Out of the Mouths of Babes
By Audrey W.
Johnny and Roy stopped at a fast food place for lunch on their way back from Rampart after a call. Sitting down at a table, the two paramedics laid out their food in front of them. Roy dug in as Johnny fought with the plastic envelope of ketchup that refused to tear open. After putting the tip between his teeth and twisting it, the little package finally opened. He squirted it near his french fries and picked up his hamburger, taking a bite.
Suddenly the HT sounded.
“Squad 51, child injured, 4101 North Hyatt Street, four one zero one North Hyatt Street, time out 12:32.”
His mouth full, Johnny gave his food a disgusted look as he plopped his burger back down. Roy was already up, ready to go.
“C’mon. At least you got a bite in.”
Johnny snorted as he followed Roy out of the building. “Oh yeah. It’ll hold me for about five minutes.”
% % % %
They pulled up in the driveway of a yellow house that sat in a cul-de-sac. As they got out of the squad, several small children ran from the house, all going on and on about what was wrong.
“Now hold on…hold on,” Johnny said as he tried to settle the excited kids down. “We can’t listen to all of ya at once.”
“Is there a grown up here somewhere?” Roy asked the group of six kids.
“Yes, sir,” One little boy answered. “Billy’s mom is in the backyard with him. She told us to meet you guys.”
“Well, can you take us to her?” Johnny prompted.
“Sure! Why do you think we came out here, mister?”
Johnny pursed his lips, holding back a comment. Roy noticed the reaction and grinned. They grabbed their equipment out of the squad and followed behind the pack of kids. Little faces kept looking up at them in wonder as the paramedics went into the house.
% % % %
The children led the two men through the house to the back patio. As they stepped out Johnny saw a birthday cake sitting on a picnic table, seven candles on it. His stomach growled reminding him he hadn’t eaten much of his lunch.
“Over here,” one of the little boys stood by the corner of a shed in the yard, pointing behind it.
Johnny and Roy trotted over and looked around the corner. There was a woman kneeling, her back to them. A little boy sat leaning against the shed. As the paramedics hurried over to see what was wrong, a familiar six-year-old girl who had been on the other side of the boy jumped up to her feet.
“It’s you!” The little girl exclaimed, running over to Johnny.
“I hope you have your good luck doll,” Roy said out of the corner of his mouth. “Or you’ve got a lot of explainin’ to do.”
Johnny whispered back to Roy, forcing a grin at Amanda, “I don’t carry that thing around with me.” To Amanda he directed, “What happened?”
The woman by the shed turned her head and answered, “It’s my son. He ran into the side of the shed chasing a gerbil.”
“A gerbil?” Johnny echoed as he knelt beside the boy, setting down the equipment and taking off his helmet.
“Yes, we gave him a gerbil…” she started, then filled in more detail. “Today’s his seventh birthday and we got him a gerbil for a present. He took it out,” she gave the child a look that reminded him he had disobeyed and the boy slunk down, trying to escape the look. “He took it outside to show the other kids and it got away from him. Well, he chased after the gerbil while it ran towards the shed. He looked over his shoulder, yelling for his friends to hurry up…you can probably guess the rest.”
“He didn’t see the shed coming.” Johnny filled in.
“That’s about it.”
“Did he lose consciousness at all?” Roy asked.
“No. He was dazed a bit, but never unconscious.”
Johnny started to examine the small cut and bruise on the boy’s left temple. “Well, now…uh…Billy is it?”
The boy nodded.
Pulling out his penlight, Johnny talked in a reassuring tone. “Okay, Billy, I’m just gonna shine this light in your eyes real quick to check ‘em.”
Roy set down the equipment he had and squatted down near the mother, setting up the biophone.
“Where’s the gerbil now?”
The woman pointed to the shed. “Under there.”
A small hole could be seen under the side of the building. Roy eyed it as he got Rampart on the biophone.
Billy’s lower lip started to quiver. “What if we never find Archie?”
“The gerbil’s name is Archie?” The kid may have been hurt slightly, but Johnny couldn’t help but grin at the thought of a gerbil living with the name of Archie.
“It’s named after his favorite comic,” Amanda said, now standing right behind Johnny and looking over his shoulder.
Johnny applied a pressure bandage to the small cut on the Billy’s head. He guessed the kid was probably going to need two or three stitches.
“I know what! You can find Archie,” Amanda pointed at Johnny, offering his services as she came around to the side of him. “You’re a hero!”
Johnny turned his head sharply. “Huh?”
“You can rescue Archie!”
“Uh…Amanda…I…uh…well, you see…”
Roy smirked at Johnny’s predicament. It would be hard for his partner to let Amanda down since he was such a hero in her eyes. But reality was, they couldn’t stay on the scene looking for a gerbil.
Johnny sighed. Knowing the boy’s head injury wasn’t very serious, he motioned for Roy to take over.
“I’ll…uh…I’ll take a look for …um…Archie,” Johnny shrugged.
Roy nodded, as he saw the ambulance attendants coming.
“It looks like he’ll be okay,” Roy assured Billy’s mom. “But he’s gonna need to go to Rampart General Hospital for a few stitches and to make sure there’s no hidden symptoms.”
“Okay…but I’ll have to bring some of the kids with me. Only four of them live close enough to walk home.”
“They won’t mind,” Roy assured.
He looked at Johnny now lying on his belly on the ground, trying to see the gerbil underneath the shed. Seven kids stood around fixated on him as he worked. He dug out a larger hole with his hands and tried again. Roy noticed Amanda was watching Johnny with admiration. He figured that admiration would turn to despair if she found out her hero didn’t have his good luck Little Kiddle doll that she’d given him.
“The hole doesn’t go far back,” Johnny explained as he reached his hand under. Pulling his hand out, he laid his head sideways and looked under again. “I can almost see…” he trailed off. “Ah ha!” He reached his hand in, feeling for the furry critter.
“Youch!” Johnny pulled his hand back quickly. “The little shi--” He turned red with embarrassment as he looked at the kids waiting for him to finish the word. Billy’s mother raised an eyebrow at the paramedic.
“The little…uh…shucks bit me,” Johnny corrected, sucking on the bite spot.
“That’s not what you were gonna say,” one boy said. “You were gonna say shi--”
“Hey!” Johnny glared at the boy. “I know what I was gonna say.”
Man it stings…
Roy tossed his partner a pair of work gloves Billy’s mother had handed him. “Try these.”
“Thanks,” the younger paramedic muttered as he caught the gloves. He put them on and tried again. This time he brought out the gerbil cupped tightly in his hands.
“He did it! He did it!” Amanda jumped up and down, clasping her hands together. She turned to the other six boys and girls that had been watching Johnny at work. “I told you I knew a real hero!”
“Can Archie come with me?” Billy asked, as he was placed on the stretcher.
“No, he’ll have to wait for you to get back home,” Roy smiled. “I’m afraid pets aren’t allowed in a hospital.” He walked along side the stretcher as they headed for the ambulance.
Johnny took the furry critter over to its cage on the ground that the mother had opened and put it in. “There, back in your own home,” he said to the little guy, as he closed the cage. Billy’s mom picked up the cage and carried it in the house with her as she headed for her car, three of the party guests going with her.
% % % %
With Billy in the ambulance, the kids who lived nearby sent home, and Billy’s mom driving herself and three other kids to Rampart, Johnny was ready to get in the squad and follow behind the ambulance. He had hopes of getting some food in his stomach at the hospital.
Suddenly Amanda got out of the car and rushed over to her hero. Johnny stepped back around to the passenger side of the squad, as the ambulance pulled away, non-code R.
“Mister Fireman…do you have your lucky doll with you?” She asked as she ran up to him.
Johnny sighed, a guilty feeling coming over him. He hoped her feelings wouldn’t be too hurt. “Sweetheart…I can’t carry her around with me.” Visions of Chet, among others, giving him a hard time entered Johnny’s mind.
Kid, if you only knew.
“You got bit…if you had the lucky doll, you wouldn’ta got bit.”
“I don’t know about that. Archie was pretty scared under that shed,” Johnny tried to appease the girl. “Don’t worry, I’m careful.”
“But you need luck. You’re a hero. Without heroes, how will we be safe?”
His empty stomach forgotten, Johnny looked at the innocent face staring up at him waiting for an answer. He was used to taking risks on big rescues. He rarely gave his own safety a thought when it came to coming to someone’s aide. Here was a child concerned for him on a simple call. And she wanted to know what would happen if the heroes in the world weren’t around. Johnny squatted down to be eye level with the girl.
“Amanda, you may not see it in people every day,” he began to explain, “and they may not always wear a uniform. But there’ll always be heroes around when you need them.”
“For real?” Amanda asked.
Johnny nodded. “Yeah…for real.” He cracked a lopsided grin.
As he ushered the girl back to the waiting car, he made a promise to himself. The little doll this girl had given him would stay safely in his locker. He’d do it for Amanda, and for himself. After all, the little girl was right. Every hero needs a good luck charm.
With the events of this week, I’ve had many discussions with my seven-year-old daughter about heroes. From the people who died evacuating the buildings, the ones who rushed to the scene to provide rescue service and are now missing, the ones who were on a plane and decided it was up to them to end a flight knowing it meant their own death and save many others who were a potential target…and now the ones who are putting themselves at risk to find others, and the many leaders in our country who have displayed nothing short of tremendous courage. The theme of this story is dedicated to these people.
Thanks for the beta, Kenda.