On Call – A Short Story

Day 3 of National Blog Posting Month.

Today, I’m going to share with you a short story I wrote when I was in high school (freshman year, grade 9).   The story illustrates two things – first is that I was thinking about medicine from a young age.  And second,  it’s clear that I chose the right path.  A novelist, I am not! 

Part of the assignment was writing an outline and describing the stylistic technique used.  I chose irony, and in this story, I used two types of irony: irony of situation and irony of expression.

Try not to laugh too hard ….

On Call.

Dr. Maxwell Lawrence, a medical doctor at University Hospital, reclined in his easy chair, with a cup of coffee.   It was nine o’clock Saturday evening, and Max was enjoying his first night off in 2 weeks from the hospital.  After putting their two young children down for the night, Max’s wife, Eileen, was busy cleaning the kitchen.

Max turned on the television set, hoping to find a good program that might have been on.  Luckily, “The Delta Force” was playing.  Ten minutes later, he was deeply involved with this action movie.

During one of the commercials, a weather watch report came on the air.  Weathermen all across the southern tier were warning viewers of a severe thunderstorm that would hit the area.  So severe in fact, that they were advising that no one attempt to drive.  Aren’t I lucky, and I’m on call tonight too, thought Max.

“Max, honey? It’s for you,” said his wife Eileen, cutting into his thoughts.  “A Dr. Reid is on the line.”

Oh, shit, Dr. Reid?, the harbinger of good news.

Max got up to get the phone, a look of discontent on his face.  His wife noticed, and said, “Now dear, you knew you were on call, didn’t you?”

“Yes, yes, I knew.”  Max picked up the receiver, cleared his throat, “Yes, Ken? What can I do for you? No trouble at the hospital, I hope?” And boy, did he hope!

“Well Maxwell, I’m afraid so.  Unfortunately your patient, Mr. Blackwell has taken a turn for the worse and your presence, as his attending physician, is requested.”

In a tone as pleasant as he could possibly make it, “Yes Ken, I understand.  I’ll be at the hospital as soon as I can, but you see the weather outside, don’t you?  It’s raining cats and dogs. We wouldn’t want our star doctor to get into an accident, now, would we?”  He added, with a touch of humour.

“No, I guess we wouldn’t,” Ken said, ignoring Max’s attempt at humor.  “I’ll keep an eye on your patient, but get here as fast as you can?”

“Will do.”  And with that, Max hung up the phone.  “Honey? Could you go and fetch my medical bag for me? It looks like I’ve got to go to the hospital.”

“In this weather?”

“‘Fraid so. But as you said, I am on call.”

Five minutes later, Dr. Maxwell Lawrence was on his way out.  As he got into his car, he suddenly remembered that the headlights had burned out the night before, and had forgotten to get them replaced.  Wonderful, he thought, how am I supposed to get to the hospital now?  Better call a taxi. He reached for his cellular phone, but when he dialed nothing happened. “Didn’t they fix you, you blasted thing, when I reported it yesterday?”  He exploded at the dead phone.  No response.

Max got out of the car, inside the garage, and spread his arms in frustration.  “Now what?” he asked the pouring rain.  The rain, indifferent to his question, was coming down almost horizontally, driven by fifty kilometer wind.  He turned and looked at the blind car exasperated.

He decided to go inside and call for a taxi, and while he was there, call the hospital to let them know he would be delayed.  Dripping water, he lifted the phone off the hook, and surprise, surprise, there was no dial tone.  “Isn’t anything around here going to work tonight?” He slammed the receiver down.

“Wonderful!” said Max, who was now starting to lose his temper.  “If I hadn’t been that busy, I could have remembered to have the headlights fixed.”  He ran out to the garage again, trying to calm himself down.  That’s water under the bridge now, he thought, but where the heck is that bridge with all this water running by me, he added with a touch of dry humor.

After a few minutes of yelling at himself, Max simply decided that if he was ever going to get to the hospital to save his patient, he would have to drive his car, without headlights, in the torrential rain.

The driving, Max realized, was more deadly than he thought.  Without headlights, he couldn’t see what was two feet ahead of him, let alone whether anyone else was on the road.  After about twenty minutes, of practically crawling along the road, Max realized that he hadn’t even driven two kilometers. It was already almost ten o’clock, and he should have been at the hospital by now.  If only he could find a pay phone to call the hospital and tell them that he was on his way — “Ouch! What on Earth was that??”

As Max was thinking of the pay phone, his car slid and a tire blew out.  This was exactly what he needed.  Now he’ll never get to the hospital.

He pulled over to the side of the road and got out of the car.  Not two seconds out of the car, and he was soaking wet.  This isn’t my night, thought Max.

It took him about a full half hour to replace the tire.  But out in the pouring rain, it seemed like an eternity.  Having finally fixed the tired, Max got into his car again, shivering to the bone.  As he began to pull out, he looked at his watch.  It said quarter to eleven.  Max began to worry, his concern for his patient increasing.  He had to get to the hospital, and fast, or who knew what might happen to poor Mr. Blackwell.

Max continued his trek to the hospital as cautiously as possible, and in spite of himself, was beginning to pick up speed.  He knew he shouldn’t have, but he had no choice.

He turned on the radio as he drove to occupy the time.  Max began to relax listening to the soft sounds of his favorite radio station, when he heard a bang and realized that he had hit something.  “Oh, wonderful!  Just what I needed.”  Max got out of the car, expecting to see a fallen tree limb or something, but to his horror he saw a human limb, then a body.

Bending over,  he shouted, “Don’t move, okay?  I am a doctor and I’m going to help you.  Can you hear me?”

“Yeah buddy, I’m not dead, just a little shaken up.  Where did you think you were driving without headlights?  I didn’t even see you!”  This stranger was obviously very angry, and who could blame him?

“Can you move?  Is anything broken?”  Even through the rain was freezing, Max was sweating profusely.

“I think I’m okay, but I’d like to get check out, if you don’t mind?”

“As I told you, I am a doctor and I’ll take you to the hospital, alright?”  Max got no answer but helped his victim to his feet.

A few minutes later, the man, who still hadn’t given Max his name, was seated in the passenger seat, with a disgusted look on his face. Max seemed to be getting nowhere fast with both his driving and trying to get some information out of the man who just sat beside him, not saying a word.

Finally, the man spoke, “So, you’re a doctor, eh?  What kind?”

Startled by this sudden outburst, Max only looked at the man and for the first time noticed that he was quite young.

“I’m a staff doctor, one that treats –”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” interrupted the man.  “Hey, did you know that there is a cop right behind us?”

“What?” Max looked in his rearview mirror and sure enough there were those familiar flashing red lights that always spelled trouble, but were welcome now under the circumstances.

Max pulled over and waited for the police officer to arrive at the window.  Within a few minutes, the police officer appeared.

“Could I see your license and registration, please?”

“Officer, I don’t mean to be rude, but I really don’t have time for this.  I am trying to get to University Hospital, and I have an injured man with me who needs medical attention.  Couldn’t we do this some other time?”

The cop stared at Max with a look of disbelief.  “Some other time? You’ve been driving in this weather without headlights, and you want to do this some other time? You’ve got to be crazy!”

“But officer, you don’t understand.  I was called to the hospital, forgot to get my headlights fixed, couldn’t call a cab because the lines were down, I had a flat tire and almost killed this man, and on top of all that, I’ve got a patient at the hospital who is probably dead right now because I’m not having the best night of my life.”  Out of breath, Max sighed and rested his head on the steering wheel.

“Well, Dr.?”

“Lawrence. Maxwell Lawrence.”

“Dr. Lawrence.  As you are obviously distressed, I’ll give you and your … ” The policeman didn’t know how to address the passenger.  Should he say passenger, patient, or victim?  He continued “I’ll give you and your … passenger a lift to the hospital, but you’ll be getting a ticket.”

“Thank you, officer.  You don’t know how much this means to me.”

The three men walked over to the police cruiser, getting soaked in the process, and went to the hospital.

Arriving at the hospital, Max’s unlucky passenger was taken to Emergency.  The police officer gave Max a ticket and told him to pick up his car at Police Headquarters the next morning.  Max thanked the officer and went to the third floor, where the patient who had taken a turn for the worse, was probably dead by now.

“Dr. Lawrence,” the dry voice of Dr. Reid stopped Max dead in his tracks.  “I’m sorry that you had to come all this way for nothing …”

“For nothing? What do you mean, ‘for nothing’? Is he dead?”

“No, no, you don’t understand …”

“You better believe I don’t understand it, you ass.  I almost killed a man trying to come here in this rotten weather, and you tell me I don’t understand…”

“Dr. Lawrence, please control yourself. I tried to call you at home but the phone was dead and your cellular phone was not responding.  What could I do?”

Max took a deep breath, counted to ten, then said, “Okay, I’m sorry.  What happened?  Is Mr. Blackwell alright?”

“Yes, he’s resting comfortably now.  It was a false alarm, you know how it is.”

“Yeah, I know how it is,”  Max said, resigned, and in a way relieved that his patient was out of danger.

The End.