By Audrey W.
Roy answered the door, greeting Johnny as he pulled it open. It was early January and the two friends had made plans for an afternoon of bowling. Roy, who would have preferred fishing to bowling, reluctantly agreed on the indoor sport since the weather had been rainy lately.
“C’mon in and have a seat. I’m gonna let Jo know we’re leaving and I’ll be right back.
Gage sat on the couch in the livingroom and stared at the television screen across the room.
Gymnastics? Oh well . . .it’s only for a few minutes.
Five minutes later, the paramedic found himself looking at his watch. Wonder what’s keeping Roy? When he returned his gaze to the room around him, he saw the DeSotos’ seven-year-old daughter Jennifer sitting in a chair nearby, eyeing him.
“Well, hi, squirt! When did you come in?”
The girl rolled her eyes. “While you were looking at your watch.”
“Of course. When else, huh?”
“I’m waiting on your dad.”
“Mommy wanted him to help her in the garage. Daddy told me to keep ya company.”
“Ahhh. . .I see. . .”
The little blonde girl studied their guest, then an idea came to her mind. “You wanna see somethin’ cool?”
Johnny shrugged. “Sure, why not?” Probably beats gymnastics on TV, he figured.
He followed Jenny out of the room and down a short hallway into the den. Surveying the new surroundings, Gage noticed a clear plastic case with children’s make-up in it on a coffee table near the couch. Two small bottles, one clear and one with a pink tint to it, sat beside the case.
Pretending to be grown up, Jennifer motioned for Johnny to have a seat.
“Sit down, Mr. Gage.”
The paramedic grinned at his tiny hostess, as he complied. His smile faded when he saw her reach for the make-up.
“Uh. . .I don’t use that stuff.”
The little girl giggled. “I know. But this,” she said, picking up one of the small bottles, “is magic.”
Johnny grinned again at the young child’s imagination. One thing the man enjoyed was sharing the wonder children were able to keep in tact with their innocence and determination to pretend things were as they wanted. If only we adults could hold on to that at times.
“And what might that be?”
“It’s a magic potion for your fingernails.”
“Nail polish?” he asked, wondering what he’d gotten into.
“No, this.” She handed him the small bottle. Reading the label, he saw that it was a base coat of nail conditioner.
“Uh. . .I don’t know, sweetheart. It seems like that’s just for girls,” Gage explained, trying to let Jenny down easy.
“Huh uh. . .it’s for anyone. Mommy said so.”
“It’s not the shiny stuff?”
“Uh uh. Mommy says it goes on before the shiny stuff.”
Johnny sat back giving the situation thought. He glanced at the doorway, hoping Roy would have good timing and come in soon. He caught a glimpse of Jennifer out of the corner of his left eye, an expression of hope on her face. The dark-haired man sighed.
You owe me big for this, Roy.
Roy walked into the livingroom and found Johnny sitting on the couch with Jennifer beside him. The two of them were watching the last round of the gymnastics competition on television.
“Sorry for the delay. Jo needed help moving a few things around in the garage.”
“No problem.” The younger man got to his feet and watched while Roy grabbed his bowling bag near the chair. Soon they were on their way out of the house.
As Johnny reached for the doorknob, DeSoto noticed a gleam to his fingernails.
“She got you, too, huh?”
“Jennifer. I see she put the conditioner on your nails, too.”
Gage looked in alarm as he spread his fingers out. “Oh
man! What am I gonna do? It wasn’t supposed to be shiny!” Suddenly Roy’s
words sank in. “Wait, she painted yours, too?”
The senior partner nodded. “Joanne took it off for me a few hours later. We can do that for you, but the trade off isn’t all that great. ” When he got a puzzled look in return, Roy explained. “You ever get a good whiff of nail polish remover?”
“Polish remover? No way. That’s just going from one girl thing to another.”
“There is one thing you can do for me. Make sure no one from the station finds out about this.” Johnny stared at Roy, an unspoken plea on his face.
“I won’t say anything, but you’d better hope you wear most of it off bowling.”
“Man, I can’t believe this. . . I’m in a kid kind of mess and I don’t even have kids.”
“Relax. Joanne always complains about how it tends to wear off too quick. Besides, your fingertips are gonna be in and around a bowling ball. . .no one’ll notice.”
Johnny frowned as he tilted his hands, staring at his shiny nails. In the meantime, Roy managed to wipe the grin from his face and put on a stern expression to get a point across to his daughter.
“Now, you, young lady. No more getting into your mom’s manicure set.”
Jennifer looked down at the floor, pouting. “Yes, Daddy.”
“And what do you say to Johnny?”
“I’m sorry.” She didn’t look at either man.
“Oh, heck, it’ll be okay,” Johnny said, trying to lighten the child’s mood.
Roy just shook his head. One minute it was the end of Gage’s world, the next he was over it. The senior paramedic had witnessed the sudden changes in his partner’s mood often.
As the two men headed for Johnny’s Land Rover on the side of the street, the younger man turned to Roy.
“Is there ever any age where chicks don’t complicate a guy’s life?”
“You mean the guy’s age or theirs?”
Roy gave the question careful consideration as he reflected back on his relationship with Joanne over the many years he’d known her, then his mother-in-law and her influence in his life. He next thought about Jennifer as a baby, a toddler and the little girl she’d grown to be.
“Nope. But I wouldn’t trade a single complication they’ve given me for anything.”
Johnny glanced at his shiny nails once more and pictured Jenny’s happy smile as she put the conditioner on him, all the while sounding like a commercial spokesperson trying to sell the stuff to him. “Yeah, I know what you mean. I know just what you mean.”
Thanks for the beta read, Kenda!
This is dedicated to my older brother, who often is thrifty like John Gage, but also has a big heart when it counts, like John Gage does . . .and at Christmas he found himself in this situation, only with my daughter putting the conditioner on his fingernails. And it wasn't until the next day at work that he noticed his nails were shiny. lol He was able to see the humor of the situation.