A Charmed Life
Chapter 32: Starting Again
Copyright© 2016 by The Outsider
01 August 1993 - Malden, Massachusetts
Charlie and Emilie both moaned when they tasted their first forkfuls of dinner. Jeff chuckled while he watched the two women; they were eating like they’d be getting an ambulance call any second - shoveling food in madly. He could hear his drill sergeant in his head: “Eat it now, taste it later!”
“May I safely assume that you ladies like dinner?”
“You can’t ever move out now!” Emilie exclaimed between bites. “You’re gonna stay right here and be our personal chef!”
“I think Mr. Brophy might be a little upset if I don’t show up for my first day of work tomorrow.”
“Oh, Mr. Brophy will live,” Charlie mumbled, her mouth full.
“I’d like to have an EMS career before I torpedo it, Charlie. Will I see you tomorrow, do you think?”
Charlie nodded as she finished chewing. “They usually bring the new people through to see the ER during the day shift so probably, yes.”
“Wanna have a little fun?”
“Why am I nervous?” Jeff explained his idea. Charlie shook her head, casting a glance at Emilie; her partner was trying to laugh with a mouthful of food. “Such a troublemaker you are!”
“‘Troublemaker?’ Moi? Surely you’re joking?”
“No I’m not. And don’t call me ‘Shirley!’”
“Honestly, I don’t know why they’re making you ride for three weeks,” Aaron Steele commented the next day. Jeff was riding third with the crew he’d met two weeks ago when dropping off his application. “I mean, it’s not like you don’t know the job after a year full-time.”
“Well, I don’t know the area or how things are done here versus back in Springfield. But, hey, if they want to pay me to ride third, who am I to argue? I’ll get some good practice writing Brophy’s version of run reports, too.”
“Jeff, you’re about the only person we’ve had ride with us who hasn’t bitched about paperwork or having to ride third for as long as you are,” Robin Fiske commented from the back of the truck. They were letting Jeff ride in the front passenger’s seat so he could see where they were going; he’d need to drive around by himself to really learn the area.
“Guys, if I’m gonna stay in EMS, which seems pretty likely, I’ll be writing paperwork for some time anyway; it seems to be the one constant across all career fields. Even with a year’s experience I’m the FNG, plain and simple. My ride time won’t last forever and you guys can get back to your regular routine.”
“You already bought us each a coffee, so we’re not exactly about to throw you out at the next light,” Aaron chuckled. “Okay, here it is in all of its glory - Malden Hospital. We get along very well with the ER staff here. The staff upstairs can be a little pricklier, however.” Aaron parked the truck and all three piled out.
The trio walked into the ER through the ambulance entrance, each taking off their sunglasses. Robin and Aaron introduced Jeff to the staff in the ER; they were friendly but reserved around a new person.
Another nurse walked back into the main ER from the triage area. Her eyes locked on to Jeff; they bored into him. She abandoned all pretense of professionalism and strutted towards him. Jeff stared back, smirking at her. She stopped a foot from him, gazing up into his eyes.
Jeff grabbed the woman in a tight embrace. He bent her into the famous pose of the sailor kissing a woman in Times Square on VJ Day; for long seconds they kissed passionately. Her colleagues stared in shock. Aaron and Robin watched with mouths agape.
Jeff pulled back from the woman. “Anything?”
“Nope, sorry,” Charlie responded.
“Oh, well,” he muttered while he helped her stand upright, “you can’t blame a guy for trying.”
“That was a pretty good kiss, I have to admit.” She looked at their audience. “What’s with them?”
“I think they’re in shock. Did you tell them you and Emilie have a new roommate?”
“Sure, but I think I forgot to tell them you were male. Did you tell the guys you’re riding with where you live?”
“Only that where I live was behind Malden Catholic in vague terms.” Jeff looked back at their respective coworkers again. “I think we broke them.”
One of Charlie’s coworkers found her voice. “Wha... ? What was that?”
“Acting!” Charlie said mimicking Jon Lovitz from Saturday Night Live‘s “Master Thespian” skit, her hand rising above her head with a flourish.
“Brilliant!” Jeff exclaimed, playing along.
“Thank you!” Charlie responded before she took a sweeping bow.
Jeff hooked a thumb at her. “We cheated a little; Charlie was the president of the drama club in high school.”
“Hey, you were pretty good just now! You’d have been a great actor back then if you’d stopped playing sports long enough!”
“Oh, a prankster, huh?” Robin asked. “I think the gloves just came off...”
The thing Jeff found he was having the most difficulty with, other than the traffic volume, was telling when he’d entered another city. While he drove around trying to learn the area, he noted how the cities blended together here; back out by Enfield the towns had defined centers, long stretches of low population density, and nice clear posted signs when crossing a town line. In Massachusetts there is no “unincorporated” land; all lands belong to a city or town. That point was driven home inside 128.
Metro Boston is home to a staggering amount of hospitals and other healthcare facilities. In addition to the six Level One trauma centers in the City of Boston there are the specialty hospitals, clinics, two VA hospitals and numerous psychiatric facilities; Harvard, Tufts and Boston University each have medical schools and partner with many surrounding hospitals for use as training grounds. North of the city nearly every municipality sported a small hospital and a number of nursing facilities; Jeff was sure the same was true to the south. He knew he’d learn them all at some point but, as someone new to the area, it was overwhelming at the moment.
Even with Brophy being based in one of the municipalities with a functioning hospital, the sheer number of cities they covered meant that Jeff transported patients to and from many of the others during his orientation. As with any combination there were places which were welcoming while others weren’t. Malden Hospital ER was by far the most welcoming of them all, which was due in large part to the performance he and Charlie’d put on his first day.
At the end of his third-ride time Jeff discovered that Robin and Aaron’s schedule was split, with Robin headed off to a schedule full of night shifts. Aaron assured him Robin was the person that idea originated with; his kids’ schedules needed someone with the schedule flexibility he was able to have. Robin’s wife worked in a bank, which are not known for overnight hours.
“What, do you want to work nights?” Aaron asked him.
“It wouldn’t be my first choice, no,” Jeff admitted.
“I’m guessing you’ll be headed to paramedic school eventually?”
“That’s what I’m thinking, within the next couple of years.”
“Depending on where you take your classes, you’ll likely have to change your schedule to accommodate them. At least they’re willing to work with you on that here; they even let employees do their field hours here if needed. Those hours don’t count as work hours, and you can’t get paid and get credit for your required skills at the same time, but people make it work.”
“It’s not like I’m not used to working and going to school.” Jeff explained his schedule during high school and once he’d left the Army.
Aaron nodded. “You’ll be used to it, that’s for sure.”
At the end of August Jeff was able to wrangle a weekend off to fulfill a promise to a friend; Jeff practiced deep breathing and calming exercises when he thought of what he’d agreed to.
The chaos that is Move-In Day in Boston can’t be accurately described to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. An estimated sixty-five to seventy percent of Boston’s rental leases turn over on September first each year. Upwards of fifty thousand students descend on the narrow and confusing streets of the city, many of them from out of town. Many move in to substandard or illegal apartments, but don’t know any better and don’t say anything. Boston’s Storrow Drive, which is off-limits to trucks, can’t accommodate vehicles taller than ten feet; this leads to more traffic jams while the police try to clear the stuck trucks on the riverfront parkway.
Jeff almost fell to his knees to give thanks that Heather found her apartment well in advance, and that it was clean and safe. He was also grateful that he’d taken the MBTA to her apartment, rather than try to drive into town. Charlie and Emilie both came with him since they weren’t working that weekend either. The three friends arrived at Heather’s building about thirty minutes before Heather and Tom Cavanaugh arrived in the rented moving truck.
Tom arrived early enough to find a parking space in front of Heather’s building; Jeff and his roommates stepped out of the coffee shop where they’d been waiting. Jeff made the introductions before he and Tom headed up to the second floor to scout the move.
“At least the staircase isn’t too bad,” Tom muttered while he looked over the apartment’s floor plan.
“Thankfully not,” Jeff said in agreement. “We can put most of Heather’s things in the front room and she can sort from there.”
“Let’s get to it. This city’s gonna be a madhouse in a few hours.”
“Could be worse. The Sox could be in the playoffs today.”
“Right. They’d have to not be terrible first.” The ‘90s looked as if they’d be lean years for the Red Sox after their success and heartbreaking collapse in 1986.
The heaviest items to move were first out of the truck - Heather’s living room and bedroom sets - having been loaded into the truck last in Greenwich. Two hours of hard work by the friends saw Heather’s things inside her one-bedroom apartment just off Commonwealth Avenue; Boston University would only be a ten minute walk away. Tom started to bid the youngsters farewell once the truck was empty.
“Grampy, we were gonna go get some lunch! We owe you that, at least!”
“Munchkin, I want to get out of this damn town before it’s gridlocked. I’ll stop at someplace outside 128 and eat, somewhere I can park that beast without a hassle. You be careful out here. And kick some tail in the classroom!”
Tom kissed his granddaughter. “You don’t need some old man hanging around. You kids go eat while everyone else is still trying to find a parking space. Jeff, good to see you again! Ladies, a pleasure.” Tom climbed into the rented truck. The four young friends waved goodbye while the truck disappeared down the narrow side street.
“Who’s hungry?” Jeff asked when they walked back into the apartment.
“Typical male,” all three women said as one, shaking their heads.
“Hey, this body takes work. It’s not my fault none of you appreciate the effort I put into maintaining it.”
“Listen, bub, we can appreciate a thoroughbred horse without buying the damn thing,” Charlie retorted.
Jeff looked pleased. “I’m a thoroughbred? I think I like that.”
“Aw geez, Charlie, now look what you did!” Heather groused. She and Charlie frowned at him, crossing their arms at the same time.
Emilie laughed while she hooked her arm through his. “Let’s go, boyfriend. We can hit that pizza place by the corner while these two look like they just bit into lemons.”
“Mais bien sûr, mademoiselle!” Jeff escorted Emilie out of the apartment while Heather and Charlie scrambled to follow.
“So how was the night?”
“Not bad, Jeff,” replied Robin Fiske. “We only did one. The truck should be good.”
“Cool, thanks. Is Aaron outside already?”
“Yeah, he got in five minutes ago; he’s checking the truck.”
“Okay, see you Friday morning.” Jeff walked out to the garage to help Aaron finish checking their assigned ambulance; they would be working Malden BLS today. Once that task was complete the two prepared to collect the coffee order for the office folks; this was something of a tradition for their shift to do. Aaron slid behind the wheel while Jeff hopped into the passenger’s seat.
Jeff felt some sort of fluid hitting his neck and running down his back. He jumped out of the truck. Looking up at the truck’s headliner, Jeff spotted the end of an IV’s drip set pointed at where he’d been sitting.