Gretchen gasped and grabbed her finger. There was blood–a LOT of blood.
She tried not to hyperventilate as she grabbed the nearest kitchen towel and applied pressure. Her first thought was to panic, because Joe had not yet come back from work with their only car, and she wasn’t within walking distance of the hospital or even the family doctor’s office. Had she been thinking clearly, she would’ve called Sue and asked her to take her to the ER, or she at least would’ve run next door and asked the neighbors for a ride.
But she wasn’t thinking clearly, so she awkwardly fished her phone out of her purse and dialed 9-1-1 with one hand. She was proud of herself for calmly telling the dispatcher what had happened; she was told to keep pressure on the wound and that someone would be there shortly.
She was in the middle of writing a note to Joe, sloppily with her non-dominant hand–At the ER, almost cut my finger off, LOL! Be back soon! Love, Gretch–when there was a knock at the door.
With the tea towel still wrapped tightly around her injured hand, Gretchen rushed to the door and slowly unlocked the dead bolt and turned the knob.
“Hi, I’m Tom! You called for an ambu–WHOA! I guess that WAS you! Holy cow! Well, why don’t you go ahead and come with me, we’ll get you to the ER.”
Tom motioned for her to follow him. She already had her purse, so she followed, closing the door behind her. Tom did not look like an EMT; he was dressed in khakis and a polo shirt like someone you’d see working at Best Buy. He didn’t dress her wound, or even look at it.
“OK, let me get the door, and then you can hop on in the ambulance.”
Gretchen looked up; she realized she’d been staring at her towel-wrapped hand the whole time she’d been walking.
And there she was, in front of a…red Prius. With a light bar. And the words “TOM’S AMBULANCE SERVICE” crookedly spelled out in reflector tape on the passenger side door. Before Tom had swung the door fully open, she also caught what appeared to be the “ambulance service”‘s motto, spelled out in smaller, even more crooked letters below the business name: “DON’T DISPATCH US IF SOMEONE’S DYING OR IT’S SOMETHING REALLY SERIOUS BECAUSE WE’RE NEW TO THIS AND STILL TRYING TO FIGURE IT OUT”.
“OK, hop in.” There was a stack of loose papers on the passenger seat.
“Oh, gosh, sorry.” Tom swept the papers onto the floor in front of the passenger seat. “OK, NOW hop in. You can put your feet on those papers. It’s work stuff, nothing important. I mean, work meaning my day job. I wouldn’t throw ambulance papers on the floor.”
Gretchen got in and Tom shut the door behind her, then ran around to the driver’s side. Gretchen looked out her window back at the house, just in case this was the last time she’d ever see it.
Tom got in, started up the car, and started fiddling with buttons and knobs on the dash. He was covered in flop sweat.
“All righty, one of these doo-hickeys here turns on the lights and the siren, and…”
There was an ear-piercing wail.
“OK, THERE’S THE SIREN. LET’S GET THE LIGHTS ON AND WE’LL HEAD TO THE HOSPITAL, WHAT D’YA SAY?”
Tom fiddled some more as he pulled out of the driveway and Gretchen covered her one ear.
“SORRY. I’M STILL GETTING THE HANG OF THESE CONTROLS. MY WIFE ABOUT HAD A CONNIPTION FIT WHEN I FIRST GOT ALL THIS STUFF ADDED TO THE CAR, BUT I THINK SHE’S USED TO IT NOW.” Tom suddenly looked over at Gretchen. “OH HEY, I’M SORRY–WHERE ARE MY MANNERS? DO YOU FEEL DEHYDRATED? DO YOU NEED AN IV? I THINK I HAVE ONE BACK HERE, WE CAN PULL OVER AND I CAN GET YOU HOOKED UP…”
Tom turned and half fumbled around in the area behind his seat and half paid attention to the road. “OK, HERE’S ONE.” he said, holding up a bag of IV liquid that appeared to be covered in mud. “SORRY ABOUT THE DIRT. MY SON AND HIS FRIENDS SIT BACK THERE WHEN I TAKE THEM TO SOCCER PRACTICE AND THEY PROBABLY STEPPED ON IT WITH THEIR CLEATS.”
“You know, that’s OK. We should probably just get to the hospital”, Gretchen offered.
“WE SHOULD PROBABLY JUST GET TO THE HOSPITAL.”
“OH, OK. SURE.” Tom tossed the IV bag back over his shoulder. “WELL, IF YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND, IT’S BACK THERE. OH, AND BEFORE I FORGET, IT’S GOING TO BE ONE HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS FOR THE AMBULANCE SERVICE TODAY. UNFORTUNATELY, WE DON’T TAKE CREDIT CARDS, BUT WE WILL TAKE A PERSONAL CH–YOU KNOW, WHAT AM I SAYING? YOU DON’T NEED TO PAY NOW! JUST WRITE DOWN YOUR ADDRESS AT SOME POINT, AND WE’LL BILL YOU.”
Gretchen just sat there and closed her eyes, hoping they were close to the hospital. She knew one thing for sure: When she got home, Angie’s List was going to hear all about Tom’s Ambulance Service. And that wasn’t going to be a good thing…for Tom, anyway. The rest of the community, however, would owe her one.