by Di ;)
It was the first of two shifts between the winter holidays and the men of 51s had just begun to congregate in the station's kitchen. Even though it was late December, the weather in sunny California was living up to its name. The sun was high and bright and the skies were a brilliant blue.
The last one to arrive, Chet Kelly walked in with a spring in his step and plunked a white envelope down in front of the only person sitting at the table.
"What's this?" Johnny asked suspiciously.
"What's it look like, Gage?" Chet answered casually as he headed toward the coffeepot.
"It's looks like a card." Johnny set his cup down and leaned in close. He pulled a pen from his pocket and used the tip to lift one corner of the white envelope as carefully as the bomb squad would handle a possible threatening device.
"Well then?" Chet's demeanor remained undeterred.
"It's after Christmas, Chet!" Johnny stated the obvious, carefully pulling the pen out from under the envelope.
"So? I didn't get a chance to send any before Christmas so they're post-Christmas cards this year."
"Yeah, well, why didn't the other guys get one?" Johnny asked. He looked around the room at his empty-handed comrades.
"I don't have theirs done yet. That's all." Chet leaned against the counter and sipped his coffee. Interested eyes were on the prankster Irishman, wondering what he was up to now.
"Yeah, well, that's kinda rude, Kelly, ya' know?" Johnny leaned back in his chair, seemingly to gain distance between himself and the white object on the table.
"Think who you're talking about Johnny." Marco smiled and nodded in Chet's direction.
"Marco!" Chet exclaimed. "I'm hurt! Besides, your card's coming tomorrow. I just ran out of envelopes is all…."
"I'd open it for you," Stoker volunteered, "but it's not addressed to me. Besides, when was the last time the Phantom actually struck?"
"Well, okay, maybe you have a…wait a minute!" Johnny's chair screeched on the floor as he spun around to face Chet. He pointed an accusatory finger at him and asked point blank, "Is that what this is, Chet? You trying to pull something on ol' Johnny again, are ya'? Yeah, well! This Pigeon just might not fall for it this time!" There was triumph in his voice as he settled back in his chair. After all, the year was ticking down and the Phantom was not even close to his quota from previous years.
"Maybe that's not the prank," Roy theorized.
"What do you mean?" Johnny asked
"I mean," Roy went on to explain, "maybe it's the prank that never was."
"Huh?" Johnny wasn't following Roy's logic.
Roy cleared his throat. "The prank that never was. You know, you think Chet's playing a prank on you, but he's really not, you go crazy waiting for it, only it never comes. The prank that never was…."
"Oh…yeah…" Johnny's face reflected the slow realization of what Roy was saying. Finally, it hit full force. "YEAH! Sorry, Chet! Gotta get up a whole lot earlier than that to catch ol' Johnny Gage!"
"So you're really going to open it?" Marco asked incredulously. Chet stood by the counter and waited for an answer with the rest of the men.
"Well, sure! Why not?" Johnny's face crinkled with uncertainty. Roy's reasoning seemed plausible enough to Johnny, so he picked up the envelope, tore open the flap and gingerly pulled out a Christmas card shaped like a snowman.
"Hey, Chet, thanks!" Johnny turned to Chet and smiled inwardly with relief at the sight of the harmless card. Then he turned back, opened the card, and WHAPPO!
A flurry of white poofed through the air, blanketing Johnny's face.
"Then again…." Roy changed his tune quietly.
"How about a round of Christmas carols, everyone?" Chet stepped forward gleefully and raised his hands like a maestro conducting an orchestra. "Let's start with a classic…~~Frosty the Snowman…~~"
Frozen in place, Roy, Mike and Marco waited for the meltdown that was sure to come from their snowy friend.
Instead, Johnny sat very coolly, smacking his lips slowly. He wiped his finger down his check and tasted the powdery substance that covered his face.
"Well…at least he used powdered sugar this year…."
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Christmas Stories Stories by Dianne Bay