From Chapter Three of Twenty-Five at the Lip
She came in hung over one April morning and wanted to sleep on the stretcher. They drove to post and Calvin saw her rolling over in the back with her hand on her head, hearing the occasional moan. He turned around and asked her if she was OK.
“The hell you are, you look like crap.”
“Thanks, why don’t you take a nap?”
“I can’t with all the noise you’re making.”
“So close the slider.”
He got out of the cab and came around to the side door and popped it open. He pulled out an IV line setup and a bag of saline out of the cabinet and sat down on the bench. He looked over her arm and poked it with his finger. She turned toward him.
“What are you doing?”
The IV was clenched in his teeth and he began to wrap the tourniquet around her upper arm.
“I’m giving you an IV.”
“Like hell you are.”
“Like hell I’m not. You’re hung over and I can’t have my partner like that. You’re getting an IV, we’re going to run this bag of saline into you and we’re going to work the rest of this shift. I’m not getting cut early so you can go home to nurse your hangover.”
She reached up, broke a cabinet seal, and pulled down an ice pack. She smacked it with one hand on the rail of the stretcher and placed it on her forehead. Her partner was being a prick again.
“Ow,” she said as he stuck her arm.
“Oh shut up, it doesn’t hurt.”
“The hell it doesn’t. Let me stick you next.”
He finished the IV and let the bag run into her freely. Opening the back door he climbed outside and pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. He looked back at her and flipped it open. After speaking to someone on the other end of the line, he climbed back inside to check the progress of the bag. It was half empty.
“I suppose you called the supervisor.”
Ignoring the comment he fished another bag of fluid out of the cabinet. He handed it to her and stood up.
“I may be a pompous prick,” he said repeating what she had said about him, “…but I’m not a rat. I told dispatch we are out of service because I’ve got the runs. What happens in the truck stays in the truck. You can hook that one up when the first one is done.” And with that he opened the side door and climbed back into the passenger’s seat.
He was leaning the seat back when the unspiked bag of saline flew forward through the rear window and smacked onto the dashboard. The back door opened and slammed and Valerie appeared at the driver’s door holding the current bag of saline in her hand. She looked angry, but Calvin was indifferent to her mood. She climbed in and hung the bag on the seat belt latch over the door and turned to him. There was a brief pause and then she spoke.
“For saying that. It’s just frustrating with you being in a lousy mood all the time.”
“I have a lot of things going on.”
“I know that. And I know you don’t know me all that well, so talking about it is out of the question, but if you’re at work you don’t have to bring your problems with you.”
She was right and he knew it. Tossing her left foot up onto the steering column Valerie produced a switchblade knife from the inside of her boot and used it to open the second bag of saline.
“But I am your partner, and even though you think I’m a pain in the ass” she said repeating what she had heard while gesturing with the blade still in hand, “I appreciate you looking out for me.”
“No problem,” he said putting his feet up onto the dash and deciding to ignore Valerie’s own notion of scene safety. She began to think he might not have been a total jerk after all. She reached for the knob on the radio and flipped it on. When she heard How to Save a Life which had been overplayed for weeks she groaned and leaned forward against the steering wheel.
“I hate The Fray,” she said switching the tuner from the poppy 92 Pro FM to 94 HJY, a local rock station, and with Pearl Jam in his ears he noticed the chipped black fingernail polish she wore. He started to think that she wasn’t so bad either, and that maybe she had some promise as a partner.
“How do you feel about Nickelback?” he asked testing her music tastes. She sneered and said
“They should just call themselves ‘Waaaah’. That’s all I hear when they come on the radio,” she said. Calvin smirked, appreciating the sentiment. Valerie spun the wheel on her IV line and let the solution flow into her vein, replenishing her fluid…
Twenty-Five at the Lip © 2014 by James Windale
Cover art ©2014 by Jennifer Johnston and Jennifer Johnston Illustration