Tightrope

Our city is one of a number of places which can lay claim to being the “Birthplace of the American Navy.”  Local fishermen and sailors figured prominently in George Washington’s narrow escape from New York and in his famous crossing of the Delaware.
 
Tonight there are no foreign troops in our harbor, yet the marina is protected by a large wrought iron gate.  If the Redcoats do come by sea, they won’t get in.  A firefighter holds the gate for me as I muscle the stretcher across the brick walkway.  NRP has gone ahead with the bags.
 
The stretcher and I rumble down the gangway.  The metal grating seems ephemeral; a literal ocean of blackness yawns beneath my feet.  At the bottom, the narrow wooden dock suddenly becomes a tightrope.  An ocean of cold black space looms above; an ocean of reflected stars lurks below.  We pick our way among the ropes and cleats, guided by tiny lights along the edges.  The winter’s night air seeps under my jacket, and the thought of that frigid water creeps into my soul.
 
Somehow our high wire act makes it to the end without incident, where a large white blob rocks in the darkness.  It’s completely shrouded in plastic and ready for the worst weather a New England port can muster.  A zipper is cracked, and light and sound come from inside.  I step in to find my partner, the patient, and an entire apartment’s worth of furnishings crammed into a space only slightly larger than my ambulance.
 
It’s light and warm in here, but I know we will have to walk the tightrope again soon.

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