callings

The drugs
A slow drip; the last bits of time in a person’s life. The morphine, fentanyl, dopamine, lorazepam, haloperidol, and epinephrine where there when he needed them. Maybe he would have a chance to save a life today. Maybe not. Either way, he’d be ok. He had built up a tolerance.

The semi-truck
When he arrived on scene, the man’s body had been severed in half after it had been dragged half a mile by the 18-wheeler. The man, a Muslim, had knelt to pray on the shoulder of the highway when the truck veered out of its lane. He looked at the man’s open torso. Inside the concave shell, the heart and lungs were still beating and contracting. His partner, a rookie EMT, looked at him. “This man is still alive! We can still save him!” To which he replied: “No. His brain just hasn’t told his body that he’s dead yet.”

Self-loathing
The woman cried out as he applied pressure to the gunshot wound that had been inflicted by her husband. He administered morphine via a large syringe. “I love him with all of my heart.” She said. He looked at her, as he applied gauze to her wounds. He thought  knew what it was like to be a victim.

The foyer
Her daughter had called 911 when she didn’t get a response from her mother for several days. Two paramedics, four firemen and a police officer stood at the front door. His partner rang the doorbell until it was clear no one would answer. He checked the door and found that it was locked. It was protocol to breech the door now. He stepped forward and forced his shoulder into the wooden door, right next to the frame. The wood splintered and let him through. The momentum sent him about four feet into the foyer. Just far enough to come into contact with her now swaying body. He jumped back, startled.

The uniform
5:30AM: He inhaled as much as possible to draw air into his lungs and out of his stomach, as he forced the button on his navy cotton pants closed. All the weight was getting to him. He remembered when they used to issue polyester. The uniform used to be more forgiving when he ate too much casserole during the holidays, less so during the humid Georgia summers. He glanced down at his badge, which was now fabric sewn to his uniform shirt. It used to be metal, more official. Somewhere along the line, the world had stripped him of all too much respect and authority. He looked over at his wife. Half asleep, she glanced at him and rolled over in the bed, toward the far wall.

The dark room
He arrived at the large, beige, stucco, suburban home shortly after midnight. He and his partner were first on the scene. The lights of the ambulance flickering, flashes of red against the tree limbs, like blood coursing through veins. The call had been placed by Life Alert, prompted by the pressing of a panic button. He knocked six times on the solid steel door. No answer. He knocked another six times. No answer. Yet another six times. No answer. The door was unlocked, so they entered the home. The house was cold and dark, it had the feeling of an empty shell and it smelled like aged human flesh. His partner flipped on a light switch to reveal the contents of the room. The space was filled with dark cherry furniture, porcelain trinkets and decorated dishes on display. The wallpaper was sprinkled with flowers, like a grave site. The couches and chairs were covered in plastic, like murder victims. The faint smell of cigarette smoke clinging to the air, like the perfume of a ghost. He expected the worst.

The other semi-truck
He arrived on the scene expecting the worst and that is what he found. A large woman crouched over the top of the gear shift of an 18-wheeler. He wondered if it had been pleasurable before she got stuck. How lonely does someone have to get to find themselves in this predicament? He had never been presented with this kind of scenario before so he approached it with a rare attempt at humor. After putting on a pair of rubber gloves with the intentional snap of a stereotypical proctologist, he looked at her and said: “well, at least it didn’t wind up in neutral.” She didn’t find it amusing, so he just reached forward and broke the suction.

Donald J. Trump
He sat in an old recliner between calls, half watching Cliff Eastwood’s ‘High Plains Drifter.’ “I had an extra twenty-five bucks in my check this month because of his tax cuts,” exclaimed one of the firemen, a wad of snuff in his check. “Where is he getting the money to do this? He’s not spending his own, that’s for sure. What about the global debt? We are shutting out the rest of the world and eventually someone is going to check us for our inflated egos,” replied a young EMT that had already been ostracized from the group. He listened to the argument quietly. “Who cares,” he thought to himself, “we have to take care of ourselves.” The fire station was a small world.

The stretcher
He looked down at the old man on the stretcher. He knew the man wasn’t going to make it, but he’d give it all he had. He charged the panels and readied himself to push another charge of electricity into the man’s heart. All the bolts in the metal legs of the stretcher buckled loudly, responding to the jolt. Officially in retirement and working part time for another county now, he prepared himself for the inevitable outcome. Both for the old man, and for himself.