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News & Features » June 2017 » “Unsafe” by Ron Riekki

“Unsafe” by Ron Riekki

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays. 

This week, Ron Riekki takes us on a deadly ride with an EMT.

by Ron Riekki
Township Road, Chassell, MI

There’s nowhere more unsafe than the back of an ambulance. They’ve done studies and the people in the back are exponentially more likely to be killed than the driver. The reason: the medic in back can’t be buckled in; it’s nearly impossible to do proper patient care without being able to move around freely. Another reason is the back of an ambulance is filled with oxygen tanks, disposed needles, and stair-lift chairs that go airborne as easily as bacteria in a cough. I could keep going with reasons, including the patient already being in critical condition, so an accident just increases their plummeting towards death . . . and accidents do happen. Us drivers are minimum wage kids with sleep deprivation and largely inexperience. The turnaround rate for EMTs is staggering. I’ve been doing the job for four years and I’m considered to be a senior citizen in the company.

My partner Jonathon in back has only been a medic for three months and we’re both dedicated to midnight shift, the way the cities gets so still and, according to my partner, “much more interestingly violent at night.”

The guy we’re transporting is a drunk driver who murdered a tree tonight, an oak he attacked with his Corvette, his body thrown through windshield. He’s unconscious, which I hate, because even your most annoyingly yelling head-injury patient is at least letting you know with every four-letter word that they’re alive. Patients use the f-word when they’re medically stable; the ones who stop cursing, who get angelic in their language or just plain silent, those ones I worry about.

It’s raining, which is always an ingredient for havoc. After four years of this, off the job I never drive in the rain anymore, canceling everything if the road looks wet, especially if it just started down-pouring, as that’s when the roads are at their most dangerous, the oil and gas coming up to provide a surface made to keep us employed. I’m leaning forward with intensity to make sure no deer leaps out as we’re in the heart of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula nothingness when I see my partner take out his pocket knife and stab it into the patient’s leg, right into a wound that already exists. He takes the knife out quickly and alcohol swabs it clean with a fluid motion and has the knife back in his pocket so fast it’s like it never happened and he glances at me and sees that I’ve seen this, except his expression is that nothing happened, so that I’m lost in confusion, which I can’t be, because we hydroplane for a moment and I relax into it, knowing that if you fight against it, you can end up sideways in the swampy valley waiting to our right. From these very exact spots that we’re passing with constant blurring of rain and trees, I’ve dug drowned bodies out of cars, or at least stood by while watching the fire department do it.

The ambulance steadies and I look up to see my partner’s face huge in the rearview, him saying, “We alright?”

I nod, as if it’s too hard to talk.

I know he’s done this before. We had a patient who fell from a second-floor bar window in Houghton, landing impaled on a fence below, the patient so drunk and high and sleepy that he’d come in and out of dead-snoring sleep and wide-awake confusion in seconds, my partner asking him to name the President of the United States to check his level of consciousness and the patient saying, “Whaz a pressidan? Who’s a pressidan?” and then blacking out again. My partner kicked that patient in the head. I had run back to the ambulance and returned to see the end of the kick, having just missed it, or maybe not, ignoring what I shouldn’t have.

The question is How many patients has he done this to?

Five EMTs have died in the last twenty years for the company, not a huge number. Two electrocutions and three traffic fatalities. But it is possible I can die on this job, especially with a partner’s subtle assistance.

I keep driving into the cosmos before me, the outer space way the rain tunnels by us, everything seeming to get darker and darker . . . and I could see him breaking the leg of a corpse from just a weeks ago, our first patient together, the way that the lifeless body let him do anything.



RON RIEKKI wrote U.P.: a novel (Great Michigan Read nominated) and edited The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works(2014 Michigan Notable Book), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2016 Independent Publisher Book Award), and And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press, 2017).


Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jun 26, 2017

Category: Original Fiction, Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , , , ,