Branching Out

By Audrey W.




“Bet you can’t guess where this came from,” John Gage said. He slapped a stack of money down on the table in Station 51’s breakroom, where his partner was seated.


Roy DeSoto looked curiously at the assorted green bills.


“What’d you do? Empty your savings account? Or someone else’s?”


He sure has tried to empty *mine* enough times, Roy thought sarcastically to himself.


With a frown at the latter comment made, Johnny shook his head. A proud extression immediately replaced the not so pleased one.


“Nope. This just happens ta be the money Chet an’ I pulled in the past coupla days selling Christmas trees. You know, that business deal you wanted no part of.”


Gage pulled out a chair and took a seat beside the slightly older paramedic.


“Betcha wish you were in on it now, huh?”


“How much is there?” He nodded toward the paper money still on display..


“A hundred dollars. But this is just some of what we’ve made. The rest already went into the bank.”


“All profit?”


Once again John’s proud expression faded.


“Well, no. Not exactly. I mean, we’re gonna use this here to invest in more trees.  But by the time we’re done, we’ll get it all back and then some. So it will be all profit. . .eventually.”


DeSoto eyed his partner’s now satisfied grin.


“Considering it’s December fifteenth, this is the time people want to get their trees. So I’m not surprised business is booming.”


Gage leaned forward. “Have you got one yet?”


Roy nodded. “We went artificial this year.”


Artificial?” John sat back in his chair, appearing stunned, a pained look on his face.. “Artificial?. Roy. . .c’mon. . .nothin’ beats the real deal!”


“And you know just where I can get it. . .”


 “Of course. Chet an’ I can hook ya up with a great deal!”


Roy pushed back his chair and stood as he answered, “Thanks, but no thanks. Joanne didn’t want to take on the needles in the house this season. I don’t dare come home with one or I’ll be sleeping in the dog’s house.”


Gage picked up the money and got to his feet as well.


“Suit yourself. But if you change your mind, you know where ta find me.”


After Johnny left the room, Roy mumbled to himself, “I’ll be lucky of I can lose you now and then.”


It was nearly the beginning of their shift, which meant the two would be together a lot the next twenty-four hours. Roy was sure he’d hear more than enough about the Christmas tree business.




“So, any questions or comments?” Captain Stanley asked after reading some notes from headquarters to his engine crew and paramedics at roll call. The information shared covered the success of the current season for the fire department with their Toys for Tots drive. Also, a need to continue informing the public about the importance of keeping real Christmas trees well hydrated. 


Standing between Mike Stoker and Marco Lopez, Chet raised his right hand.


With his clipboard now at his left side, the captain gave a nod in his direction. “Yes, Kelly?”


“Cap, I have a great idea. As a way to keep people aware about the importance of keeping their real tree watered, how about we suggest each station purchase such a tree for in front of the building where everyone,” he emphasized with a sweeping wave of his now lowered hand, “can see it. They could put up a sign by the tree. . .a reminder, ya know? It would probably get plenty of attention.”


Hank grinned slightly. “This wouldn’t have anything to do with you and John selling the stations the trees, would it? After all, in the spirit of the season and since it’s for public safety, I’d think you guys would consider donating them.”


Gage tried to hide the panic on his face, as he quickly did the math on how much behind they’d come out of the deal. He was all for charity and helping out, especially during the Christmas season, but this was their business profits at stake!


However, the ‘problem’ was immediately solved for all when Chet said with slumped shoulders, “Never mind, it wasn’t such a great idea anyway.”


“He can say that again,” the younger paramedic mumbled under his breath within earshot of his partner.


Roy shook his head slightly. That was strike two for the day. Would they stop at three?





Shortly after roll call had been completed and the crew of A-shift dispersed for chores, the paramedics were wiping down their squad with dust rags. The cosmetic upkeep of the emergency vehicles was both theirs and the engine crew’s responsibility, each for their respective truck. However for now the others were busy at the hose rack behind the station.


Roy rolled his eyes when Gage began to whistle ‘Oh Christmas Tree’. Whether it was just on John’s mind due to their earlier conversation or if he was trying to sublimely influence him, Roy couldn’t be sure. He did his best to ignore the tune, since the last thing his partner needed was encouragement.


He glanced toward the rear open bay doors, wondering if Mike and Marco were dealing with anything similar from Chet.




“C’mon, Marco,” Kelly pleaded atop the hose tower with the other . “Surely your mom would like a fresh cut real tree in the house for Christmas.”


He shook his head. “It’s just too much work, Chet. She’s more concerned about easy over authentic.”


“Well, what about your Aunt Rosita? Or your cousins, your brother or sisters? Surely one out of a couple of dozen would want a real tree.”


“You are so right, Chet. At least eight do.”


A smile spread across Kelly’s face.


“There you have it then. We should be able to get half of ‘em as customers.”


Marco shook his head. “They are all under the age of twelve. They can’t make that kind of a decision.”


A pained expression replaced the smile. Chet glanced down at Mike below, his eyebrows raised in question.


The engineer had heard their conversation, so he knew exactly why he was the new focus of attention. Never one for a lot of words, he gave an answer that left Chet nothing to bargain for.







Before they could finish their work on the squad, the paramedics were dispatched out on a call for ‘difficulty breathing’.


“Over there,” John directed as he pointed to a one-story brick house on the right side of the street.


Roy pulled the squad into the concrete covered driveway of the home. As soon as they were parked, the two men quickly climbed out. 




Once in the livingroom, Gage and DeSoto assessed the condition of the female victim in her mid-fifties.


She'd  been preparing breakfast omelets, using red peppers as part of the ingredients, when she apparently had an allergic reaction of sorts to the product released into the air by the cooked vegetable. Her husband had immediately gotten her outside and her symptoms had diminished with being in the fresh air while they'd waited for the paramedics to arrive. But since she was still in her pajamas and bathrobe, she'd insisted they go back inside so that the neighbors wouldn't see her in her usually private attire when the firemen got there and the commotion started.


Roy was kneeled in front of her while she sat resting on the couch, John beside her. The door to the nearby kitchen was closed, keeping all but the aroma of peppers contained to the one room with windows now open to air it out.


“I couldn’t believe it,” the husband stated for a third time since they’d arrived. “I mean, there she was just humming away while she fixed breakfast and then all of a sudden the humming stopped and she was struggling to breathe.”


“Have you had this kind of a reaction to cooking peppers before?” Gage wondered.


“No,” the husband answered as his wife shook her head ‘no’. “But this is the first time she’s ever cooked them,” he went on to explain. “We were trying something new. That’s why we figured it had to be the peppers that caused this.”


“I guess next time you’ll have to go with onions or somethin’,” John offered.


“Peppers are definitely off my next grocery list,” she assured in a slightly hoarse voice.


Roy had relayed her now stable vitals to Rampart. Once they determined she should be fine, the paramedics packed up their gear.


“Now, if she seems to have any complications later, you should get her to your family doctor,” he explained.


“You also may want to. . .uhm . .treat yourselves to a breakfast out,” John said with a slight crooked grin.


“Thank you. We will. We sure will.”


As the husband showed them to the front door in the entry way off the livingroom, a calico cat shot out from underneath the Christmas tree that was in front of a large picture window. The cat had a round silver ornament, which it held by the hook used for hanging the object, dangling from its mouth. It ran past them, obviously in an effort to escape with the 'goods'.


“Damn cat just won't quit pulling the ornaments off the tree,” the man explained as he started in the direction the feline took. “I'd see you out but if I don't get it from him, we're gonna find ourselves at the vet next if he gets that hook caught in his mouth!”


The paramedics certainly understood. Roy was just glad he had a dog at home and didn't have the same problem. 




“So, did you notice somethin’ about their tree?” John asked as he and Roy headed back to the station. He was seated on the passenger side of the squad cab, turned somewhat to face the other.


“You mean like the bottom half was severely lacking in decorations?”


Gage rolled his eyes, then sighed in exasperation.


“No, Roy. No, that’s not what I meant at all.” He ignored the playful grin on his partner’s face as he continued with, “The tree was real. It was a real__ live__ tree.”


Well, it was obvious that the younger man wasn’t going to give up. Roy decided maybe at least hearing him out more would be enough to solve it for both of them. Either he’d end up with a tree or Johnny would finally get that it just wasn’t going to happen.


“How much would me purchasing a tree from you and Chet help?”


John anxiously shifted in his seat at the prospect of finally having broken through.


“By fifteen dollars. Each tree costs us five bucks. . .then we make a ten dollar profit to pay for the next tree, plus extra income to split between us. Not to mention that if you buy a tree from us an’ word gets around the fire department, more guys might just follow suit.”


He sat back with a smug grin, certain he’d made his case.


Roy gave the deal thought.

“Sorry. It’s just not worth the rift it would cause with Joanne.”


Gage just shook his head in wonder and disappointment as he turned to look out the passenger window. Try as he might, he just wasn’t going to win on the subject.


At least not with Roy. . .


The younger man turned to face his partner again.


“Hey, whataya say we go to Rampart.”


Roy glanced at him.


“What for?”


“Oh, I don’ know,” he shrugged. “Just to see how things are goin’ over there.”


“You’re not going to corner anyone into buying a tree, are you?”


“No. No, of course not. But if they happen to be interested, I’m certainly not gonna turn ‘um down.”








Back at the station, John’s business partner was still trying for sales, now reaching out beyond his ‘home away from home’.


“Ah, c’mon. I thought surely you of all people would be interested in helping out a couple of fellow fire fighters.


“Yeah, I understand.


“Nope. No hard feelings. Bye.”


Chet placed the receiver of the phone back in it’s cradle and leaned with both elbow’s on the desk that was near the captain’s bed in the dorm room.


He glanced down at a list of names he had made, other firemen he knew, hoping some could be contenders for needing a real Christmas tree. However, so far he’d called four out of fourteen and hadn’t had any luck yet.


“I guess Johnny and I just may have to keep relying on strangers to keep the business going.”


He sighed, the lifted the telephone receiver again and started to dial the next number on his list.





“You want to get a cup of coffee while we’re here?” Roy asked as he parked the squad a few spots down from the emergency doors at Rampart.  They’d need to leave the closer parking spots open for any ambulances and rescue squads that arrived with patients.


“Sure! At least then no one’ll ask us why we’re here.”


Roy rolled his eyes. He was still questioning their being there. Why wouldn’t anybody else? “Don’t bet on it,” he offered.





The staff members at Rampart were all busy with patients when the paramedics walked in, which was a definite indication of how things were going for them – busy!


“Well, I guess we got our answer,” Roy said as he poured coffee from a pot near the base station into a styrofoam cup.




He looked sharply at his questioning partner. “We came here to see how it was over here. Now we know.”


“Oh. Yeah. I guess so,” Gage replied, glancing around distractedly.   


Roy had his gaze on the cup in his hand again to make sure he didn’t over fill it. When he turned to hand it to John, the dark-haired paramedic was headed across the corridor.


“Hey, what about--”


But DeSoto cut himself off when he saw the other stop to talk to one of the young nurses who’d been walking by.


Figures. Well, at least this way his mind is off the trees.


Roy leaned against the back counter and sipped the hot beverage.





After making the final unsuccessful call from his list, Chet sat back in the chair and sighed once again.


“Doesn’t anyone in the fire department use real trees for Christmas anymore?”


Perhaps being more aware of the potential dangers with them and the extra work it took to keep them safe was the reason, he surmised.


It certainly made sense.


He crumpled up the list and tossed it into the small trash can beside the desk.





When John returned to the base station area with a frown, Roy asked, “She turned you down, huh?”


Gage nodded. “Yeah, she did.”


“Well, if I know you, you won’t stop there. I’m sure you’ll have a date with her after we come by about five more times.”


“A date?  Roy, I wasn’t asking her out on a date. It wasn’t a date I was asking about at all. Actually, we’ve already been out on one and we have absolutely nothin’ in common.”


“Don’t tell me you--”


“Asked her about buyin’ a Christmas tree? Sure,” he shrugged. “I figured she told me she loves this time of year more than any other. She really goes for the decoratin’ and all. . .so why not get a real tree?”


“But. . .?”


“She’s very much into the commercialism of it all. That’s why she loves this time of year so much. Her tree? Fake and silver. After she said ‘no’, she even handed me this.”


He held out a long narrow  piece of paper. Roy took it from him with his free hand and glanced over it.


“A wish list?”


Gage gave a nod.


“She said if I wanna spend any of my extra money in the spirit of Christmas giving, I should keep her in mind.”


Roy handed it back.


“Well, the coffee’s free, no strings attached. Still want a cup?”


“Nah. Let’s go. We’ll be back later anyway.”


The two left, just in time to be dispatched out on a call for a ‘man down’ not very far away.







As they pulled up to the address of the emergency, John noticed a row of bushes in front of the house were decorated with outdoor Christmas lights. His eyebrows rose when he got an idea. But he immediately shoved it away, his mind completely back on the situation waiting for them.


“This way!” a lady in her early twenties called from a redwood gate not far from the left corner of the house. “He’s in the back yard!”


The paramedics grabbed the gear they figured they’d need, then trotted toward the obviously distraught woman.


“Please hurry! He’s really hurting!”


The two men followed behind her. She led them to a man also in his twenties who was laid out on the flagstone patio a few feet away from an in-ground pool surrounded by a cement walkway. A six-foot ladder was on its side not far from where the victim was.


“Greg was putting Christmas lights up on the roof edge when he stretched too far to the side. He lost his balance and the ladder tipped. They both slammed to the ground!” She frantically explained. “Oh please, don’t let him be paralyzed!”


Gage set down the equipment he’d been carrying and guided her over to a lawn chair while Roy immediately put down his load as well, then immediately assessed the patient.


“My back,” the man groaned. “My back. . .hurts. . .”


“Is that what you landed on?” Roy asked.


With the lady calmed down somewhat and seated, John joined them as Greg answered, “Yeah. . .kinda. . .kinda on . . .my . . .right side. ..hurts. . .ta. . .breathe. . .” he panted.


While DeSoto checked his vitals, Gage palpated his right side to check for tenderness. The pained reaction and gasp he got in return told him what he needed to know. He quickly set up the biophone and contacted Rampart. Not busy with another case at the moment, Docotr Brackett answered.


“Go ahead, 51.”


The dark-haired paramedic relayed the information to him, including the vitals his partner had gathered. Soon they were placing Greg in an ambulance, a backboard as a precaution supporting him on the stretcher. His wife Lulu would follow a distance behind the ambulance and squad.


As he pulled away immediately after the ambulance, John took another quick glance at the not-at-the-moment-illuminated colored light bulbs on the bushes. 






After he met up with Roy at Rampart, Gage shared his earlier thoughts.


“I got an idea how Joanne might just go for a real tree.”


“Will you let me decide what my wife will and won’t go for?”


“Just hear me out, Roy. That’s all I ask. Hear me out.”


“Okay. I’m listening.”


“I saw the bushes and I thought. . .of course! That’s it! Why not an outdoor tree?”


“An out door. . .?”


“Tree,” John finished for him.


“We already have the hedges lit up at night.”


“Ah, Roy. . .man, just think about it. A tree would add so much  dimension.”


Roy shook his head. “It’d also add more work.”


“But what better way to cap off your outdoor Christmas lights than a special tree?”


“I don’t need to cap anything off. I’m done.”




“I’m done,” Roy firmly stated. The last thing he wanted to do was buy more lights and run another extension cord out to a tree.


“Fine,” Gage said as he waved off the idea with his right hand. “No hard feelings.”


Both men completely moved off the conversation when Dixie joined them.


“Sounds like you two are having quite a disagreement,” she said as she walked behind the desk. ”Anything I can do to help?”


“You’re going to regret that offer,” DeSoto teased.


As a matter of fact,” Gage said, ignoring the other’s comment. “There is. There is somethin’ you can do. . .I mean if ya really want to,” he added with a glance at his partner. “After all, I don’t wanna force anyone. . .” He took another quick look at Roy, then returned his attention to the nurse.


“Well?” she wondered.


“You know how Chet an’ I have a Chrisrmas tree lot on the side. For extra income.”


“Of course. How’s that going?”


“Great. It’s goin’ great in general. But Chet and I decided to see if we could get a few fellow fire fighters to help us out with sales. Like give us a little extra business.”


Dixie gave Roy a knowing look before responding, “And I take it some of them aren’t showing any interest.” She winked at the senior paramedic.


“Actually none so far it seems. Unless Chet’s havin’ better luck.”


“Well, maybe it’s just the year of the artificial tree.”


“Maybe,” Gage conceded. “I don’t suppose you’d be interested in a real live tree. . .?”


She shook her head. “Sorry, but this is the year of the artificial tree for me, too. I got a pretty white one for a great price the day after Thanksgiving. It’s so much easier.”


“Cheer up,” Roy said to his frowning partner. “You said business has been good. So it’s not like you and Chet aren’t making money.”


“I know. I just figured we’d make a killin’—oh nevermind.”


He was just going to have to let the idea go. . .and hope Chet had some success.





Though they hadn’t had any luck convincing the fellow fire fighters they’d been in contact with to give them business, Chet and John were pleasantly surprised when some familiar faces from various stations in the area showed up at their sales lot to select a tree. The business that consisted of a five-foot high wooden fence with a gate of the same material surrounding a large group of  pine trees was at the moment what some would call 'booming'.


As it turned out, some not interested themselves had let others know where they and their families could go to buy a real one plus support a couple of fire fighters in the process.


Between the referrals and the civilians who came along on their own, Gage and Kelly were quite busy on their day off and at their second source of income. Even Dixie and some of the other hospital staff had referred a couple of friends.


“This is great, man,” Gage said as they counted up their earnings at the end of the day. Business had definitely picked up even more with it being closer to Christmas.


“If this keeps up tomorrow, we’re gonna need to buy more trees already.”


“Yeah, no kiddin’.”


The two looked at one another, then grinned before John gave his tree-partner a pat on the back.





Just as they had figured, at the end of the following day, the two tree salesmen placed an order for two dozen new trees. They arranged to have them delivered the next morning prior to being on duty. That meant it was going to be a very early start to the day.


“I’ll be there to open the gate,” Chet offered.


“Good deal. I’ll come by soon after so we can get the trees into their stands with water.”


With the plan in place, they closed up the outdoor shop, their earnings split between the two for safe keeping since neither totally trusted the other not to spend some. 




The following day, the men from A-shift were back on duty. The morning had gone perfectly as planned for Chet and John. Satisfied, the two were without concern about their small business. In another twenty-four to thirty hours, they would be back at their off-duty extra-money-making endeavor. 




“I’m tellin’ ya, Roy,” John said as he and his partner put clean sheets on their beds, which were beside each other in a cubicle in the dorm room. “This has been the best idea Chet and I ever had together. It’s been incredible. Just incredible! Now that it’s getting so close to Christmas, the dough just keeps rolling in.”


“Maybe you two should’ve had someone run the shop while you’re on duty today. Aren’t you worried about the potential sales you’re going to miss out on?”


Gage shook his head. “Nah, let some of the other shops have a day without our competition.”


“That’s very generous of you.”


“’Tis the season,” he said with a smile and a shrug.


Roy eyed the younger man as he shook his pillow into a linen case. “Aren’t you afraid that people are going to recommend those other places to people they know?”


“It’s only for a day, Roy. We’re only closed for a day. The sign on the gate says so. They’ll know.” He noticed the doubt on the other’s face. “It’ll be fine,” he assured.


However, DeSoto’s words did give Gage thought about the matter. It wasn’t much later when he addressed the points with Chet while the two were in the apparatus bay.


“So whatta ya think? Roy has a point? Maybe your sister could open it up for a few hours today?”


“I can call her and see. But what I really think is that you’re worrying too much.”


The paramedic followed behind Chet as the latter went into the dorm room to use the phone there. A few minutes later both men had to face that the original plan would stay in place. Chet’s sister hadn’t answered their call.


“It’ll be fine,” he assured.


Well, that’s what I told Roy, John thought to himself.




Later in the day, after a not so busy morning with rescues, the men of Station 51 were gathered around the table in the dayroom eating lunch when the klaxons sounded. The crew stopped in mid-chew as they listened to the voice from dispatch over the loud speaker.


“Station 51, man down, 212 West Citrus Street, two one two West Citrus Street, cross street Darden Avenue, time out 13:25.”


“Two twelve West Citrus Street? That’s our place!” Chet exclaimed as he and Gage rushed into the apparatus bay with the rest of their shiftmates slightly behind.


“I know! Man, I have a bad feelin’ about this. . .”


Once in the trucks, they headed out, the squad in the lead.


“Hey, Roy, remember that conversation we had this morning?” John asked from the passenger seat.




“I’m worried.”


The senior paramedic took a quick glance at him. Now probably wasn’t the time to admit it, but he was as well. 





As they pulled up to the scene, the men could not believe what they were seeing, each for his own reason.


From what his partner had told him, Roy had expected to see a full stock of trees, their tops showing from behind a secured gate and wood fencing that surrounded the small lot.  


Marco thought there’d be a secured gate.


The others had similar expectations.


Chet and John knew there’d been all of the above, had being the key word. But what they were looking at was an open gate, the chain that was utilized to secure it shut with a padlock dangling open, the lock itself still closed. Someone had cut the chain.


More importantly, and even more shocking, was the fact that more than half the trees they’d had early in the morning were obviously now gone with a lot less tree tops visible!


A small crowd, a couple of individuals still holding onto trees among it, was gathered outside of the business between the open gate and a police squad car. The group was peering into the entrance.


One man broke away from the others and ran toward the newly arrived rescue vehicles as the firemen and paramedics scrambled out.


“There’s a man on the ground in there having a heart attack or something!” He called out. “The policemen told me to get you as soon as you got here! They’re with him now!”


There was no time to even think about anything else. The six firemen jumped into action, the job at hand much more important than what else had taken place. There would be time to deal with that later.


With the engine crew assisting to carry in the equipment likely needed by the paramedics, five of the men hurried inside the fenced area while Mike Stoker stayed with the engine. He’d be in contact with the captain via a handie talkie if necessary.




“How’s he doin’?” Gage asked as he and Roy, along with the others, set the equipment down nearby. The two paramedics kneeled beside the victim and officers.


“He’s complaining of chest pains and a pain in his shoulders, difficulty breathing and a heaviness on his chest. Skin is cold and clammy.”


Roy immediately got the victim on six liters of oxygen, while John worked to hook him up to the EKG monitor so that they could contact Rampart and relay the information. Within a very brief time, Roy had the biophone in use and was on the line with Doctor Early at Rampart General.




Since the ambulance was requested at the same time the fire department was, it wasn’t long before Roy was on his way to the hospital with the victim, John took a few minutes to survey the damage with the others.


They’d decided not to press charges on the tree thieves that had inadvertently hung around with the medical crisis in play. Those two people had agreed to pay for their goods and give descriptions of others involved to the police, though with as vague as they were, it was doubtful anyone would be caught. The characteristics supplied could be applied to a fair percentage of residents around Carson and the Los Angeles area.


“Apparently some of your other thieves were honest,” the captain said as he handed Gage a few five dollar bills. “They left you guys some money for the trees.”


He eyed the green cash as Chet joined them.


“It’s somethin’, but not enough to cover our losses.”


Chet sighed. “I guess stockin’ up ahead of time was a bad idea.”


The paramedic nodded in agreement. “But where’s the Christmas spirit? I mean, really, who steals Christmas trees?”


Marco had also joined them and pointed to the two would-be thieves still talking to the police.


“That wasn’t a question requiring an answer,” John deadpanned. He headed for the squad while Chet remained with the rest of the engine crew to cover matters further with the police officers. The two firemen-turned-businessmen would have to discuss any plans for their tree endeavor back at the station. 




The following morning, John sat at the table in the kitchen area of Station 51, reading the newspaper that had just been delivered. The incident at their business was front page news due to it being Christmas related and close to the holiday.


“So whatawe do?” Chet wondered.


They’d given it thought the day before but neither was sure their hearts. . .more than that,  wallets. . . were still in the venture.


He set the paper down with a sigh. “I dunno, Chet.”


Seated across from him, Roy reached over and pulled the paper in his direction. A brief scowl from Gage had him explaining, “For the ads. There’s supposed to be a big sale today at Teter Toys.”


The younger man managed a snicker. “Glad someone can still have a sale today.”


“We still have trees,” Chet reminded him. “I say as soon as we’re off, we get changed and go right back to it; get whatever we can out of it.”


“May as well. The trees aren’t gonna sell themselves. . .”


Mike, Marco and the others exchanged amused glances, realizing the irony of Gage’s comment. After all, a few of the missing Christmas trees actually had done just that.




Later in the day, Roy was surprised to greet a very gleeful John Gage at his front door. The dark-haired paramedic was even whistling the tune ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’.


“Well,” John said, abruptly ending his holiday tune when the door was fully open. “Good afternoon!”


“Afternoon,” the other replied, a bit baffled. As he let the other in, Roy gave a curious look. “You sure are in a good mood.”


The visitor turned to face him. “A great mood. This is a great mood ya see!”


“Sales must’ve gone well?”


Gage giggled. “Man, is that an understatement.”


“But you’re still behind,” Roy more stated than questioned as he motioned for John to take a seat on the couch in the livingroom, the artificial Christmas tree on display in front of a window not far from the furniture piece. He hid the displeasure on his face when his guest took his favorite easy chair instead.


Roy sat on the couch as his partner explained, “A little. But that’s not what’s so great.” When he saw his one-man audience cock an eyebrow in confusion, he offered, “We’re out! We’re outta the business!”


DeSoto’s eyes widened. “You walked away? Just like that?”


“No, no, no. We didn’t walk away. We didn’t walk away at all.” With a sly grin, he quickly explained, “Roy, we sold it.”


Sold it?”


“That’s what I said. Sold it.” John shifted slightly in the chair. “It just so happens being a front page news story is a pretty good deal. This guy read about what happened and came by to see us; talk to me and Chet about taking over our business so we wouldn’t have to worry about it happenin’ again. A rich guy, too.”


Roy furrowed his brow in puzzlement, “Why would a rich guy. . .any guy. . .want to invest in Christmas trees this late in the season? There’s not much time to make a good profit.”


Gage sighed in exasperation. “Roy,” he groaned, “You’re missin’ the point. He’s rich. He isn’t worried about money. He read about the break-in, us bein’ firemen and in the true spirit of Christmas wanted to help us out. . .literally. . . outta the goodness of his heart. . .and wallet,” he added with a crooked smile. “We’re gonna make a rather substantial profit once the deal’s complete. Betcha wish you were in the business with us now.”


Roy had to admit he sort of did. Except when he reminded himself of the headache involved in getting to the point his friends were at, overall he would still rather be uninvolved and with less money.


“By the way,” John continued. “Get this. His name’s Chester Pine. By coincidence, the very name of the trees we were sellin’. What're the odds of that? Pretty miraculous, huh?”


Fitting, but still pretty astounding. . .He thought to himself, with a nod for the benefit of his friend. Then he had another thought, this one for Gage to hear.


“You know, you should give him some business. Maybe buy a real tree for your apartment. Or you could put it in the front yard of your apartment building, if your landlady is okay with the idea.”


John rolled his eyes at the comments, then wore a pained, sour expression as Roy continued on.


“You know, add to the decorations she already has up. After all nothing beats the real deal, you know. Why I’ve heard. . . ” 


As his partner went on with his playful rant, Gage thought to himself, Turn about may be fair play, but it sure is annoying. No wonder I couldn’t talk Roy into buying a tree. Sheesh!





This story was inspired by the thought of a man named Chester Pine selling Christmas trees. However, I don't know of any who do.  :o)  The incident with cooking peppers was based on something that actually happened to a friend of mine.



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