By Audrey W
John Gage looked at Dixie McCall, a solemn expression on his face. His partner Roy DeSoto was beside him, his features displaying the same emotion as he shifted his gaze downward. The two were dressed in their turnout pants and blue jackets, having been called out late at night.
“I’m sorry,” Doctor Brackett reiterated from where he stood at the end of the desk near the base station at Rampart General, a metal clipboard in his hands. For the previous thirty minutes, he’d assisted another doctor with diagnosing a patient displaying unusual symptoms.
The paramedics had just brought in a victim with cardiac issues and were about to leave when they saw the head nurse and doctor both not far from the base station. They’d decided to check on the status of a heart attack victim they’d brought in a few hours earlier. A seventy-year-old man named Ben Dawson.
“We did all we could,” the doctor continued. “But sometimes it’s out of our hands. We can’t do enough.”
John nodded, then let out a sigh. Roy raised his head and eyed the hospital staff members he and John had come to be so close to. The somber expressions on their faces clearly showed they were still affected by the loss of the patient as well.
After a moment of silence, John picked up the portable data scope he’d placed on the desk and glanced at Roy.
“Well, I guess we’d better get back to the station . . .”
“Yeah. . .”
“See ya, Dix. . .Doc,” John said, a brief nod of acknowledgement toward the latter as he stepped away.
“Bye,” Roy put in with a wan smile and slight wave.
As they started down the corridor, Brackett called out, “Get some sleep! No sense in all of us being up all night!”
Both paramedics glanced over their shoulders and once again waved. As they continued on, the doctor turned his attention to Dixie. It wasn’t very often the friends and colleagues pulled overnight duty, especially together.
“They’ll be all right,” he assured. “I’ve gotta get this chart back to Mark,” he added with a lift of the clip board. “After that, you care to join me for a cup of coffee?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” she quipped.
It had been a tough night so far, but just like the paramedics, they knew they couldn’t let the grief stay with them for long. It was just part of the job and both had years of experience dealing with it.
John shut the passenger side door of the squad, then watched as Roy turned the key in the ignition.
As they headed out, he thought about Mr. Dawson again.
When the man’s distraught wife had let them into the house, too much was going on to take notice of the surroundings. They’d rushed directly to the master bedroom where he was lying on the bed, clad only in boxer shorts. His chest pains had increased and he was having difficulty breathing.
Once the elderly victim was ready for transport, Roy walked briskly beside the stretcher carrying him, while John had conversed with Dawson’s wife as they followed behind through the house. Gage hoped the brief interaction would help to calm her nerves a bit. It was during that time that he really noticed the assortment of collections the couple had in the home, many in the bedroom on shelves, some on the walls of the hallway in frames. Old fashioned metal toy banks that were designed as a scene with moving parts to make depositing coins fun, numerous Avon bottles both likely with aftershave and women’s cologne still in them, a variety of model ships in different sizes, stamps from a collection, a half dozen fishing poles on a rack.
“You’ve got quite a collection of stuff in here,” John remarked.
“Oh, those are all Ben’s. There aren’t many things he doesn’t collect. Those are just the things you can see. The rest are in the closets.”
“He really enjoys it, huh?”
With Roy and her husband then out of earshot, she’d explained, “I don’t know if joy is the word. Seems it brings him more worry than anything. We haven’t been on a vacation in years because he doesn’t want to leave the house alone for more than a few hours. He doesn’t let anyone outside of the family come over to visit anymore. He’s afraid they’ll see his stuff and take it someday. I had to convince him it was okay to call for your help.”
He’d found out earlier through her that it had taken precious time they could’ve used to treat her husband for her to talk him into allowing her to call the fire department and an ambulance. Though it was never a guarantee, it was possible he would’ve still been alive if they could’ve gotten to him sooner.
John sighed as he looked out the passenger window, which brought a quick glance at him from Roy.
“Yeah. . . . I was just thinkin’.”
John turned his head to look at his partner in the darkened cab, his lips pursed. He didn’t need to clarify they were thinking about the same subject. The two often just knew by gut feeling what the other had on his mind.
“Ya know, it really puts things in perspective. All those things Ben Dawson owned and treasured, to the point it kept him from enjoying life to the fullest; shutting people out. Man, in the end to die and not one bit of it with ‘um. Not even so much as a shirt on his back.”
“Maybe that was the ultimate lesson for him. That in the end, what we have in the way of material possessions really doesn’t matter anymore. Maybe he had to be stripped of everything for it to finally sink in.”
John gave a slight nod, his face still solemn. “We sure can’t take it with us.”
He just wished Ben Dawson would’ve been able to admit it to himself sooner. They both did.
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