Working at 911 can be a ridiculously high-stress occupation. Emergency operators often hold the caller’s life in their very hands, and one wrong move can mean another person’s life will come to a sad and often inevitable conclusion.
As with any work environment where folks are cooped up in a confined space for eight, ten, even twelve hours a day, coalitions are constructed, alliances assembled, mutinies incubated. The cast of characters behind closed doors can be as colorful and crazy as any family–and if you’re anything like Hollie Porter, family, on its best day, is a strange brew all its own. Usually involving not-quite-legal herbs, goats with attitude problems, organic cupcakes, and unhealthy amounts of whiskey.
But for Hollie, this … is Friday:
That disgusting feeling of I just listened to somebody die washes over me. It’s gross. Been at this job for two years, eight months, sixteen days, since disappointing my union-loving nurse father—yes, my dad is a nurse, so get your jokes out of the way now—and leaving school early secondary to questionable financial management. I am the only person in the family who faints in the presence of blood, an unending source of ribbing at those insipid annual family gatherings. Whatever genetic predisposition to medicine that runs like plague through my family? Yeah. It skipped me. Working 911 was the easiest compromise—I sit in a room and listen to blood, but I never actually have to see it.
But dead people never get easier, especially the ones who are already dead when the call starts. Aneurysms. Heart attacks. Strokes. Embolisms. Mother Nature is a clever, clever girl.
I lean back in my chair and slurp on the remnants of a long-ago melted iced coffee. Les is staring, those beady little eyes fixed on me. I know he’s going to do it when I see his hand move to the chest pocket of his ugly brown flannel button-down. The mothballs and Old Spice piggyback a puff of recycled air.
I shake my head no.
Don’t do it, Les. Don’t pull it out.
He does. The Black Book of Death. He’s going to put a goddamned checkmark next to my name. Again. To show that I’ve killed someone else.