Disclaimer: Watching senior citizens stand in Express lanes at work and count the items of people in front of them inspired this story. A recent article in the news fueled the inspiration. It is not based on any individuals in particular.
By Audrey W.
Roy pulled the squad into a parking spot at Marlin’s Market. It was Gage’s turn to cook dinner, and the paramedics decided to pick up the needed groceries on their way back to the station after a run. As Roy opened the driver’s side door to get out, his partner got his attention.
“Now remember . . .we go in, get the stuff, and come right out. The Foreman/Ali fight is on TV in an hour and I don’t want to miss it.”
“Don’t worry. Grocery stores aren’t my thing either.” Roy got out of the squad and looked across the roof at Johnny, who had just gotten out.
“You know exactly what you need?”
“Heck, yeah,” Johnny snorted. “Hamburger buns, ground beef, frozen fries, pickles, some cans of pop and cheese.”
The two men walked into the store and glanced around. The place was a hubbub of activity. Only two carts remained for the taking and the checkout lines were long.
“Oh man!” Johnny groaned. “Will you look at this place?”
Roy grabbed a hold of one of the carts and pushed it over to his partner.
“The longer you stand there with your mouth hanging open, the longer we’ll be here, you know.”
Johnny closed his mouth and looked at Roy.
“You’re right.” He put his hands on the grocery cart handle and started forward. “Let’s get this over with.”
It took twenty minutes for the paramedics to make their way through the crowded aisles. Finally having the items they needed, they emerged from the bread aisle and surveyed the checkout lines again.
“There’s the Express line,” Johnny said, pointing to the far left end of registers. “Ten items or less and we have seven, so let’s go.” He glanced at his watch. “Thirty-five more minutes and the fight’ll be starting.”
Roy followed behind while Johnny pushed the cart between others waiting in lines, as he made his way to the express lane. If he didn’t know better, Roy would swear his partner did this sort of thing a lot. Gage seemed to have mastered the art of getting a cart through a crowd.
When the two paramedics got in line, there were two women ahead of them, and one man who was paying for his groceries. When the man left, the first lady in line began to put her groceries up on the conveyor belt. The younger woman behind her counted the grocery items on the belt and still in the cart. When she saw there was more than ten items, she became angry.
“Excuse me, ma’am, but this is the Express line.”
The first woman glanced at the other. “So?” She continued to put her groceries on the belt.
“So? So, you’ve got too many items.”
“Well, it’s only a few over. If I wait in one of the other lines, I’ll be here forever. Look how long the lines are!”
“I’m in a hurry, too, and I’m sure these fine young officers behind me are also.”
The first woman looked back at Johnny and Roy. Johnny gave an awkward smile and shrugged.
“I’m only three items over. I’ll be done in a flash.”
“Only--” the woman ahead of Gage and DeSoto couldn’t believe the attitude. She turned to the men behind her. “Officers, can you do something?”
“Actually we’re not police,” Roy explained. “We’re paramedics.”
“Oh. . . I see.” She returned her eyes to the woman in front of her who was putting the last of her items on the counter. Without warning she swung out and punched the lady in the jaw. The woman went down hard to the floor, landing on her bottom.
“Since your paramedics, can you get her out of the way now and treat her?”
Johnny and Roy stood in disbelief, their mouths open in surprise.
“Uh. . .” Johnny was uncharacteristically stuck for words.
Roy squeezed up to the injured woman who was still dazed.
The shock wearing off, Johnny pushed his own shopping cart out of the way and started to slip past the cart in front of him.
“Are you okay, ma’am?” Roy asked, as he squatted down.
The store manager hurried over to see what was going on. “Is she okay? What happened?”
As Roy began to explain, the injured woman interrupted.
“Oh- ay?” the woman asked, her mouth not wanting to move. She pushed on Roy’s shoulders and got to her feet, swaying slightly. “O I ot.” Her eyes were watery from the pain.
Roy started to get up, when the injured lady placed her hands on his shoulders again to steady herself, stopping his movement. She made her way behind the blonde paramedic and faced her assailant.
Her fist flew through the air, but with her eyes watery, her aim was off and she missed her intended target. She nailed Johnny in the chest.
The dark-haired paramedic let out an, "Ooof!" as he grabbed his chest with one hand. Quickly regaining his composure, Johnny reached over to restrain the injured woman as she continued to swing out at the woman who had been in line behind her. Roy was up on his feet trying to do the same.
The two women kicked, slapped, bit, pinched, cursed, and pulled one another's hair. Finally, the police arrived and split the brawlers up. Johnny and Roy looked at one another and sighed. They both had been on the receiving end of several of the kicks and slaps.
“I’ll get the drug and trauma boxes and the biophone,” Johnny said. “I’ll be right back.” He slowly hobbled towards the exit of the grocery store.
“Need help?” Roy called out.
Gage waved him off. “Nah . . .I’m okay.”
Roy watched as his partner limped out of the store.
Inside, Roy sat both women down on the floor at the front of the store. A policeman stood by ready in case another fight broke out.
“How’d this start, anyway?” the cop asked.
“You wouldn’t believe it,” Roy said, rubbing his sore left shin. He didn’t believe it . . .he made a mental note to ask Joanne if this sort of thing happened often in grocery stores.
Once the women were checked out, the officers questioned them both. Neither wanted to press charges, so they were let off with a stern warning. The store manager had one of his employees bag up Gage’s groceries and the food was given to him free of charge for the trouble.
As Johnny and Roy picked up their supplies, the senior paramedic glanced over at his partner.
“I guess you missed the big fight on television, huh?”
Johnny looked at his watch. He nodded, frowning. “But it wouldn’t matter if it was still on, Roy. I wouldn’t watch a fight right now if they paid me.”
Roy laughed, shaking his head. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Just sore. You?”
“I’m sore, too, but I’ll be fine.”
“You know, Roy, I think we’d be better off going twelve rounds in a boxing ring than one with two women in a store.”
“You sure about that?”
“No. . .personally, I think both of them - twelve rounds in a boxing ring or one round with those two crazy broads in the store, could land us in Rampart.” Johnny slapped Roy on the back, then bent down to pick up the trauma box. He winced as he straightened up. “Ready to go?”
“Yeah.” Roy grinned at his still hobbling partner. “Now all we have to do is survive your cooking.”
“Very funny, Roy. Very funny.”
Johnny thought a moment as the men walked to the squad. Considering how much he hated cooking, and how much he was always razzed about his cooking, he knew he'd hit on the perfect idea.
"If nothing else, after what happened to us today, it gives me the perfect excuse to tell the guys we're having take out from McDonald's the next time it's ‘my’ turn to cook."
Favoring his sore muscles as he climbed in the squad, Roy couldn't help but agree that, for once, John Gage had a good idea.
Thanks to Kenda for the beta read and the help for a complete ending.