Disclaimer: The Pet Rock doesn’t belong to me. It was invented by Gary Dahl in 1975 and became a huge fad of the ‘70’s.
By Audrey W.
Johnny hung up the telephone receiver and slumped against the wall. Forgetting the eyes of four shift mates were on him, he stared at the floor and sighed.
“What’s wrong, Johnny?” Chet asked. “You look like you’ve just been told there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.”
Roy grinned at Chet’s comment, then proceeded to do his own questioning.
“Everything all right?”
Johnny looked up, becoming aware of his audience. “Hmmm? Oh, yeah, it’s okay,” he answered glumly. “That was Evelyn Barton on the phone. She just broke up with me.”
“I thought you were seeing Missy,” Roy said, puzzled.
“No, that was two weeks ago. I’ve been dating Evelyn now since last week.”
“Gage, how can it even matter that much?” Chet wondered. “You can’t know her that well.”
Johnny narrowed his eyes and looked at Chet. “Because she’s a hot chick, that’s how. She’s gorgeous!”
“Looks aren’t everything, you know, Johnny,” Marco offered. “Maybe this is for the best. . .maybe she isn’t very nice once you get to know her.”
“Yeah, well, I’d like to get the chance to find out.” The dark-haired paramedic frowned. “Now I’ll never know.”
“You know what you need, John?” Chet asked, not waiting for an answer. “You need a pet at home to keep you company.”
Gage shook his head. “Nope, can’t have pets. Besides, I’d hardly say having a pet and having a girlfriend are anything alike.”
“I don’t know about that, Johnny. I’ve seen you with some real dogs befo--”
A nudge in his ribs shut Chet up. He looked at Marco beside him.
“The guy just lost his girlfriend. Have a little respect.”
“I do respect him, Marco,” Chet whispered. “I’m just trying to make a point here. He has dated some not so cute nurses.”
Before any more conversation could continue, the tones sounded.
“Station 51, motor vehicle accident, 1221 West Hopper Street, one two two one West Hopper Street, time out, 14:32.”
The men hurried into the apparatus bay and to the trucks. Roy pulled the squad out ahead of the engine and the two vehicles sped down the highway, lights and sirens helping to clear a pathway in the traffic in front of them.
When they arrived at the scene, Johnny and Roy climbed out of the squad and opened the compartment doors. Gage glanced over at the wreck nearby. A white pickup truck had t-boned a red station wagon. The driver of the truck was still inside his vehicle, but the occupants of the station wagon were already out and talking to a policeman.
“Doesn’t look too serious,” Johnny commented. “Unless the driver in the truck took a hard hit.”
“Yeah, there has to be a reason he’s not out yet,” Roy thought out loud.
The engine crew had pulled up behind the squad. They hurried over to the truck, as the paramedics gathered their gear and carried it over.
“How’s he look, Cap?” Johnny asked, setting the drug box and biophone down on the ground near the truck.
“You’d better get in here and take a close look at him. In the mean time, we’ll see if anyone else involved needs your attention.”
Stanley backed away from the cab of the damaged vehicle, allowing Gage to begin assessing the man’s injuries. The man moaned, and tried to shift his position.
“Just take it easy, sir,” Johnny said as he checked the victim’s pupils.
Roy had gone around to the other side and was now in the passenger seat. He gently held on to the man’s wrist to check his pulse. Johnny continued to reassure the injured patient as he next checked his respirations.
There was a large bruise on the man’s forehead and his left side was tender to the touch.
“Looks like there might be a few fractured ribs,” Johnny said to his partner. He next checked over the victim’s legs. “His right ankle might be fractured. We’d better splint it.”
“Okay,” Roy agreed. “Let’s get a c-collar on and a back board under him, then we’ll go from there.”
Johnny stepped away from the truck and waved Chet over.
“Could you get the backboard and help Roy? I’m gonna get Rampart on the horn.”
Chet trotted towards the squad, as Gage set up the biophone.
After twenty-five minutes, the crew of 51 had the man out of the truck and on his way to Rampart. The passengers from the station wagon were uninjured; their biggest problem was that the car was no longer drivable.
Johnny followed behind the ambulance in the squad, his mind now wandering back to his current dating problems.
“Hi, guys,” Dixie greeted with a smile, as the two paramedics stepped up to her desk.
“Hi, Dix,” Roy answered cheerfully.
Johnny didn’t reply, as he was lost in thought.
“What’s up with your partner?”
Roy glanced at Gage and returned his gaze to Dixie. “Oh, he’s having the usual girl problems.”
“Oh? Not with Evelyn, is he?”
A surprised expression came over DeSoto’s face.
“You know about Evelyn?”
“Sure, Roy.” Dixie paused. “Don’t you?”
“Yeah, I do now. But last I heard it was Missy.”
“Nope, Missy was week before last. Last week was Evelyn. So this week it’s . . .?”
Coming out of his thoughts, Johnny frowned at the two friends. “No one. It’s no one this week.”
“What happened?” Dixie wondered.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Maybe it would help if ya did, ” Roy shrugged.
Gage glared at his partner.
“I said I don’t want to talk about it.”
Roy raised his hands up in defense.
“All right. All right. Don’t talk about it.”
“You know what you need, Johnny? A pet.” Dixie suggested. “Pets are a lot more loyal than girlfriends and they’re good company. You won’t see them dumping you out of the blue.”
Roy and Johnny both shook their heads.
“I have a no pet clause at my apartment.” Johnny piped in before Roy had a chance.
“That and he can’t take a pet out on a date,” DeSoto chuckled.
Dixie nodded, grinning.
“Well, good luck. Sooner or later you’ll meet the right girl.”
“Yeah, I just hope it happens before I hit sixty.”
Roy glanced over at his partner on the way back to the station. Johnny was lost in thought again, as he stared out the passenger window.
“Cheer up,” Roy said. “You’ll meet someone else soon enough.”
Johnny kept his gaze out the window on the passing scenery.
“Yeah, I know. But Evelyn was just so . . .so. . .so perfect!”
“Well, she couldn’t have been too perfect if she dumped you for no reason.”
Gage sighed. “There might’ve been a reason.”
“What do you mean? Did something happen?”
Johnny waved off the questions with his left hand.
“Forget it, Roy. I don’t want to talk about it.”
DeSoto shook his head as he turned onto the street of the station. He knew sooner or later Johnny would end up telling him the whole story . . .probably more than he wanted to know.
“Hey, guys!” Marco said as the two paramedics walked into the dayroom. “How’s the man from that truck doing?”
“Aside from the fact he’s got Morton working on him, he’ll be okay,” Johnny snorted.
Roy shook his head as he stared at Gage.
“You know, you’d better watch what you say about Morton. You might need his services again someday.”
“Roy, you know how he is. It’s not that he’s a bad doctor. . .the guy’s bedside manner is just . . .” Johnny waved his right arm animatedly as he tried to think of the right word. “I don’t know . . .it’s just not up to par.”
“He needs practice.”
“Yeah, you got that right.”
Everyone’s attention shot to the tones, as they once again sounded in the station.
“Squad 51, unknown type rescue, 2300 Laguna Boulevard, two three zero zero Laguna Boulevard, time out 16:45.”
Johnny and Roy hurried to the entrance of the restaurant at the address of the call. The biophone and drug box in his hands, Johnny leaned into the glass door, using his shoulder to open it. Roy followed behind with the trauma box and oxygen. As they entered, a young waitress came running towards them.
“Come this way . . .she’s in the back.”
“What happened?” Roy asked, as they followed the girl.
She glanced over her shoulder.
“Margaret, another waitress here, just passed out in the ladies’ room.”
Johnny stopped at the information of where they were going. “Did you say in the ladies’ room?”
“Yeah.” The waitress grinned, realizing what the men were probably thinking. “Don’t worry, we cleared everyone else out. The other patrons are being allowed to use the men’s room if they feel the need. We have a lookout to keep anyone from getting embarrassed, if you know what I mean.”
The paramedics continued to follow the young woman between tables. It took a few careful maneuvers for Johnny to avoid whacking anyone in the head or on the back of their chair with the equipment, but somehow he’d managed. They continued down a hallway to the rear of the building.
Opening the bathroom door, Gage and DeSoto saw a woman about mid thirties sprawled out on the floor. They set their equipment down and got on either side of the unconscious lady. Roy got the woman started on oxygen.
Johnny looked up at the waitress who had escorted them back.
“Do you know exactly what happened? Did she say or do anything before she collapsed?”
“Yes, I came in here looking for her because she was gone for like twenty minutes. When I found her, she was leaning against the wall and she said she didn’t feel good. Then she just said, ‘help’ and dropped to the floor,” the girl shrugged. She held out her hand to Johnny. “I’m Betsy, by the way.”
Roy grinned at Johnny and the waitress, and shook his head. The Gage charm was already having its effect on the young woman. Strange thing was, his partner seemed annoyed.
Johnny nodded, ignoring the extended hand. The waitress was cute, but he had work to do. He set up the biophone.
“Rampart, this is Squad 51.”
“Go ahead, 51,” came Early’s reply.
“Rampart, we have a female, approximately thirty-five years old, she’s unconscious. Patient complained about not feeling well, then collapsed on the floor. Stand by for vitals.”
“Standing by, 51.”
Johnny looked at Roy and waited for the readings.
“Her BP is 90/60, pulse is rapid, respirations shallow. Skin is cold and clammy.”
Johnny repeated the information to Rampart. As he waited for a response, he glanced at Betsy. She was still watching him intently. Johnny gave a weak smile and looked away again.
“51, start an IV with ringers. Do you have the patient on 6 liters of 0’2?”
“Affirmative on the oxygen, Rampart.”
“Okay, after the IV is set up, transport as soon as possible.”
“10-4, Rampart,” Johnny answered. He looked up at Betsy once more. “Could you go and see if the ambulance is here and show them the way back?”
“Sure,” Betsy frowned, a little disappointed the paramedic kept it ‘business as usual’, but she knew that Margaret needed the medical attention. Maybe she would run into the man again under different circumstances.
After the patient was loaded in the ambulance, Johnny hopped up inside. He noticed Betsy was still eyeing him as the doors closed. Relief came over the man as the ambulance pulled away.
Roy had watched Gage’s reactions to Betsy closely. Something was going on with his partner. Maybe they had met at one time before. He hoped Johnny would explain it all later.
When the ambulance arrived at Rampart, Johnny hopped out and helped with the stretcher. The woman was wheeled down to Treatment Room 3, where she was left in the care of Doctor Early and Dixie. As Johnny stepped out of the room, into the corridor, Roy was at Dixie’s desk and sipping a cup of coffee.
Gage noticed his partner give him a curious look.
“What?” Johnny asked.
“You. That waitress . . .Betsy . . .was interested in you and you acted like you couldn’t wait to get away from her.”
“Roy, she was staring at me.”
“Yeah? So? Ordinarily, a girl like that showing that much interest would have you bouncing around here boasting about it.” Roy studied the younger man. “So what’s up?”
“I don’t want to talk about it, Roy.”
“Does this have anything to do with Evelyn?”
Johnny sighed and leaned on the desk. “Oh, okay. Yes, it has everything to do with Evelyn. We were eating dinner at a nice restaurant, having a very good time.”
Roy nodded and motioned for him to continue.
“Well, it’s not my fault. The waitress came up to see if we needed anything else and I said ‘no’. She just stood there and smiled at me. I didn’t know what to do, Roy,” Johnny explained, exasperated. “So I asked if we could just have our check.”
“And Evelyn wasn’t ready to leave?”
Johnny shot an annoyed expression at Roy. “No, that’s not it. The waitress brought us the check. And she slipped me her phone number along with it!”
“Oh . . .let me guess. . .you kept it.”
“Well, yeah, kind of. I just stuck it in my pocket because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t expect it, Roy.”
“So Evelyn said that was it.”
“No, it was--”
The HT came to life with sounds of another call.
“Squad 51, what is your status?”
Roy keyed the mic. “Squad 51 available.”
“Squad 51, child bitten by dog, 1029 Clairemont Street, one zero two nine Clairemont street, time out 18:20.”
“Squad 51, 10-4.”
The two men hurried towards the exit.
A woman came running to the squad as it pulled up to the curb.
“Okay, ma’am,” Johnny said calmly, getting out of the vehicle. Roy was already opening the compartments.
“Where’s the child?” Johnny asked as he helped Roy with the equipment.
“In the house. Oh, I feel so terrible. It was our own dog who bit him.”
“Just take us to the boy and we’ll get him taken care of,” Roy offered.
They followed the woman into the house. Right inside the door was a child, five years old, holding his forearm. Tears streamed down the boy’s cheeks.
“Let me see your arm,” Johnny said, squatting down in front of the boy. “That’s it,” he soothed as the child removed his hand from it.
The wound was two superficial marks on the arm. Johnny looked up at the woman.
“Did you look at this before you called us?”
The woman shook her head.
“I panicked. He just started screaming and crying, the dog was barking. . .oh, it was such a racket, I knew it had to be bad.”
Roy and Johnny exchanged irritated glances. They didn’t mind people calling them for small incidences, but this one was completely unnecessary. Johnny opened the drug box and pulled out the antiseptic spray.
“This should take care of it,” he said, spraying a thin coating on the boy’s arm.
“Is that all you’re gonna do?” the woman asked.
“That’s all,” Johnny shrugged. “It’s a superficial wound. But if anything does get worse with it, take him to see a doctor.”
“Okay, if you’re sure.”
“Where’s the dog?” Roy asked, looking around.
“Oh! He’s around. Petie!” The woman yelled. “Petie!”
A miniature Chihuahua came running from a nearby room. Seeing the firemen, the little dog began barking non-stop. Johnny and Roy gathered up their equipment, watching the feisty Chihuahua.
“This just goes to show you, Roy,” Johnny began, “a dog’s bark really can be worse than his bite.”
Roy shook his head and motioned to the door behind them. “Let’s go, Junior.”
As they loaded their stuff back in the squad, Johnny grinned.
“I guess pets aren’t as loyal as you guys all claim. That one turned on the kid.”
“Yeah, but knowing kids, I’d say the boy turned on him first.”
Johnny closed the compartment doors and leaned on the side of the squad.
“You really think I should get a pet, too, don’t you?”
“If you didn’t have a ‘no pet’ clause in your lease, yeah. I do.” Roy went around to the other side of the squad and climbed in. As he started the ignition, he looked over at Gage.
“What I really think is that you should finish telling me what happened with Evelyn.”
Johnny watched out the windshield as they pulled away from the curb.
“Well, it’s really not a long story after the waitress. Evelyn called me at the station today and told me she can’t handle dating a guy who draws attention from other women. She notices them looking at me all the time, she says.”
“So do I, but it’s always been that way with you since I’ve known you.”
Johnny looked over at Roy in surprise. “You do? You notice?” He shifted in his seat to face his partner. “Roy, why didn’t you tell me? I’ve never noticed! Well, not until today, with Betsy. How come I haven’t seen it?”
“Because you’re too busy looking at someone else, I’d imagine.”
“Wow. . .women look at me all the time, huh?” He suddenly frowned. “You know, this could be a curse. It ruined my relationship with Evelyn. It could ruin more.”
“Just don’t let it get to your head. You still have to be able to fit it out the squad door, you know.”
“Ha ha. I’m not letting it get to my head,” Johnny sighed. “Maybe I should look at this from another angle.”
“If I stop looking at chicks so much, maybe I’ll just happen to notice one looking at me, then she’ll be interested, I ask her out, and there you have it!”
“I’ll probably find the right chick, finally. It’ll be fate.”
“I think you should ask your landlady if you could at least have a few fish in an aquarium. It sounds safer.”
Johnny rolled his eyes and turned his attention out the passenger window. A small smile crept across his face as he pondered the new information he’d gotten from Roy.
The crew of Station 51 was gathered around the table, eating a late dinner, when they were once again sent out on a call.
“Station 51, Engine 110, structure fire, 3201 North Hill Street, three two zero one North Hill Street, time out 19:32.”
Captain Stanley grabbed the mic to acknowledge the call. “Station 51, KMG365.” He jotted down the address and handed one slip of paper to Roy who was already in the squad. The captain then ran across in front of the squad and climbed up on the engine.
The two vehicles pulled out into the street and headed for North Hill Street.
Smoke could be seen rising into the sky as the men arrived on the scene of the house fire. The paramedics quickly began to put on their turnout gear, while the engine crew prepared the lines.
The lower floor on the right side of the home had flames shooting out the windows. An older man, in his fifties, came running from behind the house. He headed over to the captain, near where a crowd of onlookers had already gathered.
“Chet, Marco, take an inch and a half and go work on that right end of the house,” Captain Stanley ordered. He then spotted the man coming towards him.
“Sir, are you a resident of the house?” Stanley asked as the man approached.
“Ye . . .yes. . .” the man answered, breathless from running. “I. . .I got ou. . .out the back.” He took a couple of gulps of air.
Roy and Johnny were over to the man with the oxygen, when he waved them off.
“I’m okay. But my grandson is still in there!”
“Do you know exactly where?” Hank asked.
The man nodded. “Upstairs, about in the middle of the house. Please, you’ve got to get him out!”
The two paramedics already had their masks on when they received the go ahead from their captain.
“Make it quick, you two. No telling how much control we’ve got on this fire yet.”
“Got it,” came Johnny’s muffled reply.
The two men trotted towards the burning house, hoping the boy had stayed where his grandfather thought he was.
It was difficult to see in the smoke filled house. But the paramedics stuck together as they made their way up the staircase. Once at the top, they split up and began checking room-by-room, just in case.
As expected, the boy was in a room a few doors down the hallway. Johnny went to pick up the boy who was huddling in a corner, when he noticed a black puppy peeking its nose out from under a bed. He motioned for Roy to get the child.
“What’s wrong?” Roy asked, his voice muffled.
“There’s a small dog under the bed. I’m gonna see if I can get it out!”
Roy nodded, and turned to get the boy. He took off his helmet, then his mask and applied the source of oxygen to the youth.
“Just give it a minute and if he won’t come out, you’ll have to leave him.”
Johnny looked up at Roy and nodded, indicating he agreed.
Roy quickly took the boy to the steps and carried him out to safety.
“Where’s Gage?” Stanley asked when Roy sat the child down on the ground.
As he set up oxygen for the victim, Roy looked back at the house.
“He was trying to get a dog out. I told him to give it a couple of minutes and leave it if he had to.”
The captain stared at the burning house. His other paramedic had better be emerging soon.
Johnny struggled to get the puppy, but it crouched farther back under the bed. Sensing it was afraid of his appearance, he took off his helmet and air mask, then crawled back under the bed.
“C’mon, puppy. I won’t hurcha.”
Johnny reached out and grabbed the little dog’s front legs, pulling it to him. He then hugged it tight against his chest as he put on his helmet again and ran out of the room towards the staircase. Just as he started down, an explosion occurred, shaking the house. Johnny lost his footing and tumbled down the steps. Somewhere mid way down, he let go of the puppy and it tumbled a couple of steps before settling on its feet. The little dog then ran down the remaining steps and out of the house. The hapless paramedic lay unmoving near the bottom of the staircase.
The little boy was improving, but still needed the attention of a paramedic. As Roy talked to Doctor Brackett on the biophone, he glanced back at the house again. The little black dog was running out. But where was Johnny?
Captain Stanley echoed DeSoto’s thoughts.
“There’s the dog. But where’s John?” He looked around, panic setting in. He ran over to the captain of 110 and had him send his men in to look for the missing paramedic. Stanley then called in another alarm as the flames increased from the explosion moments before. Relief came over the man when, within minutes, his unconscious crew member was carefully carried out of the burning structure in a stokes.
“How is he?” Hank asked as he neared where John was being laid on the ground close to his partner.
“Looks like he took a fall,” Roy said. He quickly did an assessment of the Johnny’s injuries and got on the biophone to Rampart.
“What in the hell was in that house, anyway?” the captain asked.
“I had a twenty pound propane tank stored in the back room. . .maybe it blew.”
“I’d say so. I wish you’d told us about it,” Hank said, trying not to show his anger. He watched as Roy set up oxygen and an IV on Gage. He also put on a c-collar and splinted his left arm. All the while, the younger man was still out cold.
The black puppy wandered over near the men and laid down against Johnny’s side.
“I guess he gained himself a friend,” Roy remarked. “At a pretty high price, I’m afraid.”
The man bent down and picked the dog up, cradling it in his arms. He smiled at his grandson. “Look, Bradley, the man saved Buster. I sure hope he’s okay, though. I’m sorry.”
“Oh, he’ll live,” Roy said as the ambulance attendants loaded Johnny onto a stretcher. “He’ll be hurting for awhile with a concussion and a broken arm. But he’ll live.”
When Johnny and Bradley were both set up in the ambulance, it pulled away, lights and siren going. Chet drove in the squad since Roy was riding in with his two patients. The rest of the crew stayed on to fight the fire.
Two days later, Johnny was still at Rampart. Although he had regained consciousness soon after arriving at the hospital, he continued to experience moments of dizziness. Morton thought it was best if Gage stayed under his observation for a few days.
Bored with television, Johnny was thrilled when Roy, Chet and Marco came to visit him. He turned off the appliance as the men came through the door.
“Hey, it sure is great to see you guys!”
How are ya feelin?” Roy asked.
“Not too bad. My head still hurts from time to time. But overall, I’m doin okay.”
“I can’t believe you did this for a dog,” Chet remarked. “I told you, you should get a pet. You’d be great.”
Johnny shook his head, wincing afterwards. “No pet clause, remember, Chet?” He rubbed at his forehead.
“Yeah, I remember. But I got an idea.” He stepped out of the room, while Gage looked at the other two men, wondering what was up.
Chet came back into the room with a small brown cardboard box. The words ‘Pet Rock’ were printed on the sides. He set it on Johnny’s lap.
“Here. I found the answer.”
“A pet rock?”
“Sure! You don’t have to walk it, clean it, feed it, it won’t get hurt in a fire. . .it’s just the kind of pet you can take care of and not get in trouble with your landlady.”
Johnny clumsily opened the top of the box with his right hand. Peering inside he saw a rounded rock sitting in some straw, a manual enclosed with it. Gage looked up at Roy.
“Didn’t you tell him I solved the chick problem? That I don’t need a pet?”
DeSoto grinned. “We don’t know that. Besides, I think having something to take care of is good for you.”
“But it’s a rock! What can I do with a rock?”
“It’ll give you something to talk to while you’re in here,” Roy explained.
Johnny looked to Marco for some support, but by the grin on his face, he could see Marco was as crazy as the other two.
Giving up, the younger paramedic set the pet rock on a table beside the bed. After his friends left a short while later, he stared at his new companion.
What am I gonna do with a rock?
Suddenly the door opened and in walked a nurse.
“Everything okay in here, Johnny?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just bored.”
“Oh, I’m sure we can come up with something to help you out there,” she said, smiling. “I’ll be right back.”
Johnny watched as the door closed behind her. He looked at the pet rock, then back at the door and to the pet rock again.
“Did you see that? I think she was giving me the look Roy was talking about. You know, Rocky, this could be the one.”
Thanks for the beta read, Kenda! And for the encouragement, Jane!