Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online
In the weeks that followed, Tricia often found herself dreaming about Danny and something that couldn’t be. They had been two ships that had passed in the night, sailing in very different directions, and that was that. Still, she couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if things had been different.
Still, it wasn’t worth thinking about, except maybe in the odd hours late at night when loneliness could once in a while overwhelm her. Those didn’t happen very often. She was busy enough most of the time that she usually didn’t worry about such things.
October became November, and soon she was coming up on two months in what was for practical purposes her own private practice. It was picking up steadily, with the patient count improving every week. It still wasn’t quite what it could be, but the three of them in the office could see there was still a lot of room for growth, especially as they became more efficient in their jobs.
In that two months Tricia had started to settle into her new house and her new town. She still kept a city map in the glove compartment of the Neon in case she needed it, but she hadn’t used it for a while. Things were starting to get a little familiar to her, and she wasn’t a stranger to everyone anymore, and many people weren’t strangers to her.
She was starting to get settled into living in the duplex, too. Though Danny – and Lex – had done a great job with furnishing it, and she wasn’t terribly picky about it anyway, it had seemed a little sterile and heartless when she’d first moved in. It was nice, but somehow it hadn’t seemed quite like it was hers; it just didn’t have her touch on it yet. Though she knew in the beginning that it was home, more home than she’d had since her mother died, it still took a while for it to feel that way. That feeling had only slowly gone away as it accumulated a little of the normal clutter of living, a few personal adjustments and arrangements.
For several years, going clear back to before Redlite days, she’d lived in a succession of dorm rooms, studio apartments, and admittedly, if only to herself, brothel bedrooms. None had really been hers, just places she occupied while she had to, all to be left behind without regret when she moved on. Especially the last two years in Milwaukee, her apartment had only been a place where she spent the night and left her dirty laundry, not a place where she lived.
Those days were gone. She felt like she was at home now, and if she stayed there for a long time, it was going to be all right with her. It was hers, after all. That was a feeling she hadn’t had in many years.
In the time she’d been living in her half of the duplex she’d been more or less aware that it was empty on the other side. Binky had explained to her that as long as it was empty she figured she might as well have some repair and redecoration work done on it. From time to time Tricia came home and found some pickup truck or another with the sign for some painter or plumber on the sides parked in the other driveway. It didn’t take much to figure out what was going on, and realistically she didn’t worry about it very much. Sooner or later there was bound to be someone living there, and unless it was someone who liked to boom their stereo at three in the morning it probably wouldn’t bother her very much.
One day along in early November she happened to run into Binky at the Super Market. There was the usual exchange of greetings, and an invitation for dinner, of course – an invitation Tricia was happy to take up. Although she was busy with her work so didn’t mind much, there were times that things got a little lonely, so being a little unaccustomedly social came as a relief; Steve and Binky were interesting people.
In the course of their conversation in the aisle of the Super Market, Binky happened to mention that it looked like Tricia was going to have a neighbor soon, although the deal hadn’t been tacked down all the way yet. It would seem a little strange to have a neighbor in the other half of the house. From what Binky told her, it appeared likely her new neighbor was going to be a guy moving back home to Spearfish Lake from Decatur and didn’t want to live with his parents, which Tricia thought was perfectly understandable. From what she’d picked up, there was getting to be a lot of retrenchment in places, what with people being laid off in the wake of all the Wall Street troubles; she thought maybe that had something to do with it.
Even though some of the issues that had concerned her in the first days of the practice were getting cleared up, she still spent a lot of her evening time concentrating on it. She’d decided to hurry things up at the office by having Molly make her up a list of the patients she hadn’t seen before that she would see the next day, then taking their old records home so she could puzzle her way through Dr. Luce’s handwriting at leisure. That way she could extract pertinent things that might be of use to her when she saw the patient. More than once she wished she had Danny’s skills at deciphering crabbed old handwriting, and a couple times thought about calling him in for a consultation, but decided it would be unethical. Between that and editing the notes the voice-to-text system produced – and sometimes expanding on them – she wasn’t lacking for things to do in most of her spare time.
Office hours normally took a break between twelve and one. Some days they would be running late through the morning and would have to take some of their lunch time to catch up, but that didn’t happen often. When it did, Molly and Heather would take quick breaks at separate times, while Tricia just went on working straight through. If she missed lunch, she missed lunch; it was no big deal, and the patients came first with her, after all.
But most days they managed to take most of the normal lunch hour; Molly and Heather would sit in the front office, working on their sandwiches or whatever, while Tricia stayed in her own office, usually working with the records or catching up on medical journals. However, one day, Molly stuck her head in the door and said, “Dr. York, I brought a really nice stew for lunch today, and there’s way too much for Heather and me. Would you like to come join us for a bite?”
“You know, that sounds pretty good,” Tricia said. “I hadn’t even thought about getting something. I don’t think it’s going to harm anything if I leave this note editing alone for a few minutes.”
It turned out that Molly’s stew was more than pretty good; it was exceptional. The three of them sat talking for a while; in the beginning it was shop talk, but the discussion soon headed off into other areas, nothing very serious but enjoyable in its own way since it wasn’t serious. It had seemed like much of the hour had just flown by when patients started showing up for their one o’clocks. It had been an enjoyable break in the day.
Tricia didn’t think much about it till the next day, when Heather caught her just as the last patient of the morning was leaving. “I brought us some chili for lunch today,” she said. “There’s plenty for all of us. It’s not Spearfish Lake Chili, either. Won’t you come join us?”
“Sure,” Tricia replied, remembering how pleasant the day before had been. “So long as you tell me what Spearfish Lake Chili is.”
“Well,” Heather sighed, “that’s a long story . . .
“But I’ll hear it sometime, right?” Tricia grinned. “I’ll join you if that sometime is now.”
It turned out that back before any of them had been born, there had been a local festival that involved a chili-making contest. A local practical joker had entered the contest with a chili that apparently had to include the most flatulence-producing ingredient known to man. No one seemed to know what the ingredient was, but over thirty years later people still told bad fart jokes about Spearfish Lake Chili. “Mom said it actually tasted pretty good,” Molly reported, “but that it was just gas city all night long afterwards. She says she still can’t imagine how one bowl of chili could have kept her farting so much she could have filled the Goodyear blimp.”
That set off another good discussion, one that featured a lot about men and farting. Tricia knew a couple stories from the Redlite she would have liked to have told, but there was no way she could, of course. At least she could contribute the one about a guy she knew in med school of whom it was said wanted to be an anesthesiologist because he liked to pass gas.
It proved to be a laughter-filled lunch hour that left Tricia smiling, and occasionally even giggling the rest of the afternoon. The humor may have been crude, but she’d heard much cruder back in Peppermint Patty days.
Somehow, she wasn’t terribly surprised to have Molly catch her between patients the next morning and announce that she’d brought a taco salad for lunch, and would she like to join the two of them? On Thursday, Heather brought a ham and macaroni casserole.
By now, Tricia had figured out what was going on. “All right, you two,” she said as they were working their way through lunch. “You know I’m not much of a cook, but tomorrow I’ll order in a pizza. Let’s just do away with this fiction that you just happened to bring too much. I know better.”
“Tricia,” Heather said – they were in the office but not during office hours, and both Heather and Molly were becoming friends to a degree outside work – “I’ll admit we were trying to pull the wool over your eyes a little. But you really need to settle down and take a break and eat something in the middle of the day, not just bust your butt all day long, then follow it up by working half the night. It’s not good for you and it’s not good for the patients.”
“And besides,” Molly smiled, “we know you either eat those lousy tray meals or nuke stuff out of a can if you’re cooking for yourself. I had to do it myself for a while and it’s no fun. At least this way we know you’re getting at least one decent meal a day most days, and a little non-medical human contact along with it.”
“You’re the key to this operation,” Heather added. “You could make it work without us, but we couldn’t make it work without you. If that means we have to be the ones to take care of you, then that’s just what we’re going to do.”
“All right, you two,” Tricia sighed. “I’ll try to lighten up a little bit, but you know how focused I tend to get. Now what do you want on your pizza tomorrow?”
Leaden clouds were hanging low and thick overhead one windy November day. Just as Tricia was getting set to go in and see a patient in an examining room, Molly came up to her and said, “Dr. York, there’s a patient out front I think you ought to see right now. He looks awful bad and I’m worried about him.”
“All right, slip him in next,” Tricia replied, her mind on the badly-written records from the Dr. Luce days she still had to deal with.
She had no more than gotten into the examining room when she heard Heather yell, “Dr. York! We need you! Stat!”
Tricia dropped what she was doing and almost ran out to the waiting room – if Heather thought she was needed that badly, she was needed badly indeed. She burst through the door to the waiting room, to find Heather crouched over an older man, red-faced and heavily sweating, writhing around in obvious pain. From the mess around the room, he had obviously vomited. In an instant she was down on the floor with Heather, who said quickly with some tension, “He doesn’t seem to be breathing and I can’t get a pulse!”
“OK,” Tricia said. This seemed all too familiar; she’d seen it before. After only a quick examination, she realized that Heather was right – the man was in ventricular fibrillation – a full cardiac arrest! He had only minutes to live if she didn’t do something right now; if he wasn’t getting blood to his brain, the time before brain damage could be expected could be measured in seconds!
“Molly!” she yelled. “Call 911, we need ALS here with a defib, stat! CPR in progress!” She turned back to Heather and said, “You know CPR?”
“Yes, but I’m not current.”
“I’ll take it,” Tricia said, shoving Heather out of the way so she could get on top of the man. He was big, and she wasn’t sure she could push hard enough on his chest to keep his heart moving at least a little blood to his brain. “You can relieve me if you have to.”
It wasn’t the first time Tricia had to do CPR on a patient in full arrest. What she had to think about was getting repeated chest pressure on him, hard, as hard as she could. Maybe the chest pressure would get his heart under control – it might happen, but the odds were she was going to need that defibrillator, and fast!
She wasn’t doing enough, and she could see it. Even though she knew what she was doing, she just wasn’t big enough or strong enough to have enough of an effect on a guy this size. “Heather, help me,” she cried. “I can’t push hard enough!” Heather put her hands over Tricia’s and together they worked at the now torpid man. Maybe it would be enough. It would have to be.
Time passed very slowly as she pushed at his chest. The front door burst open, not that Tricia was particularly noticing. A man’s voice, vaguely familiar but not important . . . “Dr. York. What do we have?”
She glanced up to see Randy Clark standing there, wearing a business suit, a small black radio in his hand. What the hell was he doing here . . . oh yes, he was a volunteer paramedic! Although she knew CPR, he had to know as much about it as she did, most likely more. “Ventricular fibrillation, we need a defib, fast.”
“On the way,” Randy said, holding up the radio and saying into it, “Life two, M-four is on the scene. Bring the defib in with you.”
“Be right there,” Tricia distantly heard a voice say out of the radio – her attention was more on the CPR she and Heather were doing.
All of a sudden she could see flashing red and blue lights reflecting through the office window. The door burst open again, and a couple men came crashing in. One of them she noted was carrying a red defibrillator case.
All of a sudden there were more hands there than just hers and Heather’s, peeling back the man’s coat and shirt, getting leads on his chest and getting the paddles into place. “Hold up on the CPR,” she heard Randy say. Both she and Heather took their hands away, and in an instant the man bucked as a shot of voltage went through his chest. A few seconds later he bucked again – it had taken another shot.
“Getting a heartbeat now,” Randy said from the controls of the defib. “Breathing is still poor. Larry, get the oh-two going.”
It was clear that things were getting back under control. These guys knew what they were doing, after all. Tricia knew that emergency personnel trained for these kinds of incidents more than she had, and what’s more, they had the equipment to deal with it. All she could do was sit back on her heels, breathe heavily, and let them do what they could do.
“Dr. York,” Randy said, “Camden General, right?”
“Right, stat, quick as you can get him there.”
“Gonna have to be on the ground, I heard earlier the chopper’s below minimums,” he replied.
“Better than nothing at all,” she said. “Thank you.”
“Guess I better figure on going. The other paramedic in town is out on a run right now, so that means I’m elected.” He looked up at the front desk. “Molly, good to see you,” he said. “I hadn’t realized you were working here, but call my office and tell Rachel to call Jim and Norm and tell them I’m going to be at least three hours late. She’ll know what I mean.”
“Can do, Randy,” she said.
“Let’s give him a few more minutes on the oh-two and let his heart and breathing stabilize a little before we try to move him. He’s still pretty weak,” Randy told the EMTs – neither of them were in uniform. They were volunteers, just like Randy, she realized. The guy, whoever he was, would most likely have died, in a doctor’s office or not, had they not been available, been trained to do what they did and had the equipment to do it with.
Tricia felt pretty weak herself, but she knew it was just an adrenaline crash, the afterwash of the excitement and the tension letting off. She could see Heather was going through it, too. Her hands were a little sore from where Heather had pushed on them, but that didn’t matter.
In minutes she’d pulled herself back together as the ambulance crew was loading the man on a gurney for his trip to Camden General. “Well,” she said to Heather, and to the patients waiting in the lobby who had seen the whole thing, “I guess that shows just how quickly the devil can come to lunch. Heather, you did good.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you, Doctor York.”
“Neither of us could have done it without these EMS guys,” she shook her head. “Molly, out of curiosity, did you get a chance to pull that guy’s records?”
“No records, he was a new patient. No history even, he was trying to fill the form out and couldn’t. That’s when I recognized he was in trouble.”
“You did good too, Molly” Tricia said, trying to get things back to normal. “Nothing like a little excitement to perk up a morning, is there?”
“I think I’ve had enough excitement to hold me for today,” Heather shook her head.
“Me, too,” Tricia admitted. “I suppose we’d better get back to work.”
Tricia and Heather hung around the lobby long enough to see the ambulance crew get the man outside, and then they did get back to work. They were busy enough the rest of the morning, but when lunchtime came, the three of them were glad to kick back over their meals around Molly’s desk, as had become their custom. Naturally, the morning’s incident was the main topic of conversation.
“I’ll tell you what,” Heather said. “That’s not the first time I’ve seen that happen. Someone is feeling crappy, and with no hospital or emergency room the next best thing they can think of to do is to go to the doctor’s office. Really, it’s about the only choice they have. At least Dr. Metarie is big enough to be able to do CPR on a big guy like that.”
“Right,” Tricia agreed. “The two of us working together were just barely big enough. Good god, I don’t want to have to do that again.”
“Well,” Heather shrugged, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we did, just because of what I said. There really is no other place in town but a doctor’s office to go if you’re not feeling good and don’t know what’s wrong.”
“You’re probably right,” Tricia replied thoughtfully. Actually, she knew what had to be done, the only question was in how to present it. Oh, what the hell, she thought. She hit the button for the speakerphone on Molly’s desk, got a dial tone, and started punching buttons.
It turned out Ryan Clark was still at his desk over at Clark Plywood. “Hi, Ryan,” she said. “It’s Dr. York.”
“Something I can do for you today?” he asked.
“Yes, there is,” Tricia said. “We had a guy go into full arrest in the waiting room this morning. Heather and I had to do CPR on him, and we couldn’t have pulled him through if the ambulance guys hadn’t showed up with their defibrillator. Heather tells me it’s not the first time it’s happened around here.”
“I heard something about that,” he said. “News gets around this town pretty quickly, you know. I’ve been on the ambulance crew long enough to have seen that same thing happen myself.”
“I know,” she said, willing herself to be careful about what she said. “Ryan, you know that in Nevada, they have licensed legal prostitution in brothels, don’t you?”
“I guess I knew it. What does that have to do with anything?”
“Look, Ryan, one time I talked to a girl who had worked in one of those places,” she said, trying to not sound like the girl she was talking about was herself. The story had happened toward the end of her last stay at the Redlite before heading off to med school. “According to her this one was way the hell and gone out in the middle of nowhere. Well, she said she’d been there one time when a guy went into full arrest, and the only way he pulled through was that they had a home defibrillator in the place and someone who knew how to use it.”
“I can imagine how a guy could get a heart attack in a place like that,” she could hear him chuckle.
“Right,” she said. “But Ryan, if a Nevada whorehouse can have a defib, why can’t a doctor’s office in Spearfish Lake have one?”
Three days later a brown-uniformed UPS driver carried a package in the front door of the office. When Molly unwrapped it, she found a brand-new, still-wrapped-in-plastic Murasaki defibrillator.
“We might never need it,” Tricia told Molly and Heather. “Although the odds are we will. But something like this, it’s better to have it and not need it than it is to need it and not have it.”