I’m sitting on the couch in the bunkroom, looking at my boots. They’re untied. The room is dark, except for the orange glow of the gas heaters on the walls and the night-light by the station’s radio. I hear one of the bunks creak. I look over and see Bob flopping into the lower bunk, burrowing in and pulling the blanket over his head.
“What just happened?”
“What do you mean, what just happened?”
“Did we get a run?”
“What do you mean, did we get a run?”
“Um, I mean, do we have a run or did we go on a run?”
“Are you stupid? Did you hit your head? I’m too tired for this crap. Shut up and go to bed.”
“No, I mean it. Did we get a run?”
At this point Bob throws the blanket off, swings his legs to the floor and sits up.
“You’re kidding me, right?”
“Um, no, I’m not sure.”
“5th and Middle? Unconscious call? No patient?”
“Oh, oh yeah, right.” I had no idea what he was talking about. Oh well. We went back to bed.
I’m driving the rig. The lights are flashing. The siren is wailing.
“Where are we going?” I ask Tony.
“Yeah, I forgot the address.”
“Vermillion Manor,” he says.
I drive a little while longer. I take a sip of coffee from the travel mug I always fill and put in the rig before I go to bed. Hey, every little bit helps.
“What’s the call?”
“Chest pain, shortness of breath. Are you OK?”
“Yeah, fine, sure.”
Crap. The lights in the station come on. I turn over and put the pillow over my head. Mike yells, “Rise and shine sleepy heads!”
I smell the coffee. Well, at least there’s that.
“Hey Tony, I feel like crap even though we didn’t catch any runs last night.”
“Yeah, except for that cluster at Vermillion Manor at about three.”
“Oh, yeah, that,” I said, but really didn’t know what he was talking about.
“What’s wrong with you?” my wife asks.
“Nothing, I’m fine, why?”
“’Cuz you’re acting like you have PMS.”
“Oh, just a little grumpy maybe.”
“Or maybe a little PAS (post-ambulance syndrome).”
“Thought you didn’t have any runs last night.”
“No, we didn’t, but, you know, it’s not the same.”
“You have got to find away to get out of those 24-hour shifts. It’s not one day on and two days off—it’s one day on and two days off your rocker.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Food’s on the table,” John yells through the intercom.
We all file in, grab a seat, start loading up our plates with a healthy assortment of eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy.
“Where’s Johnny today?”
“Don’t know” I answer. “They call, and I come.”
“You here for the 12 or the 24?”
“Actually, the 18. I’m here ’til 1 a.m.”
“Who’s coming in at one?”
“Don’t know,” I answer.
“So that’s weird, why you leaving at one?”
“Preserve my marriage,” I answer. “And my sanity. Twenty-fours mess me up for two days after. And I pity the poor patient who actually requires medical treatment at 3 a.m. and hopes to get it from me. I’m lucky, if I can get my boots on the right feet.”
“I hear ya. Must be nice.”
“Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Besides, since they took away the night shift differential, it’s not such a big hit to the wallet.”
“So you guys’ house duties are mopping the floors and the bathrooms.”
“Got it, Captain. What’s for dinner?”