Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Morgue Drawer...a RA Flare Rerun

A group of us girls got together last night, leaving husbands and significant others to fend for themselves where it came to scavenging for food, drink and entertainment. Waitress not included. It's been a while since we were all together swapping war stories from the line of duty. It felt good to be in the company of women. I'm sure men can appreciate this, it's not much different from their poker nights, only we have no cards or chips, we expend no money only laughter. We try to keep things light for the fun of it and occasionally dark for the thrill of it. We were doing hamburgers and Good Sister was doing her world famous slaw. I was amazed because she was actually making it in front of us so we could all steal the recipe if we were so inclined. I was. I did. I will. I told them about a house that had burned nearly to the ground on my way out to her house. It struck me as suspicious...but that's the cop blood, you see. Everything is suspicious. So GS told me that there had been a few suspicious fires in town, and that I could be right about the house. Everyone was moving around the kitchen, breaking up lettuce, slicing tomatoes, GS was now making chili so those of us so inclined could have a Carolina Classic hamburger...chili and slaw with a healthy slice of Vidalia onion. Turns out we were all so inclined. She cut the potatoes to fry, and looking around at our bounty, said "Wendy's doesn't have anything on us, girls!" Asking me if I wanted a soda, she directed me to her fridge. "I put some diet cokes in the freezer." I walked over to the fridge, pulled the freezer drawer out and grabbed a coke. I heard one of the girls say, "did you intend to put a morgue drawer in your kitchen or was it a happy accident?" Every one broke out laughing as GS shook her head and told us it had not even occurred to her until it was set in place. After that several of us begged her to tell us the story of the night she got pinned in the Morgue. The Morgue in the old hospital was more like a walk in closet with four odd looking drawers inset into the wall. It was old, having been an afterthought years ago when the hospital was first built. The only other people (other than the resident dead) that entered on any kind of frequent basis were the Medical Examiners and family members there to identify a loved one, or view a loved one who had passed in the hospital. One of the drawers, the bottom drawer on the left had long been in need of repair, but administration had done nothing about the repairs in the six months since the request had been made. There was now a trick to pull the "Resident of the drawer" out into the light for viewing. In the room was a tall metal trash can, you had to open the door out, pull out the drawer and quickly kick the trash can under the drawer to support it and keep the body on the tray of the drawer from tumbling onto the floor. The ME's had become so used to doing this that it was just second nature, open door, pull drawer, kick can, support tray. See? Easily done. So this one night when GS was the ME on call, she had to go down to the Morgue to do the paper work on a body that had just gone down from upstairs. The family would want to "view" her, she knew, and she needed to get all the paperwork in the system. For some reason, the "Residents" were always put in feet first, rather than head first which made it difficult to read the toe tags. You had to pull the body completely out to read the information. GS said she groaned when she saw which drawer her patient was in. She expected the worse. She got it. "I opened the door, " she told us, "and realized that the body within was well over three hundred pounds. At first the tray refused to move. I had one leg cocked to kick the trash can under the tray when it rolled out, but the tray still refused to move. Instead of looking to see what might be holding it, I just gave a hard jerk on it and suddenly it began to move. It picked up momentum and before I could kick the can under it to support it, it came off the track and pinned me to the back Morgue wall. I couldn't lift it. I couldn't move it. I began to wail hoping someone would hear me. After a bit, I gave that up and decided to save my voice for when I might hear someone coming down in the elevator. I figured that someone would miss me eventually, or the family would be escorted down to view the body and that I wouldn't be here long. I was in there for an hour before I heard the slightest sound other than my own breathing. I began to yell, "hello!!! hello!!!" at the top of my lungs. The young ME was now thankful for the sweater that she had pulled on before going down to the glorified closet. It was cold in here. Of course, it needed to be cold, but she was afraid she was going to freeze to death before anyone came to her rescue. It was the elevator she heard that sounded like an angel skidding to a stop. She heard a voice singing a gospel song and so she began to shout, "in here, help me please!" She saw the young man in the huge mirror that hung on the morgue wall and showed the outside hallway. He stopped, took an ear bud from his ipod out of his ear and stopped. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open in shock as though he had awakened and found himself in the midst of a horror movie. The ME, whose voice was now raw and wispy from shouting for over an hour, again called out, "Hello!!" She could hear the young man clearing his throat. He too seemed to have lost his voice. He turned all around trying to locate the voice. He began to stammer back, "hello, where are you?" He turned into the Morgue and seeing her there against the wall, ran over to try to help her. It took three men and a jack to free her from her chilly prison, but they finally managed to get the tray back on the tracks and into the drawer. "You know it was about a month before I felt warm again. And it was the impetus for building a new morgue. And high time, too!" And so that's the story of the Morgue Drawer...line of duty stories? I have a million of them.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Thrill of the Read...winter rerun

The other day I came across a Harlan Coben book I hadn't read. I was surprised, because I thought I had drained the well. I found this one at the flea market and since the books were only a dime (even the hard backs) I knew I couldn't go wrong. I figured if by some chance I had already read it , it would be easy to pass on to a neighbor or my son...if it's a book, some deals are just to hard to let pass. So, the other night after going through the books I had purchased (and when I tell you that every room in my house has a book shelf of some sort, you can take it to the bank) I picked up "Tell No One". You know, even the title gave me a bit of a chill. I felt it work across my shoulders and then slither doen my spine as it pushed a rod of cold straight down. I was reading the "biopsy" of the book. "For Dr. David Beck, the loss of his wife was shattering. And everyday for the past 8 years he has relived the horror of that happening." Hmm...see what I mean? Now do you think I could wait to turn to page one? Even though dinner was on the stove, the table needed setting, and company due to walk in the door any second, I sat on the edge of the sofa and read the first three pages. I was enthralled immediately. I love a mystery. I love the ones that make you look over your shoulder. The ones that ensure that you get up out of a warm bed, breaking off the doze you were slipping into, to make sure that you locked the doors. And the windows...and checked the showers, pulling the curtains back to reveal...nothing. I love Stephen King, but Mr. Coben holds my mystery loving heart. What have I learned from Mr. Coben? Well, I have learned that just because someone tells a character who they are, usually that is a lie. Especially if the person is supposed to be someone in authority. Look again...nothing and no one is what or whom they seem. If in the story a character walks into a room and feels plastic sheeting under their feet, you can bet your bottom dollar that there is no painting going on...this is minimum cleanup of what is hardest to clean up in a crime scene...blood. No matter how hard you scrub, there's always that minuscule drop of blood that worked it's way down into a floor board or behind a piece of paneling. You can bet on it. Hence the large rubber sheeting on the floor, the spill catcher. If someone is supposed to be dead, keep reading...because chances are they are going to pop up at some inconvenient moment and scare the beejeebers out of you. Ah, Mr. Coben, you enthrall me no end. And you tie the ends up so cleverly. You never kill a really bad guy off till you've used him in a couple, maybe three books. Eric Wu is the scariest bad guy I've ever encountered via Mr Coben. Even the description of him is soul shattering. And what he can do to the unsuspecting victim makes you want to skip ahead to the part where the victim is finally, hopefully mercifully dead...because you really can't take anymore of their terror. Or the torture that ensues. Mr. Coben's books are almost painful to read. It's like the old horror movies where you find yourself sitting in the theatre talking to the girl up on the screen, she of the white raincoat and high heels. You're begging her "don't go in the house" and when she does and encounters the monster, you begin begging her to kick off those damned shoes so she can get some traction to run the hell out of that house. Of course, she never does. Mr. Coben is not known for his happy endings. You may want to think so, but even as you're coming up to the last page, Eric Wu has beaten you there...and he's most likely waiting for you.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Here we are a week into February and once again that doggoned Groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil has brought bad news! In fact his prediction was this: "A Super Bowl winner I will not predict, But my weather forecast, you cannot contradict, That's not a football lying beside me It's my shadow you see So, six more weeks of winter it shall be!" For Broncos fans it was a double whammy. First the bad news about winter's non-demise, then their team avoids being skunked by one play. It was a sad day for some, I guess. Nearly a repeat of the "Heidi" fiascco of 1968. I wonder how many of you remember the Heidi Bowl? The Heidi Game or Heidi Bowl was an American football game played on November 17, 1968. The home team, the Oakland Raiders, defeated the New York Jets, 43–32. The game is remembered for its exciting finish, as Oakland scored two touchdowns in the final minute to overcome a 32–29 New York lead. It came to be known as the Heidi Game because the NBC Television Network controversially broke away from the game, the Jets still winning, to air the 1968 television film Heidi at 7 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone Mac and I had been married for four weeks. The ship had left for Reftay training in Norfolk on 4th of Novembder and so some of the other wives and I had gotten together to take a trip from Charleston to Norfolk in time for the Super Bowl. It was Sue O'Shilelds, Doc's wife Patty and I. I drove our Mustang and off we went. We were driving up 52 North and had just entered Coward, SC when I passed the Greyhound bus. I suppose that should have been my first clue that I was traveling too fast. We girls were all chatting happily and listening to good old country tunes on the radio when I saw it. "It" was a blue and red revolving bubble gum light atop a police car. I glanced down at the speedometer and it read 75 mph. I knew in that moment that the revolving lights were for me. I pulled over to the side of the road and got my drivers license and registration out to hand to the Officer when he approached the drivers side window. I watched him adjust his hat, pat the holster where his gun rested and look in through the back window (to count the occupants I now know). I put the window down and he leaned in and said " flying a bit low tonight aren't we? May I see your pilots license?" Now we all love a smart *ss cop, right? But as Patty later told the tale when we arrived in Norfolk, at least he had a sense of humor. I regaled him with the tale of a wedding just 3 weeks prior, and ship pulling out to sea a week later and a trip of Navy Wives meeting up with husbands to watch the Super Bowl. He shook his head and said "and don't you think your husbands might like you to get there in one piece? Keep the speed somewhere around the legal limit and don't let me catch you flying through here next week." We arrived in Norfolk "in one piece" and called the ship to pick our guys up. We were going to be going back to Charleston on Monday. But that Sunday was the Super Bowl. We all gathered on the Base at one of the clubs to watch it. I seem to remember the Jets were ahead and then the unthinkable happened. NBC broke away from the game to show a new version of the old movie Heidi. The groans were ear shattering. The names the poor NBC folk and Heidi were called can not be published in a family paper...needless to say, the fans were a mite upset. Whenever Super Bowl Sunday comes around, I always remember that one and have never watched a complete game since. I flip back and forth to check the scores and leave it at that. It ruined the game for Mac, and since I learned the rules of the game from Andy Griffin (What it was was Football) I wasn't missing all that much anyway. Frankly I'd rather be reading.