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  Crazy Days
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        Page Three

"D@mn! He's in withdrawal." Gage swore.
"Hold him ! Hold him!"

"No,, I gott....a...out of ...WHy do I hURT
so bad??! $##**!"Agony from being Narcan
yanked out of a high surged far beyond what
was normal and the man reacted violently by
knocking all of the firm hands on him away
as if they hadn't been there at all.

He was instantly on his feet and running
and the EKG leads ripped away from the
connector on the monitor when it thunked
into a rock as it dragged where he ran.

Eight firemen shot to their feet after him.

"Hey!" and Gage's grab for his victim missed.

Three other firemen's tackles missed too.

Their hideously withdrawing patient, with his
split jeans legs fluttering in the wind, easily
outdistanced them into the thick tree stand
of the enclosure.

The paramedics heard an impact as his
arm splint disintegrated when it smacked
into a tree trunk as they chased after him.

"Over there!" Cap shouted from a rise.
"He's heading back to the exhibit's gate!"
Hank could just see him from where he
was. He got on the HT. "Engine 51 to
Truck 127. Our victim's fleeing to the north.
Intercept him immediately. He's a blown

Cap winced as the man's pinwheeling broken
arm drove him into greater speed despite
his bare feet pelting awkwardly over the
rock strewn ground.

The fresh pain robbed the addict of his voice
and instantly, his pursuers lost track of him
in the desperate silence that followed.

Hank saw his men follow where he indicated,
but an instinct made himself angle into a new
direction as he ran, back towards the main
exhibit zoo gate. ::Damn, he's got keys. He
better not l--::

Cap arrived just ahead of his men just in time
to see the lurching, crazed man slam the heavy
iron gate shut behind him.

All the firemen were instantly locked inside the pig
cage..... with no way out.

Image of johnnyk12.jpg Image of capnightht.jpg

"No, you're not going to stop me..." he choked. Then
he whirled as if at an unseen presence on staggering
bleeding feet. "I'm-m coming! Just give me m-- more
stuff, please!!! I can pay..." he gasped. " Slick, I can
get you wild animals for hunting trophys.. I'm surrounded
by them!! Just don't cut me off...Please.. I can't
take it any morRRReeeee..!" and his voice cracked
in pain and insane giggles.

Cap's face fell into sympathy and frustration when
the very sick man took off running, not down the asphalt trail
winding around the cages, but into the scrubland
bordering it. ::The responding engine crew I called
from the parking lot will never spot him now.:: he thought.

The men of station 10 and 51 all lined up along the bars of
the peccary cage and watched the junkie disappear into
the distance along a ridge of thick scrub that led off
the zoo property.

Chet was puzzled by all the men's stunned, numb faces
and he said. "Hey, don't worry, guys. The cops'll get him.
They got bloodhounds that can track him.. Should be easy
with all those cuts of his bleeding out."

Gage swiped an angry hand over his dripping
face and he kicked the solid fence between him
and his victim in defeated frustration.

Chet somehow knew that Johnny's anger wasn't directed
at him. "Why the long face, Johnny?"

"You just don't get it, do you?" Gage snapped.

"Get what?" Kelly asked distractedly, testing the fence for
a weak spot that wasn't there.

Roy's pale face sobered all present as he answered
Chet's innocent question. "Narcan only works for
a few minutes, only long enough to restore an
OD's ability to breathe again. The effects of heroin or
cocaine can last for hours, Chet."

"I still don't get it.."

Johnny set his hands on his hips and studied the
ground quietly. He spoke up softly. "Our guy's gonna
re-overdose when the Narcan wears off and he's
gonna go right back into another catastrophic
downer long before we can ever hope to relocate
him. And no one's gonna be around this time to
catch him when he stops breathing again."

Chet Kelly's face filled with an exquisite pain of
realization and he was rendered mute when
he put two and two together. The fact
of the fleeing addict, being actually a walking
dead man, filled his mouth with rising bile.  
Kelly threw a hand to his face in sudden reaction
and he gasped.

Roy set a comforting grip on Kelly's shoulder.
"Yeah,.. I know. A tough break. Come on. Maybe
there's another way outta here back the way we came.
Prepare yourself. We're gonna have to go find him
later for recovery to the coroner's office."

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From : "Roxy Dee" <>  
Subject :Shattered Serenity..  
Date :Wed, 07 May 2003  20:32:54 +0000  

Johnny Gage was eating his sandwich with
exactly zero percent concentration. Roy
only remarked about it when his partner's
teeth began devouring most of the paper
wrapping with his Chicago style Italian beef
sandwich with each bite. "Hey...Johnny.." Roy
nudged with an elbow. "Pay attention.."

"What? Can't you see I'm busy here?" the younger
chipmunked cheeked paramedic mumbled loudly.
His eyes never left their particular subject matter,
who was seated like B*ddha on Cap's usually Cap
claimed recliner in a serene yoga stance.
"I'm trying to figure out just what's gotten into him.."
he said waving a few broth dripping fingers towards
the meditating Chet he could see in plain sight.

"Yeah? Well try to focus on what's landing in
your stomach a bit there, too." DeSoto warned.
"Didn't know your ancestory included being part
termite..." Roy quipped.

"Just what do you mean by that?" Johnny said,
his chewing halting abruptly as he looked at his
senior pal for the first time during the whole

Roy decided to play it out a little more, choosing
another direction with which to break news.
"Never mind." he said, his quiet smile growing just a little
bit bigger as a rare joking opportunity presented itself
to his exclusive territory. "Tell me something. Exactly
how much each were these sandwiches we got
from Louis's stand after we stopped by at Rampart
to resupply?"

Gage's eyes fell into another focus and he resumed
chewing. "I don't know. Didn't memorize it. If you need
that for the food budget I think the price tags are
still on the wrapp--" and he broke off, finally realizing
the whole portent of what Roy was angling into. He
made a face when he realized that 3/4's of his
consumed sandwich included 3/4's of the paper sheeting
that had wrapped it securely inside its own juices. "Oh,,..
why didn't you tell me I was doing this, Roy..?" he
complained indignantly.

DeSoto's face cracked a grin. "I tried, only you were
so focused at staring holes through Kelly over
there that I guess you didn't hear me."

"That's wonderful.. Now I'm gonna get an "A" number one
gut ache on top of my willies, too."

Roy's eyebrows rose in amusement and he cupped his
mug into his hands thoughtfully. "Somehow, I doubt
that very much. My kids have eaten pounds of
newspaper, crayon wrappers, caramel apple cups
and sausage coats, among other things, to fill a small
wagon. They never seemed to have any problems
with their digestion afterwards."

"Yeah? Well, I'm not a kid.." Johnny said, depositing
his oozing onion laden Italian beef sandwich onto a plate
where he gingerly began dissecting it with a forceps
from his hip holster and a fork from the broth soaked
paper that he had been eating unknowingly. He finally
gave up when he honestly couldn't tell meat from
wrapper. He threw his "surgical" tools down in disgust.
"I'll be right back. Thanks alot for not warning me sooner,
partner." he said sourly, and he got up to head for the

"Where are you going?" Roy asked.

"To the squad. I'm gonna get an oral laxative and
anti-acid before I cramp up here." he said sarcastically.

Roy just shrugged, and let him go.

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Cap passed Johnny on his way out. He had to turn sideways
to avoid a collision with Gage as he came into the room.
"What's with him?" he asked Roy, reaching for the platter
full of beef sandwiches, still steaming on the potholders
in front of the hungrily eating rest of the gang.

Roy stretched in his chair and yawned.
"He thinks he's gonna die from a little ingested deli wrap.
He's gone to the drug box for a few gastronomical aids."

Hank smirked as he stripped his own sandwich free of its
covering before taking a huge bite of the delectable food.
"If I had a dime for each time one of the kids ate wood
pulp, I'd be a rich man." he said, shrugging off the incident
as trivial. "Pass me the jalapeno peppers, would ya Marco?"

Lopez neatly slid the huge jar of them from where
he sat forward with a few knuckles, without looking up from
his sports section. "Here ya go, Cap. Bon appetite. Oh, avoid
the little orange ones or you're gonna be running out to
the squad in fear of your life, too, like Gage is doing."

"I consider myself warned." Hank grinned, digging eagerly
into the chilled jar of peppers with a fork for a few
chartreuse ones. "Those red things are habaneroes, aren't

"Yep." Lopez grunted, turning a page.

Cap carefully built his sandwich and then organized
the piles of onions and peppers on top of it with all
the skill of someone sculpting a banana split when he
spotted Kelly, seated like a guru in the rec room recliner.
A glance informed him that Kelly's plate was still virgin
clean. His eyebrows matched Roy's amused ones,
only his didn't yet see any humor in the situation.
"Say, Chet." he called out. "Fooood.." and he waved
the sandwich platter in the air with a towel to waft
its aroma into the air towards him.

"Hmmmmmmm?" Kelly said dreamily from his achingly
stiff yoga stance. His palms were delicately
upturned at the wrists, both symmetrically draping
over his carefully folded knees. He didn't open his eyes.

"Chow's on..." Cap repeated, a little louder.

"Thanks, Cap. I can smell it. But a little meditation's on
my menu for lunch today. I need to rebalance my karma
before I do anything else.." and his head tipped back
into a trance pose and he began ohm'ing lowly
under his breath, until his moustache vibrated.

Henry was disturbed from his snoozing nap on the couch
and his ears cocked forward, curiously bugged at the new
sound. He struggled off his fat and out of the sinkhole
of cushions his weight had made to his haunches and his
usually droopy eyes widened in surprise. The rotund basset
considered his predicament for about ten seconds. Then
he began to doggy howl in masking fashion over Chet's
soothing "ohm's" in contrary canine agony.

The gang erupted into laughter.

Chet just cracked an eye and shot them all an irritated
look. He went back to his meditation and fell mute
to hush them and their station mascot, up.

Cap said. "That's fine with me, Kelly. Only come dinner time,
I'm ordering you to eat twice. I'm not gonna have anyone
getting surprise hypoglycemia tonight in the middle of
a bizarre fire run later on."

"What makes you so sure we're gonna have one, Cap?"
Stoker piped up.

Hank's hands twitched as he tried to find the best
angle with which to pick up his messy sandwich. "You
mean our last run didn't clue you in? It's freaky Friday
today, or haven't you noticed..A fire call's the only thing
we haven't gone on yet."

Gage came trudging back into the kitchen. He was grimacing
and sucking down a dose or two of hospital strength pepto
bismo straight from the bottle like a carton of milk.

His eyes immediately refell warily on Chet as he fumbled
back into his chair to pick once more at his dissected sandwich.

He noticed that Roy had already separated the broth
stained paper from the meat for him with his tools.
"Thanks.." he said as he began to fork in lunch. All
the while, the tense edge Johnny was harboring
and the unbroken stare he was using to regard Kelly,
remained full force.

Roy's and Cap's and Henry's eyes shifted back and forth
from the oblivious meditating Chet to the very quiet
and jumpy Gage. The three of them fell to eyeing
them like spectators on a tennis match.
Finally, Hank leaned over and asked Roy in a
confidential whisper. "What's with him? Did I miss
something here?"

DeSoto shrugged, taking a bite of his neatly arranged
sandwich from its carefully folded down deli wrap.
"Your guess is as good as mine, Cap.."

Johnny's ears didn't miss a thing and he pegged Roy
and Hank with an irritated glare. "I'll tell you what's
eating me.."

Marco piped up. "No, no, no..You mean what you're
eating.." he quipped about Johnny's recent paper

"Oh, ha ha.. Very funny." Gage shot at Lopez, shifting his
chair closer to his plate so he could pick at his sandwich
with a butter knife some more. "I'll tell you what's bugging
me.." and his eyes narrowed in fine focus. "Do any of you
know what day it is today?" he said, keeping his
voice and profile low over his plate.

Hank coughed, wiped his mouth with a napkin, and replied.
"You mean beyond the freaky runs we've been getting
all day today since midnight?"  he intoned with a straight

"Yeah, that's exactly what I mean.." Gage said,
throwing a look at Marco, when his newspaper
began to shake with his barely suppressed chortle.

"I have absolutely no idea.." Cap said calmly lacing
his fingers together thoughtfully over his plate.

He immediately fell back to inhaling his sandwich.

Johnny cleared his throat and took another swig of
anti-acid from his bottle. Then he set it down and
leaned in confidentially to Roy and Cap. "It's our
anniversary today.." he said,  throwing a few fingers
between Chet and himself, through a cracked side
of his mouth..

"Anniversary for what?" Roy asked at a normal volume.

Johnny's fingers flew to his lips in animated quick warning
and he hissed. "Shssstt.. He'll hear you.."

Hank's eyebrows crawled into his hairline in frank
surprise at his most junior medic's off behavior. He,
chewed more slowly while he waited for Roy to
fathom him out.

Roy promptly did so. "Oh.." Roy said, throwing down
his napkin onto his empty plate. "That anniversary.."
he said in immediate sympathy.

"Yeah.. That one.." Johnny agreed animatedly, and
he pegged alert, wary eyes right back on the B*ddha like
countenance on Chet's meditating face.

Cap chewed once more and ordered. "Enlighten me,
gentlemen, if you wouldn't mind."

Gage pantomimed an arching catapulting gesture
from about his shoulder level down to the table top.
He pretended that whatever had been "flung"
landed on his own face in a disgusting liquid form,
all without making a sound.

"Charades, huh?" Marco asked, finally peering over
his paper, just catching on to the gist of
what was going on across the table. He thoughtfully
chewed on a wonderfully orange habanero pepper.

"I get it.. I'm good at this stuff. " Stoker piped up
eagerly, before his superior could. "Cap, he must mean
it's the anniversary of their Phantom water can war."

Gage's face flew open in shock at Stoker verbalizing his
worry loud enough for Kelly to hear it and he froze in his
seat as he checked Chet out for any sign of reaction.

None was forthcoming.  

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Slowly, Gage's face began to regain its color when
Chet didn't move a millimeter where he was.

Henry didn't move either. He was still rivetted like a pointer,
standing upright on the couch, still staring at Kelly's face,
waiting for any further repeating of the funny noise from
his human companion, that had awakened him earlier.

"Oh,, so that's why you're twitchy as a venter inside
a gas leaking house." Cap grinned.

Gage sighed, and glanced at him in offended sheepishness.

Cap looked at Kelly once again where the Irishman was
sitting easily in his calming pose and said. "I still don't see
any problem here, Johnny. He doesn't seem to be doing
anything odd, pal." he said in puzzlement.

"That's just it, Cap." Gage said, dropping his voice
low into another secret whisper. "That's why I'm so
nervous. And all the rest of you should get that way, too.
Listen to this next bit closely. Just hear me out.." he
insisted animatedly.  "Have you ever known Chet to
act straight laced and normal longer than two hours

"Uhh...." Cap considered.

Gage cut him off. "See? You agree with me.." he
interrupted hastily, casting watchful eyes
back onto the immobile Chet across the room.
"I know he's up to something.."

Roy got up and scooped up his plate and the one
he now knew Johnny wasn't going to eat from anymore.
"Maybe he just doesn't feel like joking around with ya
right now. I mean, finding that OD's body like we did
can throw anybody off their feed."

Johnny pegged Roy with a glower. "We see bodies
all the time, and in worse shape than that one. Bogus
point Roy. Chet's never skipped lunch because of a
fatality retrieval, none of us have either, for that matter,
now that I think about it. He's doing it because today
is TODAY..." he insisted meaningfully.

Roy considered for several beats before he shook his
head in dismissal as he began to fill the kitchen sink up
gingerly with dish water and soap. "Suit yourself if ya
want to worry. I can't help you there."

"Yes, you can! You can watch my back, Pal." Gage fired back.

"Can't, Junior. I already do that. It's in my job description."
DeSoto replied, dead pan.

The rest of the gang chortled, all except the still
composed Chet and the intensely worried, mesmerized

Finally, Henry had had enough and uncharacteristically,
he abandoned the couch's folds and trucked,
strangely, for the garage.

His reaction caught the whispering gang's attention and
they stopped what they were doing, to watch him in

Roy shrugged. "Whatever's bothering you and Chet,"
he commented to Johnny, "It must be catchy.." he
summed up.

"Very funny.." Gage mumbled as he picked up a towel
to help Roy dry the plates. "Henry's not even acting
like Henry. I tell ya, this whole day's gone completely
nuts and it's dragging us all down with it."

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Henry was full of purpose. He panted heavily as
he slowly jogged across the quiet vehicle bay to
the far side wall where the tool locker was situated.

He spotted what he was looking for. The cord the gang
had strung down for him from the rear garage opener
switch so he'd have a means to go outside to the yard
to relieve himself whenever they weren't there to do
it for him.

His teeth yanked on the cord and he wormed his way
underneath the door as it noisily climbed up its tracks
and he paced determinedly to exactly the middle of
the yard. He sat down on his haunches in the dust
and he pointed his nose up to the sky and began to howl.

In the kitchen, the gang noticed him immediately.
They all, minus Chet, crowded around the kitchen
window to eye the spot mirror pointed into the back
yard to see what Henry was doing. "What the heck?"
Cap said. "Henry's acting like a wolf now, howling at
the moon. Has the world gone mad? "

"Perhaps it's just you guys.." Chet declared in irritation
at the noise interrupting his meditation. He unfolded his
legs from the recliner's depths and clamoured to his feet
long enough to pull his lace loosened shoes back on.
"I'll be in the bunkroom, continuing where I left off.
I don't wanna hear nothing except an arriving
tones call in there while I'm busy doing it." he said
quietly civil and he barrelled past them all on his way

Gage spun around a full ninety to avoid turning a
vulnerable back towards Kelly as he departed.
Only then did Johnny begin to relax.. "See what I
mean? He's the height of oddness personified.."

No one else got the gist of what had Gage so up in
arms. They were too busy concentrating on the strange
sight of Henry caterwauling to the heavens out in the yard.

The basset hound's loud, anxiety tinged cries were
only just heard over the sounds of the afternoon time
rush hour traffic from the boulevard but they were loud
enough to attract a little attention from the office workers
in the building next door. Cap saw a few fingers peeking
through the blinds exactly like they were doing.

Roy had a thought that came unbidden. ::If I didn't know
any better, I'd swear Henry was sending out a message
to the neighborhood network like the sheep dog did
in One Hundred One Dalmations.::

Sure enough, an answering bark erupted from the Arco
refinery watchdog from across the street. Henry fell
into an intense listening pose in that direction.

So did the rest of the gang.

Image of johnhenry.jpg Image of sidestationoldengine.jpg Image of viewthroughdoorofrefinery.jpg

Rampart was a mad house.

::Nothing dire. Mind you. Just a whole slew of irritating,
putzy gomer cases littering my emergency department.::
Dixie McCall sighed in deep thought.

Her mouth was still dry in sympathic memory of the coffee she
still couldn't track down anywhere, hospital wide.

She sighed and rubbed her forehead in fatigue until
a grip on her shoulder made her shoot to her feet
from her desk stool.

"Ahh!" she startled.

Kel Brackett froze, his left hand still grasping the air
where her shoulder had been, his right, loaded with the
newest non critical patient chart. "Easy, Dix... Don't hurt
yourself. We've enough weird cases as it is today
without handling any more from the staff."

"That's not very d*mned funny, Kel." Dix said with
some genuine heat and no trace of a smile.

Kel smiled broadly. "Caffeine withdrawal going
full swing? Sorry about not being able to procure
any coffee from dietary for you. How was I to know
that the supply truck from the city would hit the only
pothole in Los Angeles and throw an axle?"

Dixie's eyes got back into focus from her fright.
"So that's the reason why there isn't any coffee
anywhere. It's driving me crazy seeing full cups
in everyone else's hands but mine.." she said,
plunking wearily back onto her seat and taking
Kel's chart to file it away into her priority arranged
turnstyle. "How'd you learn that latest tidbit?
Can't say that news is making me feel any better."

"Sorry, Dix." Brackett grimaced. "The driver of
the coffee truck's the man getting lip stitches in
Treatment Three. He hit a hydrant after his axle
cracked. 36 brought him in an hour ago and he
told me so himself who he was."

Dixie began to groan, just thinking about it.
"I thought I smelled coffee on his clothes
taking his vital signs.. I thought I was hallucinating."

Dr. Brackett laughed before he could stop himself.

"D*mmit! This whole day is torture, Kel..." McCall
moaned. "I honestly don't think I can take much
more of it.."

Dr. Brackett slipped around her chair and gave Dix
a hug, setting his chin on her head in a supportive
bearhug from behind until a cat call whistle
from a passing orderly broke them apart.

Dixie sighed at their being caught acting non
nurse and doctor. "Thanks for the moral support,
Kel." she said without luster. "I wish the rest of
my staff would do more of the same for me."

"Been getting a little snarly through all this?"
he said, indicating the barely controlled chaos
of all the minor medical visitors waiting in
the waiting room before them.

Dixie's long eye lashes blinked in barely suppressed
guilt. "Just a little.."

"More like a LOT.." Carol the candy striper said
as she bustled by with fifty charts Dixie had
ordered her to take down to medical records.
She staggered by. The heavily laden girl finally
was rescued by a thoughtful Joe Early as they both
got into the elevator headed to another floor.

Dixie winced as the metal elevator doors closed.
"I deserved that."

"Never in a million years.." Kel denied, his face kind
and warm. "Tell you what? I've got Dr. Bender
covering for me for a half hour. How about I take
a trip to Manny's down the road and order up
a take out just for you. I can get the Cappucino
Delight. Triple Order. To go."

Image of dixbasestation.jpg Image of brackettinhallclose.jpg

Dixie's eyes lit up for the first time of the day.
She was rendered mute in gratitude and her eyes
misted. "ooHhhhhh.."

Kel gripped her hand and said, "Shh. No crying.
You'll ruin your makeup job. I'm on my way now."
and he peeled his labcoat off and laid it over the
desktop followed by his steel stethoscope. "See
you in twenty.." he said, making sure his pager
was set to receive.

"You're an absolute saint, Kel."

"Call me that only when that hot little coffee's in your
greedy little hand. Who knows with the luck we're having."

Dixie actually laughed. Once. Then her white uniformed
back disappeared once more into the depths of
a treatment room.

Dr. Brackett headed out into the bright daylight
outside through the main emergency doors
around the flood of bizarre minor emergency cases
coming to the department by wheelchair, on foot
or gurney. He shook his head in wonderment.
::What a crazy day.:: he thought as he fingered
his car keys he had drawn from his pocket.

He headed towards his tan Buick in its reserved spot
in the auxillary parking lot next to the helicopter
landing pad.

Image of landingpad.jpg Image of rampart.gif

Joe Early was remarkably unphased by the
bustling weird day buzzing around him. He was
his usual calm quiet self as he headed up to one
particular patient room on the fifth floor after he
helped a harried Carol to medical records with her
tottering chart stack.

He eyeballed the correct room down the hall,
grabbed the patient's chart from the nurse's desk from
its turnstyle and shouldered into the well lit room
after hearing a reply to his gentle knock on the door.


Image of joeamused.jpg Image of angiogram.gif

From:   "rampartbase" <>
Date:  Thu May 8, 2003  10:02 pm
Subject:  "Slippery When Wet!"

There should been a sign by the nurses desk
that said "Slippery When Wet." Kel thought as
he slipped on a piece of ice that had
been dropped by the nurses desk, crashing into
it. Luckily, no bones were broken. Somehow, with
the nutty day that they'd been having, it had
gone unseen.

They had a number of strange and unusual
cases. They had people come in because they
thought they were about to get sick, then did.
There was a man who broke his toe after kicking
a car tire at a car dealer. It was just a generally
weird day all around.

From :"Cassidy Meyers" <>  
Subject : The Overhaul Incident..  
Date :Mon, 12 May 2003 03:35:45 +0400  

"Come in..." came a New York accent through the door.

Dr. Early went into the room with the chart at his side.
"Hello there. I'm Dr. Early. Dr. Brackett asked me to
stop on by to review your post angioplasty film that
you had done this morning."

The dark haired man of sixty sat up a little higher
in the bed with an air of making himself presentable.

"No, don't sit up. You still have a fresh puncture site
to worry about."

"Oh, yeah. Right , doc." said the man.

Joe extended a hand out to the patient he was sent
to consult with in a gesture of welcome.

"Glad to make your acquaintance. I'm Charlie. How ya doin?"

"Fine. Fine. Downstairs is a little like a madhouse
but nothing out of the ordinary." Joe thought a bit
about that remark and amended. "No, that's not quite
right. Everything today is out of the ordinary but who's
complaining?" chuckled Dr. Early.

"Not me, doc." said the man. "They've been treatin
me real fine. I was nervous there for a while when
they told me I wasn't gonna be asleep for that
angio...angio picture thing with that balloon
thingy in my chest. But it's over. Heh. And I'm
feeling real good now. I lived through it."

"That was the intent." laughed Joe.

"Don't I know it?" said Charlie.

Charlie let Joe check over the area where
he had had the angio catheter inserted and
let the doctor lift up the gauze dressing
taped there to check for signs of

Joe's face fell a little bit and he opened
the chart one more time to look at the diagnosis
that both he and Kel Brackett had agreed was
the inevitable one.

Charlie's rugged stubbled face took on a
hint of dread as he realized that his news may
not be the happy ones that he had anticipated.
"Say, doc? Uh,.. what's da matter? If ya
have ta give it to me straight, I can take it.
I haven't been a fire department mechanic
working in the busiest district in the state
for nothin, you know.. Don't sugar coat it.
Just tell me whatever it is."

"Charlie. Your initial prognosis is excellent.
The two coronary arteries we found that were
narrowed have successfully been cleared
with the angioplastic procedure. You'll have
no more trouble with that angina and we
can discontinue your regular course of nitro
glycerin. You won't be needing it anymore
from this point forward. "

"That doesn't sound too scary, doc. So, uh,
why the long face here?" Charlie frowned.

"Well, your heart's now fixed with those two
partially blocked off arteries being fully repaired,
but we found that your arteriosclerosis is fairly well
advanced in other areas of your body. Your shortness
of breath you get while exerting yourself at work is
due to narrowing of other arteries in your lungs. That,
we can't fix. The underlying structures there don't favor
the usual angioplastic routes."

A sick dread began to grip Charlie and his post
surgical EKG sped up a bit as he fretted. "What?"
he joked. "Does that mean I'm gonna die tomorrow?"

Joe tried to chuckle lightly with a smile to reassure
his worried patient. "No, you can look forward to
decades more of good cardiovascular functioning.
But I'm afraid you're going to have to come up
with a means to reduce your stress levels. Immediately.
We barely have your hypertension under control with
your usual medications and already they are at
the top end of what's safe to utilize."

Charlie knew right away what the doctor was
angling at. He had figured it out in one mind
numbing realization. "Doc.. are you saying that I'm
gonna haveta give up the one thing that makes
my world complete? That uh, I have to ... retire
from the workplace?"

Joe looked down and rubbed the rings on
his hands thoughtfully in regret and he
sighed while he put together the right words
to say. "I'm afraid so, Charlie. There isn't a miracle
cure for your stage of hypertension. In fact, it
may not take much in your future to really raise
your chances of having a cerebral vascular accident."

"A what?" Charlie asked, rubbing his dry lips.
Then he reached over to his cup of ice cubes
and took some in to wet his mouth to moisten

"A CVA. In layman's terms, a stroke."

Charlie laughed nervously and loud and he
readjusted the blanket back over himself following
Joe's cursory exam of his catheter puncture site.
"You've got to be kidding. I thought that those
blood thinners and that aspirin a day my regular
doctor prescribed, solved all that."

"They helped. But that course of treatment unfortunately
doesn't cure the underlying cause. You're getting older
now. And your particular case will only advance.
Even though it's very slowly. It's time to start kicking
down into lower gear as you mechanics like to say."

Charlie sobered and fell still, struggling to fight
his emotions over finding out that his life
long career was now suddenly, quietly, over.
Then he looked up with a vulnerable smile.
"What uh, just what can I tell the wife, doc?
She's gonna flip over this. It's not like we need
the income. It's just that I won't know.. what
to do with myself, ya know?"

Joe nipped that line of thinking in the bud.
"It's not the end of the world. There are a lot
of people who've been in your shoes. And I'm
not afraid to tell you that I'm one of them."

"Really, doc? Not you.. heh. You look as healthy
as an ox and you're still workin.." he exclaimed.

"Yes, I'm working but my occupation is not
the kind of job that exacerbates my history
with arteriosclerosis. I can still work. But only
in moderation. I gave up my position as
head ER doc a few years ago. Kel Brackett took
over for me while I was recovering and he's
still serving in that position. Your life isn't over,
Charlie. Not by a long shot. You're just going to
have to make a few adjustments, that all, that will
take some getting used to. But you'll work it
all out before you know it." Joe encouraged.

"Yeah, doc.. But retirin? Sheesh." Charlie
scoffed. "That's for old folks. Or really sick
ones." he said in a soft sigh.

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  Crazy Days
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