This story is a sequel to BACHELORS AND BRIDES in the Johnny/Lorraine/Darlene series. It may help to read the other stories first, though this story stands on its own as well. Song lyrics borrowed from *It Did* by Brad Paisley. No copyright infringement intended.
Just when I start thinking its as good as
it can get
This crazy life does something just to let me know
I haven’t seen anything yet
Paramedic John Gage placed the telephone receiver back in its cradle and took a deep breath as he rested his right forearm on the small shelf on the wall under the two telephones in Station 51’s dayroom. He stared at the floor as he let the news he’d just gotten sink in.
I can’t believe it. . .man, I *can’t* believe it.
Lost in thought, he didn’t hear his partner, Roy DeSoto, walk into the room. “Who called?” Roy asked as he checked the progress of their meal that was in the oven.
“Huh?” Johnny quickly looked up and around in surprise, then turned to face him. “Oh. . .Lorraine. That was Lorraine.”
Roy grinned. Since Gage had gotten married to the quirky green-eyed blonde, they’d called each other three or four times most shifts.
The couple had only been married for four months. Roy figured after the first year, the phone calls would likely slow down to at least. . .
Knowing them. . .two per shift.
“Is it the goldfish again?” he asked, closing the oven door. “Which one this time? Hoover or Kirby?”
“Oh, it’s not the fish. . .no,” John confirmed as he shook his head. “It’s not them. It’s way bigger than that.”
“You got a catfish?”
“Roy,” he groaned. Suddenly his expression and voice changed to excitement. “I’m gonna be a dad! Lorraine’s pregnant!” He ignored the stunned look on his friend’s face and continued. “She just got the results of the pregnancy test from the doctor.”
Having recovered from the initial shock, Roy reached out and shook his hand. “Hey, congratulations! But how come you didn’t say anything sooner? I didn’t even know she might be pregnant. . .”
“I didn’t wanna jinx us. You know. . .countin’ our chickens. . .or chick-en. . .before it hatched. . .so to speak.”
“Who’s got chickens?” Chet Kelly asked as he entered the room.
Marco Lopez followed behind him. “My grandfather raised chickens.”
Having just returned from a response with the engine, Chet headed for the oven while Marco went to the stove where a fresh pot of coffee sat. Meanwhile, the two paramedics were both silent as they each wondered how a conversation about a baby had turned into one of raising chickens.
“We’re having chicken for lunch?” Engineer Mike Stoker asked, joining the others. He’d only caught bits and pieces of the comments. “I thought you were heating up lasagna your wife made.”
Johnny glanced at his partner and rolled his eyes while Roy addressed Mike’s question.
“We’re still having lasagna.”
“Look . . . guys,” Gage held up his hands to stop all conversation so he could set everyone straight. “No one’s raising or eating chickens.”
“Then why’d you bring it up?” Chet wondered.
“Bring what up?” Captain Stanley inquired as he came in the doorway.
“Chickens,” Marco offered.
The dark-haired paramedic let out a sigh. He never imagined giving news of a baby on the way would be so confusing.
“Not chickens, a baby!” There. He’d finally gotten it out. With a wide crooked grin and a silent audience, he added, “I’m gonna be a dad. Lorraine’s pregnant.”
After recovering from the surprising news, the captain reached out and gave him a pat on the back. “Hey, that’s great, pal. Congratulations!” He shook his hand with his other free one.
The others chimed in with congrats and handshakes, then Chet asked, “So what was with the chickens? I thought rabbits always played into this kind of stuff.”
While Johnny once again tried to straighten things out, all Roy could figure was that his prediction on the phone calls was going to be way off base now.
Knowing those two. . .they’ll probably double. . .
“So, when does the list of baby names start up again?” Roy wondered as he and his partner drove toward the station after a rescue.
Johnny looked out the windshield from the passenger seat. “It’s kinda soon I’d say, don’tcha think?”
Roy’s eyes opened wide in disbelief. “You were carrying around a list of baby names before you even got married. Before you even knew you wanted to get married.”
The younger man turned slightly to face him. “Yeah, but that was different. Totally different.”
“Easy. There wasn’t going to actually be a kid to attach a name to. Now there is. We can’t be sortin’ through a list of names like we were grocery shopping or somethin’. Not when a name can even determine the future for the kid. No,” he shook his head. “This is serious business now. We’ve gotta wait for awhile and really think this out.”
Roy just nodded. But he still expected to see his partner running around with a mile long list of baby names soon.
Before they made it back to the station, the paramedics were sent out on another rescue. This one was for a child down.
The calls for children always brought on an added concern. They both just hoped it wouldn’t be very serious.
As soon as they got to the home they’d been dispatched to, Johnny and Roy spotted a teenage boy with brown shoulder length hair, dressed in bellbottom jeans and a dark blue tie-dyed t-shirt standing by an open wood gate leading to a back yard. As they climbed out and grabbed the basic equipment they needed, he called out to them, “Hurry! She’s back here!”
“What’ve you got?” Johnny asked as he and Roy approached the young man.
“It’s my sister Cinnamon.”
“Yeah,” he answered anxiously as he led them around the corner of the house. “She and my other sister Ginger were playing in the tree house.” he motioned toward the large tree that had just come into view. A girl that looked to be nine-years-old and a boy around six were kneeling beside the fallen child, who was wailing. “Cinnamon fell off the ladder coming down. Dill tried to catch her, but he’s only six, and she knocked him flat on the ground.”
“I’ll get the backboard,” Johnny stated to his partner as he made a quick turn around, handing the biophone to the teenage boy in the process.
Roy trotted toward the three children, where he set the drug and trauma boxes down, directing the youth to place the biophone near them.
“Are you Dill?” Roy asked the youngest boy as he tended to Cinnamon.
He nodded, wiping tears from his cheeks. “Uh. . .huh,” he sniffled.
“Are you hurt anywhere?”
“M. . .my. . .he. . .head . . .hurts.”
“Okay, as soon as my partner gets back, I’ll have him take a look at you.”
Once again the boy nodded. “’Kay.”
Roy tried to reassure Cinnamon as he gently checked her for any obvious fractures. He then addressed the teen. “How old are you?”
“Are either of your parents nearby?” he asked over the continuing cries.
“No, sir. I’m babysittin’ while my mom is shoppin’. Dad’s at work.”
“Do you have a number where he can be reached? We can’t treat your sister or brother without parental consent.”
Johnny had arrived in time to catch the end of the conversation, a police officer with him. The officer placed the kids in his custody for the moment so the two young ones could be treated. The paramedics worked on Cinnamon and Dill.
As she was secured on a backboard, a c-collar on her neck as a precaution, Roy once again reassured the injured four-year-old girl.
“It’s okay, honey.”
“She’s not Honey,” the teen quickly corrected. “Honey’s our baby sister. She’s inside taking a nap.”
The paramedics looked at one another and exchanged slight grins, despite the situation with the injured children.
“Your mom wouldn’t happen to be grocery shopping right now, would she?” Johnny asked.
“Yes, sir. She’s pregnant and got a craving, so she had to go buy the stuff.”
Gage once again glanced at his partner and gave him a knowing look.
Soon they had Cinnamon and Dill in an ambulance. Ginger came running out of the house with the phone number to her father’s place of work, so he could be contacted by a staff member at Rampart. Roy was in the ambulance and took the slip of paper from his partner after it had been handed to him. Johnny then closed the doors and gave them two slaps to indicate they were secure.
As the emergency vehicle drove away, followed by the policeman on the scene, Gage turned to face the oldest boy. “You did a good thing calling us. . .uh. . .”
“Basil. . .”
The youth shrugged when he noticed an unsure expression register on the paramedic’s face. “Mom loves to bake so she named us after her favorite spices.”
Johnny gave a lopsided grin. “Can’t go wrong with love like that.” What else could he say? He headed for the squad while Basil went into the house to check on Honey and Ginger. He and his two sisters would need to wait there for their mother to return.
After they left the children in the care of Doctors Brackett and Morton, Johnny and Roy refilled their supplies and headed back to the station. Johnny wished Head Nurse Dixie McCall had been on duty so he could bounce the idea of children being named after spices off her. Instead, he decided to return to a subject he and Roy had been discussing.
“Okay, I guess I was a little off.”
“Off about what?”
“Picking a kid’s name not being like going over a grocery list. I guess for some people it is.”
Roy glanced over at him, a smile on his face. “Just don’t name your baby after your favorite cereal.”
“Cheerios? Well, you know, the kid might end up being a happy one with an upbeat name like that,” he teased with a grin. “But don’t worry. I think we’ll manage to steer clear of the food names.”
The two watched ahead as they continued on their way to the station, each hoping to get good news on Cinnamon and Dill later.
The engine crew sat with their chairs facing the TV set in the dayroom, watching a game show, while the paramedics telephoned Rampart from the captain’s office to check up on Cinnamon and Dill.
“Well, Brackett said Cinnamon’s going to be okay,” Roy stated as he and his partner walked in to join the others. “She’s gonna be sore for awhile though.”
“That’s great,” Captain Stanley commented. “She was very lucky.”
“Yeah, and Dill just has a mild concussion from when his sister knocked him to the ground,” Johnny added.
“Man, I’d say little Dill got himself in quite a pickle trying to catch his sister.”
“Chet,” Gage moaned.
“I’m curious what their last name is,” Marco said.
“Chet, would ya quit with the jokes already?”
“Sure, John. I was just tryin’ to go with the flow of happy news.”
Mike looked from one paramedic to another. “So what is their last name?”
“Jones,” Johnny firmly stated.
“Uh huh. Jones.”
“Let’s just hope the neighbors aren’t trying to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to names.”
“Chet!” Johnny and Roy said simultaneously.
The curly-haired fireman slinked down in his chair. “Okay, okay. . .I’ll shut up.”
All six of the men were just glad that the children would be okay. Though they weren’t there, the engine crew often shared the concern when the paramedics had a victim that was seriously ill or injured and the two brought their worries back with them.
Later in the shift, Roy came into the dayroom after taking a telephone call in the dorm from his wife Joanne. He headed straight for the refrigerator to get the milk out, talking to Johnny who was at the table with a magazine, in the process.
“I told Joanne about the Jones family.”
With no comment from his partner, he continued. “She thought the names were kind of cute.”
“Uh huh,” came a distracted reply.
Roy set the milk on the counter and got a glass out of the cupboard. His back to the table, he went on about the phone call as he poured his drink.
“But she pointed out that shortening their names like we do with Chris and Jenny would be awkward.”
“So she wanted me to pass that on to you.” He snickered slightly, stating as he turned around, “Knowing what Lorraine likes, I guess she’s kinda concerned you two are gonna name the baby like you did the fish. . .after a vacuum cleaner or something.” He sipped at his milk as he took a closer look at the magazine on the table. Roy’s eyes widened in horror. Johnny had his left index finger in place on a page while he added to a list on a piece of paper to the right. “Please tell me you aren’t doing what I think you’re doing.”
“Huh?” The younger man looked up, finally paying attention. “Whataya mean?”
Roy set his nearly full glass on the counter and stepped over to the table. He pulled out a chair and sat facing Johnny.
“You’re making a list.”
Gage glanced at his paper, then looked back at Roy. “Yeah. . .I am. . .so. . .?”
“From ‘Wheels and Gears’ magazine.”
“I repeat, yeah. . . I am. . .so. . .?”
“So. . .?”
“Roy, what’s your point?”
“You can’t name a kid after a car part.”
“Name a kid. . .?” Johnny trailed off. “I’m not making a list of baby names. Not names for the baby.”
Slightly relieved, Roy asked, “Then what are you doing?”
“I’m writing down some of the stats on the new line of cars out for next year. Dad. . .Lorraine’s dad that is. . .is thinking of buying a new car and last time she called, she said he’d heard ‘Wheels and Gears’ magazine had a whole write up on all of ‘em. So I had her tell ‘im I’d jot down some of the features when I got a chance.”
“Oh. Well, why don’t you just give him the magazine?”
“Because I’m not done with it yet,” he stated matter of fact.
“Can’t he go buy his own copy?”
Exasperated with the seemingly intrusive questions, Johnny sighed audibly. “You don’t know my father-in-law. He’ll go to great lengths to save as little as a dime.”
“Kinda sounds like his son-in-law,” Roy teased.
An eye roll at the comment and Johnny was back to the other topic Roy had started.
“ ‘Twenty-two miles to the gallon highway, eighteen city’,” he read off the paper. “Doesn’t sound much like a baby’s name ta me.” He put down his green-cased pen and once again sighed. “You know, this is gonna be a loooong nine months if you keep worrying about names already, Roy. Man, don’t forget we just found out the news about the baby today. We’ve got plenty of time. Plenty. And I already told ya, this name thing is serious business that’s gonna require some time to think over.”
Feeling silly but fully relieved, Roy sat back in the chair and grinned. “You’re right.”
“I know I’m right. But I guess in all fairness to you, I should admit I was thinkin’ Rosemary or Laurel sounded kinda nice. . . for a girl of course.”
Although the names were pretty and fairly common, Roy had to wonder if he and Johnny had gone full circle and ended up at the spice rack again. But he wasn’t about to mention those were also names of spices. Roy got to his feet and grabbed the glass of milk off the counter. He took a swig as he watched Johnny jot down more information. Lorraine’s family sure seemed to live by lists.
One month later. . .
“Man, four trips to the grocery store in the past twenty-four hours,” Johnny groaned. “I feel like I spent most of my day off either shopping or on the road between home and the store.”
He and Roy were returning from a run to Rampart for supplies after having inventoried the medical boxes in the squad at beginning of the shift. The venture out had reminded the younger paramedic about the errands he’d needed to run when his pregnant wife had several cravings during his off-duty time.
“Why didn’t you just have Lorraine go? I’m sure she would’ve been okay with it.”
“Ooooh nooo. No way, Roy. She gets even more cravings when she’s around a lot of food. Uh uh. It’s healthier for our grocery bill if I go. . . alone.”
“How’s the morning sickness?”
“It’s still hanging in there. She’s pretty nauseated for the first coupla hours that she’s awake. But she only actually throws up now and then.”
“I almost think it’s better if they can just get sick and get it over with at the beginning of the day. Joanne did that most of the time with Chris, but the mornings she couldn’t, she felt lousy most of day. Fortunately, she didn’t have any with Jennifer.”
“Did Joanne ever get any cravings when she was pregnant?”
Roy quickly glanced over and nodded, then returned his attention to the road. “With her it was always the same thing both times.”
“Yep. Chocolate milk with pretzels.”
“Chocolate milk with pretzels?” He screwed up his face in disgust.
“That’s right.” Roy couldn’t help but grin at his partner’s reaction. He’d felt the same way at the time. “What does Lorraine seem to crave the most?”
“Uh. . .” He reached in his shirt pocket, pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it. “Potato chips with strawberry jelly dip, pickles with whipped cream, buttery crackers with cheese, carrots with peanut butter, cottage cheese with bologna, and root beer floats.”
Figures he’d have a list, Roy thought. “I hope she doesn’t have that all at once.”
“Nah. That’s why I had to make so many trips to the grocery store. But I’m keepin’ this list handy. You never know when she might get a craving and not know for sure what she wants. I’ll have all these suggestions to fall back on.”
“Well, with cravings like that, it’s no wonder she’s so nauseated.”
Johnny had to snicker at the comment as he folded up and tucked the paper back in his pocket. “I’ll never understand the craving phenomenon.”
“I know what you mean. I never could watch Joanne with the pretzels and chocolate milk. I always had to leave the room. I don’t see how she could have‘em together.”
The two rode in silence a moment until Johnny stated, “You know, all that food talk--”
“Say no more,” Roy interrupted. “Which store?”
He turned right at the next intersection and headed toward the store where they could pick up what ever they needed to satisfy their own cravings.
“Man, that hit the spot,” Johnny said as he climbed out of the squad once he and Roy were back at the station.
His partner gave him an incredulous look that was missed by the younger man. “I can’t believe you ate that. Especially after the comments you made earlier.”
“Well, a guy can change his mind. . .sorta. It was pretty good. You should try it sometime.”
Johnny came around the front of the squad as Roy responded with a head shake ‘no’. “No thanks. I think I’ll stick to the conventional snacks.” He glanced over his shoulder as they headed for the dayroom. “You sure Lorraine’s the one who’s pregnant?”
“Very funny.” Gage gave him a one-handed push in the back. “Just keep moving so we can get some coffee.”
“But potato chips dipped in chocolate sauce?”
“Just wait. One day it’ll be a popular snack.” Giving thought to his own statement, he furrowed his brow as he rubbed at his chin with one hand. “You know. . . it might turn out to be a big hit. . .”
“Who got bit?” Marco asked. He, Chet and Mike were sitting at the table, each with a section of newspaper in front of them.
“I think he said hit,” Mike offered.
“Hey, speaking of hits, get a load of the score in the Dodgers game yesterday,” Chet said as he held out the sports section, his right index finger directing them to the numbers.
The subject of chocolate dipped potato chips forgotten, Johnny and Roy leaned over the paper with the others as they peered at the high score from the baseball game.
“Man, that’s more like a football score!”
“I saw it on TV,” Mike stated. “It was one of the best games I’ve ever seen.”
“Man, I forgot it was on. . .”
Chet shook his head. “See what marriage does to the brain, Gage?”
“Well, evidently you missed it too. What’s your excuse?”
“Uh. . .”
“I caught the beginning,” Roy offered, “but then we had a few errands to run. Looks like they did a lot more ‘running’ than us though.”
Chet was still trying to think of a good response to Johnny’s question when the clearing of a throat interrupted the conversation. The five men looked over toward the doorway where their captain stood leaning against the right side of the door frame with his arms folded across his chest. He pushed off with his shoulder, and stood up straight.
“I’m glad you guys have all this free time on your hands while I’m in my office slaving over a stack of papers.”
Four disbelieving sets of eyes shifted from the senior officer to their crewmate.
“Marco,” Johnny quietly said as he shook his head slightly. “Sarcasm. That was sarcasm,” he whispered.
“I know there isn’t a lot left to do around here since B-shift left the place ready for us, but I did find two inspections due by the end of the week.” He held out two sheets of paper. “Roy, John. . .how about you knock these out this morning while nothing else is going on.”
“Sure, Cap,” both men responded together. They walked over, Roy taking the papers as they passed him on their way to the apparatus bay and squad.
Hank then eyed his engine crew and rubbed his hands together. “Don’t worry. I’ve got a special idea for you.”
The men exchanged sour glances, not sure they wanted to hear it.
As Roy drove the squad onto the street, he noticed his partner take out Lorraine’s craving list and jot something down.
“What’re you doing?”
Johnny kept his eyes and pen on the paper as he answered, “I’m adding potato chips and chocolate syrup to the list.”
“Why? That was your craving, not Lorraine’s.”
The younger man looked at him and sighed. “Roy, ya just don’t get it.”
“Apparently not. What am I missing?”
“When she’s got a craving and she just doesn’t know what for. . .I’ve got another suggestion. . .one that won’t make me sick to watch her eat. Heck, I’ll probably join ‘er.”
Roy rolled his eyes as he looked ahead. “I think I liked it better when you were making a list of names.”
Johnny just scowled and folded up the paper, returning it and his green pen to his shirt pocket.
After completing the first inspection at a local restaurant, the paramedics arrived at a preschool school where children four and five years of age attended. When they arrived, the kids were a few minutes into a late morning nap.
Johnny and Roy kept their voices low as they explained to two women working at the place that they’d need to see the kitchen area first.
“This way,” one of the teachers offered. The other retook her seat at a desk near the front door and watched over the young ones lying on individual mats in the dimmed room.
Little heads popped up here and there as the paramedics made their way across one end of the room toward the doorway leading to the small cafeteria and kitchen.
“Mallory, head down. You, too, Keith,” the teacher at the desk directed.
Roy and Johnny noticed drawings by some of the seventeen preschoolers thumb tacked on a long bulletin board as they passed by it. Though it wasn’t easy to make out what everything in the pictures were supposed to be, the stick figure people and square houses with triangle roofs made it clear the theme was likely family and home.
”Reminds me of my refrigerator at times.”
Johnny didn’t say anything, but the thought of his refrigerator with the same type of pictures on it brought a smile to his face.
Nap time for the kids was over by the time the paramedics were done with their inspection. It had only taken them about fifteen minutes to complete the task, but the preschoolers only stayed down for twenty minutes. Anything beyond that and the teachers found the classroom to be one bobbing head after another.
The little ones filled the room with chatty voices and giggles as they put together wooden jigsaw puzzles, played with dolls in a toy kitchen setup, and drew and colored on sheets of manila paper.
“These the same kids that were on the mats when we came in?” Johnny asked the teacher escorting them out.
He raised his eyebrows and shook his head in wonder. “Like having a room full of little Jekyll and Hydes.”
It was Roy’s turn to not say a word, but rather just smile. Although they often dealt with children on rescue calls, nothing could teach a person about the psychology of kids like raising one or more of their own. He could only imagine the conversations he and Gage would have once the new baby hit the ‘terrible twos’ stage.
Another month later, before roll call. . .
“I hope Cap doesn’t make us lick anymore savings stamps,” Marco stated as he and Mike changed into uniform in the locker room of the station. “We’ve been doing it off and on now for what. . . four weeks? Much more and my tongue is going to be stuck to the roof of my mouth.”
The engineer snickered slightly at the comment. “Well, last shift he said we almost had enough to cover the baby buggy, along with some blankets and stuff.” He placed his civilian shirt on a hanger and hung it in his locker, then pulled out his blue uniform shirt. “I think it’ll be worth it when we see the reactions from Johnny and Lorraine when they get it later.”
“Maybe. But I sure wouldn’t mind trading places with Roy for awhile.”
When he got a questioning look from Mike, Marco elaborated. “Since he doesn’t have to lick any stamps because it’s his job to keep Johnny away while we’re doing it.”
Just then the door from the apparatus bay opened and Johnny entered, a wide grin on his face. The other two thought they’d blown the future surprise for sure.
“Mornin’,” he happily greeted them, still smiling.
A couple of quick ‘good mornings’ came in return.
Johnny looked curiously at Marco and Mike when he noticed the two staring at him. Returning their steady gaze a moment, he stepped over to the first wall of lockers. Deciding to shrug their behavior off, the paramedic whistled a happy tune as he opened his locker and unbuttoned his yellow plaid collared shirt.
The firemen exchanged concerned glances, still fearing they’d let their captain down. But there was only one way to find out. The two did a quick inconspicuous ‘rock, paper scissors’ to see who was going to ask the obvious question. Mike’s paper lost to Marco’s scissors.
Not sure he was ready for the answer, the engineer hesitantly asked, “So what’re you so happy about?”
Johnny quit whistling and looked at the men with bright eyes, the smile having returned to his face. “We have a bump.”
Gage nodded as he happily continued getting changed. “Uh huh. That’s what I said, Marco. A bump. Enough of one that Lorraine and her mom are gonna go shoppin’ for maternity clothes today.”
“Oh. . . that bump,” Marco said, just relieved they were off the hook.
“How far along is she again?” Mike wondered.
“About fourteen weeks, give or take one or two. We. . .uh. . .you know. . .were pretty busy. . .uh. . .then. . .to know exactly when--”
Suddenly the door opened again, the distraction sparing Johnny anymore talk about his sex life. Roy walked into the room, noticing right away he’d obviously interrupted a conversation.
“Good morning,” he greeted, figuring he’d get it out of the way and they could continue. But the room remained silent as he went to his locker. Roy then noticed Johnny looking at him with a happy ‘ask me’ expression on his face. But before he could say anything, an explanation came from Marco at the next set of lockers.
“Johnny and Lorraine have a bump.”
Roy unbuttoned his shirt as he eyed his partner. “As in in the driveway into your parking lot or Lorraine needs maternity clothes?”
“The latter. She and her mom are goin’ shopping today.”
“She’s fifteen weeks now, isn’t she?”
“Fourteen, give or take a week or two. We—” The younger paramedic stopped in mid sentence. Married and with two kids of his own, Roy sure as heck didn’t need to hear more.
Shortly before noon, the five lower ranking crew members of A-shift found time to play basketball in the rear lot of the station. Chet had just lost the ball to Mike, and was going for a steal himself, when he noticed a familiar face and shape emerge from between the trucks in the open apparatus bay. He immediately pulled up and turned to face the visitor.
The others stopped playing and watched as their shiftmate went to meet his very buxom girlfriend, Vanessa Vavoom, who was carrying a covered dish.
“Isn’t it Chet’s turn to fix lunch?” Roy asked, his eyes still on the couple.
“Uh huh,” Mike confirmed, his gaze locked on the unbelievably large sized breasts, the basketball gripped tightly in his hands.
“I can’t believe it,” Johnny stated as Chet took the dish from Miss Vavoom. Though the paramedic was referring to the fact it looked like the fireman had gotten their lunch catered in, from a girl who was the last one he expected to be handy in the kitchen no less, Marco’s mind was on the part the other two were focusing on as well. Married or not, they just couldn’t help it.
“Neither can I,” came his comment. “Now those are what I call bumps.”
Johnny just looked at him and shook his head. He wouldn’t trade Lorraine’s small bump in her abdomen for the two on Vanessa’s chest for anything in the world. When that thought led to another. . .as in how a woman’s breast size increased during pregnancy . . . he suddenly got a vision of Vanessa if she and Chet were to get married and have a baby.
His mouth dropped open as he looked on.
“So is Vanessa bringing us dinner too?” Marco asked as he and Johnny cleared the table of lunch dishes.
“She’s gotten to be a pretty good cook, hasn’t she,” Chet stated with pride.
“I don’t think the food’s the only reason Marco wants her back.”
Lopez shot Johnny a glare, then addressed the other comment. “That was one of the best tuna casseroles I’ve ever tasted.”
“Out of how many?” Mike wondered.
“Counting hers, two. But hers was the best.”
Johnny snorted as he plopped the short stack of dirty plates in the soapy water filled sink. Just then Roy called from the doorway, “Hey, Johnny, Cap wants us to go out and inspect a few fire hydrants in the area.”
With a pat on Marco’s shoulder, Gage teased, “Well, I guess now you can enjoy washing the dishes from that fine casserole you liked so much.”
“I thought you were going to help.”
“You heard Roy,” he called out as he headed for the door. “There’s fire hydrants to be inspected.”
Once the paramedics were gone, Marco looked at the others expectantly. “Well?”
But before anyone could respond, the captain walked in with strips of savings stamps and the books they were filling. “The dishes can wait. We’ve got other work to do.”
“Cap,” Chet began, “If the baby’s not due for about six months, what’s the hurry?”
“I wanna get this stuff taken care of soon so I don’t hafta worry about it for awhile; until it’s time to give them the gifts.”
“Isn’t Johnny gonna get suspicious if the savings stamps he and Roy get from station groceries just disappear?”
“Nope. We haven’t been using theirs. These are from other sources.”
With all that settled, it was time to lick and stick.
Marco looked at a sponge near the sink. The water was handy and it sure beat using his tongue.
Roy and Johnny climbed back into the squad after inspecting the second fire hydrant on the list. As he marked it off, Johnny snorted.
“You thought I was bad about making lists. Cap’s got me beat for sure.”
“I don’t know about that. You’ve had more than your share lately.”
“So has he.”
Roy nodded in agreement. He didn’t want to comment for fear of saying too much. After all, it was the lists of things for them to do that were keeping his partner busy and away from the station when the guys worked on stamp books. Instead he reopened another topic of the shift as they headed for the next hydrant several blocks away.
“So does it feel more like you’re really gonna be a dad now that you can see Lorraine’s abdomen growing?”
“It sure does, man. It sure does.”
“Wait till the baby really starts to grow.”
Johnny looked at him in surprise. “Roy, you know I’ve seen plenty of pregnant bellies. Heck, look at how many babies we’ve brought into the world.”
“Yeah, but it’s not quite the same when it’s your own wife and child.”
Johnny gave it thought. A slight grin spread across his face as he slowly nodded. Roy was right.
“Just be prepared in case Lorraine has a tendency to get a lot of stretch marks.”
Having forgotten about that possibility, he quickly shot his friend a look of alarm.
Roy glanced over and had to grin himself. “Don’t worry. Joanne used some cream to keep her skin more elastic and that helped. She can let Lorraine know what works best if she needs it.”
Man, and they say women are *lucky* they get to carry the babies?
A couple of weeks later . .
Johnny sat on the end of the bed at home, watching Lorraine select a maternity top from the closet. For the moment she was just dressed in a pair of new pale blue shorts and bra she’d gotten. Both her abdomen and breasts had noticeably increased in size.
Though the thought of a baby growing inside was exciting enough, to witness the remarkable changes his wife was going through day-by-day was icing on the cake. Johnny got to his feet and hurried over to her just as she pulled out a white ‘A’ shaped blouse with the words ‘Baby on Board’ on it in pink and blue print.
“Have I told you lately how beautiful you are?” he asked as he hugged her from behind, both hands on her belly.
Lorraine smiled over her shoulder. “About five minutes ago.”
“We’re gonna have an incredible kid if she looks anything like you.” He glanced down at the often thoroughly vacuumed carpet beneath their feet. “With one heck of a clean floor if she has your habit,” he added with a small grin.
Though his wife had previously been able to give up her obsession with vacuums and clean carpets, the behavior had returned once again. He chalked it up to probable anxiousness about the baby, but he didn’t bring the subject up with Lorraine. Johnny figured he’d leave it to her to talk about it if she wanted to.
“And if it’s a boy?”
Johnny answered without missing a beat. “Well, then it’s your turn to compliment me!” he teased, knowing full well a child could look more like either of them regardless of its sex. “But his place’ll probably need a little help now and then if he takes after his dad.”
The paramedic released his hold and stepped back to allow Lorraine to finish getting dressed. The two were both off from work for the day and had plans to trade in Lorraine’s car for a station wagon.
“So have you used anymore of this cream Joanne suggested?” he asked as he picked up the jar from the dresser nearby.
Lorraine pulled the shirt on over her head and answered as she stuck each of her arms through the short sleeves, “Just a little bit. I’m sure I’ll need it more later.”
Johnny nodded as he set the jar down and then once again looked at his wife with a gleam in his eyes. Now that she was completely over the nausea that had plagued her at times, she was radiant. He hoped this phase would last awhile.
“Well, here we are,” Johnny said as he parked the car on the lot of ‘Carl’s Chevrolet’. It was his and Lorraine’s first stop. He’d been banned from the place while dating a girl named Darlene, who had a quirky hang-up of test driving cars just to get to smell the interior. But he was sure the whole thing had been forgotten by now. After all, no one had tossed him off the lot when he came on a rescue with Roy.
The couple climbed out of their vehicle and were immediately met by a salesman who looked to be in his very early twenties.
“Good morning, folks. What can I do for you?”
“We’re lookin’ for a new station wagon. Nothin’ real fancy; just somethin’ for a growin’ family,” he added with a proud grin.
The salesman noticed Lorraine’s shirt and his grin widened. “Well, I’m sure I can help you and the lovely Missus’ out. Right this way.”
But before they reached the row of new cars where the station wagons sat, a man slightly familiar to Johnny came over to them. He scrutinized the paramedic as he asked, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”
“I was here with the fire department awhile back when a lady was stuck in her car with a snake,” he offered, not wanting to bring up the other possibility. But when Gage noticed the ‘manager’ tag on the man’s shirt, he figured how they likely knew each other.
At the same time Johnny realized it was the manager who had banned him from the dealership, the other man recalled the incident as well. “Ooo-ooh no. . .you’re not pulling one over on us again. You can go get your new car thrills on someone else’s time.”
“No,” he shook his head, his arms folded across his chest.
Johnny’s mouth dropped open in shock as Lorraine looked on in disbelief from her husband to the manager.
“No, sir. We don’t need your business here.”
Johnny could not believe what he was hearing. Here he was one of the upstanding citizens in town and he was getting booted off a car lot of all places. For something that he’d just gone along with for the love of a woman. . .a woman who had no qualms about leaving him behind when it came to her career as an actress.
The paramedic turned his attention to the salesman who was quietly watching the exchange. “You gonna let him just rip your sale outta your hands?”
The young man shrugged. One sale wasn’t worth losing a job over. He then noticed another potential customer that had just driven onto the lot and quickly excused himself.
Johnny and Lorraine eyed him as he trotted away, obviously trying to get to the newcomers before another salesman could.
“I don’t believe this,” Johnny muttered. He pursed his lips as he tried to think of where to go with the situation next, but when the manager pointed firmly toward the exit of the lot, he decided it wasn’t worth the effort.
Let ‘em lose a sale. It’s not like they’re the only car lot in *town*. . .I just hope the other managers have a shorter memory. . .or are quicker to forgive. . .
Five hours later, Johnny and Lorraine found themselves leaving a dealership in Anaheim in a pale yellow station wagon. Though it hadn’t taken them long to get to the place, selecting the vehicle and completing the paperwork involved had taken up a lot of time.
“See? I told ya everything’d be okay.”
“No thanks to Darlene,” she muttered.
Johnny sighed. “Yeah, no kiddin’. I still can’t believe they let her do a commercial for ‘Carl’s’ and they kick me outta the lot when she’s the one with the new car hang-up to begin with. And to think all those other dealership managers still held a grudge too.”
Suddenly the paramedic heard a couple of sniffles, then a quick stifled sob. He glanced over and could see a tear running down the side of his wife’s left cheek.
“You okay? What’samatter?” He cracked a slight crooked grin as he once again glanced over after watching the road ahead. “Hey, we got the car we wanted.”
“Well then what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know,” she sniffled. She wiped at the tears pooling in her eyes.
Johnny sighed. I wonder how long *this* is gonna last. .
“A station wagon? I still don’t get why you two even thought you needed a bigger car to begin with. You’re only having one baby.”
Johnny eyed his partner standing at the locker beside his in puzzlement. Surely Roy knew that a second kid would be inevitable. And maybe even a third. And that by then, he and Lorraine would have so much money going to the expense of raising the kids that they wouldn’t be able to afford a new car. So it only stood to reason they’d take care of it now.
Of course, by then it’ll be an *old* car, Gage thought to himself. But if we take care of it, it can be *like* a new car. . .
Finished with his brief internal debate, he began to explain as he put his right foot up on the bench behind the lockers to tie his shoe. “Roy, Roy, Roy. . .You know we’ll most likely need a bigger car when we have more kids later anyway. We decided we should get it now and save ourselves the hassle of upsizing again in a coupla years or so.”
“Maybe you ought to wait till you have the one kid out and around awhile before you start planning for more. You know, they’re a lot of work.”
Now tying the other shoe, Johnny snorted. “’Course I know. If there’s anything I know, it’s how much work it is to raise kids.”
“How do you figure that?”
Johnny just rolled his eyes, thinking his partner was missing the obvious again. With all the rescues they’d been on involving children and then knowing some of the little challenges Roy and Joanne had encountered, how would he not know? But he blew off the subject for what seemed more important at the moment.
“Hey, look, I’ll catch ya later. I’m gonna go see if Mike remembered to bring in donuts,” he stated as he stepped over the bench and hurried out of the room.
Roy just shook his head. How does a guy who’s yet to have his first kid suddenly get the idea he’s an expert on them? Then again, this *is* Johnny I’m talking about. . .
The crew of A-Shift had their morning roll call and Johnny was just about to make one of his routine telephone calls to Lorraine after completing checks on the squad’s equipment with Roy. But the paramedics were sent out regarding a woman in labor before he could dial the second number. Johnny sighed as they headed away from the station.
“I wish this baby would’ve waited a few more minutes before deciding to start its way into the world.”
“You know how it is; when it’s time, it’s time.”
“Yeah, but it would’ve been nice if I could’ve made a quick check on Lorraine.”
Roy gave a brief glance in his direction. Johnny had told him about his wife’s unexplained tears during their inspection of the squad’s inventory.
“I wouldn’t worry too much.”
“Well, that’s what I’d normally say to someone too. But when it’s your own wife, it’s just different, ya know?”
Johnny turned his attention to the small slip of paper in his hand with the call’s address on it. His brow furrowed. It sounded familiar, but he couldn’t quite place how.
“The Jones’s place.”
“Jones. . .?” A brief second later, it clicked. “Oh yeah! The spice kids! Those parents probably know more about delivering a baby by now than we do.”
“Let’s just hope Mr. Jones is at home and it’s not the kids left with the responsibility.”
“They’re probably in school.”
With that in mind, the urgency of the situation was increased. It was possible Mrs. Jones would only have her other baby with her.
Roy turned onto the next street and was relieved to see drivers pulling their cars off to the right to get out of the way like they were supposed to. At least he and Johnny were making good time. They couldn’t afford any delays right now, especially since subsequent babies often had a tendency to come faster than the ones before them.
When the paramedics got to the Jones’ home, no one came out to direct them to the woman in labor. That put a little more worry in the men. But when they noticed two cars in the driveway, some of that eased up. There likely was another adult in the home.
They quickly grabbed the OB kit and other supplies they’d likely need, and trotted up to the front door. As soon as they were on the porch, the two men could hear the faint sound of a new born baby’s cries from an open window on the second floor.
“Well, there’s our answer,” Johnny stated.
Roy tried the door knob. The door was unlocked and opened freely. He and Johnny rushed inside, the latter calling out, “Fire department!” as they hurried up a flight of steps, taking two at a time as often as possible. Once on the second floor, it was apparent why the cries were so faint outside. The room was across and two doors down from the one with the open window, the door partially shut.
Johnny was first in the room and announced, “Fire department” again as Roy followed in behind him. The paramedics were flooded with relief when they were then greeted by a very calm father and a happy but tired mother with a baby on her chest, the umbilical cord still attached.
“I guess we’re a little late,” Roy said with a faint smile.
“It’s not the first time this has happened,” Mr. Jones assured. “A policeman and I delivered our daughter Honey on the 405 about eighteen months ago, before the fire department could get there. I guess the kids are just in too big of a hurry to see the world,” he kidded. “That’s why we didn’t try getting to the hospital this time after we realized we’d waited too long. . .again.”
“This is certainly better than a car,” Johnny agreed as he quickly checked Mrs. Jones’ vital signs. He jotted them down in a notepad, then contacted Rampart on the landline. In the meantime, Roy clamped the umbilical cord and cut it. He then cleaned up and examined the baby boy, making sure there were no problems they’d need to address. The baby’s cries were loud, indicating a good set of lungs.
After he reported that the mother and baby were doing well, Johnny placed the telephone receiver back in its cradle and asked, “So, have you decided on a name for the little guy?”
“Fennel. . .” he gave a polite smile, for the first time in his life grateful for the middle name Roderick.
“We name our children after spices.”
“Yeah,” Johnny grinned wider, recalling the other names they’d used. “We were here a few months ago. The tree house,” he offered as an explanation.
“Okay, uhm. . .” Roy was ready to lay Fennel beside his mother, but stopped in mid motion as he realized they didn’t even know her first name.
“Daisy. My mother had a thing for flowers.”
“And I’m Robert,” the father added. “For no particular reason at all.”
Johnny kind of laughed under his breath, then excused himself to meet the ambulance when a siren could be heard as it approached from down the street. A police squad siren could be heard as well.
Once they had the mother and baby in the ambulance, Roy climbed up inside and Johnny closed the doors and secured them. He gave the doors two slaps to signal they were secure. After the emergency vehicle was on its way, Gage turned around to see Robert handing his little girl Honey to a neighbor so he could meet up with his wife and new son at Rampart. The baby girl was busy playing in her crib in another room during all the excitement. Cinnamon had gone over to the other home to stay with the neighbor lady earlier when her father called the fire department.
Johnny climbed in the squad and pulled away. I know one thing, he thought to himself. It’s gonna be farout to be holding my *own* kid in a few months.
On their way back from Rampart, Johnny addressed Lorraine’s latest issue with Roy. Though he’d mentioned it earlier, they hadn’t really gotten to talk about it much.
“Did Joanne get real emotional when she was pregnant? I mean, like Lorraine. . . crying even though she didn’t know why?”
“In the beginning she did some, but not so much later.”
“I sure hope Lorraine gets over it before long. It’s really tough to sit and watch your wife cry when it’s supposed to be the happiest time of her life and there’s no way to console her because ya don’t know what the problem is to begin with.”
Roy nodded in understanding. “It’ll pass,” he reassured.
Despite the positive comment, Gage went on about the different things he’d tried the afternoon and evening before to cheer his wife up, none of which seemed to help.
When they got back to the station, Johnny jumped out of the squad and immediately headed toward the dorm room. Roy just shook his head as he watched his partner hurry to make the phone call to Lorraine.
I’d have never picked him to be the nervous expectant father type.
When Gage soon joined him in the dayroom, he asked, “So how’s Lorraine?”
“She’s fine.” Johnny pulled out a chair and took a seat across the table from his partner. “Actually, she’s more than fine right now. She’s never sounded happier.”
“Great. Maybe it’ll last awhile and you won’t hafta worry so much.”
“Oh, I’m not worried.”
Roy’s mouth dropped open in disbelief. “Whataya’ mean you aren’t worried? That’s all you talked about on the way back over here.”
“Oh, I did not. I may’ve mentioned it a coupla times. But I sure as heck didn’t talk about it the whole way. Besides, you said the stuff would pass eventually. I believed you.”
“So why the rush to the phone? I’m assuming that’s why you took off in such a hurry for the dorm.”
“I realized there’s something a little more pressing than unexplained mood swings.”
“I thought you were holding off on names for awhile yet.”
Roy stared at him, an uncomprehending expression on his face.
Johnny sighed. “I just wanted to make sure we were clear on one thing.”
Roy waited in silence, motioning with his hand for the younger man to continue.
“I wanted to make sure we agreed on no saddling the baby with a name that was gonna cause the kid grief the rest of his life.”
Roy hid an inner smile. At least now he could relax knowing the baby would have a normal name. . .there'd be no more need to watch over Johnny's shoulder anticipating something wild when it came to the list. . . all thanks to the Joneses.
A month later. . .
“Good mornin’,” Johnny said as he came into the dayroom where the rest of A-shift was already gathered prior to roll call. “Any coffee left?” he wondered as he headed for the pot on the stove.
“Well, you’re certainly in a good mood,” Roy commented from his seat at the table.
“I sure am. It’s been a full two weeks with no drastic mood swings . . .man, I tell ya, I’m glad we’re through that phase.”
Johnny looked with disappointment at the empty pot. But he quickly shrugged it off. Missing a second cup of coffee in the morning wasn’t worth an upset.
He leaned his backside against the counter and faced the others.
“I didn’t know what to expect when. I think now that she can feel the baby moving, she’s a lot more relaxed.”
“How’s the forgetful stage going?” Roy wondered.
“About the same. Lorraine can’t remember where she’s put anything. She even put the box of cereal in the refrigerator and the milk in the cupboard the other day.”
“Women must feel like they’re losing their minds during pregnancy,” Marco offered.
Johnny nodded. “Yesterday she was gonna go somewhere and forgot where after she was already in the car. So she got out and accidentally closed the door. . .the locked door . .with the keys still in the ignition and the motor running. Luckily I was almost home by then, and I had the spare key to open the door.”
“I’ll say it was lucky,” Roy agreed. “That you had the key, that is. Breaking into cars isn’t exactly your forte’ you know.”
Remembering the incident when a baby had been locked in a car they’d been waved over to while in the squad, and he’d struggled to get the lock up with a hanger, Johnny scowled at his partner. He just hoped no one would delve into the subject any further and was relieved when it appeared he was going to get his wish. Before anymore could be said, the captain summoned them into the apparatus bay for the morning roll call.
Later in the day, Johnny and Roy were at a local grocery store to purchase some food for lunch. It was Roy’s turn to cook and he was ready to try another new dish.
“What’re you making again?” Johnny wondered.
“Oh.” The younger man gave it thought. “And what did you say is in it?”
Roy gave him an annoyed look. “Chicken.”
“Well, I know that,” came an exasperated reply, along with an eye roll. “I meant the other--” he cut himself off and elbowed Roy, then motioned for him to look at a little boy about two-years-old who was walking backward down the aisle toward them.
The mother of the boy noticed the men watching her son. As she passed with the shopping cart, her little boy ahead of her, she explained, “That’s all he’ll do since he figured out he could.”
“You mean he walks backwards everywhere?” Johnny wondered, amused.
“Everywhere we go.”
The paramedics continued to watch as the mother and boy disappeared around the corner at the end of the aisle. Sure enough, he hadn’t faced forward for a single step.
“Now see, that’s what it’s all about; that’s what I’m lookin’ forward to.”
“A kid who’s gonna back right into a wall?” Roy teased.
“No, man. Everything being new. Things we take for granted to be a wonder all over again.”
“Oh yeah, that.” Suddenly the realization of the years that had gone by since his children were toddlers hit. And a little bit of envy crept in as he realized just how much he missed those days. Even though he was enjoying his kids growing and learning new things, the toddler years would always remain special.
It was late in the evening when the squad was sent out on a response for a woman in labor. The men scrambled from the dayroom and into their truck. Once they got the call slip from Marco and Mike Stoker had the front bay doors open, Roy drove the squad out into the street.
When they arrived at the location, the two men were led into a livingroom of a one-story home where the victim was on the couch, clearly in a great deal of pain.
“Alright, just take it easy now,” Johnny soothed. As he checked the woman’s pulse, he asked, “How far along are ya?”
“Sev. . .seven . . .months. . .” The answer was followed by a groan.
“Is this your first baby?” Roy wondered.
She nodded. Her husband quickly jumped in. “Irene shouldn’t be having it now, should she?”
Seven months, Johnny thought to himself as Roy answered. The woman’s abdomen seemed way too small for being seven months pregnant.
“It’s not what doctors want. But it happens sometimes.”
“When’s the last time you saw a doctor?” Gage asked.
“Two. . .two weeks. . . ago.”
“Did he say everything looked okay?”
She nodded as she winced with another strong contraction. “Please. . .please. . .help. . .my . . .my baby.”
“That’s what we’re here for,” Johnny assured.
“Did you call her doctor?” Roy asked the husband.
“Yeah. But he wasn’t available. His answering service is trying to get a hold of him now.”
That wasn’t what they wanted to hear, but it wasn’t unusual either. After moving a coffee table out of the way, the paramedics gently lifted and placed her on the shag-carpeted floor, then propped up her shoulders and head with a couple of pillows. This location would make it easier if they had to deliver the baby onsite.
“I’ll get Rampart on the horn,” Roy stated.
In the meantime, Johnny placed a blanket over Irene from the waist down as he discreetly checked her for dilation. “Seven centimeters.. . .Did your water break?”
“No. . .”
He pursed his lips. Something was definitely wrong.
The senior paramedic looked up as he finished giving Rampart the initial information. When Johnny moved away from Irene and motioned for him to follow, he complied. The two discussed the circumstances in hushed tones.
“Her water has to’ve broken. There can’t be any fluid in there. Her --.”
Before they had a chance to say more, Irene called out, “It’s. . .coming! Oh God. . .it’s . . .coming! I. . .I can . . .feel it!”
Both men looked over in surprise.
“She was only at seven centimeters,” Johnny reiterated. He and Roy both quickly stepped over. After putting on a new set of sterile gloves, the younger paramedic got in position to deliver while his partner got back on the biophone to Rampart.
Irene cried as she pushed out the baby she knew was too early. The tiny infant arrived, the condition evidence that it had been dead awhile. . .possibly a week. . .and without amniotic fluid to help keep it preserved. Shocked by what he was holding, Johnny was uncharacteristically nauseated.
Roy immediately jumped in to help with Irene.
Keeping his composure, Johnny wrapped the nine-inch one pound baby girl in a white bath towel and started to carry her away when Irene spoke out.
“I want. . .to see the baby.”
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea,” Roy commented. “She’s been gone for awhile. The body doesn’t hold up very long. . .”
“It’s okay,” she assured. “I wanna hold. . . my baby girl.”
Johnny looked to the husband with an unsure expression. The man gave a nod and the dark-haired paramedic placed the bath towel on Irene’s lap after Roy and the ambulance attendants that had just come in placed her on the stretcher and propped her up. Much to their surprise, she wasn’t horrified at what she saw. Instead, she gently touched the tiny infant’s hands and looked at her fingers that were not much bigger than the tip of a pen.
It didn’t seem fair to Johnny and Roy. Here was a child that the parents would never get to know; never get to see play with toys or go to school. They couldn’t even have a decent memory of her face. Why put a woman through so much pain only to have it turn out like this?
But despite the deteriorated condition of the newborn, Irene focused on one thing. “Oh no,” she cried bringing her own hand up to her mouth. “She’s missing some of her fingers.”
Johnny watched solemnly as Roy notified Rampart they’d be transporting very soon.
Johnny sat silent a moment as Roy watched him from across the bench seat of the squad. He knew exactly what was going through his partner’s mind, but only Johnny would know when it was okay to talk about it.
“You ready to head back to the station?” Roy asked.
The “yeah” reply came without the other even looking at him. Roy faced forward and turned the key in the ignition. He drove out of the hospital lot without uttering another word.
Johnny watched the scenery pass by, then swallowed hard before saying, “You know, even with all the stuff we deal with, I never once gave it thought that my own baby might not come out alive.” He looked at Roy and the senior paramedic could see a tinge of redness to the rim of his eyes. “I mean, we’ve delivered babies that were in dangerous situations; a couple that were too early and the odds were against ‘em. But we’ve always been able to save ‘em.”
Roy glanced over at him again and nodded. “We’ve been fortunate.”
“Yeah. But we never had a baby that was one pound at seven months before. Whose life was already over before we even got it out.”
“No, we haven’t,” DeSoto solemnly agreed.
“You just hope your baby has all its fingers and toes, ya know?”
Again, Roy just nodded.
“And then life throws a curve ball and there’s a silent birth; a baby that stopped growing in the womb somewhere along the way, and add to that, the other problems she had. I think I know why Irene was so upset that the baby was missing fingers on each hand. Given the death or that, the deformity was the easiest to comprehend right now.”
“I’d say you’re probably right.”
Johnny was silent again a moment before he sighed and stated, “I don’t know what I’d do if we lost our baby. I don’t know how I’d be able to help Lorraine through it.”
Once again they grew silent, Johnny anxious to call Lorraine to see how many times the baby kicked over the past couple of hours, and Roy grateful he and Joanne had been blessed with two healthy children.
The following morning Johnny sat at the desk in the captain’s office, his partner half-sitting on the edge of it in front of him. He’d just made a telephone call to Rampart to check on Irene Campbell.
“What’d Dixie say?” Roy wondered.
“She an’ her husband are holdin’ up okay, considering. Brackett doesn’t think drugs were the cause of the birth defects or the baby’s death. The Campbells told ‘im they’ve never used drugs. So he says their baby girl likely had a syndrome. He’ll know more on that in a few days. I don’t know if the explanation makes it any easier for the parents though.”
“I doubt it.”
“Man, you know, it’s just not fair, Roy. By the seventh month, it’s s'posed to be smooth sailin’. You’re in the home stretch.”
“Well, we both know nothing’s a guarantee. That’s why it’s such an overwhelming relief when you finally hold your own son or daughter. You’ll see. It’s a whole different ball game from delivering someone else’s. ”
Johnny nodded. “And I can’t wait, either. Man, just to see a little toothless grin and bright eyes lookin’ up at me and to know it’s my kid. . .Well, mine and Lorraine’s of course,” he snorted. “Man, it’s gonna be great.”
He just hoped that the remaining months of the pregnancy would go by as smooth as possible.
Four weeks later. . .
Johnny climbed into bed while Lorraine carefully turned from one side to the other in an effort to get comfortable. She sighed as she watched him easily settle onto his side facing her.
“You okay?” he wondered.
“Yes. I was just remembering what it was like to go to bed and that was it. None of this taking fifteen minutes to find a position to sleep in.”
He smiled and brushed a stray lock of hair from her face with his hand, placing it behind her shoulder. “Just wait till the kid’s here. We’re probably gonna be up half the night. . .if not for a crying baby, then to make sure our quiet baby is doing okay.”
Lorraine nodded and smiled as well. He was very likely right.
Johnny placed his left hand on her belly that was covered by a thin cotton nightgown. The baby was obviously sleeping itself, as he couldn’t feel any of the familiar kicks he’d been able to lately. Those times, and when the baby got the hiccups, were the most enjoyable. Just knowing they could feel all that going on and he could watch Lorraine’s belly continue to grow as expected was a great relief to the paramedic. Everything was progressing normally so far.
“Hey, you wanna get the stuff for the baby’s room tomorrow?”
“You mean the crib and everything?”
He nodded. “Uh huh.”
“I thought you wanted to wait.”
“I don’t think I can stand it anymore. We’re both off. . .let’s do it.”
Lorraine was beaming. This was just what she’d been wanting to do for the past three weeks. Get the baby’s room ready; it would make the impending parenthood that much more of a reality.
But the bright smile suddenly turned to a frown.
“What’s wrong?” he wondered.
“My mother wanted to go shopping with me to get the baby’s stuff.”
“Oh. . .well. . .she can go with you on other baby shopping sprees. After all, babies need stuff all the time, right?”
He waited, wondering if she’d agree. This time an uneasy smile replaced the frown. “I guess I can call her in the morning. . .”
“Good deal! I’m sure she’ll understand. And if you start to feel yourself cave in, just hand me the phone. I’ll explain it to ‘er.”
The two kissed, and Johnny quickly turned toward the nightstand on his side of the bed, happy they’d gotten that settled. He reached over and switched off the light. But as he returned to facing his wife, she was sitting up and pushing back the bedcovers.
“Where’re you goin’?”
He turned the light back on and watched as she made her way to the bathroom with a slight but hurried waddle. The paramedic shook his head. It seemed to happen nightly when he was home and likely when he wasn’t. She’d finally get comfortable in bed and the baby would move, putting new pressure on her bladder.
“And to think, she’s got two and a half more months of this.”