My great idea fell from the sky. Literally.
It wasn’t spontaneous. Well in a way it was of course, every idea has to have that first spark moment. But this one was nearly ten years in the making. I was going to be a paramedic, that’s what. Well it wasn’t called a paramedic then. I was going to be an ambulance driver but a name didn’t matter. Not to me.
I was twelve. High school had just started for me and career planning had not extended much beyond thinking that maybe an astronaut might be a good idea. This was a time when Apollo space ships still flew off to the moon of course. Or Hollywood studios depending on your view, but I digress.
Saturday afternoon meant a couple of dozen of us kids, sometimes more, would gather at the school oval to play whatever seasonal sport was current. In summer, it was cricket, winter of course football. The oval ball type of course; I hadn’t matured into appreciating ‘wog ball’ was actually a good game yet. Only Joe and Fabio and Con had done that back then. I digress again.
The sun was high and hot, the sky deep blue. This was cricket time of the year. Teams were picked, you know, the good players first, the okay players, the really not so good players, then finally Chris and me. Or in fact, it was me and Chris. I was the second worst cricket player of all time.
As we spread around the oval, on the fielding team this day, Chris and I remarkably found ourselves on the same team. I think the opposition felt so benevolent they let our team have both of us. It didn’t matter that we were both placed far, far away in the outfield in a position to where the ball simply never came. It never occurred to us we were being hidden from any chance of messing something up. We were part of a sporting team. We were cricketers and that is all that mattered!
And so the day went on. Players came in, players got out. There was occasional cheering, runs scored. The ball dutifully never came near us but we ran around as vigorously as the most active participants.
After a couple of hours though, Chris started to lose focus. He picked a few little grass daisies and tied them together. He made a crown and I laughed. He tried to do a handstand. Nope, couldn’t.
Then it happened.
A loud clicking noise. Short pause. Loud name calling. More name calling.
Chris was the name.
Somehow, one of the batters had managed to hit a ball fully over his head, skying it up, up and up. Then it came down, down and down again. To the outfield. To where it hadn’t gone before.
To where Chris stood.
I joined the chorus. He had to look up. Nobody imagined he would catch the ball. He had to at least be able to field it and throw it back. He had to be able to at least return it to the bowler. Each ambition became increasingly less, well, ambitious. Finally we got to wanting him to at least get out of the way.
The ball landed smack on the top of his head. I imagine I can hear the crack but I know I didn’t really. Chris crumpled to the ground without moving. I stood and stared. Twenty of us did. A moment later nineteen of us had turned and scattered, hurdling fences, mounting bicycles. Gone. Just me and Chris. Chris who at this point I thought was dead. He still hadn’t moved.
I managed to walk a few timid, unwilling steps toward him when a much larger form ran past me. It was someone’s dad who was mowing the lawn across the road. He had seen what happened, come over to help.
He had also called for an ambulance.
I did my bit and just stood there mourning the loss of my friend. Thankfully at no time had it occurred to me that I was now the worst cricketer in the team.
Beeee Baaaaa, Beeee Baaaa. That’s what sirens sounded like back then. The ambulance arrived. Two men walked across the oval toward Chris. Between them they carried a stretcher. Carried it. One at the head end, one at the foot. Over fifty yards they carried that thing which meant around about fifty yards back again. I did maths.
I watched as the two men wrapped a bandage around my friend’s head. There was blood all over his head and his face. They moved his arms and legs to see if they still worked. About that point was when I noticed Chris has his eyes open and talking was to them. My heart soared. He wasn’t dead. I knew what dead meant as I’d had a bit of a rush on death by family members to that point. But Chris wasn’t dead at all.
They traipsed back across the oval, Chris lying on the stretcher swathed in bandages. He waved as he passed me. I still hadn’t moved as they lifted him into the ambulance. The back door was slammed closed and the ambulance drove away.
And with that my career counselling session had concluded.
This was better than being an astronaut. This was for me. I never once wavered over the next ten years and never since.
As a sidenote, ten years later I recognised immediately my first station officer as we were introduced; it was the second time we had met.
Jeff Kenneally www.prehemt.com