stretched to the sky to ease his aching back muscles before he climbed into his
car. It had been another long night shift. He was glad it was over and as usual
the last hour was always the longest. Starting night shift at 1700 hours last
evening and going hell for leather just about non-stop until 0700 hours this
morning, makes for a long tiring shift.
breezy day shift crews coming in at ten minutes to seven, slamming doors and
rattling crockery made his nerves jangle. “Be quiet, you bastards,” he had
screamed in his head as he had struggled out of the recliner which he had
flopped into not fifteen minutes earlier. Now the shift was over and he had a
grin on his face as he turned the key in his old beat up jalopy and revved the
engine blowing thick blue smoke out of the exhaust pipe.
hour shifts can be a godsend in a nice quiet leafy burg where the good citizens
go to bed early and the paramedic crews sleep all night and go home refreshed,
and don’t have to go to bed during the day, but a night shift in the city is a
different kettle of fish.
city crews usually averaged fifteen jobs during the night and this night shift
he had just completed was no different. Three attempts to get his dinner put
Lance in a frayed frame of mind. There are only so many times you can heat a
pizza. But now it had ended, he was heading home on his days off.
The sun was already climbing and gave off some warmth … enough to drive
the over-night chill from his bones.
new student, who Lance had never seen before, waved to him as he drove up the
ramp from the rear open car park. Lance, being Lance, and not giving a shit,
gave this new guy the finger. The new guy turned to watch the car exit up the
ramp leaving the smell of burning rubber floating in the air.
I hope they’re not all like that” he muttered to himself as he brushed
invisible specks from his brand new uniform.
This was his first day … nothing was
going to spoil it. He had waited so long for this moment. ‘He was going to be
the best of the best’ … went through his mind as he walked towards the mess
rubbed the bristles on his chin as he drove out of the car park of the city
Ambulance Station one handed, with his right elbow resting on the open window as
he swung out onto the mainstream traffic, not giving the new guy another
thought. The early sun had been cooking the car in the car park, and it was
uncomfortably hot for the time of year. The flat he called home would be heating
up too. For years he’d promised himself some air-con, but between his gambling
/ drinking / stealing / and other acts of wanton arse-holeness, he’d never
gotten around to it.
he needed right now though, was a drink. Any drink as long as it was an
alcoholic drink. “After all,” he told himself, “every other bastard has a
drink when they finish work, why can’t I?”
could almost taste the ice-cold head of a beer as he stopped at a red light.
“Fuck this” he said to himself as he pulled out
his half full, or as Lance, the perennial optimist would put it, his half empty
hip flask of vodka. “I’ve earned this bastard,” he said out loud to
flask had been full when he started his night shift.
took a big hit as the light turned green, and the guy in the car behind him
blasted his horn, which in turn, caused Lance to nearly have a cardiac arrest
whilst vodka shot out of his nose.
“You rotten prick!” screamed Lance as the car accelerated around him.
knew the car, and the driver, his partner from last night, Jimmy.
sort you out you fucking tampon,” seethed Lance as Jimmy drove off laughing
and giving Lance the two fingers.
took off planting his foot hard on the accelerator, leaving a trail of blue
smoke from the spinning wheels and wiping vodka from his top lip with the sleeve
of his shirt at the same time. “You’re fucked Jimmy my son,” thought Lance
as he rounded a corner and made for home. “You want to play with the big boys
Jimmy, be prepared to play hard, because you are now in my little black book,
mind strayed to more pleasant things, like his days off, as he weaved through
the morning traffic. He couldn’t believe that his twentieth anniversary as a
paramedic had finally arrived, and had he plans to celebrate or what. He was
forty years old now, joined up at twenty, and by all accounts he had twenty-five
years to go until retirement.
all of those twenty years he had worked in the city, apart for a short spell at
a northern suburban station. Twenty years of missed meals, heartburn, extreme
stress and running on adrenaline, was taking its toll on him, but he would not
have it any other way.
city station is where he wanted to be … and the city station is what he got.
The idea of twenty-five more years seemed unreal to him, and he knew that it
would be an almost impossible feat to achieve. In fact, he was more than certain
he was never going to make it at all.
anyone had said that to him twenty years ago, he would have laughed in their
face and bet his last buck they were wrong. Now he would probably go along with
them. Lately, making it through a day shift or a night shift without wanting to
head-butt someone was hard enough, but, the idea of twenty five more years in
the city, well, that was just as hard to take as knowing that prick Jimmy was
going home to a hot breakfast from a loving wife and a bedroom with the air-con
on full blast. For now though, he was content to have another hit of Vodka and
could wait for another day … his well-earned days off couldn’t.
he loved most about finishing a night shift was watching the rest of the city
come to life as he drove home. Seeing the faces of the men and women in their
cars on the freeway as they drove to town to start their daily grind in the
office or factory. Dulled, expressionless, sober. Seeing people at bus stops,
hair still wet from showers, women still applying make up as the bus rolls up.
do all these people go?’ He used to think. ‘Do they have any idea at all of
the entire real world?’ This was another question he used to ask himself, and
the only definitive answer he could come up with was “No”. The average shit
in the street that worked in an office, shop or factory knew nothing of the
world he inhabited. A world of misery where he and his like were constantly in
demand. The wail of a siren meant nothing to most. It was just an inconvenience
if an ambulance came from behind and they have to pull over, to make way. The
fact that the siren meant that someone somewhere was in stress did not enter
their tiny minds, he thought, for the umpteenth time.
They knew sweet fuck all about what went on in the big dark
city, with its street-walkers and night owls who preyed on the unwary, while
they, the sanctimonious bastards were tucked up in their own little cocoon
He and his
fellow Paramedic colleagues knew.
They knew it
They knew life and
knew the smells, the screams, and the pleas.
knew every twisted distortion, and every lie ever uttered, every drunken vow,
every act of begging to God for another chance, and every song of a schizo.
wail of a dead child’s parent, every empty thank-you, every excuse for murder,
and every drunken driver’s protests that he was sober, and the kid appeared
out of nowhere. Every scene of a hanging, a gassing, an assault, a gunshot, a
fatality by car, a fatality by fire, and worst of all, a fatality by life. They
knew it all. Hence the rules. The
A creed that Lance had started to live by a few years back. The rules
were … and are for him … and him alone. The rules are his own personal bible
… that no one else is privy to. He, and only he, can add some, take some away,
or invent new ones as time and opportunity present itself. They are simple
rules, but only one rule, rule number one has stayed the same, and that is,
“Finish what you start.” If you’re going to resuscitate someone, you go
all the way, pump that heart, give those drugs, give them that tube and oxygen.
you’re going to promise to get someone out of a car wreck, you do not leave
their side, you see it through, you do your job, and you do it well. You give
them optimum care and every possible chance of making a good recovery by being
the best pre-hospital operative in the business. If you’re going to get
someone, fuck them over, then you do it with equal gusto. The same rules apply.
There is no compromise with rule number one, ever.
his peers Lance was considered a legend of the trade. His thoughts, actions and
hands were fast and decisive. He knew his job … he knew the body and all its
parts. He knew the how and why … right down to the microscopic depths of the
tiny powerhouse that was the human cell … how and why the body kept going …
and how and why the body just stopped.
Twenty years in the city and his need to be the best, made him the man he
was today, the great impostor. The man whose life was now a game … a charade
to be enacted, on every shift.
spoke about him in awe. Fellow paramedics praised him on jobs, even most of the
emergency Doctors in town called him by his first name. Yet, lately, the
overwhelming desire to drink and stand atop a sky scraper and scream at the city
below, “LOOK AT WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO ME!’ burned within him.
He was approaching total burn out, he exhibited all the signs of total
burn out, knew there was something not right, but would never admit it, not even
rules state that no one will ever see his bared soul. The face he showed to the
world was one thing … his inner face was of a world in turmoil by exposure to
life at its worst. Lance’s emotional vault had been closed, welded shut years
ago. There was nothing left to share with anyone. This was his secret. A
paramedic rule from long ago … share nothing … play the game … put on the
persona, but it all goes into the vault, filed away.
that the vault was full, jammed full, it will never be able to be opened. He
often thought about what it would take for him to feel emotion on the job again
… feel raw emotion for another person, but he just couldn’t imagine it …
he had seen it all, 100 times, everything 100 times at least.
just had to resign himself to the fact that part of his psyche had gone,
possibly gone forever.
“But it’s what they did to
me”, he would tell himself. “They made me what I am.”
traffic had thinned out considerably as he glanced in the rear view mirror to
see the city skyline in the haze of the early morning light. He could not
remember driving through the last few suburbs. This was not uncommon after a
particularly busy night shift. Bone weary and emotionally drained, most night
shift workers drive home on autopilot.
He finished off the last of the Vodka as he cruised up to his driveway.
He had a buzz going, and had no intention of letting it go. He was on his days
was going to celebrate twenty fucking years, and celebrate hard.
He was going to get that prick Jimmy, and he was also going to throw a
trinket he had stolen from an old lady into the cupboard to join the other
hundred or so trinkets he had stolen from patients during the course of his
All the rules are equal.
He knew exactly where he was at. He
knew all the signs. He had long ago seen the signs in other paramedics … but
nobody was ever going to see his signs. The
vault was closed. Paramedic rules ruled with an iron rod.
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