Can You Really Have Your Cake
and Eat it Too?
By Audrey W.
The siren sounded through the neighborhood as John Gage and Roy DeSoto rushed to the aid of a victim. After a final left turn, Roy brought the squad to a stop along side the street. He and Johnny climbed out, and immediately had the compartments on the squad’s passenger side open, where the majority of the equipment they used was stored.
“Please hurry!” A woman cried as she ran toward them. “There’s so much blood!”
“What happened?” Johnny asked as she reached the paramedics. They’d been dispatched out for an injured child, but that was all they knew so far.
“It’s my son Greg! He tried to set off a fire cracker in a can and it blew up before he got his hand out! Oh my God, there’s just blood everywhere on him.”
In seconds they were trotting along side her as they hurried around to the back yard, where the youth was being watched over by his friends.
“How old is he?” Roy wondered.
It wasn’t a surprise that Greg was ready to pass out by the time the paramedics got to him. Not from the loss of blood, but rather from the shock he was in.
The teen was fortunate that none of his fingers had been completely blown off. But three of them, along with his thumb, were mangled near the tips and would certainly need surgery. Shrapnel from a portion of the old can had also caught him on the arms, face and neck, mostly leaving a peppered effect.
It wasn’t long before Greg was on his way to Rampart General Hospital in an ambulance, Roy along to monitor his condition until doctors took over the care.
Johnny followed close behind in the squad.
Once they were no longer needed by Doctor Brackett, the paramedics exited the treatment room Greg had been taken to. They were met by his mother and father, who’d come from work, in the corridor.
“How is he?” The dad asked, his gaze more on the door than the men he was addressing.
“That I have doubts about,” the dad said before Roy could say more. “Any kid that sticks an explosive inside a container. . .”
“Max! That’s not fair!”
The man glanced at his wife. “Really? The kid put his hand inside a can with an explosive. . .he keeps up with stupid stunts like this, and he'll be lucky to make it to his sixteenth birthday.”
Johnny and Roy exchanged glances. They'd heard similar comments from other parents over their years in the fire department. Roy let the parents know their son would be taken up to surgery soon and that they would be called into the treatment room with him soon prior to that. He hoped the dad would soften on his words in front of the teen, at least for now.
As they returned to Station 51 in their squad, Roy took a quick glace at Johnny before returning his attention to the street ahead.
“Speaking of birthdays.”
Johnny turned his head sharply in the other’s direction. “We weren’t just talkin’ about birthdays.”
“No, but I figured since Greg’s dad mentioned the word, I could use it as a conversation starter.”
“Lemme guess. You’re gonna ask about the cake again.”
Roy again glanced over from the driver’s side and nodded. “Have you decided?”
He’d been waiting since the beginning of their shift about thre hours earlier, when he’d brought up an idea concerning his partners in life. . .both the one he married and the one on the job.
His wife Joanne was just getting into the cake decorating hobby, with hopes of maybe someday turning it into a paying job. But for now she needed practice. . .lots of practice. . .and with Johnny’s birthday about three days away, it seemed the perfect opportunity for Joanne to get a chance at some of that practice.
“I dunno, Roy. I mean. . .well. . .what if she makes it an’ I don’t like it? Will I ruin her career before it even gets started?”
“Just pretend you like it. That’s easy enough to do.”
“It’s free food.”
Johnny gave it thought. It was going to be free. He couldn’t beat that. But still, somehow it didn’t seem like such a good idea. It always seemed that when a friend did a favor for a friend, it always resulted in a disagreement somewhere along the way. He’d been in a disagreement before with Roy when the subject was Joanne and her cooking, and it wasn’t fun.
Not at all. . .
“How come she can’t practice on your birthday cake instead of mine?”
“My birthday’s in November, remember? That’s three months away.”
“Do I get to pick the flavor?”
Roy sighed. Give him an inch, and Gage was going to take a mile.
“Okay,” Roy said as he placed the receiver of the phone back in its cradle and turned to face Johnny at the other end of the room. He had used the pay telephone in the station’s break room to call his wife and give her an update on the idea of baking Johnny a birthday cake. “She said she has three different flavors of mixes in the house. White, marble and chocolate, so you’d need to pick from one of those. She can make what ever kind of icing you want.”
“That’s a good assortment.”
“Yeah, it is.”
Johnny chewed his lower lip. “Man, this isn’t gonna be easy.”
“Just don’t take too long --”
He was cut off by the sound of the klaxons. They were being dispatched out on a run for a ‘man down’.
The paramedics had just gotten to the front door of the home at the address they’d been sent to, when it opened and another anxious woman was soon leading them through the house to the back yard patio.
“He tripped over his own shoe,” she explained as they reached the back door. “Hit his head on the picnic bench on the way down. Knocked him out cold.. I tried to make him stay still when he woke up, but he insisted he get off the ground.”
“Is he your husband?” Johnny wondered.
“No, just some clown we rented.”
The answer seemed odd until they were outside in back and saw that she was referring to an actual clown the family had hired for a children’s birthday party. A dozen kids were gathered around the unhappy, woozy clown with a red afro for hair and a red bulbous nose in one of his hands. His own flesh colored nose peeked out from the white makeup that was on the rest of his face. He was seated on the very bench he'd hit, holding an ice pack up to his forehead with his other hand. His pint-sized audience had their gazes locked on him, some in concern and some apparent fear.
Once again, Johnny and Roy weren’t on the scene long before they had the victim ready for transport and on his way to Rampart. After he was in the care of a doctor, the paramedics stopped by the desk near the base station to say hello to their favorite head nurse, Dixie McCall.
“Ya know, I don’t get why anyone would rent a clown for a birthday, ‘specially a kid’s.”
Dixie eyed Johnny with a smile. “Oh, they just want the kids to have a good time. You know most youngsters enjoy the antics of a clown.”
“I don’ know. Seems half the population is afraid of ‘em.”
“Mine like clowns at the circus, but ask them to get near one. . .” Roy shook his head. “Not a chance.”
“So I take it you aren’t renting a clown for your birthday this year,” she teased Gage.
“No. No clowns for me.” He gave a wide lopsided grin. “I am havin’ a cake though. Joanne’s makin’ it for me.”
Dixie eyed Roy. “Your idea or hers?”
“Both. She asked, I said I’d see if he was for it,” he said with a motion of his right hand toward Johnny. “He is, if he ever makes up his mind on what flavor.”
“I got that all figured out, Roy.”
“Marble. I think marble’d be best. That way the people who like yellow cake’ll be happy and the ones who like chocolate will, too.”
“The people? We’re not throwing you a big bash, ya know.”
“I know, I know,” he assured. “But there’s still you, me, Joanne, my date and your kids. The people,” he shrugged.
“He’s got you there,” Dixie commented, a smile still on her face.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“What made Joanne suddenly want to do a birthday cake?”
Roy went on to explain her new interest in cake decorating, and how this was going to be for practice.
“You better hope she doesn’t do too good of a job,” she said to Johnny. “Or you may not want to eat it.”
That remark left him with more to think about, unbeknownst to his partner. Roy just thought it would pass over without anymore being said about it.
Once they returned to the station again, Roy was back on the phone with his wife. He let her know Johnny wanted a marble cake with chocolate icing. After he was done with the call, he joined Gage at the table in the dayroom, each with a cup of coffee.
“You’ve been awfully quiet since we left Rampart.”
“I’ve been thinkin’.”
Roy leaned forward. “About what? Don’t tell me you’ve changed your mind on what kind of cake you want.”
“No. No, I haven’t changed my mind.”
“On the kind of icing?”
Johnny shook his head. “No. It’s not that at all.”
“Then what’s up?”
“It’s what Dix said. What if Joanne does do such a good job that we don’t wanna eat the cake?”
Roy didn’t have an answer. But he had a question of his own, which he kept to himself. He wondered how his wife making one birthday cake could get so complicated.
After the station had responded to a traffic accident, the paramedics found themselves returning from Rampart once more. The ride back allowed for them to talk more about the cake.
“Joanne’s really grateful by the way,” Roy said as he kept his gaze on the traffic in front of them.
Johnny splayed his right hand on his chest. “Hey, I’m grateful. Not just for the cake, but it gave me a good excuse to ask that new nurse Gina out. An’ better yet, she agreed.”
“Yeah, well, you have no idea how important this was to Jo. I mean, this gives her practice before Jennifer’s birthday, too. She wanted to do one with a stage and ballerinas. . .seemed like a big project.”
Johnny jerked his gaze to the side to stare at DeSoto, a panicked expression on his face. . “She’s not gonna put ballerinas on my cake is she?”
Roy realized he’d added another unnecessary worry for Gage with the comment. Of course his wife wouldn’t do ballerinas on a man’s cake. He'd have to convince Johnny of it. Fortunately, it only took a brief time to do so.
Late in the evening, the squad was dispatched out for a woman down. An elderly lady in her mid-seventies had fallen and her neighbor hadn’t found her on the bathroom floor until hours later.
The friend had placed a blanket on her, but the victim was still shivering from being on the cool tile floor in just her light weight night gown. The fact she was also shocky from the fall and injuries she sustained contributed to her outward symptoms. She was also weakened from not having eaten and dehydrated.
“What’s her name?” Roy asked as they set the equipment they’d brought in on the floor nearby. He immediately reached for the oxygen canister and mask.
The paramedics kneeled beside her.
“Can you tell us where you’re hurt, Ellie?” Johnny questioned.
“Leg. . .hip. . .” came a weak reply. "Elbow. . ."
“How long ago did she fall?”
“When I asked her, she just said 'morning',” the lady told Roy. “That's all I could get from her. I feel so terrible. If only I'd known.”
He looked at the victim, whom Johnny was gathering vital signs on. Roy had already started her on six liters of oxygen. She wasn't a frail person, rather just average build with not a lot of excess weight.
Once they had her vital signs, the paramedics worked to assess the possible injuries. They very carefully turned the victim to onto her back so they could gently examine where she was describing pain.
“Just let us do all the work, Ellie,” Roy directed.
Though there would have to be x-rays done to be sure, she'd likely fractured her right hip and maybe chipped her elbow.
Roy contacted Rampart on the biophone.
“It’s okay,” Johnny assured when he saw the frightened look in her eyes. “We’re gonna take good care of ya. We’ve got a doctor on the other end of that line, tellin’ us exactly what to do. He’s the same doctor that’s gonna take care of ya at the hospital.”
After a short time, they had an IV started, her right arm secured and Ellie was ready to be transported. Johnny rode in the ambulance while Roy followed behind in the squad this time.
Doctor Brackett ordered the necessary x-rays once Ellie was in his care. The pictures he received back confirmed what he’d expected, a hairline fracture of her right hip. However, her elbow was just severely bruised. The elderly lady was going to be with them for a few days at least.
After an early morning run for a possible heart attack, the paramedics were back at Rampart to bring the victim in and to refill some of their supplies for the next shift taking over. Dixie McCall had been off duty over night, but had just recently come back on when Johnny and Roy walked up to her desk near the base station.
“Well, good morning,” she greeted. “How was your night?”
“Pretty uneventful,” Roy answered. “But we do need a few supplies.” He handed her the list they’d written down.
“How’s Ellie doing?” Johnny wondered. “Do you know?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” she answered as she grabbed the items they’d requested. “I asked the same question as soon as I got here and I’ve been told she’s doing much better overall. She had a fairly restful night.”
That was good to hear.
“You know, her birthday is the same day as yours, Johnny.”
Dixie nodded as she set the supplies on the desk in a small box. “Her friend Mary didn’t tell you?”
“No, she just gave us Ellie’s age. She never mentioned it was about to change.”
“Oh. Well, she told one of the nurses.” Dixie frowned slightly, then continued with, “Unfortunately, she also told her that Ellie’s going to be spending her special day without family. Her son’s in Yokohama Japan with his wife, visiting their son who’s in the Navy. Apparently his birthday is August twenty-eighth too. So Ellie told them they could celebrate her birthday when they got back the first week of September. I have a feeling they'll be back as soon as they hear what's happened, but she won't let us notify them until that day, when they're supposed to call her anyway.”
Roy picked up the box of supplies when Johnny didn’t. “Too bad she has to spend it in the hospital, too.”
Johnny was lost in thought and didn’t add to Roy’s comment. He wondered if he could get Dixie to overlook a hospital rule just a tiny bit. Chances were he could. But he’d need to have run his idea by someone else first.
“Uh, Roy. . .about that cake Joanne’s gonna make. . .”
As frequently happened between the two, Roy didn’t have to hear anymore to know what his partner was thinking.
Johnny nodded, then turned to Dixie.
“If we get Joanne ta make the cake for Ellie instead, is there a way we could get it up to ‘er? I mean, I know we can’t do a lot, but we could have the cake, invite Mary and a coupla nurses on the floor. . .”
Dixie again was smiling. “I think that’s a wonderful idea.”
“Good deal then.”
“I’ll talk to Jo about it when I get home.”
With all that set, the paramedics said their ‘goodbyes’ to the head nurse and walked toward the exit.
“Hey, Roy,” Johnny said as he shut the passenger side door of the squad.
Roy had just climbed into the driver’s seat. “What?”
“I was thinkin’ about the icing for the cake.”
“I’ll see what Jo says.”
Roy turned the key in the ignition and the men were on their way.
Joanne DeSoto was excited about Ellie’s cake. Not only to make the day special for the older lady, but it would also give her exactly the practice she needed for their daughter Jennifer’s cake in September. Following the directions she’d found in a Redbook Magazine, she baked two round layers for the cake. She then cut one in half, put those two pieces together on top of the other layer. The bottom served as a stage, while the half circle was the backdrop. Light pink icing covered all layers, with a darker pink used for iced on curtains in the background. She then trimmed all the edges of the cake with green icing leaves and red icing roses between them, spaced evenly around. One inch tall ballerina candle holders were the ‘dancers’ on the stage. Ellie wouldn’t be able to have lit candles, but they really weren’t needed anyway.
Joanne had accidentally smudged a couple of leaves and her roses weren’t perfect, but over all she was happy with the creation. It was a big relief since the cake was for someone outside of the family.
Everything went as planned and Ellie had a wonderful birthday in her hospital room. Though on medication for pain, thus not fully alert, she was awake enough to enjoy the thoughtfulness. She’d even gone so far as to declare it one of her best birthdays ever.
Johnny and Roy were off duty and came by to join in on the celebration. Gage wanted it to be Ellie’s day, so he insisted no one let on it was his birthday as well. After all, he’d still get to eat a piece of the cake that would’ve been his.
As they left Rampart and walked toward their vehicles, Roy reminded him, “You know, Joanne could’ve baked you a cake too, if you’d let her. It just wouldn’t have been as fancy.”
“Ah, that’s okay.”
“You want me to stop by a bakery and get one on the way home?”
Johnny looked at him in surprise. “”Man, I didn’t tell ya, did I. . .”
“Didn’t’ tell me what?”
“I’ve got a cake, after all. When I told Gina about the deal with Ellie’s birthday an’ all, she was so impressed, she said she was gonna get me a cake at the bakery, three layers tall! But I told ‘er not to get it decorated. I don’t wanna hurt Joanne’s feeling’s by bringin’ in this big fancy cake, ya know. So anyway, I’m pickin’ up Gina after I leave here, and we’ll bring it with us. And,” he quickly added. “She's even already hinting at a second date!”
Roy just shook his head in wonder. “Now that’s what I call ‘having your cake and eating it too’.”
“You aren’t kiddin’, Roy,” Johnny said with a lopsided grin. “You aren’t kiddin’. . .”
The cake I described was one I remember my sister having as a kid. Our mom made it and who doesn't remember those candle holders? :o)
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