Lewis drove slowly over the densely packed snow that covered the road. The ambulance rolled quietly and controlled well despite the conditions. To his left and right were acres and acres of farmland hidden under a weeks’ worth of fresh powder which lay undisturbed and pure. The only thing that broke up the wide spread fields were various trees with no leaves whose bark became gray from the cold. The sky swirled with clouds just as gray as the trees, but no precipitation was forecast.
He saw Kevin’s ambulance parked further down the road, and looked down to check the clock. He was late, and was sure Kevin would point it out. It had been many months since they had seen each other. Kevin was the one who trained him when he had first taken this job, and when it came to emergency medical technicians, no one was more passionate than Kevin. Lewis pulled in behind where Kevin had parked, and could see the old man standing in the snow. There he was, in his fifties, and still showing up like it was his first day. Lewis was only twenty-three and didn’t have half the motivation Kevin did, but that’s because this was Kevin’s whole career, and Lewis wanted to do something else someday.
Lewis exited the ambulance, and he and Kevin approached each other. “Sorry I’m so late boss, I missed the first two calls. I wasn’t supposed to work today, and last night there was this whole thing with my grandmother I had to take care of.” Kevin gently and without saying a word took the keys from Lewis’ hand, walked to the back of the ambulance where he unlocked it, and opened it up. His lack of a response left an awkward energy in the air and made Lewis want to keep talking. “She freaked out because apparently when she got up to get her self some water, or something, she saw a barn owl sitting on the shed in her backyard. Apparently she’s got this superstition that says they’re supposed to be omens of death or something. I personally am convinced it was just her eyes playing tricks on her, since she 84 years old, and all. Plus, I’m pretty sure barn owls fly south for the winter, but she was freaked out so she made me come over and walk around looking for it. This all happened at around three in the morning, keep in mind.” All throughout Lewis’ story Kevin retrieved the supplies that Lewis was told to bring. They consisted of trash grabbers and small snow shovels.
“Where’s the cooler?” Kevin asked, completely ignoring everything Lewis had said up to this point.
“I didn’t bring one.” Lewis replied nervously.
“Well why didn’t you?”
“I was only told to bring the grabbers and the shovels.” In the split second the last word left Lewis’ mouth Kevin spiked the equipment into the snow.
“The organ cooler in my vehicle has a hole in it and I specifically told the hospital that I needed you to bring one with you. So please tell me how, the fuck, is there no fucking cooler in the back of your fucking ambulance?” Lewis waited a second before responding.
“I guess whoever you spoke to on the phone must not have heard the part about the cooler, and frankly if you keep throwing the other stuff around like you just did we aren’t gonna have grabbers and shovels anymore either.” Kevin jumped down from the back of the ambulance and gave the loose snow an exaggerated kick.
“Well I guess we’re going to have to figure out something else out then.” Kevin said pausing for a moment to think. “Did you pack a lunch?”
“Well yeah of course I packed a lunch. There aren’t many drive through options out this way.” Lewis replied, biting the fingernail on his right thumb.
“Did you bring it in a paper bag or a lunch box?”
Lewis went to the front of the vehicle opened the passenger side door and meticulously emptied his lunch box and placed his food in the glove compartment. When he shut the door and turned around Kevin was there and he immediately snatched the box from Lewis’ hands. Then he bent down to the road and started filling the box with snow. Lewis was beginning to get irritated. No one had briefed him on what exactly was going on and Kevin was really taking his time filling in the gaps. “So what’s all this for and what the hell are we supposed to be doing out here? Asked Lewis. Kevin stood up and looked confused.
“They didn’t tell you?” He replied.
“No they just told me what to get and where to go. What exactly happened?” Kevin started to speak then stopped to think. After a moment or two he started again.
“There’s a couple that lives further down the road a ways, and apparently, their relationship wasn’t very pleasant for the wife. This morning she did something.”
“What did she do?” Kevin looked off into space for a moment.
“She took a pair of those big kitchen scissors, you know, the kind people use took cut up raw meat.”
“Yeah.” Lewis’ stomach felt heavy.
“While her husband was sleeping she, I guess, used them to cut off his penis.”
“I know it’s pretty fucked up, right.” Kevin said looking up at the swirling clouds. Lewis almost didn’t believe it. “Apparently the lady felt guilty about it because she called the police and told them what she did, and also that she had blindly driven here and thrown the penis into this field.” Kevin continued. “After that she bolted and the police are still trying to track her down.”
“When did all this happen?” Lewis asked
“I already told you, earlier this morning.” Kevin replied. “The problem is they live so far out here in the middle of no where and this snow is so fresh the thing was probably buried by the wind.”
“That’s kind of a good thing, I guess.” Lewis replied. “If the dick is encased in snow it will probably stay cold enough to be recovered and reattached.”
“That’s true the cold has definitely bought us some time.”
“Didn’t something like this happen before, in the 90s?” Lewis asked still chewing on his fingernails.
“Yeah I think it did. I think they found it and then the guy ended up becoming a porn star or something.” Kevin replied. “It doesn’t matter we’ve got to get to work.” The two of them picked up the equipment and made their way out into the field. “Watch your step out here.” Kevin said. “I don’t want to have to scrape this thing off of your fucking shoe because you weren’t paying attention.”
“Relax alright, I’ll be careful.” Lewis started digging around with his shovel. Kevin did the same, and the two of them slowly got into a rhythm. They dug long paths outward from the center of the field and then back again and it seemed as though Kevin intended for them to repeat the process until one of them found the penis.
“Be careful you don’t wind up throwing the thing over your shoulder. Make sure you’re looking in each shovel of snow.” Kevin called from across the way using his right mitten to sift through the snow in his shovel. Lewis wasn’t a fan of this approach. He didn’t intend on touching the thing even with his gloves on. An image flashed in his mind of the frozen dick sticking to the sleeve of his jacket like some kind of bloodsucking leech. This cemented his decision to just carefully dump each shovel full out while watching to make sure he didn’t miss what he was looking for.
Now, on the other side of the field Kevin was working fast. It was almost like he was angry at something. The way he slammed his shovel into the snow put Lewis on edge. When the two met in the center again Lewis tried to lighten the mood.
“It’s too bad this guy doesn’t have a cock ring then we could’ve just used a metal detector.” Kevin didn’t even look up, and quickly started shoveling his next path. Lewis did the same after a brief moment of self loathing.
The sky continued swirling above while the men worked on for several more paths. Kevin was the one who finally broke the silence. “Any sign of anything over there.” He called. Lewis shook his head in confusion.
“I actually found it five minutes ago and was waiting for you to ask me about it. What the hell do you mean; is there any sign of anything?”
“I don’t know do you see any blood, or smell anything?”
“If I did why wouldn’t I tell you?” Lewis lowered his shovel and leaned against it like a fence post. “What about you? Any blood or weird smells over there?”
“Do you think this is funny?” Kevin yelled removing his wool hat and running an ungloved hand over his balding head.
“No, but I do think this line of questioning is pointless.” Kevin put his hat and gloves back on.
“Just let me know if you see anything. Anything at all.” He started to shovel again.
“No fucking shit.” Lewis mumbled quietly continuing his path in the snow.
The world became black and white for Lewis and Kevin. Everything was either snow or dirt, or snow or dirt. Lewis found it hard to believe that anything could ever grow out there. The dirt was hard and lifeless. It was stiff like a corpse, and it didn’t smell like the nice planting soil his grandma bought for her garden in the summer. The whole field seemed much like a graveyard to him. So much so he half expected his shovel to strike solidly against a tombstone. Not a full size one of course. More like the small kind they make for babies.
Kevin was in a fury. The speed at which he dug and sifted through the snow had doubled as time passed. Every so often Lewis would look over his shoulder and catch him cursing under his breath in frustration. This wasn’t like Kevin’s usual work ethic. This was something else that Lewis could only think to describe as obsession. This made him nervous, but he didn’t say anything and just kept working hoping one of them found the thing soon.
Lewis’ path neared a very thin gray tree. Its naked branches flopped violently in the breeze. As he moved closer to the base of the tree he noticed something. Drops of blood had sank deep into the snow there. “Kevin I found some blood.” Lewis yelled dropping his shovel and quickly digging through the powdery snow with his gloved hands. Kevin bolted across the field dropping his equipment along the way. Within seconds he was right behind Lewis who turned around now holding a baby rabbit.
“What the fuck is this?” Kevin asked trying to catch his breath.
“It’s a rabbit and it’s injured.” The rabbit was missing it’s left leg, and from the look of the wound it must have been gnawed off. After taking a second to finish recovering from his sprint Kevin took a good look at the creature.
“Must’ve gotten ripped out of its family’s borough by a dog or something.” Kevin said picking up Lewis’ shovel.
“What do we do, boss?” Lewis asked stroking the creature’s tiny head with one finger.
“Well Lewis, the animal is in a lot of pain and there is no way it’s gonna make it out here. Give him to me and I’ll make sure he doesn’t feel any more discomfort.” Kevin replied.
Lewis cradled the rabbit closer to his torso and looked down at it. Its chest moved rapidly like a paper bag attached to a panic attack. The little guy was fighting hard, but Lewis knew that it would prove not enough. He tried to hand it over to Kevin, but for some reason his arms wouldn’t budge. “I can do it.” Lewis said standing up. “It has to be me I’m the one who found him.” Lewis kicked away some snow and set the rabbit down on the dirt.
“Just let me do it Lewis. I’ve been hunting small game since I was a child I can make it painless. Do you even know what you’re doing?” Kevin asked.
“No, I have no idea what I’m doing, but it doesn’t feel right letting you do this for me. Give me the shovel.” Kevin didn’t move for what felt like a whole minute, but eventually he shook his head and handed over the shovel. Lewis took it and looked down at the rabbit for a moment. He couldn’t help but think about everything it was being cheated out of. He wasn’t sure if rabbits hibernated or not, but figured if what Kevin had said was correct than the little guy must have been in the middle of it. It was supposed to wake up in the spring when everything was alive again, and this field was full seeds. It should never have seen all this snow or all those swirling clouds above. Lewis brought the blade of the shovel down hard on the rabbit’s skull. It cracked, but the brain survived. A scream pierced the silent air like a dull needle into a sick arm. It was so loud Lewis dropped the shovel and covered his ears. The screaming continued for several seconds while Kevin calmly picked up the shovel, and proceeded to bring it down on the animal again. The screaming stopped.
“Fucking idiot.” Kevin yelled throwing the shovel hard into the ground like a spear. He walked back over to his side of the field and kept working. Lewis took a moment to vomit off to the side and then got back to work as well.
Lewis didn’t look over his shoulder at Kevin anymore, and he doubted that Kevin looked over at him. The two of them worked in silence for path after path. The only noises were the shovels and the wind. At one point in his searching Lewis came across a hole in the ground. He didn’t alert Kevin to this because it likely didn’t have anything to do with the penis, and because he was still ashamed about the rabbit incident. He dug a little deeper into the hole and saw that it was actually a squirrel burrow. The numerous stiff squirrel corpses were a dead give away to this fact. There were six of them in there. All of which were full grown. It reminded him of the pictures of mass graves he saw at a Holocaust Museum.
The thought of the man without a dick crossed Lewis’ mind while he coved the squirrel burrow with dirt. He wondered if the man was experiencing phantom limb syndrome. Surely something like that must be possible for a penis if it can happen with an arm or a leg. Lewis wondered if the man could still feel himself get an erection even though his penis was miles away buried in snow. If such a thing were possible then the entire idea of needing the penis in the first place changes. Lewis figured that if the mind could simulate something even when it wasn’t’ there, why did it matter that it was missing? Maybe everyone has phantom limb syndrome. Lewis thought. Maybe our entire bodies and our entire world are just generated by our minds. Maybe that’s why we can’t find this guy’s dick. It never existed in the first place. He thought about sharing this theory with Kevin, but didn’t. It probably would have only made him mad.
After about another hour of work the field was completely uncovered, and they had a wall of snow surrounding it. At the south edge of this wall Kevin repeatedly slammed his shovel hard against the solid dirt. The plastic cracked under the force of the blows and after a few more moments of slamming the blade fractured and broke off the handle. Kevin tossed it aside and took a seat on the cold ground.
Lewis stood next to him looking down at his former teacher, and shook his head. “What the hell is going on with you?” He said. Kevin looked up and met his gaze.
“What are you talking about?”
“All this pouting and yelling and shit. You were never like this in training. What the hell is your problem?”
“What the hell do you think my problem is, look around? We didn’t find the damn thing.” Lewis sat down beside Kevin.
“Well yeah, but that’s not our fault. We got bad information. The lady was just lying on the phone to send everybody on a wild goose chase. She probably still has the thing with her, and when they catch her they’ll recover it.” Kevin removed his hat and lightly scratched his balding head.
“You’re probably right. I guess, I just kind of wanted to be the one who found it.” Lewis scowled at this.
“Why did you need to be the one to find it? Did you want some kind of penis locating bragging rights, or something? There’s no award for that.” Lewis replied.
“This isn’t an ego thing. I just, sort of, wanted to witness something go right for once. No matter where you look anymore all there is, is catastrophe or impending doom. I’m telling you, everything around us is going to shit, and in a few years I’m afraid moments of triumph are going to be harder and harder to come by.”
“They happen everyday boss, you don’t need to beat yourself up just because you don’t always see it.” Kevin chuckled at this.
“Actually, I think I do, Lewis. We all do, a little bit, if we actually want things to get better.” Lewis didn’t know what to say to this so he just sat there in silence. Kevin leaned back on his hands and started looking around. “Yep.” He said. “I’ve been feeling eyes on us this entire time, but not anymore. They’re looking somewhere else now.” Without another word Kevin stood up and walked back to his vehicle. Lewis waited a second and did the same, taking a brief moment to look over his shoulder as he walked.
Lewis carefully ate the sandwich from his lunch while he drove. His lunch box sat waterlogged with melted snow in the passenger seat next to him. It was a shame they didn’t manage to find something to put in it, Lewis thought.
The two of them pulled up to the hospital. Kevin immediately got out of his ambulance, and knocked on Lewis’ window while he struggled with his seatbelt. Lewis rolled the window down so he could hear what Kevin had to say.
“I’m just gonna run in really quick and let the doctor and authorities know we couldn’t recover anything. You just hang tight and I’ll be right back to let you know what they want you to do next.” He said. Lewis nodded and watched Kevin briskly walk into the hospital. After sitting there waiting for a while Lewis noticed a police squad car with a hefty looking cop standing beside it drinking coffee. Lewis got out of the vehicle and approached him.
“Excuse me sir.” Lewis said stumbling over the slush covered pavement. “I’m an E.M.T. that helped looked for that severed penis this morning I was wondering if you had heard anything about the lady who chopped it off?” The police officer squinted his eyes before he answered.
“Well, about an hour ago they tracked her to a motel about fifty miles from the state border. When they went to her room to arrest her she burst out of the door, and attacked the officers with scissors.”
“Oh wow, did they shoot her?”
“No they didn’t shoot her. She was covered head to toe with self inflicted cuts, she was missing all the fingers on her left hand, and her scalp was hanging off the side of her head like a bath towel. They tased her and she died of her wounds on their way to the hospital.” Said the officer before taking another sip of his coffee.
“Fuck, I wonder why she did that to herself. Do you know if she had the penis with her?”
“They didn’t report recovering any evidence. Why, did you guys not find it?”
“No, we dug up the whole field and there was nothing out there.” The cop hung his head and then looked up at the sky.
“That’s a damn shame. That kid’s gonna have to live his whole life without a dick.” The officer sipped his coffee.
“What do you mean kid?” Lewis asked. “How old was her husband?” This caused the officer to give him a weird look.
“This lady didn’t have a husband it was just her and her son living way out there in that tiny little shack. I think he’s like nine years old, or something. They told you she had a husband?” Lewis’ face felt like a warm lightbulb. Without saying another thing to the officer he turned and started jogging toward the hospital entrance. Once inside he asked a clerk at a reception desk which room the kid who was attacked was in. Seeing that he was and E.M.T. the clerk told Lewis which room and he started toward the elevator.
He took the elevator to the sixth floor and when he walked out of it he found himself in a long hallway. It had asbestos tiles and fluorescent lights for a ceiling, and giant windows for walls. The floor was dark black slate. In the middle of the hallway was a bench where Kevin sat his face laid down in his hands.
“Hey.” Lewis yelled causing Kevin to look up. His eyes were red. “What the fuck is your problem, old man? I get that you’re not happy with a lot of things right now but that’s no reason to lie to me? What the hell were you thinking telling me it was her husband?” Kevin’s expression went from nothing to a sharp scowl.
“You don’t get to talk to me like that do you understand?”
“No, I don’t understand, now tell me why you lied to me please.” Lewis felt his clenched fists start to shake, and tears began to form in his eyes. This happened a lot when he got really mad, and he hated it.
“You don’t get to tell me what to do kid, I’ve been doing this job for almost forty years. I’ve seen things that make today look like a fucking paper cut. You don’t get to stand here and demand I explain myself to you because you’re nothing. You couldn’t even remember to bring a goddamn cooler.”
“Well if you’re so great why did yours have a hole in it, huh. Stop with all this seniority bullshit and just answer my fucking question.” Kevin took a breath and looked Lewis right in the eye. Lewis was at least three inches taller than Kevin, but in this instant Lewis felt like he had to look up.
“I lied to you because you’re weak, okay. I’ve known it since the day you arrived at training, but it’s not just you it’s your whole goddamn generation.”
“That’s what this is?” Lewis laughed. “You think that just because I’m young I can’t handle reality that I need it filtered by someone older? That’s complete bullshit and I’m reporting you to the head office.” Lewis turned to walk away but stopped when he heard Kevin’s voice.
“What you did to that rabbit only proves me right, Lewis. You lack the tools to handle real stakes.” Lewis turned around.
“The rabbit has nothing to do with this my job isn’t killing rabbits it’s helping people in medical need and I can’t do that properly if I’m not given all the information.”
“You know you were wrong by the way. The mother didn’t have it with her. Kevin said.
“I heard that.” Lewis replied.
“They want me to be the one to tell him we couldn’t find it. His mom was his only family, and the hospital director seems to think it would be best then for someone who was actually out there to break the news to him. ”
“Fucking good you should be the one to do it you lying sack of shit.” Lewis said still shaking.
“I agree it should be me, but if you want to prove me wrong then you should do it.”
“I don’t have to prove shit to you.” Lewis said. “I know who I am Kevin, and I’m not as weak as you think.”
Kevin sat down on the bench. “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Lewis stood still for what seemed like a long time. He wondered what this boy looked like and how he was handling everything. He lost his mom and a piece of himself on the same day.
“Where’s his room at?” Lewis asked. Kevin stood up and showed him the way. The door was dark black like the floor. Lewis opened it and walked inside Kevin tried to follow, but Lewis lightly pushed him back, and he stayed out in the hall. Lewis looked at the boy. He had a shaved head down to the scalp, and dark brown eyebrows. He looked pale and sick. Lewis sat down in a chair next to the boy’s bed. “I’m Lewis what’s your name?”
“Shawn.” The boy replied.
“I’m sorry to hear about your mom.”
“It’s okay.” The boy replied again. Lewis took a long look at the boy’s eyes they were piercing blue and swirled like the clouds outside.
“Does it feel like it’s still there?” Lewis asked speaking very softly. The boy nodded his head yes, and Lewis told him about what happened in the field that day.
Elsewhere a bird of prey flew circles in time with the swirling clouds. It held tightly in its right talon something it must have mistaken for a large grub or a hairless rodent. In a fit of speed, it broke free from the current, and headed off toward wherever it was barn owls went in the the winter.