John Gage whistled as he walked from his Land Rover parked behind Station 51 to the locker room, a small white paper sack in his right hand. His morning had started out perfect; from there being no line at the gas pump to run him late, to the donut shop next door to the gas station giving out free pastries with the purchase of another. He could smell the bakery items even with the bag being closed, the top edges folded over together to form a secure flap.
Expecting to surprise his partner Roy Desoto with a sugar glazed donut to go with the morning coffee, he smiled as he pushed open the door to the locker room.
“Good mornin’, good mor--”
But his partner wasn’t at the locker beside his. In fact he wasn’t anywhere in sight. But a familiar fireman/paramedic from another station was.
“Good morning, Gage.”
“Uh. . .morning. . .”
“Excuse me for correcting you, but you already stated your greeting.”
“You said ‘morning’, but it wasn’t necessary. You’d already said it. One and a half times.”
Johnny stepped over the bench in front of his locker, his mouth hanging open, gaze still on the other man. His only hope was that Brice was there for the previous shift or to fill in for one of the engine crew. There was only one way to find out.
“What’re ya doin’ here? Forget your way to Station 16?” he snickered in hopes of lightening the mood.
But Brice didn’t laugh.
“That. . .that was just . . .uh. . .” Johnny stammered. “Never mind.”
The substitute paramedic shook his head as he closed the locker. “Perhaps you should refrain from making an attempt at humor.”
“Yeah. . .sure. . .I’ll refrain.” He rolled his eyes before asking, “So what are ya doin’ here? Filling in for someone on C-shift?”
“No. I received a call last night; seems DeSoto wasn’t going to be able to come in.”
Johnny screwed up his face. “Roy?”
“If you mean Roy DeSoto, and I believe you do, yes.”
“But he was fine the other day.”
“Apparently he’s not now,” Brice said as he closed the locker door.
Johnny watched him walk out of the room before asking out loud, “Roy, what’re you doin’ to me?”
Curious as to what was keeping his regular partner from duty, Johnny headed straight for the captains’ office. He rapped lightly on the doorframe when he saw Hank Stanley sitting behind the desk not far from the doorway.
“C’mon in, John,” he said with a motion of his hand as he sat back in his chair.
When Gage complied, he added, “I suppose you’ve heard the news about Roy.”
“Sorta. But what exactly has he got?”
Johnny looked puzzled. “Cap, that doesn’t make sense.”
“I’m sorry. I guess until you know the whole story it won’t.” He turned in his chair to face the youngest member of his crew. “His daughter must’ve gotten a case of head lice from school. Apparently she passed them on to Joanne too.”
Hank nodded. “Roy’s home taking care of his family and I’d say doing a lot of nit picking, if you know what I mean.”
But Johnny had more on his mind than just what Roy would be up to. A familiar thought came to surface; one that had previously involved a monkey who carried a virus. Only this time it wasn’t a furry animal that was the problem.
I played with the kid, too.
“John. . .?”
The paramedic came out of his thoughts and looked at the captain.
“Are you okay, pal?”
“I don’t know. It takes a couple of weeks for lice to become noticeable, right?”
“Probably, unless a person knows to look for them and knows what it is they’re looking for.”
Johnny recalled how he’d sat on the couch, Jennifer right beside him, while they all watched television. And she hadn’t exactly sat still. Like a typical kid, she’d been against the back of the couch near his shoulder, leaning forward, peering over behind the couch. And with a hand to her head a lot of the time. Now he knew why on the latter. But it wasn’t until Roy threatened to turn off Yogi Bear that she’d finally settled down for fifteen minutes.
Oh man. . .
“Roy and Chris didn’t get ‘um?”
“No, with shorter hair, I’d say the little critters didn’t find them as appealing. You know, not as many places to hide; not as easy to climb onto the head.”
Johnny felt sicker as he ran a hand through his shaggy hair then quickly looked at it in alarm when he realized what he’d just done. But nothing unusual was on it.
“I was. . .uh. . .I was over at Roy’s three days ago. I sat with the kids, Jennifer was right beside me.”
“Well, it’s not like the lice can jump or fly. They crawl.”
“Yeah, like onto furniture and to the next person in line with enough hair?”
Hank only had to give it a few seconds of thought.
“You and Brice head to Rampart. . .now. I want you checked out and cleared before you go on any runs. I’ll stand the squad down until we know for sure.”
The directive was firm. But it didn’t stop Johnny from trying for an alternative. After all, most of the young ladies he was interested in dating worked at Rampart. How would he ever stand a chance with any of them if word got out he was in for a case of head lice. . .if he indeed had them.
“Uh. . .Cap, can’t we just do it here?”
Hank raised his eyebrows in both question and surprise.
“There’s a lot I’d do for you men. . .I’d even put my life on the line for any one of you on the crew. But to pick through your hair for bugs like a monkey?” A slight smile played at his lips. “Sorry, John, but that’s where I draw the line.” A brief second later he reaffirmed, “Rampart.”
Johnny just nodded, a glum expression on his face. How was he going to even explain it to Brice?
“You know the average adult louse can travel nine inches per minute,” Craig Brice stated from the passenger side of the squad. Johnny glanced over at him from the driver’s side. So far the only bright spot in the day since getting to work was that he’d gotten to drive rather than be a passenger in the truck. He’d even lost track of the donuts he’d bought.
“So if you watched an hour of television with the DeSoto children, that would certainly give a louse or two time to climb or drop off the little girl and find a home with you.”
“Thanks.” Like I needed to hear *that* . . .
“I don’t think pesticides are the way to get rid of them. The health risk for the human being is too great. And they’ve found that lice are getting immune to what’s been available on the market since the early 1960’s. Really, you’re better off smothering them with mayonnaise or olive oil until there’s something new on the market. What did DeSoto say they were using when you called to see how things were going there?”
Johnny screwed up his face as he once again took a quick glance at his passenger.
“What’dya do? Study about head lice or somethin’?”
“Well, one never knows when he may encounter a situation in life that he doesn’t expect. . .does he?” he added with smile.
I hate it when he’s right. . .
But at least Craig had been good about it when Johnny first told him the news, other than disinfecting the telephone receiver after he’d used it. The dark-haired paramedic was glad of that much.
“So what else do you know about . . .lice?” I can’t believe I just asked that. . .
“One female can lay up to five eggs a day and the eggs hatch in roughly six to ten days. The adults can survive for as long as a month on the human head. And for some reason, they don’t bother domestic animals.”
Johnny kept one hand on the steering wheel as he scratched at the back of his head with the other.
“Itches?” Brice asked.
“Yeah. . .I think so. But to be honest, it’s only been when I think about ‘em.”
“It’s the feces that makes it itch.”
That was more than he needed to know.
Gage was so disgusted now that he didn’t think he could stand to hear anymore facts. He just hoped he didn’t have any of the blood sucking, feces producing parasites.
“Pediculus humanus capitis.”
“Huh?” Hadn’t Brice said enough?
“That’s the term for the condition.”
“Pediculus humanus capitis.”
“Man, it even sounds disgusting.”
He drove the squad into the lot at the hospital and parked it not far from the emergency entrance.
“Well, here goes nothin’.”
Brice followed alongside, filling Johnny in on the history of treatment for head lice over the years.
“So you don’t see any sign of them?” Gage asked Dixie McCall.
The head nurse understood his dilemma and had promised to keep the situation under wraps whether he had lice or not. And after a very thorough examination, especially behind his ears and at his hairline along the back of his neck, she’d been able to give him a clean bill of health.
“You certainly don’t have any eggs. And I couldn’t see anything alive in that mop of yours.”
“Just kidding,” she said with a smile.
But Johnny didn’t seem too happy for having just gotten good news.
“You did hear what I said, right? No sign of lice?”
“Yeah, I heard,” he mumbled.
“Well then what’s wrong? Why still so glum?”
Johnny ran a hand through his hair and sighed. With a sour face, he elaborated, “Dix, I’m real glad I don’t have lice. But, man, I’d be even better if I wasn’t stuck for the next twenty-three hours with Craig Brice.”
This was inspired by our own infestation of head lice. Two of us ended up with them and we discovered the problem a week before Christmas. I have to say it was awful. It’s expensive, time consuming and disgusting. We used RID first, but when that didn’t kill them all, mayonnaise was used and that worked pretty well. Then we switched to a concoction of 8 different oils. In real life, Johnny would likely need a treatment to be sure he was clean. For story purposes, it was left with just an inspection since it’s fiction and it was Dixie who did the check. :o)
One thing I hope may help others is that this was my third experience with a child bringing these things home from school and I’ve noticed over the past 12 years, some of the lice really seem to be developing an immunity to the current treatments available in stores. I also got a headache from using the stuff. But it did help.
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