by Stan Bednarz.
Parked in front of the emergency doors as part of the ambulance core, I wait for my frozen heart. I ‘d like to think I’m in the business of saving lives and offering hope. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about my partner. Brian looks as if he’s spent his teen years combing the beaches of southern California. He’s out of his element in Malone, NY, a small town near the Canadian border. Napping comfortably in the passenger seat, I wonder if I should prod him. This should be a good learning experience. He shouldn’t be falling asleep in random places waiting for someone to jar him awake.
Darting through the sliding glass of the emergency doors, two nurses head our way. One holds the heart in a red and white cooler full of dry ice. The other one gets ahead of her to open the back doors of the ambulance. I scamper inside to greet them in the rear and help strap down the package.
“Careful, I heard there’s black ice on the road,” says the honey-haired girl who opens the back door and looks at me with her penetrating blue eyes.
I look at my glowing wristwatch and nod. “Is the private plane ready and waiting for me at the county airport?”
“Yes, The pilot is waiting,” says the girl in blue smocks with long brown hair.
Both young women look wet and shivering. To me, they are the real beauty in life, accented by falling snow that shines like diamonds in their hair. They are caring souls.
“Twenty minutes,” I said.
The brown haired girl crosses her arms and dances in the snow to keep warm. “Now go save a life.”
I’m kept warm by their devotion.
In unison, the women close the back door, and I latch it from the inside. As I return to the driver seat with lights flashing, reflecting off mounds of snow, I can’t help but notice my partner stretching from his nap. “Thanks,” I say, as I return to the wheel and snap my belt buckle on. Pulling away I steer through a maze of parked cars.
“Thanks for what?” he says.
“Thanks for nothing.”
He stretches and yawns. “Okay, dude. I’ll get it on the rebound.”
“It’s a heart,” I say, “not a basketball.”
We drive in silence, lights spreading over a vast horizon of frozen farmland, but tonight it looks like we could be in Siberia. The plows have done their job and I’m able to negotiate the road, mindful I have a heart waiting to save someone, and mindful that someone has paid with their lives to make their heart available. Precious cargo.
Although Brian is loosely buckled, he is flexible enough to put his feet on the dashboard while gazing at the evening reflection of hardened snow. “I got to pee.”
He puts his legs down and squirms.
As I stare at him I feel an eruption of anger swelling inside me. Hardly ten minutes in and I want to throw him away.
“Dude, just let me jump out. No cars on the road. It will only take a minute.”
I shake my head and reluctantly pullover. “Make it snappy.”
He rushes outside and almost falls on his bum, but like a trained surfer, he rights himself. I tap on the steering wheel and stare at my glowing watch. We are eight minutes from the airport and have one minute to spare. Then this incredible thought rakes my mind. What if I leave him? Why don’t I just pick him up on the rebound?
I reluctantly honk the horn. He comes running.
He gets in and rubs his hands together, blowing fog on the windshield.
I pull away and we drive to the municipal airport. It’s Brian’s job to get out and hand-off the package to the co-pilot waiting anxiously in the cold near the Cessna.
I slide to a halt a few yards from the plane with seconds to spare.
Brian dives outside and runs to the back of the box wagon. He fumbles for a minute.
“Cripe sake, Brian, what are you doing, having a sandwich?”
Finally, he walks over to the pilot who has been dutifully waiting by the wing of his aircraft. He hands him the cooler, then a wave of nausea hits me, like I’m on the spin cycle in the washing machine.
When Brian hops back in the passenger seat, I can’t wait another second. I blurt it out. “You didn’t by chance give him the wrong cooler did you? Please don’t tell me you gave him your lunch.
Brian hesitates long enough to watch the Cessna taxi down the runway and lift-off into the darkness.
Tonight, someone will die.
Stan Bednarz and his wife live in Balwinsville, NY where Stan runs his own small business and enjoys the company of Gomez, a gentle pitbull/black lab mix he rescued from the pound. His short stories have won several awards, and in 2012 Stan’s debut novel, A Miracle On Snowbird Lake, took Grand Prize honors in Deep River Books’ annual writer’s contest. Since then, Stan has self-published his Sci-Fi thriller, Space Baby, and a collection of short stories, all available on Amazon. Connect with Stan at www.facebook.com/stanley.bednarz