By Marty P
Johnny Gage rushed out of the squad with Charlie Dwyer hot on his heels. A hang glider careened close to power lines and appeared to be on the verge of electrocution. The operator managed to lift over them before dive bombing into the empty field below.
“Kelly and Lopez, take their gear out to them.” Captain Stanley ordered.
The firefighters delivered the medical equipment to the paramedics. “Chet, get a backboard and Stokes,” Johnny spoke without looking up.
“Need anything else?” Marco unlatched the drug box for Dwyer who retrieved a BP cuff and stethoscope.
Johnny shook his head as he continued his assessment of the patient. “Naw, but tell Cap someone’s gonna hafta get this glider out of here.”
“Okay,” Marco trekked back to the engine and noticed Mike Stoker and the Captain peering at the sky.
“Well, I’ll be.” Hanl Stanley studied the single engine plane as it darted across the sky and then circled around. “So that’s why Roy wanted the day off.”
Engineer Stoker studied the banner that trailed behind it.
“I didn’t believe Johnny when he told us Roy was getting his pilot’s license.” Marco remarked as the plane made another pass in front of them.
Hank Stanley shrugged out of his turnout coat, “Roy did say he had to find a way to make money doing it or Joanne would never let him pursue his dream.”
“Looks like Roy pulled it off.” Marco was still trying to catch everything on the sign.
Mike commented as he made out the small print, “Roy’s Aerial Releases, nice name.”
“Wow, who woulda guess Chief Houts would wish his wife Happy Anniversary this way?” Marco reflected after he read the message.
The captain blinked. “You doubt that the chief is creative? Anyone who can stretch the budget as far as he does…”
“No sir.” Marco interjected. “I just would never think of that.”
Chet snuck up behind his buddy. “You’re not married, Marco.”
The firefighters paused as the paramedics brought the victim to them. “How is he?” The captain signaled for Lopez and Kelly to collect any equipment that remained at the scene.
“Lucky,” Johnny and Dwyer lowered him to the ground. “He’s gonna be sore but we didn’t find any breaks or internal injuries.”
Dwyer boarded the ambulance with the victim. As Johnny fastened the squad bay Marco asked what was on his mind. “Think Roy will take up hang gliding next?”
“Not a chance.” Johnny faced the interested fireman. “Joanne would never go for it…but I might give it a shot.”
Marco furrowed his brows. “You said this guy was lucky not to be seriously hurt. What makes you think you’d get off scot free?.”
“Cuz I’d be more careful.” Johnny slammed the door and left a cloud of dust in his wake.
It was a bright sunny California day. The birds were chirping, a gentle breeze caressed hot skin. All in all, a perfect Monday, if there ever was such a thing.
Station 51 had been relatively quite most of the day. Chores were completed early, lunch eaten then cleaned up. That was until 2:33 pm when the squad was called out for a possible broken finger and Engine 51 was rolling on a separate response.
Five minutes later Engine 51 arrived at 1324 Westward...
Fifteen minutes after Engine 51 arrived...
"How much longer do you think it's gonna take him, Cap?" Mike asked.
Looking up, as he had been doing for the last ten minutes, Hank sighed at the sight.
"I don't know, Mike. I thought we'd be on our way back to the station by now."
"It's his first time, Cap, give him a chance," Chet explained.
"I know, Kelly."
"Yeah, Cap, you can't expect him to be like Johnny or Roy," Mike added.
The three stood with hands on their hips and continued to graze heavenward.
Looking down, Marco couldn't believe how high he'd climbed. All he saw when he looked down was his shift-mates staring up at him from the safety of the ground.
Taking one last look around, he decided his efforts had been fruitless.
Slowly taking the same path down as he did up, Marco made his way toward Earth, empty handed.
"Marco, you okay, pal?" Cap asked.
"Yeah, fine, Cap." Marco replied.
"Where is it?" Chet asked.
Marco shrugged his shoulders.
"Yeah, Marco, where is it?" Mike repeated Chet's question.
Again Marco shrugged his shoulders in an 'I don't know' gesture.
"Marco...." Cap began but was interrupted.
"I don't know. I searched and searched, but nothing," Marco answered.
"Man are we in trouble. We've never lost one before. Man!" Chet exclaimed.
Marco cleared his throat and shuffled his feet.
"I got to thinking while I was up there, high above the ground, risking life and limb."
"About what, Lopez?" Cap asked.
"Have you ever seen a cat skeleton in a tree?" Marco remarked, then started walking toward Big Red.
Stunned speechless, the three remaining fireman stood with their mouths open at Marco's revelation.
"He's right. Damn, he's right!" Cap agreed. "I'll go talk to the owner."
As Hank approached Mrs. Wisenheimer, he noticed the gold and white tabby she held in her arms.
"Is that your cat? The cat we went up into the tree to retrieve? The cat that's scared of heights?" Hank inquired.
"Why yes. Yes it is," she answered.
"Is there a reason you failed to notify me that Fifi came back down by herself?"
"Oh you silly. Fifi wasn't up in the tree after all," she said.
"She wasn't? Then..."
"I thought she was but I guess she wasn't."
Hank sighed and a splitting headache was taking up residents within his dulled mind.
"Then why didn't you say something?"
"Well, I was so caught up in all the excitement. I was mesmerized by the bravery that that young man displayed. Climbing that tree, searching for my baby. All to return Fifi to me. It was beautiful." by now Mrs. Wisenheimer was crying in gratitude.
Putting his arm around the shorter woman Hank cooed, "There, there Fifi is all right, everything is fine."
"Thank you, Captain. I just want you to know, the next time Fifi decides to play in the tree, you'll be the first person I’ll call. I'm gonna make sure you get all of my business. I'm gonna recommend your station to all my friends, most all of them have cats."
"Uh, thank you," Hank choked.
Turning away from the crew, Mrs. Wisenheimer made her way back inside of her house to finish watching her afternoon soaps that had been interrupted by Fifi's escapades.
"Ok, guys, let's wrap it up," Cap yelled.
Engine 51 arrived back at the station just minutes before the squad returned.
Later that evening...
"Engine 51 cat stuck in tree, 1324 Westward."
"Practice Makes Perfect"
They stood watching as Johnny climbed up the side of the training tower using his belt, ropes, and hooks. All of station 51 was undergoing a refresher course of rappelling. Johnny's love of climbing had led him to volunteer to be the first.
"He's like a squirrel scrambling up a tree. There's no slowing him down," said Mike.
"If you ask me, you hit it on the nail, Mikey. He is squirrelly."
"Don't call me Mikey, Chet."
"Cut the chatter and pay attention," said Cap.
Johnny reached the fourth level of the tower and pulled himself over the edge. Getting to his feet, he turned around to look down on his co-workers. He adjusted his belt and clipped the rope to the loop on the building. Adjusting the belt around his waist, he prepared to quickly go back down the tower. He hesitated as he looked down on the three. A broad grin crossed his face as he yelled out.
"Okay team, you're out of line down there. Straighten up and move closer together. Now keep those hands on your hips. You can't try out for the Fireman's Follies unless you practice. Follow my lead. On the count of three, lead with your right leg. One, two, three - Kick!"
Johnny hurriedly turned around and flew down the side of the tower.
With the laughter of his crew ringing in his ears, Captain Stanley turned around and walked off muttering, "Twit." Looking back over his shoulder, he yelled. "One week of latrine duty, Pal." Grinning, he left to line up the next volunteer.
“It Makes You Sick!”
Hands on hips, Captain Stanley, Engineer Mike Stoker and Firefighter Chet Kelly watched as paramedics Roy DeSoto and John Gage climbed up a disused pylon to rescue a teenaged boy who had climbed up on a dare and was then too scared to climb back down. Gage was, as ever, in the lead, clambering effortlessly from strut to strut.
“Doesn’t it make you sick?” Chet asked.
“What?” Mike enquired. “Looking up? No. if it bothers you, then don’t watch.”
“No, no, not that,” Chet scoffed. “Gage.”
“I think you might have to explain yourself there, pal,” Stanley suggested. “We don’t have the least idea what you’re talking about.”
“As usual,” Stoker added, sotto voce.
At the base of the pylon, Marco Lopez, the sixth member of station 51, grabbed the rope Johnny threw down to him. The others could see that Johnny was fastening a safety belt around the youth’s waist and then linking the belt to his own.
“Gage,” Chet repeated, as though the meaning was crystal clear. When he saw the continuing blank expressions on his colleagues’ faces, he sighed before elaborating. “He goes up there like a mountain goat, has the guy secured and the ropes ready to go before Roy even reaches the victim. Gage is such a klutz on the ground! How come he’s okay when he’s 50 feet off the ground?”
“He’s not 50 feet off the ground,” Stanley replied. He could recognise veiled admiration when he heard it. Chet might pretend to dislike Gage, but he had nobody fooled. “He’s only 30 feet off the ground.” He smothered a grin when Chet gave him a pained look, but wisely decided to refrain from commenting.
Their attention shifted back to the rescue. Johnny was now easing the boy off the pylon, with Roy assisting. They exchanged a couple of words, then Johnny started to descend.
And the boy panicked.
Trying to calm the panicking boy, Johnny found himself being battered by the flailing arms and legs. His helmet was knocked askew and then off, falling to bounce on the ground below. Moments later, a blow caught Johnny beside the eye and the paramedic lost his grip on the youth. The sudden weight on the safety belt made Johnny cry out, but even as he gasped for breath, he was reaching to restore his grip on the victim. Above him, Roy was rappelling down as fast as he could.
The ground arrived sooner than Johnny expected, but not soon enough to save him from another wild punch that this time caught him right on the bridge of the nose. Johnny misjudged his landing, his feet going from underneath him as he attempted to breath through the sudden flow of blood.
But Marco was there, with the others just seconds behind him. The boy’s safety belt was unhooked from Johnny’s and Roy took charge of him while the others did what they could to help their fallen comrade.
“Its not broken,” Kel Brackett declared as he gently palpated the bridge of Johnny’s nose again.
“Its sore enough,” Johnny griped, also feeling his nose.
“Bound to be,” Brackett agreed. “But you’re lucky. It doesn’t look like you’re going to develop black eyes.” He smiled. “Off you go. You can go back on duty.”
“Thanks, doc,” Johnny grinned. He bounced off the exam table and he and Roy headed back to the squad.
The rest of the crew was waiting for them at the station. Chet looked at Johnny and sighed. “No black eyes?” he asked.
“Nope,” Johnny replied smugly, as though he had had something to do with that.
Shaking his head, Chet looked at Stanley and Stoker. “It makes you sick,” he declared.
Photo Stories Page