Free Write Friday #20: Wrath/Gratitude- Part 2
“Why isn’t the damn thing working?”
“Did you press 9 before you put in the number?”
“Yes, of course I did!”
There was a screeching noise and then the fax machine began emitting one, long continuous beep. The Dispatch Center wasn’t that small, but it was small enough that the noise caused heads to turn and cries of recrimination to rain down on the hapless Dispatchers attempting to fax a request for a phone ping to Sprint.
Eventually, one of them had to crawl under the counter and the first Dispatcher, Martin was his name, began to sneeze uncontrollably.
“When was the last time someone dusted under here?”
“Probably never,” replied his counterpart, Aleecia. “Just think, there’s probably enough dead skin cells under there to clone enough dispatchers to get us back to full staffing.”
“Oh wonderful,” Martin said. “Thanks for that image. Just what I need, thinking of how many Dispatcher skin cells I’m inhaling while I’m stuck in a hellish tangle of cords.” There was a thump as he bumped his head on the underside of the counter. “We seriously need to do something about the cord management under here.”
“Well, we need to fix the damn fax machine first,” Aleecia replied. “There’s a missing possibly suicidal person we need to find.”
“Yes, and it’s a good thing Sprint requires these forms get to them through an up-to-date, fully modern 21st Century piece of technology,” Martin replied. The cord at the back of the fax machine gave a jerk. “Is this it?”
“That’s the one,” Aleecia said.
“God damn it, I hate fax machines so much,” Martin said. “They’re like cassette players or laser discs.”
“Well, for as much as you hate them,” Aleecia said, “You sure know how to fix ‘em. Unplugging it and plugging it back in seems to have cured it.”
“For now, anyway,” Martin said. “Now, let’s get that form sent and find this guy.”
Far away from the chaos of the Dispatch Center in the highlands of Scotland, the God of Fax Machines cursed in irritation. Foiled again. The Scottish climate did nothing to improve his temper as it was currently cold, grey and misting- but that was the curse that all the Deities of Obsolete Objects faced. They were forever bound to the homelands of their inventors. The Goddess Betamax at least got to enjoy Japan. The God of Cassettes was living his best life in Berlin. But no, thanks to Alexander Bain and his ‘Electric Printing Telegraph’ he was stuck in Scotland..
The God of Fax Machines reached out once more, searching for another poor soul to punish. He saw all the fax machines, all across the world laid out before him. It was the frustration and rage of the nurse that caught his attention. She was currently fighting with an insurance company that was churlishly demanding faxed copies of prior authorization forms for her patient. The God of Fax Machines smiled and reached into the fax machine:
“Now taste my wrath.”
The squad car slowed as it went across the highway bridge and then came to a stop before gently turning onto the gravel drive that led down to a popular fishing spot.
“All right, rook,” Sarge said as he put the squad into park. “Time for today’s lesson.”
They got out of the car together, the rookie looking confused as Sarge made his way across the lot to the bike trail that ran under the highway bridge.
“What are we doing here, Sarge?”
“You’ll see, now come on.”
The rookie followed Sarge as he led the way down under the highway bridge before coming to a halt about halfway under it. There at the edge of the river, a motley group were gathered, pushing an empty bottle out into the river. Sarge kept his distance from them, but moved to join the county deputy and the state trooper that were waiting on the bike path.
One of the motley group turned and called up: “Are we in trouble?”
“No,” Sarge called back. “We’re just here to pay our respects to the Captain.”
“The Captain?” The rookie sounded puzzled.
The trooper rolled her eyes. “He means Jerry. He died last week.”
Sarge chuckled. “Jerry got a hold of a bottle of Everclear one time and got into it with some people downtown. He was a mean bastard when he was drunk, but that night he proclaimed himself ‘Captain Save-A-Ho’, dedicated to saving all the college co-eds at the bars.”
The rookie smiled. “Really?”
“Really,” Sarge replied. “But we did some digging on Jerry and found out that he was actually a Captain in the Marines. He was older than dirt. Saw action all the way back in Vietnam and came home and just couldn’t hold it together.” He pointed at the motley group watching the empty bottle float away. “Ricky over there is harmless. Darla will call 911 convinced that her son has been taken hostage by aliens. Vinnie is a mean son of a bitch and can shit his pants on command.”
Sarge watched as the current caught the bottle and began to pull it downstream. “Wherever you go in this career, these are the people you’ll be dealing with a lot. And one day, one of them will catch you on a bad day and when that day comes, make sure you remember.”
“That they’re people too,” Sarge said. “This was the only family the Captain had.” He shook his head and turned away then, heading back toward the squad car. The rookie fell in beside him. “It says two things on the front of your squad, rook. To Protect and Serve. We worry a lot about the first part and tend to forget about the second.”
The rookie thought about it for a long moment and realized that Sarge was right. After all, he didn't want to be a cop because of the cool stuff, like lights and sirens. He wanted to help people.