Last night was my second night at my new job. I showed up knowing that I was the only closing driver, but what no one had told me was that I was the only driver from five until close.
So I started off easy, but then it got a little busier. I took a single run, then a double, then a triple, then another triple with another triple waiting to be cooked.
When I pulled up at my eighth delivery, I got out and started to trot up to the front door. I heard someone calling, but they weren’t near enough for me to make out what they were saying. I looked around, and I didn’t see anyone. I ignored it, because jeez, I’m in a good sized neighborhood around dinnertime. There’s all kinds of hollering going on.
I hopped up the steps and knocked on the door, and I heard it again. It sounded like they were possibly talking to me; I heard a woman’s voice calling ma’am, ma’am. My customer hadn’t answered the door yet, so I turned in a circle, scanning up and down the street.
Half a block away and across the street, nearly hidden behind a blossoming tree, I finally caught a glimpse of someone in a dress, outside with a dog. Help me. Was she struggling with the dog? I couldn’t see very well, since the tree was in the way. She started walking, slowly.
I watched the girl stagger out into the street, and I could see that she was splashed with red stains. She was holding her left arm out in front of her body, and there was a large dark stain near her wrist. It felt like I was watching the scene unfold on a screen before me; I mean, who hurts themselves inside and then comes outside for help? Phones are inside. She wasn’t running; she wasn’t acting at all like a person had hurt her. She wasn’t afraid of someone catching up to her and doing worse to her.
None of this was making sense.
My customer, an old woman walking with a cane, opened her door as the girl began calling again. Ma’am. I asked if she had her phone with her, as I had left mine in my car. I said it looked like the girl was covered in blood, and that I thought calling 911 would be a good idea. My customer shuffled out onto her porch and peered around the corner.
“No, I didn’t bring my phone with me to the door but–” Her eyes widened when she saw the girl. “I’ll get it.”
I was still standing there, holding the pizza like an asshole.
The girl was coming closer, the dog with her. She paused every few steps to call the dog back to her. When the girl was on the sidewalk next door, the dog broke away and ran up to me, on the porch, and tried to get into my customer’s house. She shooed it away with her cane, and I blocked it from the doorway while she talked to the emergency services dispatcher.
The girl was now in front of the house, pacing back and forth, talking more, shifting her complaints in rotation. It hurts. I can’t feel my hand. Please, my dogs are killing each other. I’m moving. It hurts. My dogs.
My customer and I encouraged her to sit down right where she was, as she was beginning to sway. Another neighbor from across the street came outside and I reassured her that my customer was on the phone with 911. The girl was begging someone to call her dad, and the neighbor ran to get her phone and call the girl’s father.
I opened my trunk to see if I had any towels, old shirts, anything to apply pressure to her wounds. I found a small dishtowel, but I estimated that it was large enough.
I was finally able to get a good enough look at the girl; she was definitely in shock. She’d been bitten quite badly on her left forearm, at least twice, but the bleeding on one had stopped long enough to have dried, and the other was oozing slowly. Her palms were both the dark maroon of dry blood and gray and white bits of fur were plastered to them. Her dress was bloody and furry. She was crying again that her dogs were killing each other inside her house and would someone please go stop them.
Obviously none of us were willing to go deal with those dogs, seeing what they’d done to her.
My customer was still on her porch, leaning on her cane, hollering advice, trying to calm the girl down, and pointing out that she’d ordered a Dr Pepper with her pizza. I’d forgotten her Dr Pepper in my car, so I brought it to her. She put it inside the door and slowly made her way down the sidewalk.
I stepped back out into the street to see if anyone was coming yet. A police officer had just turned onto the street, so I waved to let him know where we were. I told the girl that he was coming. When he pulled up and got out, her dog ran straight up to him, and I felt a moment of panic when he reached for his gun.
The girl screamed no, the dog turned to run back to her, and the cop relaxed. The neighbor took the girl’s dog and dragged it back towards her own home, to keep it out of the way.
Sirens sounded nearby, so I looked back up the street and the fire truck was turning our way. They slowed at a corner a couple blocks up, checking for addresses, so I waved to them as well.
The cop asked what happened, and she told him that her dogs were fighting. The fire truck pulled up and the EMTs rushed to surround her. The cop took a step back so I grabbed the opportunity and asked him if I needed to stay, because I was at work. He took in my hat and shirt and nametag, furrowed his brow, and asked, “You’re at work?”
I told him yes, that I was delivering here, and pointed at the house. I continued my synopsis: while I was at the door, this girl came out bleeding, and I asked my customer to call you since my phone was in my car, but you’re all here now, and well, I actually have another delivery in my car that I’ll need to call the store about if I need to stay.
Since I hadn’t made the 911 call, he agreed that there was no need for me to stay. He wrote down my name, birth date, and phone number and thanked me.
I hope the girl is okay.
At my next stop, my customer made a joke that they hoped I hadn’t gotten in an accident with their pizza; they’d heard the sirens. Yeah, ha-ha. Good one.
I’m not exactly participating in Time Warp Tuesday this week; I’ve never written about 9/11. I’ve never felt that I needed to, but as I think more and more about posterity and mortality, it seems well-advised to do so.
As I said yesterday, September 10th is a dual birthday, so the night before was spent hooting and hollering at a pool hall. I gave most of the rides home, being the ‘responsible party.’ To this day, what 9/11 means to me is the last night I spent with David, our friend who is no longer with us. It has affected me in many other ways, and still does, since I live next door to Barksdale AFB, but still, I see memorials and news stories about 9/11, and I miss David.
My phone ringing woke me up that morning, a little after ten. It was my mother, the family physician, mother of four, ex-Marine, in the only absolute panic I have ever heard from her.
‘They blew up the Pentagon and the President is coming there! You have to leave! I don’t know what’s going to happen!’
It wasn’t her words; it was her tone. My sister has been missing, my brother has threatened suicide, my other brother escaped from a juvenile detention center, and she has called me, but I have never, ever heard her like I heard her that morning. My mother is the calm center of the universe; even when she has been screaming so furiously her eyeballs threaten to burst, she is always in control. This was pure panic.
I did the only thing I could. I called my manager and told her I couldn’t come in that evening because my mom said so, I got in my truck, and I left. It was easily fifty miles before I was really awake, but the rest of the trip was spent listening to the conflicting stories on the radio stations that slowly but inexorably slipped out of range, eaten by the miles.
When I arrived I realized I didn’t even have a change of clothes, but at least my mother was herself again. By that time, the President had already come and gone from Barksdale, with no accompanying explosions, and I think she’d realized she may have overreacted. We spent the rest of that day glued to the news networks, just like everyone else. I talked to my boss and knew I had to go home the next morning, as we only had a handful of civilian employees.
The next three days I worked open to close. I was exactly half of the delivery staff that week, but since the other guy had a real job, I worked for everyone else. Every house was the same; one distracted person handing me cash without looking away from the screen. Every street was the same; open front doors or curtains displaying everyone gathered in front of the television at every house.
What struck me the most, afterwards, was how long it took the military to close the bases. It was well into 2002 before you needed something besides a cartop sign and a smile to get on base, and 2004 before you needed a military sponsorship. The Air Force has done five background checks on me now, and they didn’t even start that until 2009.
All the changes, all the precautions, what good are they really? What can a threat level color do for national security? It doesn’t make sense to me. The same thing can happen tomorrow, or any day, and no amount of obstructing pizza delivery or prohibiting bottles of water is going to change that. Discrimination has been the benefit we’ve been reaping.