After the men had crawled on, over and through the new engine, Captain Hank Stanley called the crew together.
"I know most of you don’t know this, but there is a special ritual that needs to be done when taking possession of a new truck." He looked at the five faces before him and noticed that puzzlement began to overshadow the kid-on-Christmas-morning look. He’d thought that Mike Stoker might’ve known of the ‘Housing’ ritual.
"To honor our early firemen predecessors," he began, "when horses pulled the water wagon ..."
"We’re gonna get horses?" interrupted Chet.
"No, you twit," Hank said, bristling. "Just listen. Now, when the firemen returned to the barn, the horses were unhitched and the wagon had to be pushed back into place." He scanned the faces again and was pleased to see more rapt attention. "All the firemen and sometimes nearby citizens would all help with pushing the wagon. As a tribute today, when a station receives a new truck it is first pushed into the barn."
"Wow," paramedic Roy DeSoto said. "I’d never heard that, but I like it."
"Yeah," Marco Lopez agreed. "I’ve never been stationed where a new truck was assigned – until now."
Mike Stoker, engineer for the new truck, nodded his head approvingly to Hank.
"You mean we gotta push this monster into the bay?" asked Chet.
"Yeah," paramedic Johnny Gage shot back. "Yeah, we do. That’s cool, Cap."
"Well, then," Hank said, rubbing his hands together. "Mike, you’ll steer, I guess. The rest of us get to push."
Mike stepped up into the cab, settled behind the big, shiny-new steering wheel. The paramedics and engine crew took places behind the truck, preparing to push it into the station’s vehicle bay slot beside the squad from the back lot. Hank took a spot where he could push with a captain’s effort. He’d done one other ‘housing’ years and years ago. That truck had been about half the size of this monster.
"Okay, men, let’s put some oomph into this," Hank instructed. He watched as the four others set their feet and leaned shoulders into the shiny red truck. As for himself, he leaned in, ready to give more encouragement to the younger men than actual sweat effort.
"Push!" Hank called, frowning when the initial shove registered zero on the tire movement scale. "Come on, men, put some backbone in it." He waited for the grumbles to subside. "Now, PUSH!"
Hank actually shoved with discernible effort, hearing grunts and groans from his men. The truck didn’t move. He certainly wished Mike hadn’t already filled the tank with water. That probably doubled the weight of the beast. If they could just get it started, he felt sure it would roll right into the bay.
"Push!" he called again. And again. And again. He hadn’t planned on sweating today, but with the morning sun blazing, sweat coursed at the sides of his face. Chet had turned backward to heave against the truck. Roy’s and Marco’s shirts were stained with sweat and Johnny was wiping sweat from his eyes.
As they nearly hernia’d themselves with effort, Hank heard a quiet metallic ‘clunk’ and immediately the truck inched forward. As expected, once moving, the truck glided smoothly into the station.
Needing to change his uniform, Hank stood back with Johnny and Roy to admire how the truck looked in its new home. Marco and Chet had collapsed on the tailboard, toweling off. They all looked as unkempt and worn down as if they’d just returned from a five-alarm fire. All except for one of the crew.
Stepping up on the driver’s side running board, Hank peered in at his engineer.
"Figure out where that emergency break release is, Mike?"
The sheepish look Engineer Stoker sent him held Hank from announcing the issue to the crew. For now.
Sauce for the Goose by Doc Sara
A Hairy Situation
After a night filled with little or no sleep, two haggard men, John Gage and his partner Roy DeSoto were standing in the bay area of Station 51 discussing their captain.
"Roy, you know that last shift there was more."
"Hey, I'm not saying that there wasn't but..." Roy hedged.
"But what?" Johnny asked.
"Nothing?! That is not something you can say then just leave me hanging."
"But..." Johnny said.
"Well...Johnny, I just don't think Cap would appreciate us talking about it."
"He has to know that we'd notice. Don'tcha think?"
"I think that's the whole point."
"Think about it. He left some." Roy explained.
"Yeah, what's up with that? I mean if you're gonna do it, wouldn't ya just do it all?" Johnny questioned.
"Well, I know if I did it, I wouldn't. I'd leave some just so it'd be less noticeable."
"It's a little more oilier than usual. You think it's the Grecian Formula doing that?"
"Could be." Roy replied.
Captain Stanley approached his two paramedics. He'd overheard most of their conversation and realized his hair was the topic.
"Roy, John. Something wrong?" Hank asked.
"Uh, Cap. Uh, no. Nothing." Johnny stumbled over his words.
Roy had the good grace to blush, knowing they'd been caught gossiping.
"Sorry, Cap." Roy offered an apology.
"Yeah, sorry, Cap." Johnny followed suit.
Hank gave them a stern look, trying to give them a mad captain look as he said, "Just don't let me catch you guys discussing it again."
Johnny and Roy both spoke in unison, "Yes, Sir."
Hank turned and started walking toward his office. Just before he went inside, he turned to the two men and said, "By the way, John, I here Dipty Do can do wonders for unkempt hair and Roy, there is a new program for hair loss called, Hair Club for Men, you should check into it."
With that Hank went into his office and closed the door just before the smile that threatened his tough boss demeanor broke through.
Johnny and Roy stood and stared at the closed door then at each other, then back at the office door, while they unconsciously raked their hands through their hair.
By Marty P.
Morning physical training had just ended and Captain Hank Stanley could feel the weariness emanating from paramedics Roy DeSoto and John Gage. “You two didn’t get much rest last night, did you?”
“Nope,” Johnny yawned. “We got called out six times.”
Roy began to tuck in his shirt. “It was seven, Johnny. And two of those were cancelled.”
“Oh, that’s right.” Johnny stretched and leaned toward the kitchen where the smell of fresh-brewed coffee enticed him. “And two took an hour by the time everything was done.”
The captain put his shoulders back and took a deep breath. “You know, I used to envy you two performing as paramedics.”
“You mean you woulda trained if they’d had the program ten years ago?” Johnny sounded surprised.
Hank Stanley rubbed his stubbled chin. “It was hard to watch people who needed medical assistance and feel so helpless.”
“Yeah, we still aren’t miracle men.” Roy thought of the young child who had choked on a toy. By the time they got there, the child had been without oxygen too long. The parents’ reaction made it even tougher.
The captain straightened his back. “Ya know who woulda made a dynamite paramedic? Captain Hookraider.”
“Hook?” Johnny shuddered. “He woulda instituted a policy to polish the inside and outside of the drug box!” He rubbed his hands together as he envisioned the handle slipping out of his grip every time he used it.
“That’s not fair, Johnny.” Roy eyed his partner.
Johnny raised his hands. “When has the man ever been pleased the first time we do something?”
“He wasn’t always that way.” The captain explained. “You see, his father had a heart attack.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Johnny’s voice softened.
“Prior to that time Hooky was a free spirited, happy-go-lucky young fireman. His station was called to resuscitate his dad and all he could do was watch him die.”
“I had no idea.” Johnny brushed a spot of dirt off his pant leg.
“His mother blamed him, not once but for weeks on end. Then she committed suicide.”
“No wonder he keeps telling us to do things over and over. It makes him feel like he’s in control.” Roy leaned against the hood of the squad.
Johnny gave his superior a contemplative look, “Cap, why didn’t you ever tell us this? It would’ve explained so much. Now I feel really guilty about the retirement party we threw for him.”
“I’ve said more than I should. It kinda slipped out.” The captain pivoted toward the latrine.
Hoping to catch the man off guard, Johnny blocked his progress. “Why did you burn the Chief’s hat?”
Captain Stanley got a secretive look on his face. “That’s for me to know and you never to find out…and don’t lose sleep over it either, Gage!”
The captain vanished through the door and Johnny rubbed his heavy eyes. “I thought he’d tell us. Think he ever will, Roy? Roy?”
His work partner, tantalized by the odor of Marco frying chorizo for breakfast, was in the kitchen. Johnny yawned and joined him. Chet glanced up from the paper, “Whatcha been talking about out there?”
“Cap told us why he burnt the Chief’s hat.” The prank was worth it when he saw the expression on the Phantom’s face.
“No way! Spill it!”
“Don’t bug me, Chet. I’m too tired to chat right now.” He ignored the man’s pleas, winked at Roy, and poured himself a cup of joe.
To Save a Buck
The morning tones sounded signaling the beginning of a new day. Members of the
A-shift crew slowly made their way from the dorm room toward the kitchen in
search of an infusion of opulent umber to help wake their weary souls.
Roy DeSoto, along with his partner, John Gage and their captain, Hank Stanley stood in the engine bay discussing the previous days unusual and hazardous event.
"I still can't believe what happened," Roy mused.
"I know, I mean...it was just so..." Johnny stammered, unable to voice what he was trying to say.
Hank rubbed at his temple and sighed.
"Still have a headache, Cap?" Johnny asked.
"Yeah, you guys?"
"Yeah, but it's not as bad. The aspirin has helped," Roy replied.
"Yeah, definitely not as bad as yesterday. What the hell was that guy thinking anyway? I mean...man!" Johnny stopped, again unable to continue.
"I'm grateful that a headache was the only injuries that Station 51 suffered," Hank commented and sending up a silent prayer of thanks.
The three men stood in companionable silence pondering what could've happened and thanking their lucky stars that it didn't.
Station 51 had been called out for a possible gas leak. When they arrived at 307 Cascade Street, the stench of raw eggs filled the air.
Hank, John, Roy, Chet and Marco approached the front porch of the single story house where a petite woman in her early forties stood. "Mrs.?" Captain Stanley questioned.
"Ellison, Sandy Ellison. Thank goodness you're here. I told him not to, but he wouldn't listen," the shaken woman complained.
"Who are you talking about and what exactly did he do?" Hank asked.
"Simon, my husband, he's under the house with a tank of bottled gas...we have termites," she explained, in a matter of fact manner that she seemed should explain everything.
"Ma'am, let's move over next to the engine, away from any potential danger," Hank said as he helped Mrs. Ellison from the porch toward the engine.
Before they could make it halfway across the lawn a loud explosion erupted, shaking the earth, and knocking Hank and Sandy Ellison to the ground.
In the meantime, Johnny, Roy, Chet and Marco started to make their way around to the right side of the house to check on Mr. Ellison when the unthinkable happened.
The A-shift crew was stunned by the blast that propelled them across the yard, out of the way of the falling debris that was once the Ellison home.
It was only by the grace of God that Simon Ellison survived with only second degree burns and a concussion and no one else was seriously hurt.
"I think Mr. Ellison thought that using gas would be an inexpensive way to get rid of the termites," Hank said.
"Yeah, all this just to save a buck," Johnny sighed.
Shaking his head and picking at the seam of his untucked shirt, Roy voiced his thoughts, "He could have killed a lot of people and burned down a whole neighborhood. He was...we were lucky."
The smell of coffee lured the three men out of their contemplations and into the kitchen to join the rest of their shift mates. Another day awaited with many possible 'unusuals' to face.
By Vanessa Sgroi
Entering the apparatus bay from the day room, Captain Hank Stanley stopped short at the scene before him. The tune he had been whistling died a quick death.
"Would someone like to tell me what Chet is doing down there on the floor?" he asked, looking at his two paramedics who were both staring down in amazement. Or perhaps it was closer to disbelief.
"I don't know, Cap," answered Roy DeSoto, "he won't tell us."
"What do you mean he won't tell you?"
Roy shrugged and then frowned in puzzlement. "He says . . ."
"He SAYS," Gage interrupted with a snort, "it's a new exercise technique."
"Yeah, guaranteed to 'pare away the pounds' he tells us," muttered DeSoto.
Hank Stanley stared down at the fireman and watched the weird contortions he was putting his body through. After a few moments, Hank just shook his head.
"It looks ridiculous."
Placing his hand on his hip, Johnny grinned and said, "It looks painful to me."
Chet Kelly slowly unfurled his body and stood. "Ha! Shows what you know, Gage. It feels great!"
"Uh huh. Sure it does."
"Bet you can't do it."
"What! Of course, I can do it. And better than you."
Gesturing to the floor, Chet challenged, "Let's see it then."
Johnny scowled. "I don't know the moves."
"Fine. I'll show you . . . unless you're chicken."
That was all the challenge Johnny needed to hear. He dropped to the floor , his unbuttoned blue shirt falling open. He impatiently motioned for Chet to join him.
Captain Stanley crossed his arms in front of him and smiled. "Now this I have to see."
Leaning back against the squad, Roy put his hands in his pockets and with a big smile said, "Yeah, me too."
* * * The End * * *
A Little Present
by Lizabeth S. Tucker
"One of you has to clean it up," Captain Stanley said.
"But, Cap, we didn't do it!" Johnny protested.
Roy continued to stare at the unwelcome gift in the middle of the bay, directly under where the squad had been parked.
"I think Chet did it."
"John, we left the station at the same time. The squad came back first. Chet has been in the kitchen the whole time since then. There's no way he could have done it."
"Then someone snuck in."
"How? The station is locked tight while we're out on a run."
"But...but the only other explanation is that..."
"Yeah," Roy offered. "The only other explanation is that the squad did a dump in the bay."
Photo Stories Page