Cal and Lenny have just returned from a long and complicated job and look about finished for the day. Cal grunts and shuffles off to the kitchen; Lenny throws himself down in a chair, his legs flying up to come crashing back down onto the expertly timed, flick-up foot extension. He looks like the marionette of a grizzled wild west lawman, chucked back in the box after a showdown.
‘Well that was fun,’ he says.
Cal and Lenny have about a million years of service between them. They joined the ambulance service sometime after the last ice age but before Kennedy was shot. Together they’ve stepped out of a hundred makes of ambulance onto a hundred thousand scenes – every conceivable variety of tragedy and triumph, every kind of weather, all hours of the day and night. Their long years of work weigh in their faces, but they carry their experience well, as if the best and the worst has blown itself out now, and all they really need is somewhere warm and comfortable to put their boots.
‘What happened then, Lenny? I heard you had to come back for the bariatric truck.’
‘The guy was big. I mean phenomenal. Seriously. It was incredible. Forty stone and he collapses on the toilet – a tiny little shitter he must have to grease himself to fit. So then the fire brigade arrives. They take the door off, then a wall and window so we can get him onto this special lifting canvas and out with a cherry picker. Six of them, two of us, and even then it’s touch and go. So we get him down to the truck. You know the specially wide trolley? Well that almost gives up. Creaking and groaning. The hoist practically burns itself out dragging him on board. And then driving to the hospital – well, we were so low I thought I was back home, ploughing. But we get him to hospital, and there’s a team of porters standing by, and we rope them all up like huskies, heaving and dragging to get the poor sod inside. Cal was cracking the whip. Get on there! Come on! So then we get him inside and the charge nurse has to discharge about a dozen patients to make room. And then the doctors all come and have a butchers. Mm, they say. He’s going to need a CT scan. But he won’t fit through the hole, and anyway we’d never get him on the table. I know, says one. We’ll send him over the zoo. They’ve got a really big scanner there for the elephants. It’s okay. I’ve seen it done before. And he’s on the phone arranging it when the guy arrests, and that was it – game over. So he never got his day out at the zoo after all.’
Cal comes back into the room with two cups of coffee. He hands one to Lenny, then walks slowly over to a chair and lowers himself gently down into it.
‘The zoo!’ says Lenny, his eyes sparkling through the wisps of steam from his coffee. Then he settles back in the chair, and the two of them drink in silence.