Johnny Gage hummed quietly to himself as A-shift lined up for roll call. It was early December and the Christmas spirit had hit him right between the eyes.
"Here comes Stanley Claus!
Here comes Stanley Claus!
Right down Stanley Claus Lane!
He's going to make Chet clean the latrine because
Chet is such a pain!"
"Your singing is giving me a pain," Chet Kelly groused. "Why don't you just can it already? Man! That song is so lame that I can't even come up with words to say how lame it is!"
Captain Hank Stanley came out of his office and his five firemen came to attention. He consulted his clipboard.
"Okay, men, we're going to be meeting at nine-thirty, barring complications, to go over the blueprints for the new factory that's going up in our response area. There's a tour at eleven and Roy and Johnny, you're giving a CPR demonstration for the Oak Harbor Women's Club at two-thirty this afternoon. As for duty assignments, Roy - dorm, John - you've got the vehicle bay, Mike - I need an updated inventory of all our equipment on the engine, Marco's cooking and Chet has the latrine."
"Aw, Cap!" Chet whined. "Why do I always get stuck with the latrine?"
"Because you're such a pain, Kelly, that's why. Dismissed."
The line broke up, Chet glowering and his shiftmates laughing.
"Go ahead, Gage!" Chet scowled. "Yuk it up! At least I don't have to mop the whole vehicle bay!"
"Do you want to trade?" Johnny asked him.
Johnny gave him an evil grin. "Too bad I don't!"
"Ha. Ha." Chet stomped off and Roy nudged Johnny.
"Come on, Junior. Let's see if we can't get our chores out of the way in time to make a supply run before that meeting this morning. If we get everything done early we can goof off this afternoon, except for the CPR demonstration, of course, and unless we get any calls."
"Yeah," Johnny sighed. "Nothing like demonstrating CPR to a bunch of grandmothers."
"Well, you know, grandmothers pay their taxes too. Besides, look on the bright side. Maybe they'll have cookies."
Johnny shrugged and the two friends settled down to inventory their equipment and do their morning telemetry checks. When they'd finished they separated, Roy going to clean the dorm while Johnny grabbed a mop bucket and attacked the vehicle bay. The young fireman was still in a good mood and as he mopped he sang lustily.
"All I want for Christmas is to
drive the squad!
Drive the squad!
Drive the squad!
All I want for Christmas is to drive the squad!
And flash the lights and sound the siiiiiiiiren!"
Roy, cleaning the dorm, laughed quietly to himself and shook his head.
By nine o'clock they had finished their chores. Roy stuck his head into Cap's office to tell him that they were making a quick supply run.
"Can you make it back in time for the meeting?" he asked.
"Sure, Cap. We'll make it fast!"
"All right then, go ahead."
As Roy turned away from the office his path crossed Johnny's. Johnny had pushed the button to raise the big bay doors and was headed for his usual place in the squad when his partner surprised him by tossing the keys at him and climbing into the passenger seat in his stead.
"What's this?" he asked.
"I thought you wanted to drive the squad," Roy said.
"You're gonna let me drive to Rampart? You mean it? I really can?" Johnny's face lit up like a little kid's on Christmas morning.
"Yeah, sure. Why not? In fact, tell you what. Why don't you go ahead and drive the whole shift?"
"Really? You're not just saying that to get my hopes up like I did with Chet are you?"
"Would I do that to you? Really. In fact, I think I might enjoy being chauffeured around for one shift."
"Hey, and if you liked it, maybe you could be chauffeured around all the time!"
"I wouldn't go that far."
"Oh, well. It was worth a try." Johnny jumped behind the wheel, started the motor and then reached over to give Roy a friendly punch on the shoulder. "Man! I got the best partner!"
Roy just grinned and shook his head.
Ten minutes later they were standing at the nurses' desk at Rampart, waiting while Dixie McCall filled their requisition for supplies. Johnny caught sight of a new nurse and nudged his partner. Roy followed his gaze as Johnny sang softly:
"I wish I was dating that
I wish I was dating that chick!
I wish I was dating that chick
'Cause she's really hot!"
"Well go on," Roy said. Not needing any more encouragement, Johnny made a beeline for the girl. By the time Roy was signing the drug sheets he was back. "No luck?" Roy asked.
"Nothing but luck!" Johnny gloated. "I've got a date with her on Saturday night!"
"Well, great! You know, though, it's a little spooky the way these songs you're making up keep coming true."
"It's great isn't it?"
"Great for you. Maybe not so great for the rest of the world."
"Aw, don't worry! Hey, you're being nice to me and letting me drive, so I'm gonna do something nice for you."
"Oh, really? What?"
"Man, I don't know yet. Just be patient. I'll think of something."
"I can hardly wait," Roy said dryly.
The rest of the morning passed swiftly. They made it through their meeting but then had three back-to-back runs and missed lunch. They stopped and grabbed burgers at a drive-in on their way to their CPR demonstration, but the buns were soggy and the fries were cold.
"Man, my luck's taking a turn for the worse," Johnny lamented.
"Well, you stopped singing. Maybe you need to start singing again."
"Yeah, maybe. I haven't thought of anything I want especially though."
"Boy, I'll tell you what I could go for," Roy said.
"Oh? What's that?"
"A big plate of Mike Stoker's spaghetti! That would just about hit the spot is what I'm thinking."
"Well, hey! Let me see what I can do." Johnny thought about it as he drove along, humming to himself and drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. He pulled into the Oak Harbor community center and parked, then said, "Okay, how's this?" He sang,
"I'm dreaming of Mike Stoker's
Heaped on my dinner plate tonight!
While the marinara sauce glistens
and the meatballs -- listen!
Mike, he seasons them just right!"
Roy laughed. "It's a nice try, Junior, but I'm afraid it isn't going to work this time. Marco's cooking tonight, remember?"
"Yeah, well, you never know. Just wait and see."
With that the two men got out of the squad and went to meet their waiting group of grandmothers.
Johnny backed the squad into place and he and Roy jumped out and stopped in the vehicle bay. "Do you smell that?" Johnny asked. "It smells like . . . tomatoes. And garlic."
"And oregano and Parmesan cheese," Roy agreed. "It smells just like spaghetti! Am I imagining it?"
"Man, if you are I am too!"
They went into the kitchen and found the engine crew gathered around the table and Marco just about to serve dinner.
"You're just in time," Cap said. "We were about to start without you. Marco made Mike's spaghetti recipe and it smelled so good we couldn't wait."
Roy and Johnny shared a quick, wondering glance, then took their seats at the table.
"So why'd you make Mike's spaghetti?" Roy asked.
"Well, I'm putting together a firehouse cookbook for my mom for Christmas," Marco explained, "and Mike let me have his recipe. I just wanted to try it before I put it in the book."
"You should give his mom your boef bourguignon recipe, Roy," Chet said. "She could probably cook it right."
Roy scowled at him. He had worked so hard to perfect that recipe to try to impress his shiftmates and the engine crew still wouldn't admit that they'd liked it, or, indeed, that they'd even eaten it.
"Tell you what," Johnny said, "Roy'll give out his recipe just as soon as you guys admit that you liked it."
"We can't, Gage," Chet sighed, making it very clear that he was being extraordinarily patient. "We didn't eat it. We fed it to Boot."
Johnny shrugged and nudged Roy with his elbow. "Sorry, Pally. But, hey! At least I got you your spaghetti!"
"Hey!" Marco protested. "What do you mean, you got him his spaghetti? I cooked it."
"Well, yeah, I know. But the reason you cooked it is because I sang about it."
"That's nuts, Gage," Chet protested. "It's beyond nuts. It's 'commit him to the asylum' time! Have you lost the last brain cell you had?"
"No, I'm telling you! It's been working all day!"
"It's true," Roy chimed in. "It's a little bit eerie when you think about it."
"Think about what?" Cap asked. "I'm not following you fellows."
"Well, you know how Johnny's been making up his own words to Christmas songs? They keep coming true."
"No! Way!" Chet said loudly.
"Listen," Johnny said, "this morning I sang about Cap giving you latrine duty and he did, then I sang about driving the squad so Roy decided to let me drive the squad, then I sang that I wished I was dating this new nurse, and now I have a date with her, and finally, this afternoon I sang about having spaghetti for dinner and now we are. It's all coming true."
"It's crazy! It's not real! You're delusional, both of you, and you should seriously get some professional help!"
"Geez, Chet! Calm down." Johnny shook his head. "What are you getting so worked up about, anyway?"
Roy had dug into his spaghetti. Now he chewed for a minute and swallowed, then paused with his fork in midair. "I think maybe Chet's worried about that first song you were singing this morning," he said.
"What, the latrine one? He's already got latrine duty."
"No, not that one. The other one, before that. Don't you remember?"
Johnny looked puzzled and shook his head.
"Don't remind him!" Chet shouted. "If he doesn't remember don't remind him!"
Roy gave the young fireman an evil grin, cleared his throat and sang in a nice, rich baritone:
"Chet's nuts roasting on an open fire . . . ."
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Stories by E!lf Christmas Stories