Rescue 311

By Mario Kladis

An ambulance and a squad car were parked in front of an abandoned building on North Milwaukee late Saturday night. The storefront had been ripped open, and the red and blue lights from the cruiser were flashing over the dusty walls and the busted wood covering the floor. Two cops stood at the top of a staircase leading to the basement. There was a man down there, and the bigger cop was shouting at him.

“How’d you get down there, sir?”

“Owww!” moaned the man downstairs. The big cop looked at the little cop. She shrugged, and he turned back to the stairs.

“What’s your name, sir?”

“Carlos,” said the man. The little cop wrote something in a notepad.

“Carlos what?” said the big cop.


“How old are you, Mr. Rivera?”


“What’s your address?”


The big cop glanced at the little cop. She didn’t look up from her notepad. “Mr. Rivera,” said the big cop, “where do you live?”

After a few seconds, Carlos answered, “I’m homeless.”

The big cop rolled his eyes, turned to his partner, and said, “He’s homeless.”


The big cop moved closer to the stairs. “Do you have an emergency number?”

There was no sound from the basement.

“Do you have a phone number we can call? Relatives? Anybody?”

Still no sound.

The big cop turned to his partner. She shrugged again. “Mr. Rivera,” said the big cop, “if you were, uh, gonna die right now–who would we call?” Carlos still didn’t answer. “Mr. Rivera…”


The cops made puzzled faces at each other and shook their heads. “What?” said the big cop.




The big cop looked at the little cop. “He says nobody.”


A fire engine pulled up in front of the building. Six firemen got off and went inside. Their eyes were puffy, and their hair was messy. They looked like they’d just got out of bed.

They huddled around the officers. The big cop pointed at the staircase, and they looked at it. Carlos moaned again. The firemen nodded thoughtfully.

They grabbed a little plastic orange chair from their truck and went down into the basement. A few minutes later they came up carrying Carlos. He was sitting in the little chair, rubbing his side with one hand and covering his face with the other. He seemed more embarrassed than hurt.

As Carlos and the firemen went by I backed away, and stepped on the foot of the lady behind me. “Sorry,” I said, but she just stared at her shoe. Her boyfriend was talking to his buddy on a cell phone. It was so tiny I couldn’t see it in his hand; it looked like he was talking into his gold watch.

“Some homeless guy….They just pulled him out….They’re putting him in the ambulance….Nah, he’s alive….I don’t know….I don’t see any blood….OK, yeah, I’ll see you in ten.”

“Owww!” moaned Carlos, as the ambulance doors closed.