulance through the maze of firetrucks, Stateies, County Mounties
and marked units. There were a few Ford Taurus sedans parked neatly
in the handicapped spaces. Fucking Feds. Jim remarked.
Be right back. Jim grunted as he heaved his mass over
the side of the seat, sliding the rest of the way down until his Hi-Tecs
hit the ground. The kid watched Jim work the crowd like a politician
doing the grip and grin with dozens of uniforms and plainclothes officers,
then slip under the crime scene tape and walk into the motel room.
The door to the ambulance boomed open a few minutes later, snapping
the kid out of his mental memorization of skull foramen as Jim hauled
himself back inside.
Whats up? The kid ventured after a few seconds
of scarce silence.
I forgot to tell you about another kind of DOA, man.
Jims voice was hollow and thin. All pretense was gone and
he stared at the steering wheel, softly stroking the Eagle, Globe and
Anchor tattoo on his forearm with a trembling hand. Jim exhaled
heavily and the distinct sour stench of vomit and Vicks Vapo Rub filled
the air. He said one word:
© Greg Jacob December 2007
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