The Bugler

By Audrey W.  



February 13th 197?


John Gage placed the receiver of the telephone back in its cradle and clasped his hands together, making a swinging motion away from the wall, as if he just batted a ball. A victorious smile on his face, he looked to his shiftmates sitting at the table, their nearly full lunch dishes still in front of them.


“Good news?” Chet Kelly asked, sarcastically.


The dark-haired paramedic waggled his eyebrows. “More than just good news. Great news! She said ‘yes’!” He quickly returned to his seat at the table, his smile wider. Even the fried chicken looked tastier than before the phone call. “She said ‘yes’!” he repeated.


“So she asked you out?”


“No, Chet. I asked her out yesterday. But she needed to make sure she wasn’t going to have to work. Sometimes she has to put in extra time at the bowling alley on short notice when it’s a holiday, ya know?”


“Ah. . .right.”


“Ah right,” Gage mimicked. “You’re just jealous because you don’t have a date for Valentines Day.”


“Sure I do!” Chet shot back. “Remember that nurse you struck out with? Marilyn--”


Johnny tried to hide his hurt look from the others as he interrupted, “No way’re you going out with her.”


“No, but I’m goin’ out with her cousin.”


“It’s true,” Marco supported. “I was there when he asked her out and she immediately handed him the number to her cousin."


Johnny snorted, the relief evident on his face. “Now that I can believe.”


“So what are you and Hillarygoing to do?” Roy asked.


“Go on a picnic. . .in a nice quiet secluded area,” he beamed.


Roy raised his eyebrows in doubt. “You sure you wanna be by yourself with her? I mean. . .well,” he shrugged. “You know your track record with dates. . .”


“What’re ya sayin’?”


“Nothin’. Just that you had your share of. . .” Roy paused a moment as he carefully chose his words. However Chet filled in the blank before he had a chance.




Johnny shot a scowl at him, then returned his attention to Roy when the senior paramedic clarified, “That’s not quite what I was going to say.”


“Well, I certainly hope not! None of the chicks I’ve dated have been ‘nuts’,” he defended as he gave another disapproving look toward Chet.  The curly-haired fireman rolled his eyes. He could name at least a couple of girls Gage dated whose ‘normalcy’ could be questioned.


“So how well do you know Hillary?” Roy wondered. “I mean really know her? You’ve never been out with her before, right?”


“Roy, I didn’t have to go out with her. I’ve talked to her so many times at the snack counter, I know damn near everything there is to know about Hillary. She’s an only child, her parents have been married twenty-four years; the three must be a happy family ‘cause she was smilin’ when she mentioned ‘em,” he shrugged. “She doesn’t have any kids, has never been married, lives in her own house, owns a parrot named Petey and loves the outdoors. What else could there be?”


“Has she ever had to see a psychiatrist?” Mike Stoker wondered.


Captain Stanley smiled at the comment and shook his head. But he remained a spectator of the conversation. He just hoped his youngest crew member wasn’t getting himself into a situation he’d regret later. A first date in a secluded area could be great or it could be miserable, with no way to end it soon enough.


In the meantime Johnny addressed Mike’s question, his face screwed up in annoyance.  “No, man.”


“You know that for sure?” Chet asked.


“Well, no.. .I mean, yeah. . .I mean. . .oh for pete’s sake!”


“Don’tcha mean for ‘Petey’s’ sake?”


This time Johnny rolled his eyes at Chet’s comment, then sighed audibly as he rubbed at his forehead with his right hand. “Look, guys, I scoped her out. She’s normal.” He eyed the doubtful expressions on the faces around him. “She’s normal,” he firmly repeated.





February 14th


Johnny and Hillary carefully made their way down a path on a sandy hillside as they headed to the special place the paramedic had selected for their picnic. The couple had driven miles to a spot near the ocean where vehicles could be parked in a small lot, allowing for occupants to get out and see a wondrous view of the water below and go down onto the beach with minimal effort.


Though it was a popular place for people to go to, Johnny knew that if he and his date walked down the beach far enough, they’d be alone, except for possibly a few stragglers. It was his favorite place to come when he wanted some time to himself to just take in the natural wonder of the ocean and forget about everything else.


The paramedic held Hillary’s right hand in his left, the handle to a medium sized-cooler containing a lunch she’d packed in his other. He smiled at the tall thin brunette. Her shoulder length hair blowing slightly in the cool breeze and her delicate features made her appear almost angelic. Not even the fact that she was dressed casually in denim jeans with a plain red long-sleeved shirt could take away from her beautiful appearance.


This is gonna be great, he thought to himself. Just us, the ocean. Seagulls. . .and luckily no chance of being invaded by ants.


The only thing he wasn’t thrilled about was the oversized bright pink blanket Hillary had brought along and now carried rolled up in the crook of her right arm.


Man, a helicopter flying over could spot us from a mile out!


But that was a minor issue. The important thing was that he was on the date of his dreams and it was Valentines Day, which made it all that much more special.


Suddenly it felt like his heart skipped a beat when he thought he saw Marco Lopez off in the distance walking hand-in-hand along the beach with a young lady. But he relaxed when they got close enough to see it wasn’t Marco after all.


Man, I sure don’t need any of those guys hangin’ out here too. . .


“How far do we need to go?” Hillary wondered, bringing him out of his thoughts.


“Just down the beach a ways. . .it’s not too far.”


“Oh good!”


He was just anxious to see what they were having for lunch. All she’d tell him so far was that it was going to be fun.


Fun?. . .what kind of food is fun?


The two looked to the ocean as they made their way across the beach.  


“I love the sound of the waves crashing onto the sand,” Hillary stated. “It’s so relaxing. And so romantic,” she added with a smile up at him.


Johnny returned the smile.


This is gonna be the best Valentines Day ever. . .


They had just passed two other couples that were strolling along barefoot in the sand when Hillary suddenly stopped and kicked off her canvas slip-ons.


“Oh, it feels so good between the toes!” she said with glee, wiggling her feet. “I need to get out to the beach more often. I can’t wait to go wading.”


Her hand free from Johnny’s, she stepped over and picked up her shoes and tucked them in with the blanket.


“Well, we’ll just have to see that you do,” the paramedic offered. “Get to the ocean more, that is.”


There. . .I set us up for another date. . .sorta. . .this is great, man, just great. . .


All smiles, Hillary placed her hand back in his and the couple continued on until they reached their destination. Johnny was very relieved to see that they were indeed alone. He took the blanket  from his date and laid it out on the ground as she trotted out toward the waves, her pant legs rolled up a couple of inches above her ankles. The dark-haired man watched with a warm smile as she splashed her feet in the shallow water before it receded.


“C’mon, Johnny!” she called out from where she waited for the next set of rolling waves. “It’s chilly, but it’s wonderful!”


“I’m coming!” He took off his shoes and ran to her after laying the footwear beside the blanket and rolling up his own pant legs as much as he could.


They ran from the cold waves as the water came in, then stopped just to let the edge catch their feet. Hillary giggled with delight as they picked up shells from the wet sand and found one with something still alive inside.


After playing around on the beach for awhile, the two settled down on the blanket and as Johnny leaned to one side, his right arm bracing him up, Hillary took out the food and drink items one by one.


“I hope you like Denton’s Farm Strawberry wine,” she stated as she pulled out the bottle and two glasses.


He didn’t want to insult her by telling her he’d prefer a beer. After all, to him drinking Denton’s Farm wine was as bad as being caught on a pink blanket. It was more like Kool-Aid than wine. But this was the first real date. . .there’d be time later to get that straightened out.


I guess I don’t know *everything* about her. . .but certainly the important stuff!


She pulled out their sandwiches and handed him his. Roast beef on a hamburger bun. Now that was just fine with him.


Once she was done, they had a spread of the wine, sandwiches, potato salad, cone-shaped corn chips called Bugles and a small heart shaped cake with pink icing; none was what Johnny would classify as particularly fun’ food. Now sitting up, he craned his neck to try to see if there was anything else in the cooler from where he sat, but it was to no avail.


After pouring the wine and making a toast to each other, the couple dug into their meal. Johnny took a bite of his sandwich, then looked over at his date only to see Hillary with one Bugle on each of her fingers and thumb of her right hand, like caps.


Johnny gave a small smile, the piece of his sandwich tucked inside the right cheek of his mouth.  He felt a slightly sinking feeling; somehow it seemed a little bit of normalcy had just left.


Without a word, Hillary gave him the most remarkable set of bedroom eyes he’d ever seen, but that wasn’t all he got. The paramedic looked on in disbelief as she slowly ran her tongue up the side of one of the chips, then slowly brought her lips to it and locked them around it, never once taking her eyes off him. He watched with his mouth hanging open as she slowly sucked it in and munched it before doing the same with the next, and the next after that.  


He whimpered inwardly when she pushed her Styrofoam plate of food aside with the other hand and scooted forward, two of the pointed hollowed-out chips still on her ring and little finger.


She gently ran the two points down his left cheek and under his chin as she purred like a kitten.


Johnny paled and let out a brief nervous laugh.





February 15th


“So, how’d the date go?” Roy wondered as he and Chet came into the locker room where Johnny had just finished getting dressed for the new shift.


“Yeah, Gage, did you send her running down the beach screaming?” Chet teased.


Johnny shook his head. “It was great,” he stated to Roy. Then to Chet, he added, “And no, as a matter of fact I didn’t.”


“I take it you’re gonna see her again?”


Once again he shook his head. “I don’t think so, Roy. She’s. . . uh. . .she’s not exactly my type, ya know?”


The senior paramedic stood baffled. “I thought you said the date was great.”


“I did. We had fun on the beach and it was great.”


“So you’re just gonna let her go?” Chet couldn’t believe it either.


Johnny closed his locker and started out the doorway that led to the dorm room. “That’s right.”


Once he was gone, the two firemen looked in surprise at one another.


“You know,” Chet began. “Maybe we’ve been wrong about Gage’s girlfriends all along. Maybe he’s the one who should be seeing a psychiatrist.”


Roy was still baffled even though he was used to his partner turning the tables on things. He just nodded, then opened his locker as he once again looked to the doorway Johnny had exited through.


I’m not even gonna ask. 




Johnny glanced back at the locker room, relieved he’d gotten that part over with, at least for now. He didn’t want to tell them that once again he'd hooked up with a 'nut', as Chet would say, and that he’d been ready to run down the beach screaming.


So much for checkin’ out a girl ahead of time. . .I do better pickin’ when I don’t know ‘em very well.


He’d have to find a new place to go to when he wanted solitude. And hope Hillary didn’t hold him to his promise of seeing that she got to the beach more often.


And switch bowling alleys . .


Aside from all that, he was certain of one other thing.


I’ll never look at those chips the same way again. . . 




This was inspired by us eating Bugles and I put them on my fingers and jokingly told my daughter, “Can you imagine if. . .” and you know the rest. I could just imagine the look on Johnny’s face. :o)  Bugles are a great product by General Mills and this is in no way intended to reflect otherwise.





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Valentines Day Stories