keep the birds warm


Pam Lazos

Chapter Forty-Five

The Wildlife Rescue Center in northeastern Maryland, a one-stop emergency room for oiled birds and other mammals, was brimming to capacity. Trained staff and volunteers littered the aisles like road debris, working as quickly as possible to address the backlog. The temperature was set to a balmy eighty degrees to keep the birds warm, a temperature which worked quite well outside, especially with a nice crosswind, but not inside a building packed with so many CO2 breathing mammals. People were sweating profusely; a few of the workers looked like they just took a dip in the river.

The Wildlife Rescue Center was a coalition of the local SPCA, the Friends of Waterfowl, a local, well-known, bird conservancy, as well as federal, state and local government partners. The building itself was huge, about fourteen thousand square feet in the shape of an open rectangle, cordoned off with moveable walls to accommodate the varying resource needs. The largest area was set aside as the trauma center. The building sat, idle yet prepared, to be used only in the event of an oil spill. It was the coalition’s greatest hope that the money they’d invested in this building would go to waste and that the facility and its equipment would sit and collect dust. Unfortunately, today that hope was not realized as dozens of veterinarians and trained volunteers worked side-by-side, attempting to undue what might not be capable of being undone.

Doctor Alyssa Morgan, a veterinarian and Director of the Wildlife Rescue Center, was on the phone in a small walled office at the back of the room, gesticulating animatedly. Lapsley and Hart walked into the middle of the trauma center and looked around, lost children waiting for direction. Dr. Morgan caught sight of Lapsley through her office window and waved, the scowl on her face softening. Lapsley took that as a good sign.

By the time they reached the door, she hung up the phone and ushered them into the office. The office was a mere eight by twelve feet and harbored a desk with a phone, a couch which at present was a catch-all for a miscellaneous reports and papers, and a credenza with a coffee pot. Two more people could fit, but only if they took turns breathing. Realizing rather belatedly the ridiculousness of this arrangement, she hustled them out.

“Vic,” Dr. Morgan said, extending a hand. “Long time.”

“Hey, Alyssa.” Lapsley took her hand, holding it a few seconds longer than necessary. Dr. Morgan blushed.

“This is David Hartos. Chief of Engineering for Akanabi Oil.” Hart extended a hand which Dr. Morgan accepted, but the bloom faded from her face, replaced with a cold, hard stare.

“Lyss, he didn’t go out and dump the oil himself,” Lapsley said. One side of his mouth quirked in a wry smile. The joke worked.

“So what’s going on?” Lapsley said.

“You’re looking at it,” Dr. Morgan said, extending an arm in a wide arc.

“You look like hell,”Lapsley said, his gaze fixed on her face.

“Thanks. You look pretty lousy yourself.”

“You know what I mean,” Lapsley said.

Dr. Morgan nodded. “I was up most of the night cleaning oiled birds. They’re still coming in. And it’s not just the Rescue Team. Fishermen are bringing them in now. It doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon.” She gazed around the room and back to Lapsley. “We need backup.”

A lock of hair fell into her eyes. Lapsley resisted the urge to brush it back.

“Why don’t you just put out a couple radio ads? Akanabi’ll pay for it.” Lapsley looked at Hart to make sure this was, in fact, true. Hart confirmed.

“I’m sure plenty of people would be willing to volunteer,” Hart said.

“First time at a Rescue Center, Mr. Hart?” Dr. Morgan asked. Lapsley detected the note of satisfaction in her voice and suppressed the urge to smile.

“Actually, I usually repair the leak before it gets to this stage so this is a bit out of my range, I’ll admit,” Hart said. “But I’d be happy to help.”

“You can’t. You’re not trained. All our volunteers have had a two-day intensive training. To allow you to work on these birds without the proper training would rise to the level of malpractice.”

“There’s got to be something we can do,” Lapsley said.

Dr. Morgan scanned the room. About fifteen de-oiling stations had been set up, all but one presently occupied.

“Check each of the stations and make sure they have sufficient quantities of Dawn dishwashing detergent, rags and trashbags.” Dr. Morgan said.

“I guess that means you want us to hang for awhile?” Lapsley asked.

“For awhile. You mind?”

Lapsley shook his head and smiled at her.

“When did you last take the training?” Dr. Morgan asked Lapsley.

“Probably ten years ago,” he replied. She sighed.

“Alright, you better stick close to me.” Lapsley looked at Hart and winked. He could think of nothing better he’d like to do this morning.

to be continued. . .

to read how this came to pass jump here

copyright 2012

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