The Middle of the Road

            Bob Delaney tried to keep up with the ambulance as he followed behind.  His two-year-old son was in that ambulance, his life hanging by a thread. The gunshot had come out of nowhere. One minute they were in their back yard watching the golden spirals, and red and green starbursts from the fireworks. The next instant little Danny was on the ground, blood coming from a wound in his neck.

            Traffic was heavy, probably from all the people leaving the nearby park where the show had been staged. Someone nearby had gotten happy and stupid, and fired a gun into the air. Bob’s rage was almost palpable. What was wrong with people anyway? Didn’t they know that if you fired a gun in the air, there was no way to know where the bullet would go? Didn’t they understand that you could be killing someone and not even know it?

            The ambulance was in the middle lane on the three-lane thoroughfare and Bob was trying to stay close behind but other vehicles kept cutting in, even though he had his emergency flashers on.

            Without warning the vehicle in front of him stopped dead in the road and its left turn signal came on. Bob slammed on the brakes, barely missing the car. The other driver seemed oblivious. Why couldn’t the driver just go to the next intersection, get in the left turn lane there, and go back to the place he wanted to go? Why did that driver have to try to cause an accident? Bob wanted to get out and punch the driver in the face. Bob wanted to tell him what he thought, but there wasn’t time. He blared his horn, rolled down his window, and called the man an idiot.

            When Bob looked back up the ambulance was gone. He had lost sight of it that quick.  Panic set in. Where was the hospital they were taking his son to? He wasn’t familiar with this part of town. There were three hospitals in the area. Which one would be the most likely? He wondered. It would have to be a facility with a trauma center. “God, please let my little boy be okay. Lord, please help me find the right hospital.”

            Bob’s cell phone rang. He pulled into a parking lot to answer it. He needed to think anyway. His wife, who had ridden in the ambulance with their son, was calling to ask where he was.

            “I’m in the Walmart parking lot on Seventh Avenue North. I got separated from you.”

            “Okay. We’re going to Saint Mark’s Trauma Center on West Green Street. Do you know how to get there?”

            “I think so.”

            Bob’s wife gave him directions. He arrived without further mishap. The ambulance had already arrived and Danny had been taken to surgery immediately.

            After two hours of anxious waiting and hand wringing, the surgeon came out to the waiting area. “Good news, folks. Danny’s going to be just fine. He’ll need to stay in the hospital a few days. We want to make sure no infection sets in. Fortunately, the bullet didn’t penetrate a major artery. We were able to repair the nerve endings. He’ll have some pain for a while, but he’ll be okay. He’s asleep right now, but you can stay as long as you like. When he wakes up the nurse will let you know so you can see him.”

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