Emergency - The Second Season (Part A)
1583 Mullen Drive turned out to be an extremely ‘rustic’ looking log home, located on the edge of a little clearing--smack dab in the middle of an overgrown ten-acre wood lot. Besides a chicken coop, woodshed, and greenhouse, the clearing contained a few fruit trees and a well-tended vegetable garden. There was no lawn. So, Stoker was forced to park Big Red in the driveway--right behind a female CHP Officer’s motorcycle.
"Am I glad to see YOU GUYS!" the officer admitted, as Captain Stanley and his crew approached.
"Did you call it in? What seems to be the problem?" Hank further inquired, when the woman nodded. "It came across as an ‘unknown type’ rescue."
"There’s a kid stuck up in a tree," the officer obligingly informed them, and pointed to one of the fruit trees.
Sure enough. Halfway up the tree, perched precariously on a limb, was an eight or nine year old boy.
"Is he hurt?" Roy anxiously asked, as he and his partner came jogging up.
"No. But, his butt’s pretty sore and he claims his legs have fallen asleep. Not too surprising, considering he’s been sitting up there for over five hours."
"Why’d you call us?" Stanley irritatedly inquired, seeing as how the uninjured child was only ten or twelve feet off the ground.
"Well, when it comes to tree rescues, you fellahs are the ‘experts’," the officer teased. "I figured, if you can get cats out of trees, you can get kids out of trees."
"I meant, what do you need the fire department for? Why didn’t you just grab a ladder and get him down, yourself?!"
"Yeah...well...you just hold onto that thought, Captain," the officer amusedly advised, on her way over to her motorcycle. "The homeowner’s inside. Good luck, gentlemen!" she sincerely called out, before kicking her bike to life and beating a hasty retreat. Her final words, "Your gonna need it!" were lost in the wind.
Station 51’s crew members exchanged mystified glances.
"Kelly! Lopez! Grab the roof ladder!" their hungry Captain commanded, and began heading for the cabin’s front porch. But, before he could reach his intended destination, a black and white fur ball came bounding around the edge of the building, and cut him off. "What the--?!" Hank exclaimed and started racing back towards the Engine, with his newfound furry friend in hot--but crooked--pursuit!
It didn’t take long for the rest of the men to realize why their fearless leader was so intent on retreating. All six firefighters clambered up onto the back of the Engine. The skunk’s hostages just stood there, in the hose bed, staring helplessly down at the ‘alarming’ little animal.
The Captain’s pursuer was now staggering around the truck, occasionally stopping to turn in tight little--seemingly meaningless--circles.
Marco studied the animal’s erratic behavior for a few moments and then declared, "I think it has rabies!"
"Believe me," a woman’s voice called out to them, through the cabin’s screened front door, "Bernie is not ‘rabid’. Inebriated? Yes! Rabid? No! Pissed off? Apparently!"
For the second time, in less than a minute, the men of Station 51 exchanged mystified glances.
"My flower bed, along the edge of the cabin here, is infested with slugs. I’ve been picking them off, by hand. But, the slugs just keep right on multiplying--and eating all my plants. Then, yesterday, I read this article--in ‘Mother Earth News’--about a ‘natural’ way to get rid of them. You set out containers filled with beer. The slugs crawl into the containers...drink the beer...and drown."
51’s crew exchanged glances again. Only, this time, the looks were those of dawning understanding.
Roy was more than a little amused. "So...what you’re sayin’ is...Bernie, here, drank the beer...and then ingested the drowned escargot?"
"That about sums it up," the voice came back.
"So, that’s where the phrase ‘Drunker than a skunk’ comes from!" Kelly quipped, keeping a perfectly straight face.
His shift mates couldn’t help but snicker.
John just stood there, staring thoughtfully down at the odd-acting critter that was keeping them all captive. "Is ‘Bernie’ a pet?"
"Then, how can you be so sure it doesn’t have rabies?"
"Because Bernie’s shots are all up to date."
"Yes. Shots. You don’t think I’d ever let a wild animal live under my house--if it wasn’t vaccinated, do you?!"
The flabbergasted fireman failed to reply. It was more of a rhetorical question, anyway.
Stoker suddenly appeared hopeful. "Has Bernie been ‘de-scented’?"
"Of course not!" the voice quickly came back. "A skunk’s only defense is its odor."
"Can somebody please get me down from here?!" another voice suddenly blurted--er, begged, from out of the blue. Well, from out of the fruit tree, actually.
All eyes riveted back on their victim.
"If he’s been stuck up there for over five hours, how come we’re just hearing about it now?" Hank accusingly inquired.
"I don’t know...I guess we were both sort a’ hoping that Bernie would just go back under the house--and sleep it off."
"Christi wanted to call--right away," the boy in the branch quietly confessed. "But, I told her not to."
"Robby didn’t want to get in trouble with his Mom," Christi explained, in the lad’s defense. "Usually, she doesn’t mind him coming over. But, I didn’t know--until this morning--that he’s not supposed to drop by on school days. My friend, Charlotte, offered to help with chores, until I’m off my crutches. So, I’ve been showing her the ropes. This morning, she called and said she felt like she was coming down with a virus or something and wouldn’t be able to help out today. Whatever bug she has, she didn’t want to give it to me. When Charlotte didn’t show up, Robby volunteered to be the new chore trainee. He’s such a little sweetheart! If it wasn’t for this stupid cast, I would have rescued him, myself..."
Stanley studied his brave band. "All right. Which one of you lads wants to volunteer to climb down there and fetch a fire extinguisher?"
"That’s so typical!" the voice called out from the cabin. "First, the fuzz lady wants to SHOOT the skunk! And, now, you want to start spraying ‘toxic chemicals’ all over the place! I-don’t-think-so!"
"CO2 is perfectly harmless," Stoker assured their obviously health-conscious host.
"Yeah...Right. THEY said the same thing about DDT!"
"Oooo-kay, we’ll use a couple a’ pike poles and a reel line," Stanley redetermined.
"No way! Back in ‘68, I was a part of the antiwar protest during the Democratic Convention, in Chicago. The 'Gestapo' turned their fire hoses on us. The force from that water was so powerful, it knocked us completely off our feet! We were all banged up pretty good! I can’t believe you would ever even consider turning a fire hose on that helpless little animal! Why, Bernie would be blasted clean into the middle of next week! However, if you insist on ‘spraying’ it with ‘something’, you’re welcome to my garden hose."
"A garden hose?" Hank grumbled, beneath his breath. "Why don’t we all just stick some flowers in our hair and offer it some love beads?"
"O-or, better yet--" Gage glumly joined in, " --a peace pipe."
The guys grinned.
"Women!" Kelly contributed, sounding every bit as disgusted as his colleagues.
More snickers ensued.
"I heard that!" the feisty female in the cabin declared. "You’re regular comedians, are-en’t you," the unseen woman insincerely said. "Have you ever considered a career in show biz’?"
"My butt’s getting really, really sore..." their victim suddenly announced.
"Hang on, Robby!" the woman urged. "I’m gonna try something..."
A few moments later, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, honey, don't you know that I love you? In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, baby, don't you know that I'll always be true?" came blaring--stereophonically--out of the cabin...at full blast!
The raucous Rock & Roll distraction worked! The skunk began ambling--sort of sideways--towards the cabin’s front porch, being drawn towards the musical mania, like a moth towards a flame.
"Well, what a’ yah know..." Mike marveled. "It seems Bernie likes ‘Iron Butterfly’."
"A fact for which we can all be eternally grateful," their Supreme Commander muttered, as he and the rest of his crew rather reluctantly began descending from the relative safety of their rig. "Kelly! Lopez! Pike poles! Gage! DeSoto! The roof ladder!" Stanley turned to his Engineer, "You wanna ‘man the nozzle’, or should I?"
Having no desire to be saddled with that much responsibility, Stoker quickly determined, "You can have the honors, Cap. I’ll cover your back."
"Uh-huh..." his superior skeptically acknowledged, before heading stealthily for the garden hose reel.
Mike faithfully followed after him, keeping both of his eyes peeled on the skunk’s position.
The rest of the firemen quietly collected the requested rescue items and carefully began making their way over to the fruit tree.
The first drum solo ended and the groovin’ group launched into some more incredibly loud lyrics. "Oh, won't you come with me and take my hand? Oh, won't you come with me and walk this land? Please take my hand!"
Stanley and Stoker charged their line and then placed themselves between the inebriated little beastie--and the boy with the really, really sore butt.
It all seemed to be going quite well. The pole handlers were alert and standing at the ready. The hose jockeys were experimenting with several different streams, trying to find the most ‘effective’--er, ‘protective’ spray pattern. The paramedics had their ladder up against the tree and John was just about to start climbing...when the distracted skunk caught the sudden movement out of the corner of its beady little bloodshot eye and made a beeline--straight for the tree...and the intruders! Well, actually, being under the influence, as it was, the line wasn’t all that straight.
"Here comes Bernie!" Stoker alarmedly declared, and--immediately--began looking for cover.
John shot up into the tree. Roy also quickly disappeared--up the ladder.
Cut off from the truck, Chet and Marco emitted a couple of choice expletives and began heading towards the bushes on the edge of the clearing--at a high rate of speed, with Mike following closely on their heels.
Their Captain courageously stood his ground. Stanley kept right on twisting the flimsy nozzle to and fro, frantically trying to find a ‘viable’ drunk-skunk-stopping-stream. Alas, his efforts proved all in vain and he finally ended up flinging the dang thing at the rapidly approaching animal. The brass object struck the skunk on the head. The dazed critter stopped dead in its tracks, allowing Hank the opportunity to depart the area in a more ‘dignified’ manner than that of his men.
Before Station 51’s Captain could reach the edge of the clearing, his valiant men emitted several more shrieks of alarm and came backing out of the bushes, with grimaces on their faces--and their nostrils pinched tightly between their thumbs and forefingers.
Speaking of ‘emitting’ things...
"Phew!" Kelly commented.
"Ughhh!" Lopez disgustedly agreed.
Stoker appeared to be rendered speechless.
Stanley watched, with wide eyes, as six itty-bitty ‘Bernies’ suddenly came scurrying out of the same bushes, with their tiny behinds arrogantly elevated and their bushy little tails sticking straight up in the air. Speaking of the air...One whiff, and the reason for his crews’ confusing behavior quickly became apparent. They’d just been ‘skunked’!
"I see you’ve found Bernie’s babies."
Hank and his Engine crew turned around just in time to see the lady of the house--er, cabin come hobbling up on her crutches, carrying a large metal tub.
The pretty young woman placed the basin over the baby skunks’ ‘brained’ Mommy? and then carefully assumed a seat upon its upturned metal bottom.
"B-a-b-i-e-s?" John slowly repeated, appreciatively eyeing the beauty with the busted leg. "I--we thought Bernie was a boy."
"Yeah...well...In case you still haven’t figured it out," the girl informed the fireman, as he and his partner descended the ladder--with their rescued victim, "Bernie is short for Bernice."
"How’s the legs?" Roy wondered, on the way down.
"They’re kind a’ all picky," Robby replied.
"That’s a good sign. It means your circulation is returning. Think you can stand?" the fireman inquired further. The boy nodded. So, Roy carefully set his burden down, at the base of the tree. "Try stompin’ your feet," he advised, and kept a steadying hand on the lad’s left shoulder.
"Oh, paleeeeze!" his fellow paramedic pleaded, as their Captain and his ‘perfumed’ Engine company approached. "Would you guys mind movin’ downwind?!"
The guys’only replies were icy, unamused glares.
John just stood there, smiling innocently back at them. That is, until he caught sight of the half dozen odorous little denizens that were trailing in their wake. "It’s a shame they have to smell so bad. Cuz’your--ehem...‘shadows’ sure are cute!" Gage turned back to his partner and then announced--with a devious glint in his eye, "That must be where the phrase ‘You little stinkers!’ comes from."
Roy responded with a roll of his eyes.
"Don’t anybody make any sudden movements," their Captain calmly commanded, before glancing, ever so gradually, back over his shoulder. Sure enough! Bernie’s babies were--indeed--following, in single file, right behind them. "Let’s just gather up the gear...and vacate the premises."
"I’ll come back Saturday, Christi," the boy promised, in a hushed tone. "If my Mom doesn’t KILL me..." he added, conditionally.
The girl acknowledged him with a gorgeous smile and a nod.
DeSoto started escorting Robby over to the Engine.
Lopez and Kelly accompanied them with their pike poles.
Stanley and Stoker retrieved the roof ladder--in slow motion--and then also began taking their leave.
Ever the gentleman, Gage stayed behind, to escort the cripple back to her cabin. The girl, however, continued to just sit there. The fireman finally grew tired of waiting and extended a helping hand.
"Thanks. But, somebody has to stay out here. After you all leave, someone has to be out here to release Bernie," Christi went on to explain.
"Cap?" John quietly called out.
Stanley stopped and glanced back in Gage’s direction.
"There’s no way she’s ever gonna be able to move fast enough on those crutches," the paramedic quickly determined. "She should head back inside. I can let the skunk go."
But, again the girl declined the fireman’s gallant offer. "You don’t understand. I really need to see, for myself, that Bernie’s okay."
The equally persistent paramedic turned back to his Captain. "We’ll wait ‘til you guys go. Then, I’ll kick the tub over and whisk her inside."
Hank thought about it for a while. It was a reasonable enough plan. "It’s your hide," he finally replied.
Gage smiled victoriously down at the girl.
"You like to live ‘dangerously’," Christi quickly determined and skooched over some.
"I ain’t worried," her rescuer replied, as he cautiously assumed a seat beside her on the overturned tub. "As long as their ‘business ends’ aren’t aimed in our direction. Besides, nobody--in their right mind--would ever let a skunk live under their cabin unless they had a real good ‘natural’ remedy for removing the odor--" he stopped suddenly and aimed an anxious glance in her direction. "You do have one, don’t you?"
The anxious look on the fireman’s face, and the nervous tone of his inquiry caused Christi first to grin...and then, to start laughing. "You’re right," the girl conceded, as she gradually regained some semblance of composure, "I do...happen to have...a really good...‘natural’ remedy...for removing skunk odor."
The paramedic felt something brush against his left pant leg. He glanced down and heaved a huge sigh of relief. He was extremely relieved to hear there was a ‘remedy’. Because Bernie’s babies were now foraging around at their feet. "They really are cute little buggers, aren’t they. So-o...you gonna give these guys names, too?"
"I don’t know..." Christi confessed. "But, I just realized something. There’s six of them...and six of you..."
Roy John Chet Mike Marco Hank
(End of Season Two, Part A)
*Click on the picture to send Ross feedback
Stories by Ross Emergency! Title Stories