Cap’s Long Day

By Jane

Cap leaned back in his chair and contemplated the stack of papers on his desk.  Only mid-afternoon, it seemed like they’d put in a full shift already and he was tired.  Too tired to tackle the paperwork that waited there for him.  The headache that had plagued him all day was slowly gathering force, and Hank briefly considered a quick break and a couple of aspirin.  But the responsibility of being captain was something Hank Stanley did not take lightly.  He reached for the next folder and began flipping through the sheaf of papers. Man, has this been a long day.

A sharp knock at his door announced Chief McConnikee’s entrance.  ”Afternoon, Hank.”

“Chief.  What can I do for you?” Hank had stood to shake hands with his superior and the men seated themselves as a brief silence fell between them. 

”Hank, you’re probably wondering why I’ve stopped by today, so I’ll get right to the point.”

Captain Stanley nodded in agreement, restlessly moving some of the papers aside on his desk.

Reaching into his briefcase, McConnikee removed a thick manila folder and laid it in front of Hank, then leaned back in his chair. “We need to talk about OSHA regulations and our liability insurance.”

Hank groaned and leaned his elbows on the surface before him.  Resting his forehead briefly in his hands, he felt the lurking headache finally take command of his senses.

“Sorry, Hank.  This is something we’ve needed to discuss for some time, and I just couldn’t put it off any longer.   You see, I’ve just finished a workshop on OSHA regulations and reporting.  Along with that, there’s a new set of guidelines regarding what type of incidents must be reported and what our insurance company will cover.   I’ve been looking over the records for this station, and, well, there seems to be a trend developing here.”

Slumping further into his chair, head shaking slowly, Hank knew what was coming next.

“Let’s just take a look at this 200 Log, Hank.  I think you’ll see what I’m getting at.”

Moving from his chair to the desk, Chief McConnikee stood quietly next to Hank and opened the folder.  There in plain site, rested the dreaded 200 Log.  Captain Stanley couldn’t seem to gather the strength to look directly at the missive.  Raising his head, eyes searching the room for some type of escape, Hank swallowed another groan.  It wouldn’t do to lose total control, especially in front of the Chief.   He’d known this day would come, sooner or later.  He’d just been hoping it would be later.

The Chief waited patiently for Hank’s full attention.  Finally, with no escape in sight, the Captain looked directly at the white sheet in front of him and breathed a long sigh. “Yes, Chief.  What seems to be the trouble?”  Why didn’t I take those aspirin when I had the chance?

“Well, Hank.  There seems to be quite a few injuries recorded for Station 51.”

“Yes, Chief, there does.”  

Man, could this day get any worse?

“And it seems that quite a few of those injuries are taking place during your shift.”

“Yes, Chief, it does seem that way.”  Can’t I come up with something to say other than: “ Yes, Chief?”  I sound like a robot.

“And there seems to be one name that is repeated here quite frequently.” 

“Yes, Chief, it looks like you’re right.” Yep, I wonder who’s name that might be. .

“Are you the one that fills out this log?”

“Yes, Chief.  I handle all those records myself.”  Why wouldn’t those klaxons sound when you needed them?

“So there’s no chance that a mistake has been made?    What I mean to say is, are there really this many entries attributed to this one employee?”

“Yes, sir, that’s correct.”   There, found something other than, “Yes, Chief.”

“Hmmm.  Well, Hank.  What seems to be the trouble with this young man?”

Chief, you don’t have enough time for me to explain this guy and his actions to you.  It’s almost like there’s someone out there who plans these accidents and his injuries for their own enjoyment.

The chief paused briefly, but when no answer came from Stanley, he continued. “The man seems to be smart enough, did well in all his exams.  He’s been with the department for quite awhile.  Why’s he experiencing so many injuries?  Is he unsafe?  You know, the OSHA inspector could be sent out here any time to investigate.  Are you prepared to answer the questions they’ll have for you?”

Hank wasn’t even prepared to answer all the questions the chief just asked him and the pounding headache had now turned into a full fledged war of sledge hammers.  He sat quietly in his chair, contemplating which question he should answer first, and finally decided he’d answer none of them, at least not in the traditional way. “Let me explain, Chief.  This young man is a very dedicated fireman.  He cares deeply for the people he rescues or attempts to.  Although some of his techniques are a bit, unorthodox, he is always extremely careful with his patients.   Every case I’ve entered in the log has presented extreme hazards, and I doubt anyone performing those rescues would’ve come out unscathed.  Our biggest problem is probably the fact that this particular fireman is the one who volunteers first for the most dangerous rescues.”

Chief McConnikee listened attentively to Hank’s rather winded argument in his crew- member’s defense.  He shrugged slightly as he hid a faint grin from the man.  Well aware of the closeness of this particular shift, he didn’t want to push Stanley too far, but this was a serious situation.  OSHA regulations were not something to be ignored and the chief knew full well the serious affects of an inspection. “Hank, I’m going to leave this in your hands for now.  You’ll need to speak to this young man, and I’ll trust you to impress on him the importance of safety on each and every call.  I haven’t even begun to tell you about all the calls we’ve received from our insurance carrier, but I have a feeling I should leave that for another day.”

The chief studied Hank for a moment before continuing. “You look all in, man.  Maybe you’d better take a few aspirin and grab a cup of coffee.” The chief slapped Hank across the back as he flipped the folder closed.  “I’ll just take this with me for now.  They need it back at the office to prepare a summary for the year-end files.  You’ll get a copy back when they’re finished.  Any questions?”

“No, Chief.   Thanks for stopping by.” Yes, thanks for really making my day.  Just wait til I get a hold of this particular young fireman.  After all he’s put me through, I’ll have him cleaning latrines for a month!  With that, Hank stood and prepared to escort the chief to his car.  As they reached the door to the apparatus bay, the klaxons finally sounded. 

With a deep sigh, Hank muttered softly,  “Too late to help me now.”  Stepping quickly to the radio to jot down the address, Captain Stanley glanced back as he heard the approaching footsteps. 

Hank immediately sensed the disaster about to happen, for there in front of him was Gage, sliding around the corner of the squad at full speed in his customary fashion.  And standing directly in his path: Chief McConnikee.  

Captain Stanley shook his head in quiet dismay as Gage barreled into the chief’s back, the impact sending both men sprawling to the concrete floor. 

Yep, Hank thought as he picked up the mike to call a Code I into dispatch, it’s been a long day.  It’s been a very long day.

*****End*****

Thanks to Kenda & Audrey for their support and encouragement; to Kenda for the beta read and to Ken for sending me to the OSHA workshop where this little piece was born (yes, I really did pay attention).

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