This story is a sequel to the story 'Growing Pains'.
|Days and Celebrity Ways|
By Audrey W.
John Gage sat down on the couch in his livingroom, a medium-sized package that had arrived in the mail in his hands. His wife Lorraine took a seat beside him with their seven-week-old daughter Emily in her arms as she bottle fed. The baby was dressed in a pink onsie, with a multi-colored flannel receiving blanket loosely wrapped around her.
“I wonder what she sent?”
A little curious herself, Lorraine prodded, “Well, open it up and see.”
Johnny ripped open the brown paper wrapping and peeled it off, revealing another layer of paper. This time it was pale pink gift wrap with darker pink colored bows printed on it.
“Like opening a box and finding another one inside,” he remarked.
“It was nice of her to wrap it.”
“I guess. But it’s not like it’s gonna sit around like this. Or maybe we should just look at it for awhile. After all, if she went to all this--”
“Just open it,” she interrupted.
Johnny grinned. His teasing had worked. He tore one end of the paper, then ripped it open the rest of the way. A plain white cardboard box was now in his hands. He peeled off the tape that held the top flaps closed and opened it up. Inside was. . .
Johnny spread apart the thin white tissue paper, then carefully lifted out a picture within an oak frame and furrowed his brow. Lorraine peered around to see.
“For a baby?” His wife asked in disbelief.
“It’s Darlene. She doesn’t know a lot about kids.” Darlene was his ex-girlfriend-turned-professional-actress who’d come into their lives once again when their daughter was born.
“She could’ve picked a more appropriate photograph.”
“It’s probly all she had handy,” he shrugged. “I don’t wanna hurt ‘er feelings by givin’ it back, that’s for sure. You know, she did help us out when we needed it. And without her. . .” He looked at Emily; he already couldn’t imagine life without her. “Well, who knows how things would’ve turned out.” When he didn’t get a response, his gaze shifted to Lorraine. She was still looking at the picture, a very displeased expression on her face. “She means well. It’ll be all right.”
“I don’t know, Johnny. I can’t help but wonder what we’ll do if Emily grows up to be like that.”
He snorted a laugh. “I don’t think one picture is gonna influence a baby. . .you don’t even start rememberin’ stuff till around age three.” Still seeing a worried look on her face, he gave her his best reassuring lopsided grin. “It’ll be okay. We’ll just keep it from ‘er till she’s. . .uh. . .thirty-two.”
With the bottle empty, Lorraine set it on the coffee table in front of them, then held Emily up near her shoulder to burp her.
Johnny took another look at the picture of Darlene, dressed in a bright blue bikini and sprawled across the hood of a red Corvette, her head propped up on one arm as she smiled at the camera. Her autograph was across the top with, ‘For my littlest fan’ and at the bottom, ‘Darlene’, accompanied with a drawn heart. Johnny rolled his eyes.
Leave it to Darlene.
He’d come to expect anything from his petite ex-girlfriend, who by chance had been in the park when Lorraine went into labor with no one else around. She’d promptly driven her to the hospital, where he happened to be at the time.
He set the picture down near the empty bottle and peered in the box. Something was wrapped in more tissue paper. He pulled it out and opened it up. There was a purple bikini, size 2T.
Well, that wasn’t going to help his argument that the baby wouldn’t be influenced before age three. The expression on his wife’s face said it all.
Johnny raced into the apparatus bay of Station 51 after climbing from his Land Rover in the back lot. He slid and nearly lost his footing as he came to a halt at the door that led to the locker room. Not sure it would be clear of firemen on the other side, he didn’t want to burst through.
He quickly peered in the small window of the door and when he saw that no one was inside, he roughly pushed it open and darted to his locker, taking a wide step over the bench in front of it along the way.
He anxiously glanced at his watch.
Five minutes to spare. . .
Johnny unbuttoned his yellow plaid collared shirt and quickly worked it off, pulling his blue uniform shirt out of the locker on a hanger as he tossed the other shirt inside.
Man, when will I learn?
But when he thought about the reason he was late, a brief smile came to his face. It was worth any lecture or punishment Captain Stanley might give him.
Finally dressed and shoes on, he darted toward the door, again checking first to make sure no one was in the immediate vicinity. This time it paid off, as his partner, Roy DeSoto, had just made it to the other side in search of him. Johnny opened the door slowly and stepped into the apparatus bay.
“I didn’t think you were gonna make it in time for roll call,” Roy said as they walked across the bay behind the engine and the squad.
“Neither did I.”
“Cap’s on the phone, so it’s gonna be a few minutes later than usual.”
“That figures. If I hadn’t rushed, it would’ve been on time, bet ya anything.”
“Probably,” came an agreement with a smile.
The two paramedics entered the dayroom where three of the engine crew members were gathered around the table in chairs.
“Well, look what Roy dragged in,” Chet Kelly remarked.
“Did you stop and get donuts?” Mike Stoker asked, his gaze searching for the box he’d almost expected to see the tardy co-worker carry in.
The question stopped the dark-haired paramedic in mid-step. His mouth dropped open in disbelief. “I forgot ta eat breakfast,” he said as he looked around at the others, then the empty table where often a plate of pastries would be. His attention back on his shiftmates, he stated, “I really forgot ta eat breakfast.”
“You must have volunteered for baby duties again this morning,” Marco guessed.
“Uh. . .”
“. . .Yeah,” they all finished in unison.
Johnny frowned. “Well, I like baby duties. It gives me more time with Emily; I’m not gonna see the kid for twenty-four hours ya know.”
“Wait’ll she starts crawling around and getting into things. You won’t be able to get out of there fast enough,” Roy teased. “Probably’ll leave early enough to stop and get donuts along the way, too. . .twice.”
Johnny snickered with the others, then thought back on the sweet little face looking up at him as he gave her a bottle, the sound of a tiny burp in his ear, the precious little baby cooing as he changed her diaper and snapped her pink sleeper closed.
He couldn’t imagine running away from that.
Well, maybe the *messy* diapers. . .
Then the look of worry on his wife’s face as she still had visions of their daughter someday sprawled across the hood of a car in a bikini popped into his head. He was expecting a call from her any minute to hear him assure her she was over reacting. Now that little issue he could do without.
“Um. . .Roy. . .what size does Jennifer wear? Does she like purple?”
Roy shrugged. His daughter wasn’t a baby, where could Johnny be going with this? Certainly couldn’t be offering any ‘hand-me-downs’ from Emily. “She’s in kindergarten. Joanne’s the one who keeps track of the kids’ sizes, but I think she wears a five. She seems to like pink best.”
“Just a thought.”
He didn’t want to give any details. The morning had started out with enough ribbing as it was. He sighed to himself. Fatherhood wasn’t easy when a guy had an acquaintance with an actress who didn’t know a lot about babies. . .or protective moms; and a job with at least four guys who wouldn’t let much slide by.
Two telephones calls from Lorraine, with lots of reassurance in return from Johnny, and a brief run later, the paramedics were dispatched out for a woman injured. The location was quite a distance from the station, outside of the main part of the city.
After a lengthy drive to the scene, Roy turned the squad onto the concrete driveway of a one-story ranch style home with a large yard, bringing the vehicle to an immediate stop. He and Johnny scrambled out when they saw a man wave to them from beside the house.
“She’s back here!” he called out. “I think she broke her foot!”
Johnny opened the compartments on the side of the squad and grabbed the biophone and trauma box, while Roy pulled out the drug box. The two trotted toward the man, who kept nervously glancing over his shoulder.
As they approached, he explained, “It’s my wife. A big rock fell on her right foot and she’s in a lot of pain. Her foot’s already swollen.”
He led them to the back yard where his twenty-six year old wife sat on the grassy ground near the edge of a cement patio. A row of large rocks about half the size of a gallon container lined the edge part way around. More were in the back of a blue pickup truck that was parked on the lawn nearby, its tail gate open. A few rocks were scattered on the ground below it.
“I was tossing the rocks outta the back of my truck and Jeanette came outside. When she got closer, I yelled for her to catch and tossed one of the rocks in her direction. I didn’t think she was really gonna try!”
“Reflex, Billy!” She spat out, her teeth gritted in pain. “I told you. . .it was. . .reflex!”
“You were supposed to jump back. “ He turned to the medics. “It slipped through her hands. Landed hard on. . .well. . .”
They could see the already obvious swelling and slight discoloration on her bare foot. A tennis shoe and balled up sock were off to the side.
As Johnny and Roy set the equipment down, Billy added, “I told her there was no need to call the fire department; that I could take her to the hospital myself. But she won’t let me touch her. Wouldn’t even let me help her get her shoe off.”
She looked at the paramedics. “Would you?”
Johnny opened his mouth to respond as he squatted down, but thought better of it. If being friends and partners with Roy had taught him anything, it was not to meddle in another couple’s fights.
Roy just knelt beside her swollen foot. “Let’s take a look and see what we have here.”
“See what ‘we’ have?”
It was obvious to both men that she wasn’t going to be any easier on them.
Once they had the woman ready to transport, Johnny rode in the ambulance with her while Roy followed behind in the squad.
With pain medication taking over, Jeanette became less angry and easier to communicate with. Having been able to get the woman involved in simple conversation, Gage continued with it to help keep her mind off the time and her foot.
“. . .So ya really don’t think we remember anything before age four, huh?”
Sitting on the stretcher with the one end positioned up at an angle to support her upper body, Jeanette nodded her head slightly, her eyes closed. “I’m sure of it.”
Johnny grinned. He figured he had to be right in what he’d told Lorraine the day before. Even though this lady didn’t agree about some things being recalled starting from the age of three years, at least they agreed it was after the age of two. Suddenly he had another idea. However not knowing Jeanette very well and her being a girl, he’d have to save the next question for someone more familiar. Someone he wouldn’t get in trouble with since the topic could seem out of line.
After getting supplies replenished from one of the nurses on duty at Rampart, Johnny and Roy headed out to their squad, which was parked adjacent to the ER doors. The younger man climbed in on the passenger side and waited as Roy opened his door to get in on the driver’s side.
Once they were on their way, Roy did a double take at his partner.
With another glance at his passenger, he explained, “You have this look on your face that says you have something on your mind.”
Roy nodded. “And you haven’t taken your eyes off me much since we left Rampart.”
“I was just thinkin’ about askin’ you a question is all.”
“Okay, I will.”
Roy waited a minute, but when nothing more came, he again glanced at Johnny. “Well?”
“All right. I was just wonderin’. . .and I know it’s not a good idea to interfere in another couple’s business, but I really need to know somethin’, all right? So don’t think you’re interfering.”
Roy hesitantly agreed.
“. . .When Joanne reads magazines and stuff, does she ever comment on the ads?”
“Sure. She’ll see something on sale and want to get it.”
“No. . .no, I mean like the ads that are kinda. . .well, geared toward us guys. Like the ones with chicks in little more than a bikini, holding a pack of cigarettes or a box of cigars. Or maybe lying across the hood of a new sports car,” he shrugged.
“Oh. Well, her magazines don’t usually have that. But she’s seen some in the ones I read when she’s looked over my shoulder.”
“Yeah?” Johnny smiled slightly, sure he was about to get the answer he needed. “And what does she say?”
“Roy DeSoto, I can’t believe you even pay attention to that stuff.”
Well, that wasn’t what he was going for. His disappointment must’ve shown as the older man cracked a grin.
“Actually, aside from that, she says she doesn’t get why we need stuff like that in ads. And it makes her feel like every woman needs to be a Cheryl Tiegs. She thinks it’s unfair.”
“Huh. . .”
“What does Lorraine say?”
Roy glanced at him for a third time. He didn’t quite believe him; there had to be a reason he brought all this up. But there was no need to press the issue on such a small scale subject.
In the meantime Johnny thought back to the picture of Darlene on the hood of the car. Lorraine was still carrying some of the weight from her pregnancy. Maybe seeing the thin actress sprawled out like that on display made her feel bad. Maybe it wasn’t about the influence on Emily at all. He’d have to give it more thought.
The next morning, when the shift was over, an anxious Johnny headed for home to his two girls. Lorraine hadn’t mentioned the picture of Darlene and the toddler sized bikini she’d bought for Emily in her call the night before. He wondered if it was all a moot point now; that his assurances had worked.
He’d finally told Roy about the problem when they’d gotten back to the station after taking Jeanette to Rampart. DeSoto seemed to believe that it would all blow over fairly easily if Johnny just returned the picture and bikini to Darlene, via the mail, with a ‘no thank you’. After all, he’d reminded the younger man, it didn’t matter that much if he offended Darlene, she wasn’t a close friend. . .anymore. And even though she’d been a help when it was time for Emily to come into the world, he didn’t owe her anything beyond her first visit with the baby and the ‘thank you’ he gave her. But no guy would want to keep his wife upset over the matter.
But Johnny wondered if maybe Roy had been off on this one and he could keep both women happy by doing absolutely nothing. Not even bringing it up again and the swimsuit and picture just kept out of sight. He’d likely know for sure in about five minutes.
When Johnny opened the front door of the apartment, everything appeared normal, the morning routine in full swing. Emily was propped up slightly against a couple of pillows in her play pen in the livingroom. Lorraine was on her way to the kitchen with the empty baby bottle. She stopped a moment to exchange a morning kiss with her husband.
“How was your night?” she asked afterward.
“Good. We only had one run and it was a fire in one of those old abandoned warehouses on East March Street.”
“No one got hurt, I hope.”
Johnny shook his head. “Not really. Just one guy from 8s with minor smoke inhalation. But he’s gonna be fine.”
“Good.” She continued on her way as she called out, “I’ll get you some breakfast – pancakes okay?”
Well, he had to admit, he didn’t expect things to be back to normal so soon, but was relieved to see they were. With a crooked grin on his face, he walked over to the play pen and reached in to pick up Emily.
“C’mere, sweetheart. How’s my beautiful girl this mornin’, huh?”
Johnny gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead as he settled her in his arms. It wasn’t but a few seconds later he recognized the familiar look of concentration.
“Ah man. . .whataya do? Save it for me?” he teased with a grin.
With his wife busy in the kitchen, he sighed as he headed for the baby’s room to change her diaper.
His attention on goo-gooing, coo coo-ing and making exaggerated happy faces at Emily, and being so used to the arrangement of the baby girl’s room, the glad-to-be-home dad didn’t look at his surroundings as he walked in to change the diaper. He just went straight for where he knew the changing table would be.
But as he went to lay his daughter down, he stopped in mid action when he saw that the table was gone.
“Whoa. . .”
He held Emily against his chest as he glanced around the room, his lower jaw slowly dropping down in the process. Nothing was where it was the morning before. Being that Lorraine hadn’t rearranged anything for the entire seven weeks since Emily’s birth, and had been very happy with the way the baby’s room was set up. . .
“Somethin’ tells me your mommy isn’t quite over what was in that package.”
Back on duty the next day, Johnny was sure he’d solved his problem. As he mopped the floor of the apparatus bay, the trucks already parked in the driveway out front of the station, Roy watched from the doorway of the dayroom, his arms folded across his chest.
“You really followed my advice?”
“I sure did,” Johnny said with a nod. “I boxed up the picture, the swim suit and included a little note explainin’ we appreciated the thought, but we just couldn’t accept the gifts. I put a picture of Emily in there for ‘er; thought that might be best. You know. . .”
Roy’s arms dropped to his sides as he stood up straight. “Isn’t that just going to keep this all going?”
“Why? I sent the stuff back.”
“I don’t know about this.”
The younger man stopped mopping and stood up, leaning slightly on the handle.
“Roy, I couldn’t just return the stuff with a ‘thanks, but no thanks’.”
“Because. I didn’t wanna hurt ‘er feelings. She meant well.”
“Have you forgotten about when she didn’t worry about your feelings? Like when she left while you were thinking marriage?”
“Two wrongs don’t make a right. ‘Sides, she did me a favor there too. I just didn’t know it at the time.”
Well, he had to admit. Johnny was right. On both counts. He leaned against the door frame again with a sigh.
“Okay, but I hope you don’t regret this.”
“I won’t. . . Now, that we got that settled, how ‘bout we go onto the next subject.”
Johnny nodded as he began to mop again. “When your kids were babies, did they dirty a diaper more when you were around? Like when Joanne was busy doin’ somethin’ else?”
Roy couldn’t hide his amusement at the question. There was no need to ask what brought this up.
“Times were a little different with them. Five years ago, women still handled most of that kind of stuff. And when Chris was born, it was even more so that way. I changed diapers some, but I can’t say that I got all the messy ones.”
“Well, I sure get enough. Either my timin’s off or . . . “ he paused as Chet Kelly wandered across from the dorm room, slowing as he approached the already mopped area of the floor.
“What? I’m not steppin’ where it’s wet.”
Gage’s eyes narrowed. “You know, if I didn’t know better. . .”
Chet looked to Roy for an explanation.
“He’s talking about Emily always dirtying her diaper when it’s his turn to take care of it.”
The mustached fireman shot a gaze at the dark-haired paramedic holding the mop. “Ah, c’mon. Not even the phantom can conjure up a plan like that.”
“I said, ‘if I didn’t know better’, Chet.”
“Yeah, well, if I were you, I’d be trying to figure out why I was doing all the work mopping this floor while my partner was just standing around doing nothin’.” With a grin that shifted to Roy and back to Johnny, Chet turned and headed for the engine parked in the driveway to see what Mike and Marco were up to.
Johnny looked at Roy, who shrugged. “I didn’t think about it either.”
Before Gage could say a word, the klaxons sounded and the Station was dispatched out to a structure fire. Station 18 and Engine 110 were called out as well, along with Snorkel Truck 127.
When the men from Station 51 arrived at the scene, all but Engine 110 were already getting into place to fight the blaze, the paramedics from Squad 18 were treating two smoke inhalation victims.
The fire involved a building where mannequins were stored before being shipped out to retailers locally and around the country. Flames licked at the front of the large two story structure where windows had shattered. Black smoke billowed out up into the sky.
Hank Stanley directed his men accordingly, after getting a quick rundown on the situation from the chief in charge. With Marco and Chet on the blaze with others, Johnny and Roy were instructed to go inside to do a quick search for an employee everyone had just realized was missing.
As they made their way through the smoky haze with their flashlights, turnouts and SCBA gear on, they realized that the numerous mannequins inside were going to make it difficult to discern a phony from an actual victim.
Johnny saw a hand on a balled up tarp ahead. He tapped Roy on the arm and motioned with his head.
“That could be our victim!”
Roy rushed forward, Johnny right behind him. When they got to the tarp, they saw it was another mannequin that had just tipped over or been placed on the floor.
“Man,” Johnny grumbled.
The two continued on, calling out the victim’s name, “Anne!” and “Anyone here?”
Captain Stanley watched with concern as the flames advanced despite the efforts to knock them down. If they didn’t gain ground on the fire soon, he’d have to call his paramedics out.
With the flames much closer to their location, the urgency in finding the victim increased. Johnny could feel sweat run down the side of his face just inside his air mask and down his back due to the heat.
As Gage and DeSoto quickly made their way toward the hazy image of a staircase, the former did a double take when he noticed a mannequin immediately to his right. Her facial expression displayed a wink and she uncannily resembled Darlene.
Johnny shoved that notion aside and shown his flashlight around the ever increasingly smoky building. It was becoming nearly impossible to see more than a few inches in front of themselves.
Roy suddenly bent down and felt off to his left. He then dropped his flashlight and called out, “I found her!”
She’d been lying at the bottom of the steps.
Johnny helped to get the limp woman over Roy’s shoulder in a fireman’s carry and the two rushed toward the exit.
The paramedics worked in a flurry on Anne, and she was soon on her way to Rampart, Roy in the ambulance with her as he continued efforts to get her breathing unassisted.
As he left in the squad to follow behind, Johnny glanced at the building where white plumes of smoke replaced the grey and black from earlier, indicating the men had the upper hand on the fire.
He and Roy likely wouldn’t be returning after they took their victim to the hospital.
By the time they arrived at Rampart, Roy had Anne breathing on her own. She was left in the capable hands of Doctor Brackett, Nurse Dixie McCall assisting, and the paramedics headed back to the station. However, they didn’t get far from the hospital before they were sent out for another rescue, this one for a man trapped under a tree.
“Man, you know if he’d just stayed outta the way and let his neighbor cut that tree down, he never would’ve been in that situation,” Johnny lamented once they had finished with their latest run. Once again they were on their way back to the station from Rampart.
“Yeah, but when you have something like that that’s kind of on both properties, it’s hard to settle the issue without someone losing.”
Johnny shook his head. “I don’ know. Seems like my life would be more important than some ‘ol tree.”
The man who actually had the tree on his property wanted to cut it down. The neighbor who benefited with the shade from the branches hanging over into his yard wanted it to remain. In his protest of the tree coming down, he’d been in the way when it was accomplished, thus he was pinned underneath the heavier of the branches. It had taken a lot of cutting to get him freed. And he’d suffered some broken ribs and a collapsed lung because of it.
But Roy had to smile in amusement at his partner’s comment. They put their lives in jeopardy in situations others might think best to stay away from. It’s just that it was their job so they rarely thought about it.
Three hours and two calls later, the paramedics were once again back at Station 51. As they climbed from the squad, Johnny groaned, “Man, I can’t wait to get in the shower.”
But as he came around the front end of the squad, the captain approached with a note for him.
“You got a phone call about an hour ago.”
“She’s called a couple of times. But, no, this is from Darlene.”
Johnny’s eyes widened and he grabbed the paper. He looked at it as if Hank had misspoken.
“Darlene? What could she possibly want now?”
“I don’t know,” Roy responded. “But I have a feeling it’s got something to do with what you sent back.”
“I just mailed it yesterday.”
“And it only had to go to LA.”
“Ah man. . .”
Still with his gaze on the paper, he hurried into the dayroom, to the pay phone. After getting a quarter from Roy, he dialed the number she’d left. Ten minutes later he hung up, a dazed expression on his face.
“She didn’t appreciate you sending the stuff back. . .”
Johnny shook his head. “No, she understood.”
“What is it then? What’s wrong?”
The younger man made his way over to the table where he sat on one of the chairs, Roy staring at him the whole way.
Still dazed, Gage muttered, “She liked the picture. She showed it to a producer she knows. He wants ta put Emily in a baby diaper commercial.”
Roy walked over and patted him on the shoulder, desperately trying to suppress a grin. “Good luck breaking that news to Lorraine. You know, you’ve still gotta call her.”
Johnny just looked at the phone near the blackboard at the end of the room and sighed. Suddenly the image of the ‘Darlene’ mannequin with the wink on her face came to mind. He wondered if that had been a sign of things to come.
Fifteen minutes later, Johnny was still in the same chair, his gaze fixed on nothing in particular.
Roy had gone to take a quick shower and came back to see how the news had gone over with Lorraine. . .if his partner had told her yet.
“So did you call?”
But before Roy could ask again, Captain Stanley walked into the room and questioned Gage as well.
“Did you get a hold of Darlene?”
Johnny’s face soured. “I sure did,” he responded wryly.
Hank looked from Johnny to Roy, his eyebrows raised. Evidently it wasn’t necessarily a good thing Johnny had.
Roy shrugged. “He got a little bit of a surprise.”
“Again,” Johnny added.
The younger paramedic nodded. “A producer wants to put Emily in a diaper commercial.”
“Wow. . .I guess that is a surprise. But isn’t she a little young for that? I mean, how much can a seven week old baby do?”
Johnny suddenly looked at Roy like he couldn’t believe they’d both forgotten about that. All the diaper commercials he’d ever seen on television had babies crawling around in them. Emily wasn’t even near that stage.
“You’re right!” A smile spread across his face. “Of course! Thanks, Cap. This is really gonna make things easier.”
“Why didn’t you make them even simpler and just tell her ‘no’?”
“I didn’t wanna hurt her feelings.”
Johnny frowned when Roy finished the sentence with him in unison.
“Hurt whose feelings?” Chet asked as he wandered into the dayroom.
“What did you do now, Johnny?” Marco wondered.
“It’s more like what his daughter might do,” the captain explained. “Eventually.”
“Oh you mean like date?” Mike guessed. “You’ve got at least sixteen years before you have to worry about that.”
“She’s gonna act,” Johnny said with a grin. “Well, sorta,” he admitted, his smile fading slightly.
“Act? She can’t even form a real syllable yet.”
“Not that kind of act, Chet. Baby stuff; like diaper commercials.”
“I’m with Cap. I still think you’d be better off if you just told her ‘no thank you’.”
“Roy, where’s you sense of adventure?”
The conversation was interrupted by the klaxons, followed by, “Station 51, man over cliff, Birchwood Road and Laguna Trail, time out 15:11.”
The captain acknowledged the call at the podium in the apparatus bay as the others hurried to the trucks.
When they arrived at the scene, the firemen were escorted by a casually dressed young man and woman to the edge where a very steep, rocky hill led down to the ocean. The distance to the bottom was just over eighty feet. The victim was about forty feet from the top, the twenty-two year old male having slipped and fallen while trying to climb down without any safety gear. He’d tumbled nearly twenty feet before his fall was broken by one of the larger rocks.
Johnny and Roy were going to have to rappel down to get him, being careful to not become in need of a rescue themselves.
Gage’s words from earlier ran through Roy’s mind. ‘Where’s your sense of adventure?’. He figured he had a pretty strong argument right now that his ‘sense of adventure’ was very much intact.
With rappelling gear on and their ropes tied off to the front bumper of the engine, the paramedics carefully made their way down to the victim, Robby Creed. Chet and Marco each manned a rope to help stabilize it.
Once Johnny and Roy were with the victim, a stokes with some medical supplies secured in it was lowered down to them.
Robby groaned as Johnny skillfully checked him over for injuries.
“You’re gonna be okay, Robby. Just take it easy. We’re gonna get ya outta here.”
“I. . .I can’t believe this. . .” His eyes were barely open to slits, the pain so great.
“You took quite a fall,” Roy commented. He looked upwards. Boy, was that an understatement. Maybe once Robby was back on his feet again, he’d realize how close he came to taking a fatal fall and not try such a risky stunt again.
“They’ll never. . .never let me live. . .this down.”
“Who?” Johnny wondered.
“Ken and Ginger. . .we’re stunt doubles. . .we take. . .take falls all the. . .time. I take one. . .here. .for real. . . and now. . .now look. . .so stu. . .stupid.”
“Don’t feel so bad,” Roy assured. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned from being in this job it’s that anything can happen to anyone at any given time.”
He and his partner exchanged brief knowing looks.
It wasn’t long before Robby was secured on a backboard, his left leg and arm each splinted, ribs taped as a precaution. The paramedics carefully lifted him just enough to place him in the stokes. Roy laid a yellow safety blanket over his body and legs, covering him up to the neck. He and Johnny then fastened and tightened the straps to hold Robby safely in place for the journey up.
Gage waved a hand as he hollered, “Okay! Pull us up!”
Captain Stanley signaled to his other men and they methodically pulled on the three ropes as Johnny and Roy held onto the sides of the stokes to keep it stable. However, a few yards from their destination, a softball-sized rock came loose from the cliff side as Johnny pushed off of it with his foot. The paramedic slipped forward and slammed against the rugged surface as he instinctively released hold on the basket. Above, Chet was jerked by the sudden motion.
“Johnny, you okay?” Roy wondered.
Gage got back into position and looked at his right forearm. The rugged surface of the hill had roughed up his skin, but nothing a little soap, water and antiseptic wouldn’t take care of. Still safely in place with the rope, he brushed off the loose dirt near the scrapes as he replied, “Yeah. . .yeah, I’m okay.” He reached for the stokes with his gloved hand and once again they were on their way upward.
Johnny took a glance behind them as Mike and Marco pulled the stokes with the victim safely to flat ground.
Man am I glad we always use precautions. . .now.
There’d been a time when he hadn’t and nearly took a fall down a steep hill himself. A bush sticking out of the side of the hill had saved him then. He figured by now at the very least, he’d be in the same condition as Robby, had he not been fastened to a rope.
Robby was moved from the stokes to a stretcher, the backboard still in use as a precaution. After an update with Rampart, he was placed in a waiting ambulance. Johnny climbed up inside to ride along with him while Roy waited to close and secure the doors.
Once the ambulance was on its way, he trotted over to the squad and followed after it.
During the ride to Rampart, with his patient resting as best he could, Johnny took another look at his own wound from his slip on the hillside. It stung, that was for sure.
“You ever. . .consider . . .stunt work?” Robby’s voice was groggy, the effect of the ms Roy had given him earlier in his IV.
Johnny shifted his attention to his inquiring companion. “Not really.”
“You. . .oughta. . .you guys. . .were pretty. . .damn good. . .out there.”
The paramedic gave the words thought. And he suddenly wondered what had prompted Robby to become one; what he did before that.
When they arrived at the hospital, Gage helped to lower the stretcher to the ground, then hopped down out of the ambulance. He followed alongside as he held the IV bag up. Roy backed the squad into a space nearby and hurried inside.
Johnny continued into a treatment room with the victim while Roy took advantage of the stop to seek out a cup of coffee behind the desk near the base station. He poured the dark brew as Dixie returned from assisting in another treatment room.
“Where’s my favorite new dad?”
Roy nodded toward Treatment Room Two as he took a sip of his drink.
“Have the phone calls between he and Lorraine lessoned any?” she wondered as she took a seat on a stool at the desk.
“Not until today. Now he’s putting off calling her because he didn’t exactly follow my advice and he knows she’s gonna flip at what he’s gonna tell her.”
Roy suddenly regretted the comment when he saw Gage come out of the other room sooner than expected. He’d have to move fast to get him out the door before Dixie let on what she now knew, or Johnny would be the one to flip.
He quickly tossed his partially full Styrofoam cup into the trashcan as he stepped around to the other side of the desk.
“How’s Robby doing?” he asked as he placed a hand on Johnny’s shoulder to turn him toward the exit.
The younger man glanced over at the door. “Oh, he’s okay. . .he’s doin’ okay, considerin’.” A slight smile spread across his face, his eyes with a twinkle to them as he stepped around Roy and to the desk. He leaned against the wall nearby as he addressed both Dixie and Roy. “Wait’ll you hear what I found out.”
“I’m not sure I wanna know,” Roy admitted.
Gage’s happy expression had quickly turned to one of bewilderment. “Whataya mean? Why not?”
“That look in your eyes scares me.”
Now that he knew he was being teased, Johnny smiled again. “Just listen ta this. Robby’s not just any ol’ stunt man.”
“Nope. He happens to’ve been a child star. He was in baby food and toy commercials years ago,” he added with a wider lopsided grin. He rocked on his feet, looking from Roy to Dixie and back again, as he waited for an equally enthusiastic response. But it didn’t come.
“Am I missing something?” Dixie wondered.
But she didn’t get the response she wanted either.
“You want your daughter to grow up to be a stunt double? You really think Lorraine’s gonna want to hear that?”
“Not that. Not a stunt double. You’re missin’ the point, Roy.”
“Then ‘point’ it out to me.”
“His parents put the money he earned from the commercials away in a savings account. . .where it accrued interest for all those years. A lot of interest.”
“So you want Emily to do the commercials for her own future savings.”
“ ’Course. I sure don’t expect ‘er to work for mine. Just think, she might even earn enough to go to college! And Lorraine can’t argue with that, now can she?”
“Would this be to do with the ad- -”
But before Dixie could get the question out, Roy grabbed his partner by the upper left arm and was guiding him away.
“C’mon, you’ve got a phone call to make.” Over his shoulder he said with a nervous grin, “See ya later, Dix.”
She just smiled and shook her head as Johnny broke loose from Roy’s grasp and called out a ‘bye’ before heading to the exit of his own free will.
“Not that it seems to matter anymore, but just for curiosity sake,” Roy commented as he drove the squad back to the station, “Just how did Cap make this baby commercial thing easier, anyway? You still would’ve had to tell Lorraine real soon. Or turn down the offer.”
Johnny shook his head. “Roy, Roy, Roy. Didn’tcha get it?”
He glanced at Gage, wondering if he was really supposed to answer that. Apparently he was because his partner was faced toward him, anticipating a response.
“I guess not.”
“I wouldn’ta had to do either. . . not for awhile anyway. I still don’t hafta tell Lorraine yet. Emily won’t be old enough to do the commercials for several months yet__maybe even over a year! So if I don’t think it’s a good time to break the news to ‘er, I’ve got a cushion. I can wait till it’s just the right time. And if it’s never the right time, I can turn down the offer from Darlene easier ‘cause I’ll’ve already accepted it. So now do ya get it?”
Roy glanced at him again, then quickly returned his attention to the road ahead. “I think I liked it better when I didn’t know.”
“It’ll work out. . .you’ll see.” Johnny faced forward again. “And who knows? Maybe Emily’ll be a huge star one day after all.”
Roy didn’t respond to that comment. There was no harm in a father wanting to dream of big accomplishments for his daughter. And for all he knew, Johnny could be right. Even a big Hollywood star had to start somewhere.
Roy no sooner brought the squad to a stop in the station bay, when suddenly Chet was at Johnny’s open window.
“Hey, Gage, I’ve been thinking and I can’t figure it out.”
“What. . .how to change a light bulb by yourself?” The dark-haired paramedic teased. He snickered as he glanced over at his partner, who'd responded with an eye roll.
“Very funny,” Chet chimed back. “No, I can’t figure out how Cap made things easier for you . . .you know, with the diaper commercial stuff.”
Johnny let out a sigh. “Am I the only one who can see it?” he asked his two companions.
“Apparently so,” Roy offered. He opened the driver’s side door to get out.
Johnny motioned for Chet to move away, then opened his door as well and got out of the squad. He repeated a condensed version of what he’d told Roy, as the latter headed for the captain’s office to record their run in the log book.
Johnny came into the dayroom, whistling an upbeat tune. He smiled at his shiftmates who were seated on the couch and around the table in the dayroom. The captain looked up from where he was reading over some papers headquarters had sent down.
“Well, you’re certainly chipper. Lorraine must’ve taken the news about the commercial pretty well.”
“Um. . .actually, Cap--”
Roy finished it for him. “He didn’t tell ‘er.”
Gage shot him a quick look of annoyance before explaining to the captain what he’d told the other two.
Hank Stanley sat back in his chair and gave the matter some thought. “I’m glad I could help. . .a little. But I still think it’d be better if you told your wife about it now. Take it from someone who knows. . .there’re just some surprises that don’t go over well with the other half.”
Roy nodded in agreement. “Especially when it’s been kept a secret for awhile.”
“Okay. . .okay.” He turned around from facing the counter and leaned his backside against it, a cup of coffee he’d just poured in his right hand. “Just lemme talk to Darlene first, then when I have all the facts, I can tell Lorraine all about it.”
Chet glanced around at the others from his seat on the couch next to their mascot Bassett Hound Henry. “I can’t believe it. Quick, someone call the presses.”
“What for?” Mike wondered from over his shoulder. His back was to Chet and he didn’t want to waste his energy turning all the way around.
“Johnny just made sense! It’s gotta be big news!”
“Nice,” Gage deadpanned. “Maybe when I’m the father of a big star, I’ll get a little more respect around here,” he quipped.
Chet shook his head. “Don’t count on it.”
The response elicited a frown from Johnny and slight grins from a few of his shiftmates.
Just after finishing their dinner in the early evening, the paramedics were sent to an elementary school for a ‘child down’ call. The engine crew remained at the station.
Roy brought the squad to a stop beside a curb that ran along a u-shaped driveway in front of the school’s main entrance. It was obvious there was a special event going on at the moment, as the parking lot off to the side was full to near capacity, the vehicles shiny under the outside lighting.
He and Johnny quickly climbed out of their truck, where they were met by the principal and a teacher.
“The girl’s in the gymnasium. Our school nurse is with her now, but we felt we should call you,” the principal explained. “It might be a very serious injury.”
“What happened?” Johnny asked as he and Roy grabbed their supplies from the squad compartments behind the passenger door. He handed the oxygen canister to the man to carry for them.
“The children were performing a musical program for their families,” the teacher told them. The group hurried for the front doors as she continued. “And Glenna Dobson. . .she’s a third grader here. . .just passed out and fell off the back of the risers.”
“Are the girl’s parents here?” Roy questioned.
“Yes. Yes, they’re with her as well.”
The foursome trotted down an empty hallway toward the sound of many voices. When they got to the gym, the audience of adults and children were mostly standing in front of their chairs, which had been placed in rows. Many were talking and looking over toward the bleachers, though they couldn’t see around to the back. The older spectators had concern etched on their faces.
The principal led the way past the crowd to where the incident occurred.
Glenna was awake but still woozy when the paramedics got to her side. They were informed the little girl had a history of locking her knees while standing to sing, thus the school nurse surmised that was likely what started the ordeal. However, Glenna had hit her head on the floor and appeared to have at least a slight concussion as a result. Wisely, the girl was not moved from where she lay prior to help arriving.
Johnny and Roy worked on her and soon had Glenna on her way in an ambulance to Rampart.
Gage gave a reassuring crooked smile as the child shifted her unsure frightened gaze toward him. Her neck was in a c-collar as a precaution, so her vision of her surroundings was limited.
“Don’t be scared, sweetheart,” he soothed. “We’re almost there and the doctor’s gonna take good care of ya.”
Her expression didn’t change.
“It’ll be okay,” he tried again. “Your parents aren’t very far behind us. You’ll get ta see them at the hospital. And I’ll tell ya what. There’s gonna be a real nice nurse there. . .a good friend of mine, as a matter of fact . . . why, I’m willing to bet you and Dixie. . .she’s the nurse I’m talkin’ about. . .get to be best friends yourselves. She even knows a little bit about singin’.” He smiled wide, noting the girl looked slightly less scared. He had no doubt Dixie would make Glenna, and most likely her parents, feel more at ease.
As expected, Dixie didn’t let Johnny down. As soon as he talked to her aside from Glenna, she paid extra special attention to the girl and stayed by her side in the treatment room. Glenna hadn’t wanted Gage to leave either, but a promise to check up on her later was enough to comfort the girl. After a ‘thank you’ from the parents, the paramedics were on their way.
As he and Roy headed for the exit at Rampart, Johnny returned his thoughts to his own current issues. His brow furrowed, he commented, “Ya know, I’m gonna try not to be one of those stage parents. . .you know, that pesters the directors on the set and all. . .thinks he knows more than the producer. . .that kinda stuff.”
“Aren’t you getting a little ahead of things here? I mean, you haven’t even gotten the details from Darlene.”
Proud dad was one thing, but Johnny seemed a bit beyond that all of a sudden.
“I’m not talkin’ about now, Roy,” came the explanation as they went to opposite sides of the squad. As Johnny climbed in on the passenger side and Roy on the driver’s, he went on with, “Not now. I’m lookin’ ahead; years probly in fact.”
“What’re you going to do if this doesn’t work out for her?”
“Move on,” he shrugged. “What else can I do?”
Roy just nodded slightly then turned the key in the ignition. Maybe his partner wasn’t quite as lost in this whole celebrity idea as he thought.
Then again. . .this *is* Johnny. . .
Later that night, Johnny lay in bed, wondering how he’d eventually tell Lorraine about the diaper commercial. He’d have to be careful on his delivery, or all the furniture in the apartment could be rearranged if he upped her anxiety level.
Either that or she’ll have *me* movin’ it. . .
That thought didn’t sound so good either.
He glanced over at Roy in the bed beside his. The other’s back was to him, thus there was only one way to find out of he was still awake.
Johnny bit his lower lip as he eyed his partner. Should he say anything? Roy might give him a hard time on still worrying about the situation. But then again. . .he might give him some good advice. Then again, he might be fairly irritated if he’s sleeping and gets woken up.
‘Course neither *one* of us know what Darlene’ll say when I call *her* in the morning. . .
With a sigh, he closed his eyes and put his left forearm across them. He’d have to wait until morning. That was that.
Johnny clapped his hands together, a grin on his face, as he turned to address the others who were seated at the table in the dayroom. He leaned against the counter that was below the pay phone opposite the kitchen end of the room.
“Well, now I know for sure. Emily is gonna be in diaper commercials startin’ next week.”
“That’s what I said, Marco.”
The men appeared baffled, but Johnny kept the smile on his face.
“Well, that’s great, pal,” Captain Stanley finally stated. “But don’t they think seven . . .I mean eight weeks. . .is a little young?”
“Not for the nearly newborn diapers. They wanna show how absorbent they are. And they need a little baby to go with ‘em.”
“I can hear it now,” Chet said. “On the count of three, kid. . . go!”
“She’s not actually gonna go. Not really,” Johnny assured, his expression displaying slight disgust. “I wouldn’t let my kid do that on television. They use water and kinda pour it on. You know, to simulate.”
“How much does she get paid?”
“I don’ know, Mike. Darlene said it’ll be in the contract.” A smile once again appeared on his face. “But I’ll bet it’s not a bad amount. Not a bad amount at all.”
Roy leaned back in his chair, a cup of coffee in his right hand. “Now you’ll have to tell Lorraine about it soon for sure. You don’t wanna spring it on her the day before. . . or of.”
Johnny’s smile widened. “That’s right. I get to tell ‘er all about it as soon as I get home. I can’t wait to see ‘er reaction.”
Again the guys were baffled. After all, Gage hadn’t seemed so confident about Lorraine going for the idea the entire shift. But the dark-haired paramedic kept the happy look on his face as he walked past and headed out the door to the apparatus bay. Roy set his cup on the table and pushed back his chair. He followed behind his partner.
“I guess congratulations are in order,” he said when he caught up to the younger man.
“Huh?” Johnny turned to look at him, a not so happy expression on his face anymore.
“Or not in order.”
Suddenly Roy was having a dejavu’ back to a time when Johnny had wanted out of a relationship, but when the girl broke up with him, what should’ve been a relief suddenly wasn’t. It wasn’t until Roy had congratulated him on his newfound freedom that Johnny confessed he didn’t like that she’d broken up with him, not the other way around.
“I thought you were happy.”
“I am. . .I am,” Gage assured. But the words didn’t sound happy; more like irritated.
“What was with all the smiling in there if you’re not happy?”
“Roy, I just said I’m happy.”
“Yeah, but your face says you’re not.”
“Okay, okay. I’m sorta not happy.” He motioned for Roy to follow him and proceeded to head for the locker room. After a few seconds of hesitation, the older man was a couple of steps behind him.
Once inside the other room, Johnny peeked out the doorway into the apparatus bay to make sure no one else was within hearing range, then let the swinging door close again. He turned around and saw his partner standing in the middle of the room, his arms folded across his chest as he waited for an explanation.
“Okay, you wanna know why I was smilin’ in there?”
Johnny ran a hand through his hair, then sighed. “Alright. I really want this job for my kid. I want her ta have the opportunities I lost out on.”
Roy shifted slightly on his feet. Recollection of how he’d inadvertently gotten a modeling job that was at first intended for Gage made him suddenly feel a little guilty. It had been quite a few years since and they never talked about it. Usually Johnny was quick to forget and move on with things; it was his nature. But it was now obvious he hadn’t completely let it go.
Or,** Roy surmised to himself, **he did let it go, but the subject coming up just made him think about it again.
That sounded more like the Gage he knew.
Johnny had gotten all the way to having his picture taken with two beautiful ladies, with Roy just included as a background image, when the film crew decided Johnny didn’t ‘look’ like a fireman. However Roy did. And that was the end of the younger man’s only chance to be seen in published photographs with the women of his dreams.
And then there was the possible movie deal with Art Fromish. He’d spent time at the station, riding with the paramedics for research for a new screenplay idea. Johnny was so sure he’d eventually get to be in the film as the main character. Until they responded to a fire at a factory and the idea of a horror film with dolls as the stars was born. Roy still recalled the disappointment on his partner’s face when Johnny had delivered the news that he’d been replaced by a doll.
“I also know Lorraine is gonna get the image of Darlene in a bikini and sprawled across the hood of that car when I tell ‘er the news, like that’s gonna be Emily in the future. She’s not gonna be so happy.”
“And that’s why you were smiling in the other room?”
Johnny didn’t always make sense to him, and now was no different.
“No, I was smilin’ in there so the guys wouldn’t pick up on the fact I’m not happy about havin’ to tell Lorraine.”
“Ah, I see.”
Johnny sat down on the bench in front of their lockers and stared at the floor a moment, his forearms resting on his thighs. After a few seconds of thought, he looked up at Roy.
“How’m I gonna convince her it’s a chance of a lifetime?”
“Well, being that Emily is only seven weeks old and has her whole life ahead of her, that might not be so easy.”
The younger man nodded. “Yeah,” he agreed as he once again stared down at the floor. “Man, ya know, life’s a lot less simpler when it involves girls.”
Roy grinned slightly. “I’d say most men have had that same thought since Adam met Eve in the garden.”
Johnny snorted a laugh, a wan smile on his face, as he once again nodded in agreement.