Written text Medevac: December 24th 1986

Maureen A. Johnston, Fort Smith
Northern Writes 3, Entries from the 1995 NWT Writing Contest


This is crazy. 10 after 10 and no pilot yet. Okay, so it’s Christmas Eve, but this is a Medevac for goodness sakes. She leans across and melts a hole in the ice on the window with her fist.

Outside, the runway lights seem to shimmer like blue stars in a nebula. The volunteer ambulance guys stomp around, their breath frozen like puffs of cigarette smoke in the minus 20 air.

Beside her, cocooned in a down sleeping bag, the patient lies still, eyes closed. Elderly male, she has seen him around town. The local drunk. One of them. Even now, a faint odour of old wine lingers about his clothes. He doesn’t speak English.

As she checks the straps on the stretcher, his hand catches hers. “Mahseecho,” he smiles, teeth broken and yellow. “Mahseecho.”

She smiles back professionally. “Won’t be long now.” A stock phrase, one she must have learned in Nursing School. Won’t be long now. Just lie still. This isn’t going to hurt. Three years in the North have made her a little cynical.

Footsteps across the snow. About time. The pilot comes towards them carrying his flight pad. Red down parka and oil-streaked jeans. She watches him preflight the aircraft. Haven’t seen this one before. Shoulder-length black hair and bushy beard. Looks more like a cowboy than a pilot.

Finally he opens the door and climbs into the left-hand seat, nods briefly in her direction and replaces his Flames cap with the headset. She feels her spirits sink even lower. Obviously not going to get much conversation out of this guy. “Hey, Jimmy. Pilot’s here.” The patient nods, Mahseecho, and closes his eyes.