Define ‘Okay’

By Audrey W.





“You all right?”


John Gage remained leaning forward where he and his partner Roy DeSoto sat on the rear bumper of their rescue squad, his gaze fixed on the ground.


“Yeah, I’m okay.”


The tone used sounded certain, but the body language had Roy in doubt.   


He finished unfastening his turnout coat as he took a quick glance at his ill-sounding partner. “Johnny, look at me.”




“Turn your head. Look this way”


Gage slowly complied. He looked wiped out.




Station 51 had been sent out on a response for a fire at a strip mall. Three stores had been lost to the flames. Only two fire fighters were injured on the three alarm blaze, and they’d been treated and transported to the hospital by the paramedics of Squad 36.


Johnny and Roy had been utilized on the hoses, except while pulled off to go into the structure to help rescue one of the fallen fire fighters. 


Now, after three long hours, the fire was out and the mop up afterward was done as far as the crew from Station 51 was concerned. The engine crew from Station 36 would finish the job while the others returned to an available status.





“You guys okay?”


Both Roy and Johnny looked up at their captain from where they sat.


I am,” Roy answered. “I’m not so sure about Johnny here. He had his air mask off a few minutes while we were working to get Hodges out. Hodges’ air supply ran out before we got him freed, so he needed to share with someone else.”


 “I’m fine,” Gage insisted, a slight annoyance and a hint of hoarseness in his voice. “I’ve eaten more smoke than that before.”


“Your voice does sound a little rough,” Captain Stanley observed. “You sure you don’t need to go to Rampart to get checked out?”


Gage shook his head. “I’m jus’ tired is all.” He stood up from the bumper. “I say we head back to the station an’eat. Man, I’m starved, too.”


Hank and Roy exchanged a quick glance as Johnny disappeared from their view, already on his way to the passenger side door of the squad. Roy shrugged in answer to the unspoken question from his captain. Since Johnny insisted he was okay, and by all outward appearances he seemed to be, they’d just have to believe him and hope he was right.




Smelling of sweat and especially smoke, despite having removed their protective turnout gear they’d worn during the fire, the men gathered around the table in the dayroom of Station 51. Johnny and Roy had stopped at a fast food burger place to pick up something for each of the crew members, including sodas in plastic coated paper cups.


“How much do we each owe you?” Hank asked as he took a bite of his cheeseburger, a fry dipped in ketchup in his other hand.


“A dollar sixty-seven,” Johnny said before Roy could offer to round it down to an even dollar fifty.


“You sure it’s not a dollar sixty-eight?” Chet chimed in, taking the chance to tease Johnny about his thrifty tendencies to regain every penny he spent.  


“Or a dollar sixty-nine?” Marco added with a smile.


Gage scowled, then lightened. “Just pay up.”


Mike Stoker set his burger down on his plate, then pulled his wallet from his back pant pocket and opened it. “You have change for two?”


Chet had opened his wallet as well. “I’m just gonna have to owe ya. I’m empty.”


“You mean owe me,” Roy said. He glanced at Johnny, then the others. “He took care of his own, I paid for the rest.”


When he got looks of disbelief from the others, Johnny shrugged. “I was jus’ takin’ care of my partner. That’s what partners do, ya know.”


Though the words weren’t meant to be anymore than a comment in passing, it did give Roy more thought about earlier.


Yeah, that’s what partners did. They took care of each other, sometimes whether they wanted the other one to or not. So how was it he let Johnny wave off his concern after the fire so easily?  Sure, the younger man had proven his point by remaining talkative on the way back to the station. Even more talkative than normal.  He was still carrying on, his bite of burger shoved to the side of his mouth as he jabbered on about the relationship of partners on the job.


Listening to him now, Johnny did still seem to be as okay as he claimed. Sure, the hoarseness in his voice was a little more pronounced. But considering he hadn’t given his voice much of a rest, why wouldn’t it be? He still looked beat, but then weren’t they all?


But Roy couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d missed something. A signal that maybe even Johnny wasn’t picking up on.


But he didn’t get to ponder the situation any further. The klaxon sounded, interrupting both his thoughts and the crews’ dinner.


“Station 51, Engine 18, structure fire, 2355 North Hill Street, two three five five North Hill Street, cross street Applewood Drive, time out 17:08.”


The men scrambled to the apparatus bay, and climbed into their respective vehicles after donning their turnout pants once again. The captain acknowledged the call at the podium just outside the dayroom.


“Station 51, KMG365”.


He handed a slip of paper with the run information to Roy through the open window of the squad, then trotted in front of the smaller truck as he hurried toward the engine.


Soon a somehow re-energized group of men were on their way, lights flashing and sirens blaring.  




Roy brought the squad to a stop in front of the yard of a burning large two-story house. Mike Stoker parked the engine behind the squad.  Engine 18 had arrived just moments before them and was several feet in front of the squad. The captain from that station quickly briefed Captain Stanley on the situation with what little information he had so far as one more engine arrived at the scene.


“We’ve got a woman down over there,” he said as he gestured toward a yard across the street. “A neighbor carried her out as we pulled up to the scene. She took in a lot of smoke, I’d say. I’ve already requested an ambulance.”


“Anyone else inside?”


He shook his head. “The neighbors said she lived alone.”


Captain Stanley then turned to give his paramedics instructions, but having overheard, they were already at the passenger side of the squad and grabbing the supplies they’d need out of the compartments.


Hank then directed his engine crew, while the other captains coordinated a plan of attack with their men as well. The house wasn’t a total loss yet, and the men hoped they could get a handle on the fire.  




Johnny and Roy hurried to the victim laid out on the grass across the street. Aside from the young man who’d rescued her, there were several other people standing nearby, watching the firemen work to put out the flames.


Roy put the oxygen mask on the lady right away, then adjusted the flow. At the same time, Johnny checked her respirations and pulse.  


Roy then set up the biophone to contact Rampart.


“I’ll get her bp,” Gage announced.


The middle-aged woman had been barely conscious when they’d arrived. But now regaining her wits, she struggled to get the mask off her face.


“My. . .moth. . .mother!”


Johnny exchanged a worried glance with Roy, then looked down at the woman.


“Ma’am, was your mother in the house?”


“Yes. . .the house. . .she’s. . .,” she coughed as she tried to sit up. Roy gently held her down.


Johnny glanced around at the various neighbors nearby. “Did anybody see anyone else come out?” He called out as he got to his feet.


He got a bunch of head shakes and no’s in return. The man who’d rescued the woman shook his head. “I didn’t know she was there.”


Johnny then took off in a run toward Captain Stanley.


“Cap! We’ve got another victim inside!”


He didn’t stop for a response, but rather kept on till he reached the squad. There he quickly put on his turnout coat and shrugged on his air tank, the air mask hanging loosely in front of his chest for the moment.


Hank had made his way over to Gage.


“The victim said her mother’s still inside,” Johnny explained.


“Did she say where?”


He shook his head. “Just that she’s in the house. No one seems to’ve seen ‘er.”


Stanley looked at the flames that were putting up a good fight against the water trained on them. Visible in one of the upstairs windows, they had already clearly spread to that floor. A second alarm had been sounded and more support was on the way, including a ladder truck.


“Tie on a safety line and take the HT. I’ll try to find out the last location she was in and pass the information on to you.”


Johnny gave a nod.


As he started toward the house, Hank called out to him, “Make it quick!”


Again, Johnny gave a nod. “Right, Cap!”.


Captain Stanley made his way to where Roy was still with the first victim. 




Just inside the house’s open front door, Gage let two of the firemen know he was going in search for a second victim.  Though his voice was muffled by his air mask, both gave a nod in acknowledgement as they kept hold of the hose. The water stream from it sprayed flames that were trying to consume the livingroom.


Johnny immediately continued on, the rope that served as his lifeline tied to his waist.


As he started toward another room downstairs, the HT in Gage’s coat pocket crackled and Captain Stanley’s voice came over the speaker.


“Ht 51, Engine 51.”


With a flashlight in one hand, Gage grabbed for the radio with the other. He pressed the transmit button.


“HT 51.”


“John, the mother’s upstairs in a room at the end of the hall on the right. Her name’s Lois. Are the stairs still intact? Can you get to the second floor from in there?”


The flames were licking the walls and near the staircase, but so far he should be able to.


“That’s affirmative, Cap.”




Johnny slipped the HT back into his pocket as he made his way toward the staircase.




Captain Stanley noticed the deep concern in Roy’s face as the senior paramedic glanced away from the woman in his charge to the burning house in which his partner was in a race against time.


Time because it’d taken longer to discover another victim was trapped inside; and time because until the backup help arrived, the fire still had the upper hand on the situation. 


“You know John’s one of the best.”


Roy shifted his gaze to Captain Stanley. The captain must’ve read his concern from his facial expression.


“Yeah__I know.”  When he’s *at* his best, Roy thought to himself. At the moment, he still wasn’t sure Johnny was.


“I’m gonna get a ladder up the window of that room,” Hank stated when he heard more sirens approaching. He trotted off as Roy gave a nod.




Once Johnny was on the second floor, he paused a few seconds at the top of the stairs to get his bearing. He could hear the sound from the firemen that were on the roof in an effort to provide ventilation through an attic. When they opened up the roof, the holes would help draw the heat and smoke from the fire up and out, taking some of the toxins with it. But the process wasn’t happening fast enough to help him now.


Johnny moved past more flames that were reaching from the doorway of one of the rooms on his right. He headed toward the end of the hallway, leaning over in an effort to stay below the heaviest of the dark smoke as he called out the victim’s name.


The door to the room in question was open and Johnny rushed inside.


“Lois! Can you hear me?” He shouted. “I’m with the fire department!


There was no answer.


Johnny glanced around, his flashlight beam shining in the very hazy room. He looked under the bed, in the closet, still there was no sign of the mother.


The paramedic pushed up on his helmet and wiped away sweat from his hairline before letting it slip back down on his head. The heat inside generated by the fire was still intense and he was sure feeling it. That wasn’t all he was feeling. Maybe it was from the heat, he wasn’t sure. But all of a sudden he felt like he could drop at any moment.


He’d have to fight off that feeling; there was the victim to locate.


Johnny grabbed the HT from his coat pocket again.


“Engine 51, HT 51.”


The captain immediately responded.


“Yeah, Cap, she’s not in this room. I’m gonna check out the others.”


“10-4, John. Let me know where you’ll need a ladder for assistance in getting her out when you do find her.”




Johnny moved on, stopping a moment to regain his composure when a wave a dizziness washed over him, causing him to stagger. 




Hank arranged for one of the newly arrived fire fighters to be ready to go to a window with a ladder when John was ready. He also could pull Chet or Marco to assist with getting the victim out and down if need be.


He waited anxiously for Gage’s next report.




Roy had done all he could for the other woman. With the ambulance now on scene, she’d need to be transported to Rampart General. He didn’t want to leave with his partner still inside the home, but Roy didn’t have a choice. He’d had to start an IV on the victim, which meant he had to go with her.


As he climbed up into the back of the ambulance, he gave one more look of worry at the home. He now knew exactly how Gage had felt when he’d gone solo into a house that was close to being engulfed in flames to rescue a child. 


Once again Johnny’s words from earlier flashed through his mind.


I was just taking care of my partner. That’s what partners do.’


Roy wished that’s what he could be doing right now. That he was in the burning structure with Gage, not only to help in the search, but to watch his back; to make sure he was okay.


Then, as the ambulance pulled away from the scene, it clicked.


The eyes. . .


One could usually tell by a person’s eyes how they really were. Johnny had acted like he was ‘okay’, he’d put up a good front. But now that Roy gave it more thought, Johnny’s eyes indicated otherwise. Where there normally was a spark to them, they’d appeared dull, almost lifeless. 




Johnny had barely made it into the next bedroom before he felt another wave of dizziness, this time stronger. He squinted at his dark and hazy surroundings as he called out, “Lois! Are you in here? I’m a fireman paramedic!”


He quickly moved to search the room and nearly fell over. Apparently, he’d moved too fast for his current condition.


Johnny lowered himself to the floor and crawled over to the twin bed to peer underneath. It was during this time that he noticed how suddenly heavy his air tank had become compared to usual. Even his coat felt like it weighed more, making his shoulders and arms feel tired and weakened.


Man. . .  


He was really sweating now. Johnny could feel the wetness against his skin underneath his turnout gear. He also could feel it trickle down his face.


Normally, he had more stamina. But now he was losing it fast.


When he saw no one was under the bed, Johnny sat back on his heels and removed his helmet. He let it dangle over his back, the strap around his neck. He then once again swiped at the sweat on his brow. His hair was soaked.


So hot. . .


If he could just take his mask off for a second. At least to adjust it a little. But he knew better. With the amount of smoke in the upstairs level of the structure and the toxins usually involved, it would not be a wise thing to do if he didn’t have to. He also knew that as rapidly as his condition was deteriorating, he wouldn’t be doing the victim any favors by chancing neither one of them making it out.


He’d made the mistake once in not telling anyone just exactly how lousy he felt during a rescue when he was unknowingly suffering from a virus he’s contracted from a monkey. To this day he wasn’t a hundred percent sure he didn’t contribute to the loss of the victim’s life. It was something he’d had to live with and so far was able t move on, though sometimes he experienced feelings of regret.  


But there was no way he would take that chance again.


Johnny had no sooner grabbed for the HT to request help be sent in, when Captain Stanley’s voice came over the radio.


“HT 51, Engine 51.”


The paramedic weakly pressed the transmit button.


“Go ahead. . . Cap.”


“John, terminate your search and get out of there. Roy just had headquarters contact me. The daughter informed him her mother is in an urn. You weren’t looking for a person, she was cremated two years ago.”


Ashes? He was looking for ashes in a fire?


If he had the energy, he might’ve laughed. Instead, he winced.




And with that, the captain’s radio fell silent.








“HT51, do you read me?”




Hank looked up at the second floor. What had happened to his paramedic?


After a quick transmission to let the other captains know he thought he had a man down and was going in, Captain Stanley ran to the engine and grabbed  an extra air tank and mask after donning his own. He then hurried to where Marco and Chet were on a hose outside, where they were fighting flames through a shattered window.


“Marco, can you handle the line alone?”


“Yeah, Cap!”


“Chet, I need your help inside! Somethin’ happened to John!”


With that, Kelly donned the other SCBA and the two crewmembers headed for the front door.




Roy couldn’t believe what he’d been told. He was beyond angry. Along the way to Rampart, his patient had asked if they’d found her mother’s ashes yet.


At first the question had thrown him. But as soon as he’d understood exactly what she meant, the confusion had been replaced by disgust.


Johnny was risking his life for someone who was already long gone.


His training helped him to maintain his composure in the ambulance and not display any anger in his voice. After all, his job was to keep the victim safe and assured. Not to create a tense situation.


But he’d had to shake his head in wonder. How anyone could be that thoughtless of another’s safety.


Roy was glad when he could leave his charge with Doctor Morton and was anxious to see his partner when Johnny eventually would pick him up in the squad.




Two of the firemen inside covered the area surrounding the staircase while the rescuers headed for their shiftmate.


Johnny’s lifeline provided a certain path to where he was located. Hank and Chet wasted no time in getting to him.


The dark-haired paramedic’s unconscious form was barely visible in the dark smoke. He was on his right side on the floor.


“John!” Captain Stanley called out as he and Chet dashed forward.


They knelt down beside their downed friend and Chet gently rolled him slightly back. His helmet strap was loosely around his neck and his air mask slightly askew.  They also noticed the HT not far from his right hand.


“Johnny, can you hear me?”


Gage’s eyes remained closed.


Chet gave him a brief sternal rub, which elicited a small groan.


“C’mon, let’s get him out of here,” Hank directed.


The three were soon on their way, the captain with his hands under Johnny’s shoulders, Chet holding him by the feet as they carried him between them.


The two heard a crashing sound just as they scrambled out. Part of the upper floor had collapsed after being weakened from the fire and water.




Once the men were outside, they carefully set Johnny down on a yellow safety blanket laid out by another captain near the squad. While Gage was held in a half seated position by that captain, Hank and Chet removed their air masks and tanks. They then immediately did the same for Johnny, including untying the rope.


“He’s hot as hell. Help me get his jacket off,” Hank directed as he tugged on one sleeve. Once it was off, he went on with, “Chet, let’s get these turnout pants off. We need to do what we can to help before the paramedic unit requested gets here.”


He gave a nod and did as directed.


When Johnny was free of his turnout gear and in his regular uniform that was underneath, they gently let him down till where he was on his back. The other captain handed Stanley the oxygen kit from Engine 51. He set it up and placed Johnny on six liters of O2.


“I wonder what happened. . .” Chet said as he sat back on his heels.


Hank stared at his still unconscious paramedic.


All this for someone who was already gone. . .




Roy set the biophone and drug box down on the floor near the desk at the base station. He had hoped to find his favorite head nurse, Dixie McCall, seated there so he could vent off some of his disgust about what happened. But she was busy in one of the other treatment rooms, thus it was a younger nurse who was nearby.


“Can I help you?” She asked with a smile.


Well, he did need to refill on a couple of supplies.


“Sure,” he said as he turned to face her. He handed her the folded up form he’d almost forgotten was in his left hand. “If you could get me those, I’d appreciate it.”


She opened the paper and gave a nod. “Certainly.”


She stepped over to the cabinet where some of the supplies were kept. She no sooner handed Roy the supplies and the form back to sign, when the two ambulance attendants who’d brought in the senior paramedic and his patient came trotting past.


“Looks like we’re headed back to the house fire,” one called out to Roy.


Gut feeling told him he wasn’t going to be getting a ride in the squad. He quickly picked up the two boxes from the floor and hurried to catch up.


“Mind if I hitch a ride?” Roy asked as he came up alongside the men just before the ER exit.


“Not at all.”


“Hey, you forgot your supplies!” The nurse called out to no avail. She frowned, then shrugged when she saw the form was on the floor in the corridor. He hadn’t signed it anyway. She would just put the supplies back and he could fill out a new request when he returned. 




Johnny opened his eyes slightly and winced at the brightness of the sky above as he coughed a couple of times. The view was soon replaced by the worried look of Captain Stanley’s face, followed by Chet’s from his other side.


“Hey, pal. Just lie still, help’s on the way,” the captain assured.


“Wha. . .?” Gage mumbled under the oxygen mask.  He was so hot, so tired, and so disoriented. He didn’t even know where the hell he was at the moment or why.


“Roy’s already at Rampart, so we’ve got another rescue unit on the way,” Chet explained, figuring Johnny didn’t fully understand what had been said.


Johnny closed his eyes and his head lolled to the side. The two care takers exchanged concerned glances.




Roy wished he could will the ambulance to go faster. The return ride to the scene seemed to be taking much longer that it had to go to Rampart. The siren was in use and they were certainly passing cars as the vehicles pulled over to the side of the road to get out of the way. It was just the circumstances that made it seem to take so long.


Alone in the back, he had time to think more about what he may encounter at the scene. So far all they knew was that a fire fighter was down. It could be Chet, Marco, or anyone from another station.


But Roy’s gut instinct still told him it was his partner. It also reminded him he’d thought something was wrong with Johnny earlier. If he’d been right, that would have made the younger man vulnerable inside the burning home as he searched for a body that wasn’t there.


Wasn’t even there. . .


Though still angry, Roy could understand how the ashes of a loved one would mean so much to someone. After all, it was still ‘them’, just in another form. Thus he wasn’t mad at the daughter for caring about her mother’s remains. But if she’d just told them what they were looking for, they could have made a better choice as how to handle the situation. 


Brought out of his thoughts, Roy jumped up off the bench seat and headed for the rear doors of the ambulance as it slowed to a stop.




Hank and Chet helped the paramedics from Squad 16 as they worked on Johnny.


Craig Brice checked the flow of the IV he’d started on Gage. He was one of the medics sent to the scene. His partner Bob Belliveau’ reported a slight improvement in Johnny’s condition over the biophone to Rampart.  


Johnny was awake again, though still groggy and somewhat disoriented.


“Head. . aches,” he mumbled, his voice still hoarse, as he started to bring a hand up.


Craig grabbed it and gently held it down. “Careful, Gage, that arm has the IV in it. I’m not surprised you have a headache. Heat exhaustion and taking in smoke will do that to a person. But I’m sure you’re aware of that.”


“Maybe if he wasn’t on the ground, half out of it, he would be,” Chet commented


Craig ignored the mustached fireman as he rechecked his patient’s pulse. He was used to his matter-of-fact tone sometimes coming across wrong.  It was just part of the job.




Now out of the ambulance, Roy trotted over toward the group while the ambulance attendants grabbed the stretcher.  He took a quick glance at the house that had smoke filtering up through the roof. The fact it was white smoke meant the firemen were winning the battle. 


The structure was likely a complete loss, but at least there was no loss of life.


Shifting his attention back to the others, Roy noticed Hank Stanley get up from a squatted position as he neared. Chet remained down on his knees beside one of the other paramedics.


“How’s the lady?” Hank asked as he met up with Roy.


“She’ll be okay after a few days at Rampart.” He motioned in Johnny’s direction. “What happened?”


“Looks like heat exhaustion.” He eyed Roy a few seconds before adding, “I shouldn’t‘ve allowed him to go in there in the first place. His health was probably already compromised from the last fire.”


“I have a feeling you’re right. I kept trying to put my finger on it, but it didn’t occur to me till later. With him talking so much . . .my kids do that when they’re really wiped out and fighting it.” Roy looked beyond, to where Johnny was still laid out. “I’m sure enough adults use the same defense mechanism at times. How’s he doing?”


“Belliveau’ said a night or two at Rampart should get him back on his feet.”


Roy smiled slightly. That much was a relief and eased his guilt some. He’d rather have been the one to take care of his partner, but as long as Johnny was in good hands, that’s what mattered most. He and the captain stepped over to where their youngest crew member was now being loaded onto the stretcher.


“DeSoto,” Brice acknowledged when Roy was near.


Roy didn’t know the paramedic from Station 16 well. Just enough to know he never used a first name to address others. He sometimes had been tempted to ask why, but ended up shrugging it off. Roy did it again this time. A rundown on Johnny’s condition was more important.




Johnny peered lazily at his partner, who was just a few feet away.  He reached up and pulled the oxygen mask down from his face, using the hand that wasn’t connected to the arm with the IV.


“Hey,” he rasped. His voice was quiet, but it was enough for everyone to hear.


“Gage, you need that mask on,” Brice told him. He started over alongside Roy.


“He’s right,” Roy agreed. He reached out and put it back in place. “You need to keep it on.”


You okay?” Johnny asked from under the mask.


“Yeah,” Roy said with a nod. “I am__ now.” A grin slowly spread across his face.


The dark-haired paramedic winced and brought his free hand up to his brow.




It was Johnny’s turn to nod. “Like a . . .sledge hammer. . .pounding inside. . .”


“Go get some rest. I’ll come by and see you later.”


“Sure. . .” 


Like I have a choice, Johnny thought to himself. But really it didn’t sound like a bad idea.


Roy turned to Craig as Belliveau’  followed alongside the stretcher to the ambulance. Captain Stanley went with Gage as well.


“Was it just heat exhaustion?”


Brice shrugged. “I’m not sure, DeSoto. Fireman Kelly said his air mask was partially off when they found him. I passed that information on to Doctor Brackett. I understand Gage took in some smoke at an earlier fire as well.”


“Some.” Probably more than he or I realized. . .


“There was no sign of physical injury on his body. He was showing some of the classic symptoms of heat exhaustion when we got here, however he improved once we got the IV in him. Captain Stanley and Kelly already had oxygen in use. We just had to switch him over to our equipment.”


It was all reassuring news.




“What for? We just did what any paramedic team would do. Including you and Gage.”


Roy shrugged. “As a paramedic I don’t get to thank one very often. This is my chance.”


Craig gave him a slight smile, indicating perhaps he understood the real reason. “You’re welcome, DeSoto.”




Hank patted Johnny lightly on the shoulder just before he was placed inside the ambulance.


“I’ll call the hospital later to see how you’re doing.”


Johnny again pulled the oxygen mask down. With a quiet but still hoarse voice he asked, “Cap. . .did we. . .did we get. . .the ashes?” 


He shook his head, then glanced over his shoulder at the house. “Don’t worry,” he said as he looked down at Johnny and put the mask back in place. “We’ll find them.”


He really did want to deliver them to the daughter, along with a firm and friendly lecture from him as to why she should never give misleading information and put men like those on his crew in unnecessary danger ever again.




The following morning, Johnny had just finished picking over his hospital breakfast when a knock came on the door. It opened slightly to reveal Roy peeking around the corner.


“You up for some company?”


Johnny couldn’t keep a grin off his face. He was more than ready.


“Sure, man. C’mon in.”


His voice was stronger, but still had traces of hoarseness to it.


The door opened wider, and both Roy and Chet came in.  They were still in uniform, having just gotten off duty. Roy had a small thick book in his right hand.


Johnny pushed the tray table away to the side and sat back against his pillow.


“You done?” Roy asked.


After receiving a nod in response, he steered the tray further away from the bed with his free hand while Chet stepped over closer.


“Man, Johnny, you really gave Cap a scare yesterday.”


Not just Cap, Roy thought. He could imagine what Chet thought when they first found Gage unconscious and with very little responsiveness.


“I think I’d like ta forget yesterday,” Johnny admitted. “It was rough.”


“You can say that again.”


Gage furrowed his brow as he thought more about the day he’d prefer to forget.


“Ya know, next time we go to a structure fire an’ someone says there’s still a victim inside. . .maybe we’d better make sure they give a more definitive answer as to who__ or what__ needs rescuing.”


“Maybe,” Roy agreed. “Speaking of definitive answers. . .”


He held out the book.


“A dictionary. . .?” Johnny screwed up his face in puzzlement.


Chet grinned as he waited for Roy to explain.


“That’s right. It’s from Cap. He insisted I bring it over.”


“Don’t tell me he expects me to read a dictionary to pass time in here. Man, that’s the last thing I need.”


“Au contraire.”


Again Gage looked puzzled. “Whataya mean ‘au contraire’?”


“He__we__just wanna be sure next time you say you’re ‘okay’, you can give a more definitive answer as to what exactly that means.”


“In other words,” Chet said as he looked at Johnny’s astonished expression, “Define okay.”


"Just think of it as us looking out for you," Roy added.


Johnny frowned, then a slight lopsided smirk started to show as he gave in and took the book from Roy. It wasn’t often Captain Stanley or Roy got one over on him and he was enjoying it as much as his two visitors were. It was certainly ‘okay’ in his book.


Literally, he thought to himself, as he eyed the dictionary.   




I want to thank my friend Ross for encouraging me to use my idea of ashes being the 'victim' in a fire. Sometimes a nudge helps. :o)  Any medical and/or fire fighter technique errors are mine and mine alone. :o) Also, Bob Belliveau’ was a real fire fighter/paramedic that appeared in Emergency!


*Click above to send Audrey feedback


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