Bless You, Times Three

By Audrey W.



John Gage wondered how he’d ended up in a room at Rampart General Hospital, in bed on his back and casted left leg in a traction sling. His personal life had been going great; at one point he’d even found an 'incredible' and affordable new apartment closer to the fire station where he pulled regular duty as a paramedic. And lately work had been nothing but one triumph after another, even chores being completed without a hitch. But then came along a call for a victim with an unusual characteristic. He never would have guessed it would lead him to this. . .



Forty-eight hours earlier. . .


Roy DeSoto folded up the empty hamburger wrapper, a few left over fries inside, as his partner John Gage simply balled up his wrapper and tossed it into the cardboard tray they’d been given to carry their food. The two paramedics from Station 51 had just finished eating lunch at a local fast food place after taking the victim of a gulf cart accident to Rampart General and picking up needed medical supplies.


John leaned back in the booth seat across from Roy and patted his stomach. “Man, that hit the spot.” He then picked up the cup with a minimal amount of soda left in it and took one last gulp. “You ready to go?” he asked as he added the cup to the tray.




Roy set his items on the other side of the tray and picked it up as he got to his feet. As they headed for the exit, he tossed their trash into a hooded garbage can near the door.


“Man, I could take a nap now,” John commented with a yawn.


The two men no sooner climbed into their red squad in the parking lot, when L.A. dispatch contacted them on the handie talkie John had just set on the seat.


“Squad 51, what is your status?”


He picked up the HT and pressed the transmit button. “Squad 51 available.”


“Squad 51, woman trapped, 2112 West Chambers Road apartment 207, two one one two West Chambers Road apartment two zero seven, time out 12:42.”


“Squad 51 10-4.”


Gage returned the HT to the seat, then pulled a small notepad and a pen out of his light blue shirt pocket and jotted down the information. He then placed his black helmet on his head as they hurried to the scene.


Roy glanced over. “Aren’t those some of the apartments you looked at a few weeks ago?”


“Uh huh. And I know a quick way to get there. Turn left up at this next intersection.”


The senior paramedic did as directed and a couple of miles later they arrived at the scene.




The apartment was in a complex where the entrances were outdoors. It was located on the second level near the staircase at the west end. John and Roy grabbed their basic supplies and trotted up the steps. John then held the biophone in one hand as he knocked with the other. With no response, he tried again and called out, “Fire department!”


After just a few seconds, they heard the voice of a young woman yell, “It’s open! Come in!”


As they entered the apartment, they saw a woman who appeared to be in her very early twenties sitting at a round wooden table not far behind a floral print couch. She had shoulder length brown hair styled in a flip and was dressed in a green wet-look mini skirt and white blouse, her feet bare. A portable upright combination radio/8-track tape player was in her lap with her right hand fingers in a slot on top. Two strands of narrow brown colored tape were sticking out of the hole as well and a yellow telephone was on the table in front of her.


“Sorry, I didn’t want just anybody walking in,” she said, her face slightly flushed. “Especially since my roommate’s at work and I’m here all alone.”


“That’s okay,” Roy assured as they approached.


John set the biophone down on the floor not far from her chair and leaned over to get a closer look at her situation. “What happened?”


She looked down at her right hand. “I. . .uh. . .well, you see, I was playing one of my tapes and all of a sudden the music was garbled and I realized this thing was eating it! So I shut it off and pulled out the cartridge, but the darn player still had a hold of the tape inside. I reached in with my fingers to get it free and. . .well, a couple of them got hung up on something.”  She looked at the two men with woeful eyes, then shifted her gaze down to the tape cartridge also in her lap.


John and Roy followed her line of sight and noticed the label of the album. It was ‘Stuck on You - Love Songs by Various Artists’.


The younger man tried to hide a smile as he squatted down and questioned, “Are ya hurt?”


“I don’t think so. I was afraid I would be if I tried to get my fingers out on my own.”


“You’re probably right,” Roy agreed.


John had his pen light out of his shirt pocket and tried to peer inside what slight part of the slot he could. He then clicked it off and gave a gentle tug on her hand. He looked up at his partner and shook his head. “I don’t think we can count on just pullin’ ‘em out either. Not without taking off some skin.”


A slight gasp from her had him reassuring, “Don’t worry. We’ll find another way.”


“Well, we could take it apart,” Roy suggested. “But we can’t guarantee it’ll go back together.”


“That’s okay. What ever it takes. Just please get it off my hand. I’ve got an appointment to get my hair cut this afternoon and I can’t go in the place like this.


“What’re we gonna need?” Roy wondered.


After looking over the player, being careful not to move it around too much, John surmised, “Should just need a small philips head screwdriver.”




“Oh, you can call me Melissa. Melissa Hartsenfarger.”


“Okay,” Roy smiled. “Melissa. I don’t suppose you’d have a screwdriver handy?”


She snorted a laugh that made John lean back slightly. “Do I look like I’d own one of those things?”


“Right.” Once again Roy smiled. “I’ll be right back.” He hurried down to the squad to retrieve the tool they’d need. He noticed a small audience was gathering outside here and there, likely curious onlookers who’d noticed the truck.


On his way back up the stairs, he nodded in greeting to another man on his way down.


“Anything serious?” the man wondered.


“No.” He held up the screwdriver as if to show how minor the rescue was going to be. “Just a little mishap.”




Even with the one word answer, disappointment was evident in the voice. Apparently the man had expected something more exciting. With a shake of his head at the notion, Roy continued on to the apartment.




“Here ya go,” DeSoto said as he handed the tool to his partner. John took it and began to disassemble the player.


“Lemme know if you feel any pain at all and I’ll stop till we can figure somethin’ else out.”


She nodded. “Sure.”


As he started, he noted the strands of tape again. “You’re fingers might be okay, but I’d say your tape is history.”


“I kind of figured that.”


In the meantime, Roy picked up the biophone and set it on the table. As he opened it up, he commented, “I’ll get Rampart on the line in case we need them.”


“M’kay.” John furrowed his brow as he worked on loosening the screws.




Melissa watched in silence until John was nearly done with the task of dismantling. But the quiet was threatened when she felt a sudden tickle sensation in her nose. “Oh dear. . .”


John looked up from the tape player just in time for the sudden ‘achoo’ that followed. He vaguely heard Roy give a polite ‘bless you’ as two more sneezes followed, overlapping his partner’s voice and the two other blessings he’d tried to squeeze in.


“I’m so sorry!” she apologized to both after the bout had ended.


John wiped a free hand across his face and tried to hide a look of disgust with a wan smile. The paramedic could handle broken bones, blood and an assortment of other things, but someone else’s sneezes in close proximity was definitely a weak spot for him.


He paused a moment as he rested his head against his hand, his left eye covered. He recalled another time not long before when a young man had shut himself in a freezer to preserve himself for the future. Unfortunately for the guy, concerned friends had called the fire department to get him out. He’d caught cold with the brief freezing experience and sneezed a few times with John right beside him.


“Uh. . .that’s okay,” he said as he peered up at her.  “No. . .uh. . .problem.”


John set one half of the player on the table and swiped at his face once more for good measure. After setting the other half of the player on her lap with the obviously ruined tape still attached, he carefully pulled her finger tips and it free from the parts they’d been caught between.


In the meantime Roy had made head nurse Dixie McCall at Rampart aware that the victim’s fingers were freed and appeared uninjured.


Melissa wiggled her fingers, a wide grin on her face. “Oh, thank you! Thank you so much!”


She gave the dark-haired paramedic a big hug around the neck, nearly bowling him over.  The tape case and the half of the player on her lap with it tumbled onto the floor.


“That’s okay,” John assured. “That’s what we’re here for.” But he figured he could’ve done without the sneezes, just the same.


Miss Hartsenfarger was left with her eight-track tape and the player in the kitchen trash can, and a suggestion that perhaps she stick to LPs and a record player or just a radio.




“That was a fine bit of work you did in there,” Roy remarked as he drove the squad into the street.


“Let’s just make sure we keep it there, if ya know what I mean.”


The senior paramedic glanced over with a grin. “Oh, c’mon. You don’t want anyone to know about your heroics with the damsel in distress? I mean, it wasn’t a huge rescue, but it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at.” Roy took a quick glance at him, a smile still on his face.


“Ha ha.” John looked at Roy, who now had his eyes back on the road ahead. “And in answer to your question__no!” After a brief pause he added, “You know, I think I’m starting to feel relieved I didn’t end up choosing those apartments to move into.”




John  shrugged. “I don’ know. I guess somethin’ tells me this wouldn’t’ve been my only run in with Melissa Hartsen-whatsername.”


“Fargen. It’s Hartsenfargen. But she seems like a nice girl. Cute, too.”


“Yeah, but any chick who’d stick her fingers into a tape player. . .I don’ know,” he said with a shake of his head. “I just get a feelin’.”  A crooked grin spread across his face as he reminded, “I’ll be over several blocks at the Laguna Village Apartments, livin’ it up at the pool with those hot chicks and the big party room I told ya about.”


Roy shook his head. He’d heard about the new apartment complex John had decided to move into all morning. “How could I forget.”


The younger man looked out the passenger window with the smile still on his face. Everything had fallen into place for him so easily. He just had to wait for the phone call from the apartment manager to let him know if he could move in June 2nd, or if he’d have to wait a few days into the month.




John stood open mouthed in the station dayroom and replaced the telephone receiver in its cradle. Roy and the other firemen on their shift looked on, wondering what had happened. All they could pick up from the one sided conversation was a ‘Whataya’ mean it’s taken?’ ‘Well, how can that be?’ After that, John had listened to the person on the other end of the line with his eyebrows furrowed and mouth agape.


“I don’t believe it,” he muttered, dumbfounded.


“What happened?” Roy wondered.


“That was the Laguna Village Apartments manager.”


“We kind of gathered that,” Chet Kelly, one of the engine crew members stated.


John numbly pulled out a chair and took a seat at the table nearby. “I don’t believe it,” he muttered again. He looked at the expectant faces of his colleagues. “My apartment went to someone else.”

“You’re kidding,” Roy said, his voice full of surprise.


“I wish I was.”


“What happened? I thought it was all set.”


“So did I, Marco. So did I. But the couple moving out decided they wanted to stay. . .another year.” John looked glumly at the floor.


Man, I was so *close* to getting it. . .


He’d have to start looking again unless he wanted to stay in his old apartment with the smaller pool, less pretty girls nearby and no clubhouse with a party room.




Soon John and Roy were on their way to the first hydrant inspection of the afternoon. If all went well, they figured they’d have the job wrapped up within an hour and a half. But unfortunately they ran into a problem when one of the caps wouldn’t turn freely.


“Man, I don’t believe this,” John found himself saying for the third time in a day. He grunted as he struggled to unscrew the stubborn cap. He waved off his partner’s offer to take over, and instead grabbed a wrench from the squad to give it another go. Still, it proved to be too stubborn.


“Maybe it’s painted on,” John surmised as he stood looking at the hydrant with the wrench still in his hand.  


Roy reached out to give the cap a try, despite his partner’s assurances it wasn’t going to budge. But with very little effort, it came off in his hand.


John’s mouth dropped open, but no words came out. If Roy had to guess, he figured the younger man had to be thinking, ‘I don’t believe it’.


“All that effort you put into it loosened it up for me,” Roy quickly explained.


John just shook his head, his brow furrowed. “The next hydrant is mine. No__ matter__ what,” he emphasized.




Roy hoped they wouldn’t run into anymore stubborn caps or what ever else could go wrong. They’d be at it until dinner or beyond.




With things going smoother on the remaining hydrants, the paramedics were done with the inspections before long. Roy was just glad John’s lack of luck with caps seemed to change by the second stop since the younger man had insisted on checking them all himself to make up for his earlier struggle and remind the hydrants who was boss. 


Once they were ready to return to the station, the men climbed into the squad. John reported them in as available. He then had time to think of his other problem again.


“Man, I was so sure I’d be movin’ soon,” he groaned.


“Well, you still can. It’s not like that was the only apartment available in town.”


“Yeah, but it was the place I liked the best; the one I decided on; the best deal for the money.”


“Maybe--” Roy was interrupted by dispatch before he could get another word out.


“Squad 51, unknown type rescue, 3210 West Citrus Lane, three two one zero West Citrus Lane, time out 15:45.”


John acknowledged the call using the radio mic, then put his helmet on as Roy made a turn to the right.


“It’s all shops and businesses there. I wonder what’s up,” John commented.


“We’ll know soon enough.”




When the paramedics arrived at the address, Roy brought the squad to a stop behind an L.A. patrol car. There was a small group of bystanders peering in the doorway and large window of a beauty shop.

John and Roy quickly got out of the truck and grabbed their gear from the compartments on the passenger side. They then hurried over to the entrance of the shop.


“Paramedics. . .excuse us,” Roy said as he squeezed between two onlookers.


John took the opportunity of the opening and followed immediately behind him.


Several women, a few with their hair partially styled or in rollers, stood in a half circle in the waiting area with Officer Vince Howard in front of them, motioning with his hands in an effort to get them to step back. Another smaller group were at the back of the room to the left, also in a half circle and facing away from the entrance. When he saw John and Roy enter, the officer escaped his audience and made his way to the two men, carefully stepping around the ladies.


“What’ve we got?” Roy asked.


“You guys aren’t gonna believe this one. It all started with a bad haircut.”


John and Roy both looked at the women still gathered around facing away from them, then returned their attention to Vince.


“A bad haircut?”


He nodded at Gage. “That’s what I said. They were still going at it when I arrived; had to separate the two women before I ended up needing your services too.”


“So the beautician and the customer tangled?” Roy clarified.


“Uh huh.”


“Either of them seriously hurt?” John wondered.


“I don’t think so. But they’ve both got some scratches and bruises. . .maybe a broken finger or two. The hairdresser looks like she’s gonna have quite a shiner.” 


As he eyed Roy, John asked, “Which one do you want?”


“I’ll take the beautician.” He looked to Vince and raised his eyebrows in question.


The officer pointed to the rear of the room. As Roy headed for his patient, John did the same, only to stop in his tracks when he heard three sneezes. The small group of women parted, revealing the other victim sitting in a chair.


“Hi,” Melissa said glumly as she swiped a hand across the end of her nose. Her hair was no longer in the flip style he’d seen earlier, nor near the length. It was about two inches shorter along the bottom, with a chunk cut off shorter on one side. If that was the completed job, John would agree it was definitely a butchered one, to say the least.


“Uh. . .” he glanced toward Roy’s retreating back, a hand partially raised. Obviously stuck with this victim, he gave a slight smile as he slowly brought his hand down.  He could only hope she’d gotten the sneezes out of her system. “Hi.”


“You must really think I’m a nuisance. . .”


“No. . .hey. . .not at all. This is just part of our job,” he assured. “No matter how often,” he added with a crooked smile. John then squatted down to take a close look at the faint bruises where she’d been grabbed firmly on the upper left arm, and the few red scratches on her other arm, a couple on her hands as well. Her left index and middle finger were slightly swollen and already discolored. “Looks like you had quite a fight.”


“She started it! All I did was refuse to pay for a bad haircut and try to leave. She grabbed me by the arm,” Melissa explained as she glanced at the bruises, “and I did what I had to to get free!”


“More like she tried to get a free haircut!” came the woman’s voice from the back of the shop.


“You call this a haircut?”


While Roy tried to keep his victim in place, John worked to calm his down so he could splint her fingers and take care of the scratches.


“Hey, hey. . .it’s not gonna help ta get ‘er all fired up again.”


“I just wanted my hair a little shorter. But not chopped up like this,” she said with tears welling up in her eyes.


“You know, if you hadn’t sneezed while I was in the middle of cutting your hair, it would’ve turned out fine!”


John glanced at Melissa’s botched haircut again, then shifted his gaze to her face. Tears were streaming down her cheeks now and she sniffed in an effort to keep her nose from running. 


“Anyone got a Kleenex?” he asked as he looked around at the other women.


One employee hurried to her station and came back with two. He gave them to Melissa and soon found himself thinking the three sneezes weren’t so bad after she handed him back the used tissues with a whimpering ‘thank you’.




Though neither lady was seriously injured, the two would be going to Rampart for minor things. It would help Vince document the injuries and information on each for his report and back up some facts with a doctor’s statement. Since the ambulance was already on the scene, the decision was to take them in it non-code R.


After both of the victims were in the emergency vehicle, John waited for Roy to climb in with them. But when he didn’t move, the younger man got the feeling they were trying to use the same strategy; send the other instead of themselves.


“Well, one of us should to go with ‘em. At least to make sure they don’t tear the ambulance up if they start fighting again.”


“I’m glad you volunteered,” Roy said with a grin as he slapped his partner on the back. “I didn’t wanna jump on it if you wanted to ride in with them.”




The senior paramedic was already ushering him toward the waiting vehicle.


“But, Roy--”


DeSoto  waited for him to climb up inside and join the ladies, who at this point were frowning at one another, their arms folded across their chests.  


With a sigh, John complied. He sat on the bench beside Melissa and looked out hopelessly at Roy as door one closed, then the second.


“See you at Rampart,” Roy had said just as he shut it.


John just nodded though his friend didn’t wait to hear or see a response.  He gave a wan crooked smile at the once again verbally sparring women.


This day just keeps getting better an’ better, he thought sarcastically.




John leaned back on the bench seat of the ambulance with a sigh, a mournful expression on his face as the ladies’ arguing continued. He’d already heard more than enough. However it wasn’t until the hairdresser gave Melissa a rough shove which knocked her against the paramedic and in turn caused him to whack his head on the wall of the ambulance that he spoke up.


“All right! All right!” He rubbed at the left side of his head. “Enough already!” When he saw he had their attention, he said in a lower tone, “Look, can’t you two just get along for a little while? Like five minutes?”


Both stared at him a moment before they looked at one another and simultaneously blurted out, “Now see what you’ve done?”


Me?” Melissa continued.


“You’re the one. . .”


John closed his eyes, his jaw tense as the battle of words went on, interrupted only once when Melissa had a bout of her usual three sneezes.




The two bickering victims and John were directed to Treatment Room Three. As he passed by Dixie, behind the others, she shook her head at his worn down appearance and commented, “Who’s in worse shape? Them or you?”


“If I’da been in that ambulance with ‘em much longer. . .”  


She smiled as he continued on in, then let the door close freely behind him.




When John came out, he joined his partner at the desk near the base station. Roy had just poured himself a cup of coffee, but handed it to John instead.


“Here, I guess I owe you one.”


“More like two. . .”


Roy returned a smirk that was on the younger man’s face as he poured another cup of the  dark brew.


“Dixie said they were going at it when you brought them in.”


“Yeah. . .they were. And almost the entire way here, too.”


“Maybe I should offer you a couple of aspirin instead of a cup of coffee.”


John shook his head and held up the Styrofoam cup. “This’ll do.” He took a sip and nodded a greeting as Dixie returned to her desk.


“So did the ladies stop once they saw Doctor Brackett or am I going to be hearing about it from him too?”


“They stopped when Vince went in there shortly after me. He’s getting all the information for his report.”


“Reinforcement is always good.”


“Especially one in uniform,” Roy agreed.


John looked down at his own clothes, then to Roy’s.


“One that’s more intimidating I guess,” the older man added when he noticed.  “Maybe we’d better make our escape before they come out of there.”


“Sounds like a plan to me.”


The two paramedics tossed their cups with the remaining coffee in the trash and gave a quick but polite ‘see ya later’ to Dixie, then headed for the exit and their squad.




“I wonder how many people in the world sneeze in multiples every time.”


Stopped at a red light, Roy glanced at John from the driver’s seat of the squad. “I’ve never met anyone like that before Melissa.”


“Me neither.” But as the young man at the freezer incident came to mind, he corrected, “Well, only if they’ve caught a cold.”


While Roy kept his attention on traffic once the light turned green, John gave the sneeze subject more thought.


“I’d like to know if ‘er parents sneeze three times. You know, if either one of ‘em does.”


“You mean if it’s genetic?”


John quickly turned to face Roy. “Exactly! If it’s genetic. A sneeze gene.”


Roy cracked a grin and briefly glanced at him. “You’d hafta spend more time with Miss Hartsenfarger to find out.”


The words brought a frown to John’s face. He shook his head. He’d had his fill of ‘achoos’ and used tissues. “Nooo thank you.”


Roy smiled slightly at the response he was sure he’d get, then backed the squad into the station apparatus bay.




John was glad the rest of the shift went without anymore incidents involving women and thrown punches or verbal altercations. Once the paramedics of B-Shift had gotten the keys to the squad, he and Roy walked to their cars parked beside each other in the lot behind the station.


“So you gonna go apartment hunting today since you lost the one you wanted?”


“Nah.” John stopped near the bumper of his Land Rover and looked at his partner, his eyes squinted in the bright sunlight. “I think I’ll just stop by the Laguna Village again later. See if they might have any idea when another opening might come up.” He shrugged. “Ya never know.”


“I suppose it’s worth a try.”


“Persistence, Roy. Sometimes it takes persistence to get what ya want.”


“Well, good luck in your ‘persistence’.”


“Thanks!” With a smile he hurried and climbed into his vehicle. He was anxious to get cleaned up and changed, and onto his venture.




Dressed in blue jeans and a white collared shirt with rolled up sleeves, John headed out for the apartments of his dreams. However, halfway there, he passed a strip mall where his uniforms he’d dropped off a couple of days before should be ready. He’d sure need them for his next shift.


He made a quick turn onto the next street and doubled back to the dry cleaners. It was only ten o’clock in the morning, but the parking spaces in front of the place were all filled, so John had to park in the main lot and walk over. He looked both ways when he was ready to cross a through lane of the lot that ran parallel to the sidewalk. There was an approaching car that slowed, which he took to mean the driver would allow him to get to the other side.


However just a couple of steps out, that same car suddenly shot forward.




Melissa saw the familiar paramedic in civilian clothing up ahead. She thought after all he’d done for her, the least she could do was let him cross to the sidewalk. She eased off the gas pedal enough to bring her vehicle to a slow crawl. But just as he looked her way, she felt the familiar tickle in her nose. There was no way of holding back as the sneeze was already there.


Her eyes closed for the first one. On the third consecutive sneeze, her foot she’d been holding up hit the gas pedal.




John couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. The next thing he knew, a fiery sharp pain shot through his left leg and hip, and he was up on the hood of the car. Just as quick as he was on, he was off the hood and landed hard on the pavement on his right side.


The vehicle came to a screeching stop several yards away. The door flew open and a familiar girl with short hair emerged and ran toward him. “Are you okay?”


The dark-haired paramedic slowly rolled onto his back, his eyes narrowed as the searing pain in his left leg continued.


Other people in the parking lot came running, as did a few individuals from the businesses in the immediate vicinity.


“Man,” John gasped.


“You’re not okay! Oh, I’m so sorry!” Melissa cried out as she knelt beside him. “I’m so very sorry!”


He was sure she’d have a good explanation for running him down. He just wasn’t sure he was ready to listen to it. “S’alright,” was all he managed.


John heard a man yell, “Someone call the fire department! They’ve got medics now who come out for stuff like this!”


The man couldn’t be more right, Gage surmised. Here he was from the fire department, a medic, and he most certainly had come out for this. Although not like the gentleman intended.    


Other voices, both female and male, filtered into his mind as he closed his eyes against the steady pain.


“What happened?”


“He got hit by that car!”


“Is he going to die?”


“Who was driving?”


With that question, he opened his eyes to slits and peered at Melissa. She was still beside him, biting her lower lip as she tried to hold back tears.


Oddly enough, the only thought that went through his mind was, I’m glad I won’t be the one handing her a Kleenex.




And now here he was, his second day at Rampart, wearing a hospital gown, with a fractured left tibia/fibula, bruised right ribs and a moderate case of road rash on his right arm. He’d already been told he was fortunate over all because the injury to his leg was a clean break, it should heal fine with a little while spent in traction. And he could be thankful he hadn’t broken his arm as well.


All because of a sneeze.


Melissa had explained what happened as he was being worked on by other paramedics. It gave him something to think about on the way to the hospital besides the fact he was going to be pulling desk duty for awhile. John knew she couldn’t be the first person to unfortunately hit the gas pedal due to a sneeze, nor would she be the last. He just hoped he wouldn’t be in the way next time someone did. But he of all people sure understood that accidents happen. . .to everyone at one time or another.  


He casually eyed the screen of the television mounted up on the wall where a celebrity talk show was in progress. Suddenly his attention was drawn to movement nearby. The door had opened slightly and Roy peeked inside before opening it the rest of the way and stepping in. He was in uniform since it was their shift’s turn to pull duty again.


“Well, you’re lookin’ better than you did yesterday. How’re you feeling?”


“Man,” John said as he pressed a button on the side of the bed. It raised the head of it up slightly more. “I just can’t wait ta get out. Wasn’t I just here?”


Roy nodded. “Seems like it.”


The younger man had contracted a deadly disease from a victim’s pet monkey a few months earlier and spent several days in the hospital as he battled back to being healthy.


“So have I missed anything yet?”


“Not really. Except you're gonna miss Mike Stoker's spaghetti for dinner.” Roy pulled a chair closer to the bed and sat, noting the disappointment on his partner's face with that tid bit of news. Mike's spaghetti was the best either of them had ever tasted,  but he figured only John Gage could feel down about not being there to eat it while stuck in bed with a serious injury. "Don't worry, I'll see if I can work something out and bring some in for you."


His face brightened. "Man, that'd be great."


Roy wondered what else he could say to lift the younger man's spirits. “Hey, if you need a ride after you get home, you know, to go check out the Laguna Village Apartments again, just let me know.”


“Thanks. But I think I’ll wait till I’m on my feet again. Both of ‘um. Maybe my luck'll change by then.”


Just then the door opened again and this time Melissa peeked in. When John greeted her and waved for her to come in, she did so and shyly stood near the now closed door.


“Here.” Roy got up from the chair and motioned for her to sit down.


“Oh. No, thank you, but really. . .I’m fine here.”


“Melissa, it’s okay,” John assured. He wanted to add ‘just please don’t sneeze’, but she felt bad enough as it was. That was obvious.


“Well, I suppose. If you really don’t mind. I mean. .  . well, I’m probably the last person you want to see right now. But a nice nurse downstairs told me I should come up.”


John exchanged a glance with Roy as his female guest took in the cast and sling on his leg with the traction apparatus above it, along with the bandaging on his arm.


“So is it as bad as it looks?”


Did she really have to ask? What could he say that wouldn't make her feel even crummier than she already did?


“I’ve been in worse shape.” There, he didn’t have to lie, yet still could spare her feelings a little.


Suddenly the girl got a horrified expression on her face, then she quickly covered her nose and mouth as she turned away in the chair and sneezed. Both paramedics waited for the other two that would follow, but no more came. All three looked at one another.


“Bless you. . .” Roy finally said.


“I’d better go.” Melissa got to her feet.

“I thought you always sneezed three times,” John commented. ‘What happened?”


As she hurried to the door, she explained, “I do. Except when I’m coming down with a cold. Then I only sneeze once.” She left the two firemen alone in the room.


John looked at Roy, who in turn eyed him.


“No, I’ve never known anyone like that either.” After a few seconds DeSoto added, “I think you may be on to something with that sneeze gene theory. It would be interesting to find out.”


But that wasn’t what was on the younger man’s mind anymore. He glanced at his watch that was laying on the night stand and wondered how long it would be before a cold would be added to his other woes.


Nope, he never would have imagined one call would eventually lead to all this. . .




I never knew there was a 'sneeze gene' until I met and married my husband, who sneezes in threes. . .and then our daughter was seven weeks old when I was playing with her and she sneezed for the first time. . .in threes. I cracked up. lol  My daughter inspired this story when she and I were joking around about what could happen if a person sneezed behind the wheel with a pedestrian in close range in front of them.




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June Picture Story 2007            Stories Page