Not Quite 'Dear Abby'
By Audrey W.
John Gage parked his Land Rover in the DeSotos’ driveway behind Roy’s sports car and glanced at the clock on the dashboard.
One o’clock. Right on time.
It was Thanksgiving Day and for a second year in a row, the paramedic had been invited to join his partner’s family for the holiday. With no immediate plans of his own, Johnny was more than happy to accept the offer.
He climbed out of his vehicle, grabbing a chilled six pack of bottled beer he’d brought for him and Roy to share while they watched the second NFL game of the day. Johnny made his way up the sidewalk and to the front porch. It was then he noticed a white paper sign taped inside the lower left corner of the livingroom window. The drapes were open, but the sign was backed by one of the curtain panels that could still partially be seen through the glass.
Johnny stepped off the side of the porch to take a closer look. The paramedic shook his head and smiled as he returned to the front door and pushed on the doorbell button.
After a minute the door opened and Roy motioned for the younger man to come in. “The second game just started.”
“Great,” Gage said as he entered the livingroom, handing Roy the cardboard carton of beer bottles as he did so. He glanced at the window. “So, you runnin’ an advice business here now?” He teased.
“The sign on the window. Looks like Jennifer switched from being a nutritionist like last year, to being a Dear Abby of sorts.”
“She put a sign up?”
Roy went to the window and pulled back the curtain panel closest to the front door with his free hand. Seeing the piece of paper, he pulled it off the window, the corners remaining in place with scotch tape. He read the words printed on it in dark blue crayon.
Advice for free. Make a appointment.
“Well, I guess I should give her credit for determination.” He set it on the coffee table, explaining to Johnny, “She’s on another kick--” Roy stopped in mid-sentence and quickly looked upward as the faint sound of a harmonica could be heard from the hallway upstairs.
“Almost sounds like someone’s playin’ the blues,” the younger man commented with a smile.
“He is. That’s Chris.” Roy shifted his attention to Johnny. “He wanted to go over to his friend Brett Sutton’s house today and we told him ‘no’ since it was a holiday. So he’s been playing the ‘stuck at home’ blues off and on since.” Roy sighed. “I think it’s time to have a little talk. I’ll be right back.”
“Sure. I’ll just be watchin’ the game.” Johnny took a seat on the couch as Roy headed upstairs. Suddenly he realized he was missing something from his hand that Roy apparently forgot he still had in his.
Gage turned around. “Uh. . .Roy. . .the b--”
But his friend was already near the top of the stairs on his way to his son’s room with pack in tow.
The younger man returned his attention to the television with a sigh.
When Roy returned to the livingroom with the beer, he found Gage with a business card-sized piece of white paper in his right hand and a wide-ruled notebook sheet of paper in his lap, a pencil lying in the center of it.
“Uh oh. I see you’ve been tagged.”
Johnny grinned. “I made the mistake of admitting I may have a coupla unsolved problems in my life. She wants me to write ‘em down on the paper and hand it in when I make my ‘appointment’.” He flashed the business card with her name and ‘business hours’ printed on it, also in blue crayon.
Roy nodded knowingly. “I spent twenty minutes being ‘counseled’ this morning. She really tries, I’ll give her that.”
“Yeah? What were your problems?”
A blank expression came over the older man’s face. “Uh. . .nothin really.”
“C’mon. We’re partners, aren’t we?”
“Well, we talk about a lot of stuff. So what’dya write down?”
Just then Joanne walked into the room from the kitchen. “I thought I heard Johnny’s voice. Glad you could make it again.”
She looked at the items in his hand and lap. “I see Jennifer knows you’re here.”
Johnny glanced at the things the little girl had given him. “Yeah,” he admitted with a slight laugh. “She stopped on her way to play with her dolls.”
“You want one of these before they go to the fridge?” Roy asked, partially holding out the cardboard carrier of brown bottles by its handle.
Johnny gave a nod, took one from it, then sat back. “I was hopin’ you wouldn’t offer ‘um to Chris to wallow in his sorrows,” he kidded.
Roy laughed. “No, but I think he wondered at first, judging by the startled look on his face when I walked into his room. Took me a few seconds to realize I still had it.”
As he headed for the kitchen, Joanne asked their guest, “Can I get you anything to snack on?”
Johnny thought back to the previous Thanksgiving and how Roy had told him that Joanne would be unhappy if they ruined their appetite with snack food. Why was she offering it now? Did Jennifer’s healthy food kick annoy Joanne enough that she changed her mind? Or was she just being polite, hoping he’d say no?
With women, there was no way to be sure of their motivation for anything, he’d learned over the years. Playing it safe, he made a quick decision.
He held up the just opened bottle. “Nah, I’m fine with this for now.”
“Oh. . .okay.”
The seemingly disappointed hostess turned and headed back for the kitchen, just as Roy came out to join his friend, one of the brown bottles in his right hand. He glanced at the unhappy expression on his wife’s face.
“Nothing.” The comment was followed by a loud sigh.
He watched as she let the kitchen door close behind her, then turned to face Gage.
“Nothin’,” he shrugged. “Other than the Cowboys got a touchdown.”
Roy walked over and took a seat in the easy chair. As he sat he questioned, “Why was Joanne so down? Did she say anything to you?”
“Just offered me a snack. Luckily I remembered she didn’t appreciate us ruinin’ our appetites so I declined.”
“So that’s it.”
“She worked all morning on appetizers, along with dinner. She said she wanted to have them ready in case you were hungry.”
Johnny sat forward, his left hand on his left knee. His face displaying disbelief, he asked, “You mean to tell me, she wants us to ruin our appetites now?”
“I wouldn’t exactly put it that way. . .” Roy trailed off when he saw Gage set his drink down on the coffee table , then pick up the pencil and jot something on the sheet of paper, accidentally poking a small hole in it in the process.
Johnny glanced up at his friend’s stare. “Problem number one,” he read off the paper. “Women.”
“You expect Jen to help you with that?”
“She’s a girl, isn’t she?”
“She’s only nine years old.”
“She still knows more about their thought processes than I do.”
Roy rolled his eyes. Women’s thought processes weren’t the only ones he had trouble following. But to avoid a confirmation of that, he decided it was best to end the conversation there.
Just beyond midway through the first quarter of the game, Roy noticed his friend write something else on the paper Jennifer had given him.
“Don’t tell me you’re going to talk to her about the game, too?”
“Nah,” he said with the shake of his head. “Class clowns.”
“Class clowns? You’re not in school.”
“No, but sometimes we have the equivalent of a class clown around the station with Chet Kelly. So, I figure, why not get a kid’s perspective on someone like him?” He shrugged.
“It’s not going to work.”
“She’s at that stage where if the guy is cute, everything he does is okay. If not, then she’s too biased the other way.”
“Well, I guess we’ll find out which category Chet falls into,” he said with a snicker.
Roy rolled his eyes. But he let the subject drop. At least Gage having to make up his own list kept the dark-haired paramedic from asking about his anymore.
Shortly after halftime of the football game it was time to eat dinner. Joanne was a little happier since Roy and Johnny had gone into the kitchen during the second quarter to grab some of the appetizers she’d made. Johnny had made sure to take more than he normally would have to make up for his response earlier.
As the group ate their turkey dinner, Jennifer asked Johnny, “You’re gonna make your appointment, aren’t ya?”
He glanced at Roy, who was at the head of the table, and winked, then returned his attention to the little blonde girl across from him. “Well, sure. Sure.” He reached in his jean pocket and pulled out the now folded up piece of paper. “I got all my troubles written down and ready ta go.”
She smiled. “Oh boy! After dinner can he, Daddy?”
“Well, I think that’s up to him. He may want to see the rest of the game.”
Gage frowned inwardly, but kept a smile plastered on his face. Now he had another problem, one he couldn’t exactly write down for later. Could he disappoint Jennifer by watching the rest of the game, which was what he really wanted to do? After all, it wasn’t like football games were on again in reruns during the summer. Once it was played and over, that was it. Or did he toss his own desire aside to make her happy?
He was willing to bet if he asked either of the ‘girls’ in the room, the answer would be the latter.
Gage sensed all gazes on him, waiting for his response. He cleared his throat before answering, “Sure, I’ll do it as soon as we’re done eating. Why not?”
He had hopes he could humor the girl and still catch the end of the game.
After helping to clear the table, Johnny had gone to Jennifer’s ‘office’ while Roy returned to the easy chair in the livingroom to watch the Cowboys vs Steelers game. Enjoying his second beer, Roy wondered how long his friend and partner would be detained.
*He* could probably use another drink about now, he thought with a grin.
Just over five minutes after going with Jennifer, Johnny returned.
Roy glanced at his watch, then looked at the younger man. “That was a short meeting. Did she even give you any advice?”
“She said she’d let me know later,” he explained matter-of-factly as he sat back down on the couch. “Said she had to think about it.”
“On which one?”
“Girls. We never got to the second one.”
“Oh. ___Guess we’ll never know which category Chet fell into, huh?”
“Nope.” There was a few seconds of quiet before he continued with, “Ya know, I think she just made girls that much more baffling. I mean, she was the one who wanted to play the game now. So I do it for her___ just for her benefit___ an’ there she is sayin’ it’s the end before it really even got started.”
“Well, you know, nine year olds are pretty fickle.”
“I’ll say,” he said with a snorted laugh.
“Sure, one more.”
Roy got up to get it for his guest. As he let the kitchen door close behind him, he heard Johnny complain that the referees had made a bad call.
He was just glad Gage was mad at the men in black and white striped shirts and black pants. He’d been almost certain it would be with him instead.
Later in the evening, after everyone had each had a piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream, it was time for Johnny to head for home. He and Roy both would need to get up early the next morning to be on duty at the fire station by eight o’clock in the morning.
Jennifer still hadn’t wanted to play the advice game anymore. In fact, when her mother brought it up during dessert, she’d gotten an almost pleading expression on her face as she shook her head ‘no’.
Roy closed the front door after Johnny climbed into his Land Rover in the driveway. As he turned to walk away from the foyer, he was met by Jennifer standing close by.
“Time to get ready for bed.”
“Okay, Daddy. But can I just tell you something?”
“You were right! He does talk a lot when he has a problem!”
Roy couldn’t help but grin. He could only imagine now what had taken place; a classic John Gage rant while his daughter probably wondered what she’d gotten herself into.
No *wonder* they didn’t get to the second topic. . .
He was just thankful his daughter hadn’t given away to his partner that his problem mentioned were the rants Gage would get into, often when he was a ‘captive’ audience with him in the squad.
On his way home, though still baffled by most of the female population, Johnny was thankful he’d at least gotten to see the rest of the game.
I can always figure out chics on my own later. . .maybe. . .
Back at the DeSoto residence, Jennifer was thankful she was off the hook in offering more advice. Chris was thankful the holiday was over and he’d be at his best friend Brett’s house the next day.
Unaware of everyone else’s thoughts, Joanne was just thankful her cooking alone this year was a success. But she surely wouldn’t advise it to anyone for every Thanksgiving.
It’s way too much work!
This was inspired by my daughter back in 2004 when she had a sign on her bedroom door for us to make an 'appointment' for advice. :o) I found the story recently, very much unfinished, and decided to see if it was time. I guess the characters thought so, as they led the way. :o)
*Click on the pencil to send Audrey feedback
Thanksgivng Stories Stories Page