In the Alley-Part 3

emtThe initial pshhht of the 911 radio dispatch gave way to the lovely cadence of a woman’s voice: “Squad 19, do you read me?”

The emergency medical technician pushed the switch on his radio mic. “Loud and clear.”

“Situation in an alley off San Pedro, on the east side, between Fifth Street and Sixth.”

“Alley, San Pedro, east side, between Fifth and Sixth.”

“Correct. White male down. Apparent drug overdose.”

“Squad 19 is ready and on our way.”

“Copy that.”

Rick, the EMT, called to his partner, “Let’s roll!”

The two slung on their coats, made quick visual checks on their equipment, and climbed into their rig. As they pulled out along the factories and warehouses, their lights and siren reawakened the quiet, sun-drenched afternoon on the short ride toward skid row.

On their arrival, two squad cars with lights flashing sat in front of the ally, blocking one lane of traffic. The alley extended between two brick buildings. A chain-link gate, topped with razor wire, barricaded the far end. One of the cars moved to open the way as Rick backed the ambulance to the sidewalk.

From the back of the rig, the two EMTs pulled out the first aid kit, oxygen bag, resuscitator, and defibrillator. Then they rushed past the spectators to the patient. The cracked-and-broken asphalt beneath him spread like a spider’s web. He lay half curled on his side, as if the web had finally and irrevocably entangled him.

As the police held gawkers back, the two knelt on either side of the man. Quick check. Oxygen mask over the man’s face. Cut the shirt open, defibrillator pads on upper right and middle left of the chest.

The man’s body jittered, and the chest expanded.

As the two monitored progress, Rick pointed to the ground beside the man. “Jamal, check that out.”

Jamal examined the array, while glancing back at the defibrillator screen.

Across the asphalt lay a syringe, a spoon, a lighter, and an open wallet. The man’s driver’s license had fallen partially out. Jamal looked closely. “His name’s Derek. And get this, his address is in Cupertino.”

“What? Dude, he sure fell a long way.”

Under the wallet was a piece of paper. Jamal picked it up. He read it, squinted, looked closer, and reread it. “You gotta be kidding me.”

On it was a note: If I’m still alive, do not revive me unless you can tell me the purpose of life.

Jamal read it aloud to Rick. Then he reread each word to himself. He stilled.

“Watch your monitor,” Rick said flatly.

“On it.” Jamal set the note down and leaned toward the unit. He stared into the face of the man on the ground.

“It looks like this guy’s going to come through.”

“Oh, yeah. He has to now.”

“So he’ll need a lesson on life, or he’ll be ticked off.” Rick smiled. “We might be in trouble.”

Jamal slowly shook his head. He closed his eyes at the onslaught of memories. Dad’s drunken stupors. Yelling and hitting. Mama’s shouting and waving her arms. Grandma’s arms around him. Church. The hood. Learning to stand tall because he was loved and he was somebody.

This Derek guy needed to learn that about himself as much as he needed the oxygen Rick was monitoring. Wherever a person was from, Jamal knew the most important thing was where he was going.

  –This needs something more at the end. I haven’t gotten it yet. How would you like to see the story end?


Photo credit: