By Audrey W.



Johnny picked up Roy’s kids at the school, anxious to get out of the crowd of kids swarming his Land Rover in curiosity as to what an off-duty fireman looked like.


Surely they’ve seen Roy here before, Gage thought. It was almost like being a celebrity.


As the two DeSoto kids climbed in, the dark-haired man made sure they got situated okay in the front seat. When he was ready to go, Johnny smiled and waved at the children near the vehicle. They stepped reluctantly back and waved in return as the Land Rover slowly pulled out of the lot.


“Doesn’t your dad pick you up very often?” Gage asked.


“Yeah, but after the same thing happened to him two years ago, he made us promise never to tell any friends that he’s a fireman.”


“So what do you tell them?”


Jenny smiled. “Daddy said to tell them he’s a salesman, and that if they talk to him, they’ll have to buy something.”


“Well, didn’t he tell you to tell them the same thing about me?”


“Huh uh. He said you like the ‘tention.”


“Figures.” Johnny glanced at his watch. He was expecting a call from a waitress he had met, and only had fifteen minutes to get home or he’d miss it.


Why’d Joanne and Roy have to pick today to get stranded with a broken down station wagon? I’m glad they got a hold of the school office, so the kids knew I was picking them up instead. But still. . .why today, of all days?


As they came to a subdivision, Johnny looked at his watch again. “Hey, let’s take a little short cut.”


“Short cut?” Chris asked.


“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can cut through here and get across to another main street quicker.”


“Sure!” Exclaimed Jenny. “It’ll be fun!”


Johnny turned into the subdivision and started down the main road. When it came to a dead end, he turned around and tried one of the side streets to see if it would lead out to another main street. After making six turns within a few blocks and ending up at the same place he’d started, the paramedic gave up. He drove back down to the main entrance and turned right onto the street that ran in front of the subdivsion.


“Whatsa’ matter?” Chris asked. “We’re back where we were.”


“Yeah,” Jenny added. “Was that suppose’ ta happen?”


Gage sighed. “Don’t ask me. I guess they don’t make subdivisions like they used to. Too many dead ends. . .it had me driving in circles.”


“I noticed,” mumbled Chris.


Johnny glared at the kid, then glanced at his watch again. It had taken ten minutes to try the ‘shortcut’. Now he was going to be late for the phone call. “I guess sometimes what seems like a shortcut is actually longer.”


“Mommy tells daddy that all the time,” Jenny said. “She won’t let ‘im try new ways.”


“Maybe that’s what you need. . .a lady tellin’ ya how to drive.”


Again Gage glared at Chris. For an eight-year-old, he was coming up with some smartass answers. Wait till you get older, kid. You’ll change your mind.


“Johnny. . .?” Jennifer began.


“Yes, sweetheart?”


“Can we go in the maze next time you pick us up at school?”


Johnny was now stopped at a red light. He looked over at the little girl, puzzled. “The maze?”


“Where ya just got lost! You know. . .the maze!”


“Oh! That’s not a. . .” He stopped, realizing this one wasn’t going to be forgotten anytime soon. He had a sinking feeling that Roy and Joanne would hear about it, as would the others at the station, unless he could talk Roy into keeping it quiet. Gage sighed.


“Now I know why dad always drives the squad.”


That was about the last remark Johnny could take from the eight-year-old. “Yeah? Well, who do you think navigates while your dad’s behind the wheel?”


“Oh. . .yeah.” Came a small reply.


Things were looking up once Johnny felt like he had the upper hand in the situation again. He was going to be late for the phone call, but had hopes the waitress would try again later. If not, she couldn’t have been that interested anyway, he surmised.


~ * ~ * ~


As they entered into his apartment, Gage turned on afternoon cartoons for Chris and Jennifer, and headed for the kitchen for a bag of chips. A knock at the door had the three of them racing to answer it. When Johnny opened the door, Roy stood looking at the three individuals staring back at him.


“So, how was the ride with Johnny?”


“Amazing!” exclaimed Jennifer.


Johnny gave a weak smile and shrugged. Yep, I’m gonna hear about this one for a long time.


~ * ~ * ~



The End



I tried a shortcut through a new subdivision once about two years ago...and my daughter still asks if we can go through the *maze* when we go by it.  Lol