We pull up to the house in a skid of dust and gravel. I throw us into park as my pager beeps at me madly with one call note, all capital letters, flashing across the screen.
I grab the bag and head towards the stairs of a decrepit trailer. Our third rider is way ahead of me, and suddenly learns why "Don't Run" is a rule we take seriously. He trips on the second stair up and goes to his knees, the monitor flung out in front of him, looking all the world like an old lady losing her umbrella in a gust of wind. I step over him and walk through the open door from the porch. A firefighter turns around. "What's all the noise?"
"My rider got tagged by a sniper. What we got?"
"Baby ate a plant or something. He got pretty red and was havinga hare trouble breathing, but we gave him some O2 and he seems OK now."
I walk in the room to see a nice little backwoods family waiting for me in the "living" room - all the rooms in this trailer run together, so It's hard to tell where the kitchen begins. I think it's where stained, ugly carpet meets stained, cracked linoleum.
Maybe they're not hick trailer trash, I wish feverently. They're a hard working family down on their luck, forced to live in this shit hole by an evil...shit, an evil godmother or something, I don't know...it stinks in here.
Wait a minute. I thought a whole backwoods family is in here, but I see it's only HickDad and HickBaby - HickMomma is MIA. This is not the happy family combo plate I expected. I raise an eyebrow to the Cowboy FF.
"Mom's in the cruiser out front with Steve, Mike, and The Taco".
Steve and Mike are the local deputies around here and The Taco is the largest, friendliest, tater tot lovingest German Shepard I've ever met.
That is, until, Mike tells Taco it's work time. The Taco? He becomes....well, a werewolf is too mild. He becomes a werebear - a slobbering, evil monster capable of devouring criminals, boats, and small houses in a single satisfied glomp.
"She thought she would try to flush her meth when she saw us get here. Only, she's kinda high, and was trying to wash it down the kitchen sink. She got about half way done with Mike and The Taco came in through the front." He lowers his voice to a whisper. "Taco was real rowdy when they walked in..she peed a little. Well, a lot. They've got her out in the cruiser. Dad gave this address instead of the one next door, which is where the baby was. They walked out front when the crusiers pulled up and went in next door and watched mom get busted."
"You checked the baby? Is he ok?" Cowboy nods yes.
Hickdad hands the baby to me. The baby has big blue eyes, a big ole smile, and a big diaper, full of smelly, soft, baby shit. The diaper is not containing the poop, I conclude. It's cruising slowly, just everday shit without a care, from my gloved hand down towards the crook of my arm. After a quick assessment, I hand the baby (who is fine) back to dad, who, I realize is sweating profusely. His face is red, and he is scratching his side absently. I tell him we need to take his son to the hospital, JIC. I ask him what happened.
"Well, I's on my way home from work when my mom called me and said he was out on the back patio and he got into one a her plants. He had two handfuls of leaves in his hands and was cryin'. She thought he ate some so she called me. He was fine, there weren't none in his mouth or nuthin'."
HickDad is still sweating and scratching his side. Sweating. Red. Wheezing a little. Something isn't right.
I ask HickDad if the baby has any history or anything, and he tells me No.
I am beginning to form a picture in my head. Dad is real nervous...maybe his wife? No....why is he scratching. Those Wheezes.
No, it can't be.
Things have fallen into place rather quickly.
"Are you ok?" I ask him.
"Well yeah, uh, no, man, I'm having trouble breathing."
I direct Stumbles the Third Rider to get vitals and motion for my partner to grab the stretcher, and I kneel next to Hickdad.
"Well, uh, I wasn't sure if that's what he ate or not, so I, uh, I ate some of the plant. Like, 5 or six leaves. A branch worth. I wanted to make sure that's what he had."
I swear, the stupid hurts so much my ears start to bleed. I sigh as I put my steth to the man's chest.
"Do you have any medical problems?"
Later, we are parked in front of the Sonic. Mike and Taco are next to us, and I sit on the back of my ambulance, the module doors open. We have had two codes out here today, an assault, a breathing problem, another assault, said poisoning, and three transfers. The sun sets over a rice field. Neon light from the sign casts down on me and my powerade slush. Taco is sitting obediently next to the cruiser, watching Mike as he slowly polishes off a hamburger.
Mike then pulls a giant box of tater tots out of his Sonic bag. Taco licks his chops but continues to sit. Taco is the Zen Master of waiting for tots. I have seen Mike put a tator tot on Taco's nose, sit down, and start talking to someone, with Taco waiting patiently. Mike then gives Taco a look and says "Take it!!". Before "It" reverberates to my ears, the tator tot has vanished, Taco has licked his chops, and he is in place for another tot.
Today, Taco has worked hard, and made a lady pee herself in terror, and does not have to perform such indignities. Mike tosses the tots at Taco, rapid fire, as fast as he can, and Taco does not miss a single tot.
"Are you supposed to be doing that?" I ask Mike. "I mean, feeding him that shit?"
"Meh." Mike, 6'4", 280 lbs of muscle, meh's like a 70 year old Yiddish Housewife, shrugging his shoulders pragmatically. "He loves 'em. No one at the department cares. He's a good boy. I'm not supposed to, I know I'm not, but Taco's smart enough to not tell anyone." He winks at Taco conspiratorially.
I look Taco at the eyes. "You're going to get fat. That shit goes directly to your hips, Taco my boy. You're a good pooch, but that shit'll kill ya."
Taco turns his head away from me, dismissively, and licks his chops. He's a happy pooch.
The Sun has set on another day in BackWater Parish. My new turf. My new home.