Living by a Sample
By Audrey W.
John Gage came into the locker room in search of his partner Roy DeSoto. He’d gotten to work early and was already changed into uniform, ready for duty when 8:00 rolled around.
The dark-haired paramedic grinned wide when he saw that Roy had arrived. The older man was in the midst of changing clothes himself.
“It’s about time you got here,” Johnny stated.
Roy glanced at his watch. It was 7:42 in the morning. “Yeah. . .right.” Rolling his eyes, he turned back to face the interior of his locker.
“So, you wanna hear about my day off?”
“Do I have a choice?”
Johnny scowled at the sarcastic reply, then brightened up again. Leaning on his locker beside Roy’s, he began to explain. “Man, I met the most incredible chick! Incredible!”
“That’s what you said about the one last week.”
“Yeah, but this time I really mean it,” he defended. “She’s incredible, Roy.”
“So I heard.” Roy closed his locker and looked at his partner. “Okay, you aren’t gonna leave me alone till you tell me.”
Johnny brushed off the comment. “Great!” He stood up straight and grinned wider. “Well, you know I was gonna go pick up a few groceries when we got off. . .”
“Don’t tell me you ran into an innocent lady’s cart.”
“Roy, of course not!” he denied with a frown, then continued with a grin, “I met her at a food sample table. You know, where a lady was giving out free stuff to taste.”
“Was this ‘incredible chick’ the one giving out the samples?”
Johnny opened his mouth to reply, but before he could answer the question, the door to the locker room opened and Chet Kelly walked in whistling a happy tune.
“Well, you sure are chipper this morning,” Johnny stated.
“You’d be happy, too, if you had the luck I did.”
“What’dya do? Win a game of ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’?” Gage snickered as he glanced at Roy to see his reaction to his teasing.
In the meantime, Chet glared. “Very funny. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Yeah. . .okay.” The dark-haired paramedic brought his attention back to Roy. “As I was sayin’--”
“I met the most incredible chick yesterday,” Chet interrupted.
Johnny looked toward the curly-haired fireman at the second set of lockers. He dropped his own conversation again as he responded, “Yeah?”
Kelly nodded as he reached in his locker for his uniform shirt.
“Man, she was--”
“Incredible,” Roy finished.
“Yep; couldn’t believe it. There I was picking up a few groceries and I came across a table where a lady was giving out free samples. . .”
Johnny’s mouth dropped open as Chet continued.
“And there she was, getting a taste of Party Pizza.”
Roy smiled. “Hey, Johnny met a girl at a food sample table too.” He glanced at his still speechless partner.
The senior paramedic nodded, still smiling. “Must’ve been something in the air.”
Finally finding his voice, Johnny spoke. “Yours was at a food sample table?”
“Sure was. And she had the sexiest way of chewing on her food.”
Roy didn’t even want an elaboration on that comment. Johnny slowly nodded, as if agreeing.
“So what store did you meet your chick in?” Chet wondered.
But once again, before Gage could answer, the door to the room opened; this time Mike Stoker walked in.
Chet and Johnny watched as he happily strode over to his locker near Chet’s. Roy looked up from tying one of his shoes and noted the engineer seemed exceptionally upbeat.
“You’d think Mike met a girl at the food sample table,” he said with a snicker.
Stoker had just opened his locker and looked over in surprise. “How’d you know?”
All three mouths dropped open. While Johnny and Chet exchanged glances, Roy stared at Mike, quite still amazed himself.
“No, she was there yesterday while I was at the freezer section. She was tasting a new brand of pies. But you haven’t answered my question yet,” he went on, removing his civilian shirt. “How’d you guess?”
Roy eyed the other two still-numb shiftmates. “You guys wanna tell him?”
“Maybe they’re related to each other,” Johnny said.
“Yeah, like sisters or cousins or something,” Chet added.
Now baffled, it was Mike’s turn to stare at the others a few seconds. “What’re you guys talking about?”
Without answering the question, Johnny continued on with his own as he looked from Chet to Mike. “Where’d you meet your girl at?”
“Sansway Foods,” they both replied simultaneously.
Mike gave Chet an annoyed glare until the fireman explained.
“Hey, I met a chick at a food sample table too. And so did Johnny.”
The engineer then looked to Gage with his eyebrows raised. But the paramedic could only bring himself to ask another question, disappointment already in his voice.
“What time was it?”
“Five o’clock,” Mike answered, changing into his uniform trousers.
“About one o’clock in the afternoon.”
Johnny glanced at his watch as if it would help him recall his time. “I met my chick at nine o’clock in the morning. . .at the same place. . .”
“Sounds like she’s on a four-hour nibbling schedule,” Roy stated with a grin. “Unless she’s meeting up with others in between you guys.”
Chet held up a hand after fastening his belt. “Wait a minute. We don’t know it’s the same chick. I mean we haven’t compared names yet.”
“Susy Funkell,” came a dual-voiced reply.
The curly-haired fireman frowned. “What’re the odds there’d be three different girls with that name at the same place on the same day and hanging out at the food sample tables?”
“Honestly?” Johnny wondered.
Chet nodded, with the hopes someone was as much for it as him.
Gage sighed. “I say we stand a better chance of Mike here making a long-winded speech someday.”
Chet eyed the usually quiet engineer. “I guess this means two of us have to give up on Susy.”
“Well. . .not necessarily,” Johnny said thoughtfully as he rubbed his chin with his right hand.
“Whataya’ propose we do?” Chet asked. “Draw straws on what night each of us takes her out?”
“Hold a contest?”
“Now, that might not be such a bad idea. Maybe after she has a date with each of us, she can decide who’s best.”
Roy’s eyes widened as he listened to the conversation. “Wait a minute. This is a person you’re talking about, not some prize at the fair. You can’t just plan all this without her knowledge.”
“I said she gets to decide,” Johnny defended, his hand splayed on his chest.
“Didn’t you guys learn your lesson with Daisy?”
The three recalled a nurse at Rampart that many had put money into a betting pool for as to who would get a date with her first. She’d managed to rook several of the gamblers involved into a day of work rather than an actual date; a day that left some in much worse shape than they started in, Johnny and Chet included. And in the end, Marco got the real date they’d all desired.
“He’s got a point,” Chet stated.
“We could always flip a coin,” Mike offered, tying his left shoe.
The dark-haired paramedic shook his head. “There’s three of us and only two sides to a coin.”
“Well, two could flip and the winner of that flips with the one who’s left.”
Chet and Johnny gave it thought. But before they could decide, the door opened and Marco Lopez peeked inside.
“Hey, what’s taking you guys so long? You’re late for roll call and Cap isn’t very happy about it.”
All four men in the room looked at their watches. It was already nearly three minutes after 8:00. They hurried for the door, Mike and Chet quickly shutting their lockers as they followed behind Johnny and Roy.
“Man, we’ve only just met Susy Funkell and she’s already getting us in trouble,” Chet grumbled.
Everyone was too set on getting to roll call to comment on the absurd thought.
Two days later, the men of Station 51’s A-Shift were back on duty. Roy expected to walk into the locker room first thing and find one of the three Susy Funkell chasers gloating; or the two losers involved grumbling. But much to his surprise, all three men were quiet as they got dressed for duty. Only Marco seemed to be in the mood for talking.
The senior paramedic nodded ‘hello’ as he opened his locker, then glanced at the others one by one before returning his gaze to the mustached fireman.
“What’s up with them?”
“I guess things with that girl they were talking about last shift didn’t go as planned.”
“Don’t tell me you ended up dating her. . .” No way would they like it if Marco had once again beat them in their quest for time alone with a girl they were pursuing.
“No. I don’t even know who she is.”
Johnny was the first to offer a comment. “Roy, some things are just better left laid to rest.”
“Okay, so I know you didn’t ‘win’.” He looked expectantly at the others. But it was still his partner who was volunteering any information.
“I asked her out and she said ‘yes’. But all she wanted was a date for brunch.”
“Well, that doesn’t sound so bad,” Roy commented, changing his shirt.
Johnny closed his locker and eyed his partner with a discouraged look. “She invited me over. Alls she had in her apartment to eat were samples. Nothin’ was life-sized,” he said with a wave of his hand. “Nothin’. Then she wanted to go to a grand opening of another grocery store. Can you guess why?”
“Uh. . .samples?”
“Samples,” he said with a nod. “The chick lives by ‘em. So when I suggested we eat a ‘real meal’ somewhere along on the way back, that pretty much ended it.” He shook his head, his eyes on the floor. “Man, why do all the hot chicks have to be crazy?”
“Hey, at least you got a meal of some kind at her place,” Chet put in. “We ended up at the store for a late lunch. . .if you can call it that. A guy just can’t survive on a bite of this and a bite of that.”
Roy continued to get changed as he asked, “So she ended it with you too?”
Chet shook his head. “I ended it. I got out of the place right before my stomach was about to touch my spine,” he said sarcastically. “I treated myself to a burger and fries at Billy’s Burger Bar.”
Mike closed his locker. “She invited me over for wine and a late evening snack when I gave her a call. She must’ve been on an airplane or stayed in one of those fancy hotels recently. The bottles were this little,” he said holding up his right thumb and index finger to indicate the small size. “I must’ve downed three of ‘em when she gave me a look that let me know I needed to stop before I drank ‘em all.”
“This lady must be skinny as heck.”
Johnny shook his head at his partner’s comment. “That’s what’s so baffling. I mean, she’s thin, but she’s not overly skinny. You’d never guess she lives on nibbling food.”
“Maybe she nibbles around the clock,” Marco suggested. “My Aunt Rosita’s cousin Maria’s daughter Ruby did that when she was going to college. Never had time for a full meal, but her snacking at all hours when she was awake kept her from losing too much weight.”
“Well, what ever the case, I guess Mike wins?” Roy half suggested.
The engineer shook his head. “She’s not my type either.”
“I guess this is one of those cases where we all win or lose, depending on how you look at it,” Chet commented.
As the men started for the exit, Johnny stopped. “Hold it!” He went back to his locker while the others waited with curiosity. The dark-haired paramedic lifted out a small paper bag. “I almost forgot I did come out ahead. . .I got this for free when we got to the store. . .I was the 250th customer to walk through the doors,” he said pointing to his chest with his free hand. "'Course, that didn't sit well with Susy either," he added with a frown. Shrugging, he pulled out a six-pack of assorted dry cereals in very small boxes. “Anyone for breakfast?”
The other four continued on their way as Gage named off the six varieties available, ignoring the fact his audience was leaving.
My daughter inspired this when we were going to a grand-opening of a local grocery store and she was only anxious to hit all the food sample tables. :o)
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