By Audrey W.
Johnny came out from completing his latrine duty, whistling an up beat tune.
Roy had finished his chores helping with the hose rack and was doing a once over polishing on the squad, when Johnny walked into the apparatus bay. Looking up from his task, Roy glanced curiously at his partner.
“You seem happy for a guy who got stuck cleaning a latrine.”
Johnny stopped his whistling, grinning at his partner. “Roy, nothing could ruin my mood today. Not one thing.”
“What’s up? Gonna let me in on your latest secret to happiness?”
Opening the supply closet, Johnny answered, “I had the most incredible day off yesterday I’ve had in a long time,” he snorted. “I got a dirt bike and took it out for a ride. Man, it was fun! I don’t know why I didn’t try it sooner.”
“A dirt bike?”
“Yeah!” Johnny put the cleaning supplies on a shelf and closed the closet door. “Charlie Brooks from 36’s…you know, he’s an engine crew member…well, he went with me. Charlie’s been doing it for a while now. He talked me into trying it. And I tell ya, Roy…it was great!”
Roy looked skeptically at the younger paramedic. “I just can’t see you on a dirt bike. I don’t know,” he said shaking his head. “You’re certainly crazy enough. But I never thought of you as the dirt bike type.”
“Roy…” Johnny snickered “I’m adventurous. I’m outdoorsy. I like speeding along on a bike. Trust me…I’m a dirt bike type.”
“Uh huh.” Roy didn’t sound convinced. “If you say so.”
“Gage on a dirt bike?” Chet questioned as he stepped around from behind the squad. “Now this I gotta hear about.”
“Chet! Why do you do that?”
“Do what, Johnny?”
“Sneak around the station and eavesdrop on people.”
Chet feigned a hurt expression. “I don’t sneak around, Johnny. I just happen to be at the right places at the right time. It’s a talent.”
Johnny rolled his eyes, as Roy grinned at Chet’s remark.
“Well, this is a private conversation if you don’t mind.”
“That’s fine…hey…far be it for me to butt in on a private conversation.” Chet backed up and walked around to the other side of the squad again. He went into the dayroom grinning.
Johnny put his hands on his hips. “Do you believe that guy, Roy? First he listens in when we’re discussing my credit card bill that one time, then when we were talking about inheriting all that mon--…well, what we thought would be all that money.” He frowned remembering how a rich lady had left more to a cat than them. “Anyway, and now this.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it, Johnny.”
Johnny and Roy finished their work on the squad. The two men walked into the dayroom, heading for the coffee pot. Marco, Mike and Chet sat at the table playing cards.
“Hey!” Chet called out from the table. “Roy, you want to get in on a pool we started?”
“That depends. A pool for what?”
“For how long it’s gonna take before Gage wrecks on his dirt bike and gives it up.”
Johnny turned his attention from the coffee pot, to the men at the table. “I can’t believe this…you guys actually made a bet on that? Well,” he chuckled “ya all lost because it’s not gonna happen!”
“Oh come on, Gage,” Chet said. “You can even get in on it too, if you want.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Now why would I want to bet on my own self wrecking?”
“Because there’s money involved,” Chet replied simply.
The others nodded in agreement.
“We’ve never known you to pass up a chance to make extra money, Johnny,” Marco explained.
“Oh you guys are funny. A regular barrel of laughs. “
Roy smirked at the three men at the table. “Hey…go easy on him. I’ve gotta ride all shift with him you know.”
“Oh, so you think it’s funny?” Johnny gave Roy an annoyed look. “Well…huh…thanks… thanks a lot.” He walked out of the dayroom, heading across the apparatus bay.
“Do you still want your coffee?” Roy called out.
Twenty minutes after Johnny had left the dayroom, the tones went off, sending the squad on a run for an injured child. A subdued Johnny hurried out of the bunkroom. He climbed in the squad as Roy handed him the paper with the address written on it.
Roy eyed his partner as they pulled into the street. “The guys were just teasing, you know.”
“Oh I know,” Johnny snorted. “I just can’t wait to prove ‘em wrong.”
“So, you’re okay now?”
“Yeah. Why let Chet ruin a good day?”
Roy smiled. The best thing about Johnny was that he was usually quick to forgive and move on. And with a guy like Chet hanging around, that was a good quality for Johnny to have.
Johnny and Roy returned from the run in just over an hour. Chet walked out of the dayroom as Roy backed the squad into the station.
“So how did it go?” Chet inquired. “Was the kid hurt bad?”
“Oh, it wasn’t very serious,” Roy answered, getting out of the squad.
Johnny came around to where Chet and Roy were, as Roy continued the conversation.
“It was just a kid who rode his bike over an embankment…got a little banged up.”
“Well, now, John,” Chet began. “Seems like--”
“Chet! Don’t say it!” Johnny warned.
“I’m not saying a word,” Chet held up his hands. “But it’s an omen.” Chet mumbled under his breath as he lowered his hands and turned to walk away.
“What?” Johnny asked, following behind Chet.
“Nothing…I didn’t say a word.”
Overall the shift had been uneventful. Just the usual runs in a day, and one major fire over night. It was eight o’clock in the morning and B-Shift had come in to relieve A-shift from their duties. Johnny and Roy changed into their street clothes in the locker room before heading out to their vehicles. Chet came in and handed Johnny a piece of paper as Johnny was closing his locker.
“What’s this?” Johnny casually asked.
Johnny held out the paper, mumbling the words as he read them.
“Five…not…when…jump…ditch…” looking up at Chet, Johnny’s eyes narrowed into slits. “Five things not to do when your name is John Gage and you’re on a dirt bike? Don’t try to jump over a ditch?”
Roy turned to face the inside of his locker, hiding a grin.
“We tried to make it ten,” Chet explained, keeping a serious expression on his face, “but we could only think of five.”
Johnny balled up the paper and tossed it in a trashcan by the sinks.
“Oh, very funny. Just wait. You guys’ll see,” Johnny pointed his finger at himself for emphasis. “I can ride a dirt bike just fine. I’ll be in next shift just as exuberant as ever. You’ll see.”
“Okay, John. Whatever you say,” Chet continued. “We’re just trying to help.”
“Yeah…well…if I do wreck, which I won’t’” Johnny replied, “but if I do, it’ll be your fault for putting the idea in my head.”
“I don’t believe in that kind of stuff,” Chet threw back.
“Chet, if you--”
“You ready to go?” Roy interrupted.
Roy could tell Chet had really gotten to his partner with the teasing. He decided he’d better get Johnny out to the parking lot and on his way home.
“Yeah, sure,” Johnny answered, an annoyed tone in his voice. He shot Chet one more glare, then walked over and stepped out the door to the apparatus bay.
Chet grabbed Roy’s arm, stopping the older paramedic at the door. “Hey, you know we’re just giving him a hard time, right? I don’t want Gage to wipe out on his newly found hobby. I just think he will.”
Roy nodded. “Just sometimes you can push too many of his buttons…you get to him more than you realize.”
Johnny had been out on his dirt bike most of the afternoon after getting off duty and taking a short nap. With their safety helmets on, he and Charlie Brooks rode without incident, jumping across small ditches and running up and over small hills. Even though the whole thing had been a joke, Johnny had decided to do everything the guys had put on their list of things not to do just to prove to himself that he could.
As sunset approached, Johnny decided to make one more lap around the bike paths before he loaded his bike into the back of Charlie’s Ford pickup truck.
Chet sat at home watching early evening television. He thought back to the teasing he’d done to Johnny during their shift. What if Gage does wreck? What if we did jinx him?
“Nah…that kind of stuff just doesn’t happen,” Chet said, trying to convince himself.
Johnny rode his dirt bike hard to make a run up a small hill and lift into the air once he had gotten over it. As he started up the hill, he drove more to the left than he had earlier. The front tire hit against a big rock, knocking the bike off balance and sending Johnny off to the side. Johnny instinctively reached out his hands to stop his fall as he landed. With his left hand reaching the ground first, Johnny’s entire weight braced on the wrist. Johnny felt it pop, as pain shot up his arm and through his hand. His arm collapsed, as he went into a roll, landing hard on his left shoulder. He ended up on his right side, facing away from the bike.
Charlie Brooks was off his own bike and quickly ran over to Johnny. “Gage, you okay?”
Johnny blinked, lifting his head. I can’t believe this.
“Yeah…yeah. I’m…I’m okay,” Johnny replied, easing himself to a sitting position.
Johnny winced as he tried to put weight on his left wrist to prop himself up.
“Does your arm hurt?” Brooks asked, as he removed his helmet and shut off the motor on Johnny’s bike.
“My wrist. I think I may have fractured it,” Johnny said as he cradled his left hand in his right arm. “Ah man, Cap’s gonna kill me.”
“Never mind that. Accidents happen,” Charlie assured, walking back over to the injured paramedic. “Anything else hurt?”
“Besides my pride?” Johnny grinned, biting his lower lip. “I think I’m scratched up some, but nothing bad. My left shoulder kind of hurts.”
Brooks squatted in front of Johnny. “Let me see your wrist.”
Johnny moved his right arm away, slowly putting his left wrist out for Charlie to see.
Charlie palpated it gently. Johnny felt tears sting his eyes as the pain in his wrist increased with the gentle pressure.
Charlie looked up at Johnny’s pain filled face. “Sorry. But you may be right. I’d say it’s probably fractured. Let me check your shoulder.”
Not finding anything obviously wrong with Johnny’s left shoulder, Brooks stood up.
“I have a small first aid kit in my truck. Let me see what I have that we can splint your wrist with. I’ll be right back.”
Johnny reached up and took off his helmet with his right hand, tossing the safety item on the ground.
Brooks returned three minutes later with a roll of white gauze tape and a Car and Driver magazine.
“It’s not the best, but it’ll work for now, huh?”
Johnny eyed the items, grinning. It wasn’t too long ago he had used magazines to splint a woman’s leg when he, Chet and Roy had come up on an accident out in the middle of no where.
It only took Charlie a few minutes to get Johnny’s wrist fixed up in the make shift splint.
“C’mon, let’s get you to Rampart,” Charlie said, helping Johnny to his feet.
Johnny nodded, as he stood. He gasped as he put pressure on his right leg.
“I think I may have twisted my ankle, too.”
“You sure it’s not broken?” Charlie asked, squatting down to check Johnny’s right ankle.
“I’m pretty sure. It doesn’t hurt too much. Just if I put any pressure on it. I must have caught it on the bike somehow.”
“Okay,” Charlie got on Johnny’s right side. “Put your right arm across my shoulders and I’ll help you to my truck.”
Once Charlie got Johnny situated in his pickup truck, he loaded the bikes in the back, one at a time. He tossed the helmets in with the bikes. Charlie made sure the tailgate was secure, then climbed in the front driver’s side.
As he turned the ignition on, Charlie glanced over at Johnny.
“As I’ll ever be,” Johnny sighed.
“Stay put,” Charlie instructed as he pulled into a parking spot near the doors to Rampart’s emergency entrance, “and I’ll go in and borrow a wheel chair.”
“Sure,” Johnny mumbled.
Chet is gonna have a field day with this. Damn. Why didn’t I quit while I was ahead?
The emergency doors opened as Doctor Morton, Dixie and an orderly came out with Charlie Brooks. Johnny saw that they had a gurney with them.
Johnny groaned, laying his head back against the seat, closing his eyes.
Doesn’t anyone I know here get a day off? And why did it have to be Morton?
Johnny opened his eyes and peered out of the corner of his right eye as the passenger side door opened.
“You okay, Gage?” Mike Morton asked.
“Just wishing I was any place but here right now, Doc.”
Morton snickered at Johnny’s comment. He then ordered the gurney be brought over alongside the truck.
“John, let us get you situated on the gurney. You know the drill, right?”
“Doc, I don’t need that. It’s just m--”
“Gage,” Morton interrupted. “Now, it may very well be that you don’t need a gurney. But until I’ve had a chance to examine you, we won’t know that, will we?”
“Guess not. But--”
Johnny looked to Charlie for back up. When the fire fighter didn’t say anything, Johnny resigned himself to a ride in on a gurney.
Dixie held the door to treatment room four open. She noted the expression on Johnny’s face as he was wheeled past. Although he was trying to make light of the situation, Dixie could tell there was something bothering Johnny other than just his injuries.
Mike Morton examined Johnny carefully as Charlie Brooks looked on.
“You know, you should have called a squad and ambulance when this happened.”
Not getting a verbal response from Johnny or Charlie, Morton glanced first over his left shoulder at Brooks, then at Gage.
“There wasn’t a phone where we were,” Charlie explained.
“And I could tell I wasn’t hurt that bad,” Johnny added, defensively.
Morton sighed. “Gage, you should know better than anybody that internal injuries aren’t always obvious right away.”
“Mike, I’m okay. I just broke my wrist and twisted my ankle.”
“Well, it appears you’re right. Let’s see what the x-rays show.”
Doctor Morton motioned for Brooks to step out with him as an x-ray technician came in with the equipment.
Later that night, Johnny was cleared to go home. His fractured wrist set and in a cast, and his ankle wrapped in an Ace bandage, Johnny was taken out to Charlie’s truck in a wheel chair. Dixie prodded Johnny about what could be bothering him as she pushed him out.
“Well, it could’ve been much worse you know,” Dixie said.
“Yeah, but Chet’s gonna tease me to no end on this,” Johnny whined. “He said I was gonna wreck and he was right. I’ll never live this down.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Seems like when you get hurt, Chet’s one of the first ones to worry. Remember when the snake bit you?”
“Yeah, but as soon as I was okay, he started in again.” Johnny sighed. “I’m tellin’ ya’, Dix. He’s gonna be on me about this for who knows how long.”
Charlie and Dixie helped Johnny into the Ford pickup.
“Don’t worry, Johnny. Maybe Chet’ll surprise you,” Dixie assured. “Just be sure you stay off that ankle a few days and take good care of that wrist.”
“Yeah. I will.”
Charlie Brooks went around to the driver’s side of the truck, as Dixie took the wheel chair back inside.
“Dixie’s right, you know. Chet will probably feel worse about this than you do. After all, you said he’s the one who kept telling you that you were gonna wreck.”
Johnny frowned, nodding.
I can only hope.
Captain Stanley called the men to roll call. Four men lined up, Gage being the missing fifth man.
Roy waited for the Captain to ask him on Johnny’s whereabouts. Much to his surprise, Captain Stanley already had the answer.
“Roy, your temporary partner will be here soon. Dwyer is going to stay until he gets here. Gage called in a short time ago, and it looks like he’ll be out awhile.”
Roy nodded, somewhat stunned. He opened his mouth to ask why Johnny was out, but Chet was a step ahead of him.
“What happened, Cap?” Chet asked, hoping he wouldn’t get the answer he was expecting. Gut feeling told him it had something to do with the dirt bike.
“John had a little accident yesterday. Seems he lost control on a dirt bike and was thrown off. His landing was kind of rough.”
“How bad was he hurt?” Roy wondered.
“Well,” Captain Stanley began, “the worst is, John fractured his left wrist. Other than that he sprained his right ankle, got a few scrapes here and there, and has one very sore left shoulder.”
Chet glanced at Roy to see if the paramedic was looking at him yet.
Feeling Chet’s eyes watching him, Roy in turn glanced at Chet.
“It’s not my fault,” Chet defended. “It was inevitable…it was Gage’s destiny.”
Roy rolled his eyes. If he didn’t know Chet better, Roy would’ve sworn Chet was actually starting to feel guilty for teasing Johnny the last shift.
Captain Stanley gave Chet a questioning look.
“Why would it be your fault, Kelly? Something I should know about?”
“Uh…no Cap,” Chet quickly replied. “Not at all. I was just teasin’ him about his new hobby. Honest.”
Johnny lay on his couch, his bandaged ankle propped up on some throw pillows with an ice pack on top of it and his left wrist across his chest. The television was tuned into daytime game shows. With the pain medication taking effect on Johnny, it was all he had the energy to do.
Johnny’s eyes slid shut as the paramedic fell asleep.
Johnny revved his motor on his bike as he looked at the steep dirt hill ahead. He was about to make a run up the hill, where he would soar through the air on the other side before landing on the ground and continuing on the path. He rode his bike around in a few circles preparing himself mentally for the feat ahead of him. Finally Johnny felt ready. His eyes set on the obstacle in front of him, Johnny started forward.
Suddenly Chet’s voice could be heard over the roar of the motor.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Gage! You’ll regret it!”
Johnny ignored the voice, going through with his jump. The initial jump was a success. But as Johnny landed, his bike came out from under him, throwing the paramedic off. Johnny rolled in the dirt, finally coming to rest on his back. Chet loomed over him. Johnny could hear the Chet telling him over and over “I told you so.”
Suddenly Roy appeared. “You should have listened to Chet, partner.”
Mike and Marco stood over Johnny, shaking their heads. “Chet was right you know,” they both said in unison.
Captain Stanley popped up between Mike and Marco.
Johnny woke up with a start. Weakly pulling himself to a sitting position, Johnny looked around the room to get his bearings.
Oh good. It was just a dream. Damn it, Chet. Why did you have to be right?
Johnny set the ice pack aside and slowly swung his legs over the front of the couch. He put most of his weight on his left leg and limped into the kitchen. Opening the refrigerator, Johnny pulled out a can of soft drink, popping the tab off. He sat at the kitchen table and set the drink down. Johnny propped his forehead against his right hand and groaned.
Oh man, if I could take back yesterday I would do it in a heartbeat.
In the late afternoon, Johnny had managed to call Roy. It was a welcome phone call for Roy, as he had been concerned about his partner. Roy hung up the phone and turned to find Chet standing close behind him.
“Who was that?”
“Johnny,” Roy answered, wondering what Chet was up to.
“How’s he doing?”
“Okay. He said he’s sore, and he’s having a hard time getting around the apartment. But he’s doing okay,” Roy smiled.
“He…he didn’t mention anything about…well, you know…last shift?”
Hmmm. Johnny’s gotta think this was my fault. He even said it would be. I wonder if he’s saving it till he gets back?
The guys had had a busy shift. Both the engine and the squad seemed to be out on a call more than they were around the station. As night approached, the men decided it would be wise to try to get some sleep while things had slowed down.
The exhausted men fell asleep in less than ten minutes. Chet was curled up on his side, sound asleep and hugging the blanket.
Chet stood in the field, watching Johnny make jumps over hills and across ditches on his dirt bike.
“Hey, Gage, bet you crash next time you try that!”
Johnny glared at Chet as he defiantly made an attempt to jump across the widest, deepest ditch in the area.
Chet watched in horror as Johnny lost control of the bike when he tried to land on the other side. Johnny fell off his dirt bike and tumbled down to the bottom of the ditch. Chet ran over to his friend, only to find Johnny in a crumpled heap, blood running down the side of his face and his left leg grotesquely twisted.
Chet sat straight up, sweat across his brow. He looked around the dorm room, his shoulders sagging in relief.
Oh wow. It was just a dream. Why did I have to tell Gage he was gonna wreck? Why didn’t I just leave him alone for once?
Chet swung his legs over the side of the bed. He got up and walked into the latrine to splash water on his sweaty face. Looking in the mirror he scowled.
Well, you know what you gotta do, Kelly.
The following morning Chet found himself at Johnny’s front door. He took a deep breath, shook his shoulders out and knocked.
Chet could here a muffled “I’ll be right there” from the other side of the door.
The door slowly opened as Johnny peered around to see who was there.
“I know, I know. Probably the last guy you’d expect to see today, huh? Roy’s coming over later, I think. After he takes his wife to her hair appointment.”
“Well…come in…come on in,” Johnny said, hopping back to open the door farther.
“Thanks.” Chet stepped into the livingroom, looking at the blankets thrown over the couch in a heap. “Did I wake you up?”
“Nah. I slept pretty good last night. I was just laying down, watching TV. You know how it is. Can’t do much else.”
“Yeah,” Chet nodded.
“Hey…” Johnny and Chet said in unison.
Both men paused.
“I’m sorry…” both men began.
“Look, you go first, Chet,” Johnny said, easing himself down on the couch.
“Well, I just wanted to say I’m sorry for teasing you that last shift. I know I said I don’t believe in jinxes, but I have to admit…well, I felt like it was kind of my fault when this happened. And maybe I carried it a bit far.”
Johnny was surprised. He sat a few minutes in silence, while Chet’s apology sank in.
“Well, aren’t you gonna take your turn at this?” Chet asked.
“Huh? Oh sure…sure.” Johnny rubbed his forehead with his right hand. “I’m sorry I got grouchy the other day. Truth is, you were right. I was being cocky and look where it got me,” Johnny waved his right hand over his injured wrist and leg. “If I had listened to you, I would probably be getting off work right now.”
Chet gave a slight nod, as he looked at the cast on Johnny’s wrist.
“Hey, Gage? Now that we got that out of the way, can we make a deal?”
“That nobody gets told about what we said here today. I’ve got a reputation to protect and if anyone finds out I’ve got a soft spot, I’m ruined,” Chet whined.
“Deal. I don’t want anyone knowing I apologized to you either. Roy thinks I’m nuts as it is.”
Chet walked to the door, opening it. He turned back to face Johnny.
“I just want to clarify one more thing.”
“Go ahead,” Johnny sighed.
“That the Phantom can still pick on his pigeon now and then. The station would never be the same if he didn’t.”
Johnny shot Chet a glare.
So much for Chet being a changed man.
“I wouldn’t expect it any other way, Chet,” Johnny answered.
Chet grinned as he walked out the door and closed it.
Just wait till you get back, Gage…just wait.
Thanks go to Kenda for the beta read. Any medical or other errors are mine. Thanks also to Tigger for coming up with the song title challenge.