Taking a line from our buddy MC, I’ve decided to try a little fiction. Instead of changing so many details to protect privacy, let’s try making it up! Comments encouraged.
Pup – Noun. A young, green, unsure paramedic.
The engine is sent code 2 to the quiet neighborhood and has trouble finding a spot to park. The narrow street is littered with patrol cars and the decision is made to circle the block and walk in from a ways back. As they get closer what they thought was a waft from the nearby sewer gets stronger and they’re covering their noses with their hands from 2 houses away.
The house they approach seems a bit run down, with paint chipping away, stairs out front warped and rotting and the car in the driveway looks like it was parked in 1983 and left to rust. Back in the 1930s this would be a gleaming new single family home. Those days have long passed but the rest of the neighborhood seems to be keeping up alright.
The first indication of what was going on was in the side yard where a young police officer was gagging, then vomited in the bushes. As the engine crew got to the steps another officer came out of the building covering his mouth only to vomit on the way down the stairs.
“How many more are in there?” the Pup asked, uniform neatly pressed while the other members of the crew were in untucked navy blue T-shirts listing their membership in a variety of departments no where near them.
“Judging by the street, at least 5 or 6 more officers unaccounted for. No idea why they’re in there,” Said the engine boss, a tall rough skinned man in his late 40’s who the crew referred to as Jims. He went on to to explain that their uniforms will never get the smell out and with much more exposure their skin will smell like this for a week.
“Alright kid, this is why you get the big bucks.” The officer says as he motions towards the door. The young Paramedic grabs his monitor and sees the EMT has wrapped it in a wool blanket with a chux pad taped to the bottom. Clearly he has seen this before. The Pup has no idea what he’s getting into. Suddenly his mind flashes back to the day he spent in the Medical Examiner’s office and the foul odor that arose when they opened the stomach and intestines. That raw gut wrenching stench of a thousand portable toilets on a one hundred degree day at the chili cook off caused his stomach to do a back flip as he mounted the staircase.
Whatever was making this smell had to be confirmed dead using his little machine. That was the protocol.
‘You can do this’ he told himself.
‘No I can’t’ he told himself back.
Another police officer emerged, a sergeant by the looks of the stripes, and motioned to Jims, the engine boss. “You guys can go Jims, this is a CLEAR 802.” 802 was the code for a DOA, Pup knew all the codes from fire college.
“Let the Pup have a look, needs his bubbler cherry broken.” Jims grinned when he said bubbler and Pup suddenly realized the other 2 members of the engine company had gone back up the street towards the engine.
‘Bubbler?’ Pup heard his inner voice cry, ‘what the hell is a bubbler?’
From the side of the monitor bag Pup pulled an N95 mask and placed it over his mouth and nose, suddenly realizing this is why the nurses in the ICU carried small tubes of toothpaste. A dab of wintermint sure would be nice right in front of his nose.
The front door of the rotting house is slightly open, just enough for Pup to slip inside. With a sigh and a quick moment of quiet reflection he steps into the house.