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Night Rotation




“Can’t she just fly away?” Tanya yelled, “She’s a pterodactyl! And how is Agent Clipper gonna save him, anyway? He has hooves for hands!”


“Well maybe if you’d stop yapping, you’d find out. Besides, you’re just wasting time. In the ten seconds it took you to ask that question, Evil Spiderman just lowered Princess Pteri three feet lower toward the lava,” Josh replied. In an exaggerated motion, he flared his nostrils and began sniffing the air over the girl’s bed. “Hmm… I think I smell her feet roasting. Kinda smells like chicken! Don’t you think?”


“Nuh-uh! I don’t smell anything. Stop being silly, Dr. Josh. Now you’re the one wasting time!”


“You’re right! You’re right! Where was I?” Josh said as he reached down to pick up the plastic triceratops from an otherwise empty chair.


“Agent Clipper was through the worst of it. The storm had been so torturous that it nearly turned his bamboo raft into a smoldering pile of twigs. There was still a chance he was going become shark-dinner tonight, but waves that were 30 feet tall a minute ago had died down. Now they were little more than rolling stacks of water.”


Faithful to the narration, Josh let his voice drop and used his whole arm to gently move the inanimate hero up and down, slowly through the air.


“As the storm faded, so did the clouds – all except for one that is – a thick, grey pillar that hung above the mist, towering over a tropical island below. ‘Aha,’ Agent Clipper gasped. ‘I found you at last, Evil Spiderman! And now that I found you, I’m gonna save the beautiful Princess Pteri and bring you to justice! Just in time to make it home for sup—’”


“Princess Pteri can’t be beautiful!” Tanya interrupted, visibly exacerbated, “she’s a pterodactyl. Like you said, she looks like a chicken!”


“I said she smells like a chicken! Not looks like a chicken. Besides, pterodactyls can be beautiful, especially to other dinosaurs. It’s just like how a chicken can be beautiful to other chickens. Or how a fish can be ugly to us, but handsome to other fish. Princess Pteri just happens to be the most beautiful pterodactyl in all the land!” Josh shifted his weight a little as he spoke. He could feel his right leg growing numb.


It was dark inside the room, and Josh’s left shoe was lying on the floor by the vitals monitor, temporarily holding his pager. He set it there so he could bring his foot onto the bed and prop his knee up in the air like a mountain. Over his knee, Josh had draped his white coat whose chest-pocket harbored both the circular end of his stethoscope and a Spiderman doll that a previous own had colored entirely black. The exposed, pronged end of the stethoscope hung off to the side, cradling a precariously placed Triceratops doll. For dramatic effect, Josh had spent a full minute arranging the scene to make it look like Spiderman was holding the stethoscope, maliciously dangling his victim over the edge of the bed. And away from the scene, sat Josh’s pager, temporarily being housed in his shoe.


“Agent Clipper now saw the grey cloud for what it was.” Josh continued, “a column of smoke emerging from the rim of a volcano! With his eyes fixed on the summit, he patiently waited to drift ashore… But as soon as he landed on the island, the whole raft burst apart like a flimsily built chair, sending bamboo logs crashing back out to sea. And with them went all of Agent Clippers belongings; the freeze-ray he used for catching bad guys, his pocket-copter, which was a helicopter that could fold into his pocket for a quick getaway, and the rope he brought to climb the volcano. All Agent Clipper had left was the watch strapped to his wrist, which luckily for him also happened to work as a small laser! So rather than sit there and mourn his lost devices, Agent Clipper turned around and began marching up the mountain.” On the bed, Josh turned the Triceratops around with an emphatic ‘humf’ and proceeded to make the doll hike up his coat, rope-free.


Suddenly, though, the space was filled a harsh, high-pitched beeping sound. Josh looked over and saw his pager calling out angrily as it slid deeper into his shoe.


“Do you have to go?” Tanya asked.


“Just for a minute, Tanya.” Josh replied, sliding a watch off his wrist and handing it to the girl. “Why don’t you take this and put it on our friend, Agent Clipper, to help him out while I’m gone.”


Josh removed the coat from his knee, trying his best to leave the dolls and stethoscope in their carefully arranged positions. He then jumped off the bed, removed an extra stethoscope from the wall and quickly jammed his foot into his shoe, somehow forgetting the pager was still there, beeping incessantly.


Ignoring the pain in his toe and with pager now in hand, Josh walked calmly out of the room before sprinting toward the stairwell. He already knew what the page was about, but glanced down to confirm his suspicion. His other patient, a four-year-old boy born with a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, was coding. The defect meant that the left side of the boy’s heart was under-developed and couldn’t effectively pump blood out to his body. For even a chance at living a normal life, these patients required two more defects to be induced at birth with medication, as well as a series of high-risk procedures and long hospital stays. Josh’s patient had made it successfully through two of his surgeries, but prior to his third, he developed an infection. And now, as Josh’s pager kept reminding him, the boy was crashing.


When Josh got to the boy’s room, the rest of the call team was already there performing CPR. Josh helped the nurse get the defibrillator off the wall, and joined the team in cycling through the rescue protocol. Compressions, breaths, shock. After twenty-three minutes, they made no progress, and the boy showed no signs of life. They called it at 11:36pm. The team let the boy’s mother back into the room, and she flew over to the bedside, tears screaming off her cheeks. Josh tried to put a hand on her shoulder but she threw it aside sobbing, not ready to give up on her child. She tried waking her son, providing more compressions, but without any results, her efforts gradually devolved until she simply threw herself onto the bed and began shaking.


This time, the nurse reached out to console her, and the woman let herself be constrained. She fell limply back into the nurse’s arms, still clutching her son’s hand. Josh wanted to stay there forever. And part of him did. It was a small, yet significant part. It stayed there with that woman and her dead child, despite knowing she wouldn’t be able to feel its presence.


After several minutes, Josh looked up to see his co-resident giving him a nod. He left the boy’s unit and walked silently back down the stairs towards Tanya’s floor.


Before entering her room, Josh wiped his face with both hands, stretching his cheeks out towards his ears; and then he brought his palms back together, letting his hands collapse lightly over his chest. He shrugged his shoulders, cracked his neck and gently knocked on the door.



“Can I finish the story, or do you think you’re too sleepy?” Josh asked.


Tanya was still awake and sitting up in her bed, “You can finish Dr. Josh!” she replied, “But I couldn’t get the watch to fit on Agent Clipper. I think he’s too fat!”


“He might be,” Josh laughed, “or my wrists are too skinny!” And with a big smile, Josh positioned himself back onto the girl’s bed and carefully began to reset the stage.


“'Hands up, Evil Spiderman. Agent Clipper’s here to bring you to justice!'

'Agent Clipper? Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! How is a fool like you going to stop a genius like me? I am The Great Evil Spiderman, and you have nothing but a silly watch!'”

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