Monday, December 17, 2007

Perspectives

The following events are not fictional, but they may have happened at different times, with different people, at different places. Each one of the authors has had people just like these, in situations just like those described. If you want to know what it’s like to live a day in the life of an ambulance driver, or a small town cop, or a small town ER nurse, join us for the story. It’s the same story. On the same day. With the same people. This is what we do, and working with paramedics and nurses like these is part of the reason we do it. What follows is part 1 of the story. After you have read my entry, follow along with Ambulance Driver for part 2 as he picks it up and carries it before handing it - and the patient - off to Babs.

So. We start.

**********

"Excuse me, run that by one more time?"

"Puppy support. I didn't want this to happen, and it's partially his fault, so I think I deserves some compensation."

I look at Earl's prize bird-dog. She looks back at me intently -- until her left eye starts to track right. I watch in fascination as her left eye winds up looking squarely at her right eye -- which is, I should add, still looking at me.

"Now see here," interjects Bobby -- incidentally, Earl's brother -- "If'n he'd keep that tramp locked up, my old Eustice wouldn't be tempted by just any old tail ..."

That's it.

"Enough. God, enough. Earl. There is no such thing as puppy support. And even if there was such a thing, it would be a civil matter, and the Sheriff's Office can't help you anyway. Bobby. Keep Eustice locked up, or get him fixed, or something."

"Fixed? Ain't nothing wrong with that dawg." The subject in question is sprawled on a porch thirty feet away, and hasn't moved the entire time I've been here. I'm pretty sure there's a nest of field-mice under one floppy ear.

"I don't care. Now. There will be no fighting, no dog-napping, no drive-by skunk-throwing, no biting, no out-house toppling, no kicking, no tyre flattening, no wrasslin', no possum pitching, no Indian burns, nothing. Am I understood? If your mama calls me because you're fighting over those puppies, I'm going to whip both your butts and throw you in jail. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir, Mr. 'Dog."

"Mumblemumbledamndogkeephismumblemumble."

"Earl."

"Yes, Mr. 'Dog."

Five minutes later I'm kiting down the highway.

"County, car 12."

"Go ahead."

"Respond to 212 Muir Road. The usual."

Heh. I'm always up for homemade cinnamon rolls and sweet iced tea.

212 Muir Road belongs to Mrs. Helen Schenk, widowed the past ten years. It's a huge two-story plantation-style house on the edge of town.

Mrs. Schenk's four kids are married and gone -- Houston, California, Miami, the Army -- and with Mr. Schenk being gone, Mrs. Schenk occupies about three rooms on the ground floor of her house. The other rooms, and the entire second floor, are behind closed doors, furniture draped in sheets and the occasional spider web, dust laying thick about.

Once a month or so, Mrs. Schenk calls the Sheriff's Office, always with the same report: the ghosts upstairs are having a party. This in and of itself, doesn't bother her -- unless it's after their bed-time, or if there are unchaperoned girl ghosts up there with the boy ghosts. When that happens she calls us to come settle them down.

"Car 12, County, I'll be 10-6 at 212 Muir."

As usual, I'm about halfway to the front door, when it opens up and Mrs. Schenk waves to me, happily, the scent of home-made, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls blossoming on the front porch.

"Hello, officer!"

"Hello, Mrs. Schenk. How are you?"

“One can’t complain, officer," she pats my arm gently, “You know, I didn’t want to be a bother.”

“I know that, Mrs. Schenk. How are the ghosts today?”

“Well, they’re being very quiet.”

I take off my hat as we step into the foyer, the smell of cinnamon making my mouth water. “Is being quiet -- bad?”

She smiles at me, “I raised three boys. When they’re being quiet is when they’re getting into trouble. Besides, I think I heard a giggle earlier, and I don’t think boy ghosts giggle.”

I smile back at her, “Probably not. I’ll go sort them out.”

I scoot up the steps to the second floor landing and slip into the first door on the front side of the hall, pulling my SureFire off my belt as I do. This was probably a sitting room at one time, smaller with chairs and side-tables arranged about. I circle the room, running my light around the window and checking the dust for new footprints -- nothing.

The two bedrooms are next, I check under the beds and in the closets, as well as the windows. One of these days something is going to jump out at me, and I’m going to embarrass myself -- but today everything is clear. Although the second bedroom window has broken sometime since the last time I was here. I make a mental note to drop by her preacher and mention this.

The end of the hall is a large room, stacked floor to ceiling in furniture. I hate this room -- I’m always afraid I’ll pull something off a stack accidentally and get crushed in the resulting avalanche, but I check the windows and look for the prowlers I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to find. The same occurs back up the hall until I’m in the ball room on the opposite side.

This one is different in that there is no furniture stacked about. I make my circuit -- all clear -- check to make sure Mrs. Schenk hasn’t come up the stairs, and close the door.

I step to the center of the parquet floor, take a deep breath:

“To be, or not to be: that is the question!
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.
To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.”

I finish my oratory, bow gently to a room only a complete cynic would consider to be empty and step back down the stairs.

In the kitchen, Mrs. Schenk has set out two saucers -- each holding a cinnamon roll -- and two tall glasses of iced tea. “You weren’t too harsh with them, I hope?”

“No, ma’am.”

“That’s good. Is it true what I heard about the Perkins boy?”

This is also part of dealing with Mrs. Schenk’s ghosts: You have to share the town gossip -- over rolls and tea, of course.

About ten minutes into the chat, and I notice that Mrs. Schenk isn’t eating her roll -- normally gossip gives her a good appetite -- but it’s when she rubs her jaw that I perk up and start to take notice.

“Ma’am, are you all right?”

“Oh, it’s nothing, a bit of heartburn, that’s all, but I do wish that I wasn't getting a toothache at the same time. One is bad enough, but both together are just awful.”

Really.

“How long have you had this toothache, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Oh, it just cropped up this morning. To tell God’s own truth, it’s the worst one I believe I’ve ever had.”

Oh, boy.

“Ma’am, if you’ll excuse me for just a bit, I need to call the office.”

Pleased at the prospect of more visitors, Mrs. Schenk perks up a bit, “Of course.”

I step out on the front porch, then break into a jog, heading for the jump-kit in my cruiser.

“Car 12, County.”

“Go ahead.”

“County, would you send a paramedic to my location, please.”

“Say again, car 12?”

**********

Part 2 is at AD's place.

LawDog

39 comments:

Min said...

A good beginning LD and hey I get first post position!

knitalot3 said...

Thanks for the story! Now about that pink gorilla....

Mrs. Who said...

Great beginning. And you cops don't get paid what you're worth.

John Peddie said...

Thanks LawDog. How many writers could think of puppy support, tie ghosts to Hamlet in the 21 st century, and make it all so good?

Now Dog...wasn't there some unfinished business? Goes back a ways...something about a pink suit?

Medic 61 said...

Wonderful--I could just picture you giving that soliloquy! Thanks so much for the story :)

jimbob86 said...

Good Stuff!

Scott said...

Very good. I am interested to see how Mrs. Schenk does with her MI.

Old NFO said...

Great start and a hit close to home... Thanks LD

HollyB said...

Outstanding. I was feeling myself getting worried about a fictional character!

And leading off with "puppy support"? Brilliant stroke.

phlegmfatale said...

Wonderful beginning to a warm and touching story. Thanks!

Christine said...

Great beginning! Really enjoyed it. Thanks.

lainy said...

Great story!

Anonymous said...

In these days when youtube videos of questionable tazerings bounce around the net every week or so, it's reasuring to hear from and about the 99.99% of the officers who just get up every morning to to help people like Mrs. Schenk. (OK, stopping the random stupids -- and later writing about it -- that's pretty good too.)

Lawdog, thanks for another good one.

DW said...

LawDog, did you have your Hat over your heart when reciting, I think it's required.
The occasional EMT who thinks while observing is rare enough, the LEO EMT who thinks medic while observing is as common as snow drifts in Florida.
Great story.

Kirk said...

Hey LD,

Great story. That's just beautiful, though sad.

I had a grandmother very much like her. I wish people like you and your mates had been about when she died. Instead, they found her 24 hours later in an assisted living centre.

Thank you for making one less person with my story.

Merry Christmas.

joated said...

Fantastic job by all three of you.

I'm hoping to see more collaborations in the future.

rockync said...

I'm a nurse in a small Southern town and your story had a familiar ring. I've also known dignified elderly men and women in the same mein as Mrs Shenk. I've helped a few leave this world for the next. One of my favorite hymns is "In the Garden." Thank you for a poignant, loving story. You three certainly told this story in a heart felt, skillful manner, sure to give others a personal view into "a day in the life..."

Kevin said...

Who needs screenwriters? You three ought to form a production company. This is better than 99.99% of the stuff you see on television today. You could get rich.

You ought to get rich.

Damned fine work, all three of you.

(Hamlet's soliloquy is a fine touch, LD!)

Matt G said...

The fine beginning of a fine collaboration.

Simeron said...

I know this is not fiction but, I sure hope Miss Hellen is still around being her fine self.

Kinda pulls at the old heart strings thinking about the tough old gal still offering up sweet tea and SINaman rolls (least from what you're wrote about em they are).

I can accept that we are scheduled for a new rodeo sometime in the future, don't make it any easier to know fine folk are heading out though.

You three done did it ya know. Going to have to drive up from Houston to come visit now just to check it out.

Hope you don't mind an old country fart stuck in the city coming to visit...just don't want to meet ya in an...Official..capacity.

None of ya ifn ya understand...*chuckle*

Very well written story and yes, I really do home Miss Hellen is fine but, if that part isn't fiction either, at least she went with friends around her, with dignity.

I can think (and have seen) far worse ways for a life to end unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it wasn't intended, but Hamlet's Soliloquy with its "to die, to sleep" was singularly appropriate.
Miss Helen did, indeed, exist, but in her 80s. I'm pretty sure she took her ghosts with her. Or perhaps she joined them, happily and gently plagueing the new occupants of the house.
LawMom

Asphyxiated Emancipation said...

Mr. Lawdog,
I always look forward to your (all too infrequent) postings, and they seldom fail to illicit some sort of emotional response, be it laughter, tears or a feeling of justice well served. This collaboration was a fine read, and pulled at my heart strings somethin' fierce. Well done. I know I've expressed to you before my appreciation for what you do, but allow me to say this...I wish we had a million more like you, and Babs and AD, too.

karla (threadbndr) said...

beautiful work from all three of you. But you made me cry at work! Again.

SpeakerTweaker said...

I held off comment until I finished the story.

I find myself fulfilled after this story. I could all but see it on a screen. I could nearly smell the cinnamon rolls;)

As I told Babs and AD, it is a sincere sense of comfort to know that if ever in that sort of need, that I may find myself in hands as good as y'alls.

Thank you.



tweaker

doubletrouble said...

GREAT job Lawdog, AD, & Babs.

The presentation is unique- a clever way to tell a moving tale.

Kudos to all!

Don Gwinn said...

Nice to see Mrs. Schenk again. That was always one of my favorite Lawdog Tales.

joannahurley said...

Great story, folks. Now, I'm all teary-eyed (finished it up).

Zundfolge said...

Dammit Dog ... you and your cohorts owe me a box of tissue. :(

Simeron said...

Well LawMom...

I suppose we all have an appointment with Mr. Death, tis the way of things.

That doesn't mean we should be in a hurry to get there or not miss the people that deserve to be around a very long time.

I hope Miss Helen is happy where ever she is in what we call reality to be sure.

I was taught the wisdom that follows...

Live as if you will live forever.

Die as if you will be remembered forever.

It's a nice pair of thoughts that far more should thing about I think.

Means think about what you're doing before you do it and you probably won't have as many regrets nor leave them behind you for someone else to clear up. *wink*

And LD, dang you, ya got my missus all teary eyed with your two cohorts.

Course, Mr. Simeron has to make her feel better...tis me first and best job. *wink*

Anonymous said...

Read all three parts, LawDog. Must be the pollen in the air...

txgho1911 said...

I do not think is such as a good read or story.
Humbling
Foreboding as parents and neighbors go. Thank you.

settlingformore said...

The bit about reciting Shakespeare to the ghosts was priceless.

The rest was marvelous too.

I quite enjoyed reading it.

Bob said...

I am anxious to read further and find out how the toothache is tied in. Thanks for whom you are!

Anonymous said...

Pain in the jaw is one of the symptoms of a heart attack. Particularly if it's combined with 'heartburn.' It isn't always pain down the left arm or chest pain.
LawMom

Lindsay said...

Damn! Tearing up. At my age! Brilliant collaborative story. Three perspectives on one person’s farewell - a great insight into life. Thank you from an Aussie firefighter.

Scott said...

Sorry for being repetitive, but I felt my comments needed to posted to all 3 places.

Tears haven't run down my cheeks in years.

That collaborative effort was absolutely wonderful. I have yet to read Vol. I but I'm at work and don't have paper towels handy. Hard to explain wet splotches on shirts when you haven't left for the bathroom.

Well done.

Mochamouse said...

Dang! I am so very, very glad that I read these three stories in the comfort of my living room, and not at work, because I cried my eyes out. Well done, well done indeed. I'm going to miss Mrs Helen.

Chocolatesa said...

This gave me a big lump in my throat. Which is not easy considering I read this while at work in a calling center! loll.

Assisted Living Centre Westerville said...

@Kirk: My good wishes are with you and your family!