Emergency Summary
by Denis Johnson

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Emergency Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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Told in the first person, “Emergency” begins when the narrator has a break in his emergency room job at an Iowa City hospital, so he goes searching for his friend Georgie, an emergency room orderly who often steals drugs from the hospital. The narrator finds Georgie in the operating room. Despite having mopped the floor several times, Georgie insists that it is still covered in blood. The narrator, realizing Georgie is already high on one of the drugs that he has filched, asks him to share. He does, and both characters become so high on the mystery drug that they have trouble functioning.

Soon after, a patient named Terrence Weber arrives. He has a hunting knife protruding from his one good eye, and his other eye is glass. When the floor doctor sees this, he panics at the potential difficulty in removing the knife without damaging the eye and causing brain damage. So he orders the narrator to call several specialists while Georgie preps Weber for surgery. When Georgie returns from prepping Weber, he is holding the knife, which he has removed from Weber’s eye. Miraculously, the man recovers, and his eye is essentially undamaged.

The next morning, still high on the unknown drug, the two emergency room workers take off in Georgie’s orange pickup. On their way home from the county fair, they become lost. Georgie runs over a jackrabbit, and intending to make rabbit stew, he drives back to retrieve the slain animal. As he begins to cut it open with the hunting knife he took from Weber’s eye, he discovers that the rabbit was pregnant. In a misguided effort inspired by his drug-induced state, Georgie carries the bloody rabbit fetuses back to the truck in his shirt, thinking that he can keep them alive.

However, Georgie and the narrator are still lost, and when it grows dark, they finally pull over because the headlights are not working. Leaving the truck, they begin wandering in the woods and soon become hopelessly confused. Despite it being only mid-September, an unusual arctic wind has blown in from Canada, and it begins to snow. Georgie and the narrator stumble on what they think is a cemetery but is actually a drive-in theater. A film is running, but there are no cars because the early snowfall had scared them off.

The theater shuts down early because of the lack of customers, and the pair stumble back to the truck, finding it after a great deal of trial and error. Once there, Georgie announces again his desire to save the rabbit fetuses, and the narrator reveals that he has sat on them, and they are therefore a lost cause.

Depressed by the fate of the...

(The entire section is 686 words.)