John Gage and Roy DeSoto returned to the Station 51 after dropping off two victims from a motor vehicle accident at Rampart General Hospital. The two paramedics headed for the rear lot where most of the engine crew was gathered for a game of basketball.
“He shoots, he hits, he scores!”
The curly haired fireman Chet Kelly beamed at his one and only basket of the day.
“Dumb luck,” Mike Stoker, the engineer on the crew, mumbled.
“It wasn’t dumb luck!”
Johnny and Roy glanced at one another in amusement as the argument carried on.
“Whatta you call it then? You haven’t even gotten the ball near the basket since we’ve been out here.”
“Mike, I just scored.”
“Until then,” Marco Lopez added, trying to help out.
“Look, it’s not dumb luck, I tell ya.”
“Then what is it, Chet?” Johnny asked as he wandered out to the others.
The fireman scowled, but supplied, “It’s all in the name, Johnny Boy. It’s all in the name.”
“So you’re saying anyone named Chet can shoot hoops?”
“No. The ‘B’. My middle initial. . Whataya think it stands for?”
“Oh let me guess,” Johnny began as he smirked at the others. “Basket maker?”
“More like basket weaver,” Marco teased.
“Brilliance,” Chet stated.
“Chester Brilliance Kelly? Uh uh,” Johnny said with a shake of his head. “I ain’t buyin’ it.”
“Well, that’s what it should be.”
Mike rolled his eyes as he dribbled the ball. He set for a shot at the hoop, but the ball connected with the rim and bounced off, hitting the ground where Marco grabbed it as it came back up. He prepared for his turn. Just like Mike, he missed.
“I tell ya, guys, it’s in the name.”
“Just what does the ‘B’ stand for, Chet?” Johnny asked.
“I told ya.”
“No, I mean really. What’s on your birth certificate?”
“Will ya look at that?” Chet commented as he glanced at his own watch. “We’ve been out here over an hour. Time to take a break, huh? I wonder what’s on TV?” He turned toward the apparatus bay and started for the dayroom.
Johnny looked at the others. “He’s hiding something, that’s for sure.”
“Well, how are we going to find out what the ‘B’ really stands for?” Marco wondered.
“I’ve got an idea.”
The others listened as Roy told them what he’d thought of.
“So, what are you watching, Chester Bill?” Marco asked as he joined the curly-haired fireman.
Chet gave him a confused look as Roy sauntered in with, “What’s on, Chester Bob?”
“Guys, it’s not--”
“Hey,” Johnny said as he shot in and spun a chair at the table around to face the television. He immediately took a seat. “What’dya find on TV, Chester Boy?”
“Boy? Look that’s your--”
But before he could get it out, Mike joined them as well. “Hey, Chester Bernard, what’s on?”
Chet opened his mouth to tell them it wasn’t going to work; that they weren’t going to get him to correct their wrong guesses with the right one, when their captain, Hank Stanley, walked in with an empty coffee cup in his right hand.
“I thought you guys were out playing basketball.”
“We were, until Chester Byron here decided it was time to watch some TV,” Johnny explained.
“Chester Byron?” The captain looked on in confusion.
“They’re tryin to figure out my middle name.”
“Oh, I see. Well, good luck with that one. I’d’ve never guessed it was Bernice if I hadn’t seen it on paper.”
Chet sat open mouthed, unable to move from the shock that his name had been revealed. The very name he’d kept a secret from anyone over the majority of his life.
At the same time the other four questioned in unison, “Bernice?”
“And I thought Roderick was bad,” Johnny remarked, referring to his own middle name.
Hank Stanley felt like he’d betrayed his best friend, although he hadn’t been told not to let the name be known.
“Hey, I’m sorry, Pal.”
Chet shook his head. But that’s all he could do until he could find his voice again. “It’s . . .it’s okay. . ., Cap”. There. That much was out. He looked around at the other four men waiting for more.
How could he explain it? How could he tell them that his mom thought she was having a girl when she was pregnant with him and was so sure that she promised her dying grandmother Bernice she’d name her baby after her. That when she’d had a boy, she just couldn’t go back on her word. So she had to find a way to still use the name. Well, that’s how he could explain it. Just like that.
Slowly he got the words out, stumbling on them occasionally. The others were silent a moment until Gage finally asked, “Is that really true or are ya tryin’ to make us feel bad?”
“He’s tellin’ the truth,” he nodded. That one word was such a sincere Chet Kelly kind of answer, it had to be true.
“Just promise me one thing, guys. It’ll never leave this room.”
“No one will hear it from me,” Mike promised.
Roy, Marco and the captain promised as well. Then it came to Johnny.
“Sure, I’ll promise. But can I ask ya one thing?”
“Why bring up the subject of a middle name if you didn’t want anyone to guess at it?”
“Because since when do you guys even listen to half the stuff I say like that?”
The remark brought a few snickers from the crew.
“Well, one thing’s for sure,” Johnny said as he got to his feet.
The paramedic walked over to the fireman and patted him on the shoulder.
“It’s definitely not the name that got you the basket. ‘Cause I have never, in my entire life, heard of a basketball player anywhere in the NBA who was named ‘Bernice’.”
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