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MUSED Literary Magazine.

Not The Usual Day

Marylou Mansfield

Carrie’s alarm pounded at five in the morning; three early starts in a row. She was weary and barely managing a miasmic headache which had plagued for weeks.

“I need to do something about this. I will…soon.” She promised herself, yet, again.

Carrie threw herself together; put on clean scrubs and snatched her ID badge and keys from the hook by the back door; then headed out, running on autopilot. She stopped at the local D&D drive through to grab a coffee; black, hot, no cream or sugar. Caffeine was good for a headache, right? Someone had told her that.

When Carrie pushed open the double doors to the ICU ward with coffee in hand, her night nurses were overly happy to see her.

“Lots of action last night, Carrie. Big accident on the thruway and we caught four of the bad ones.” Head nurse, Linda, informed Carrie with a double eye roll. There would be much to do in the days ahead. At least Carrie knew the paper work would be in order. Linda was meticulous when it came to record keeping. She was, also, a nurse extraordinaire. Carrie needed only step in and pick up the tasks of this day. That would be plenty. Her headache seemed to subside as she concentrated on her work.

The first few hours ticked by quickly. Carrie had time to chat with the security officers assigned to her wing as they changed shifts. She had come to know them well and felt safer seeing them walk the halls every day. Joe, in particular, took time to acquaint himself with nurses and doctors and a patient or two; even gave a hug to a little boy visiting his grandmother. He cut quite a figure; a large man, 6’3” 275 lbs, bullet proof vest, taser, hip mounted revolver and the rest. With all of that, his smile was that of a skinny fifteen year old neighborhood paperboy. It all fit somehow. The puzzle pieces all fit that day.

Around three in the afternoon, Carrie began her regular recording of patient chart info. The four accident patients were holding their own; a few concerns, but nothing unexpected. She waved to Joe as he sauntered by and told him there was fresh coffee and cold pizza in the break room. He could help himself. His eyes lit up. “On my next go round.” He responded.

Joe paced around the corner and out of sight. Carrie thought it odd noticing as Joe walked away, he moved his hand to his sidearm.

Carrie rubbed her eyes and yawned. Her hands felt cotton ball dry, in need of some TLC. She reached for the plastic bottle of hospital hand lotion on the shelf behind her. The lotion flipped in her hands and landed on the floor at her feet by the chair. At that instant, as she crouched to retrieve the bottle, Carrie heard POP…POP…POP. Next she heard bells and alarms signaling patients in trouble…flat lining, perhaps, struggling for sure. Again…POP…POP.

Screaming and yelling erupted up and down the hallway. The acrid smell of something burning floated around the corner.

All of this happened in less than twenty seconds. Carrie’s breath was sucked out of her body for at least all of those seconds. Then all of her training and practicing kicked in. She and two other nurses gripped the crash cart and headed into the melee, rounding the same corner Joe had just approached a minute before. There was Joe, the big man, clutching his right arm, bleeding profusely. He never flinched.

“Get behind me, Ladies,” he said in a steady determined voice. With Joe in the lead, gun at the ready, they ran from bed to bed, hoping for more help. Two patients appeared to be already passed; a third could be revived. They made the choice to begin there.

By then, the full alarm was howling everywhere. The code for “active shooter on site” was set into motion.

Joe closed the curtains and the door where Carrie and the others were working feverishly. He went back into the hallway with weapon drawn.

POP…POP…Carrie heard that horrible sound again. She kept performing CPR and praying.