By Audrey W.



Roy DeSoto shook his head as he rolled his eyes. He’d just come around the rear of the squad in the apparatus bay at Station 51 only to see his partner John Gage sneaking past the doorway of the dayroom. He was carrying two folded flags in the crook of his right arm.


“What’re you doing?” he asked, causing the younger man to startle.


Johnny quickly turned around and motioned for him to be quiet with his free hand., then continued on.


Roy decided to follow behind and see what the dark-haired paramedic was up to. He couldn’t imagine that his friend would use the American and California state flag in any disrespectful manner to pull one over on the phantom, his arch enemy at the station. But why else would he be sneaking around with them?


Once they were out in front of the station, Roy asked again, “What’re you doing? What’s up with this secrecy bit?”


Johnny pursed his lips together in thought, then grinned as he glanced down at the flags still in his possession.


“I wanna put up the flags this mornin’, that’s all.”


“That’s it?”


He nodded. “Uh huh. I used to get to put ‘em up now and then, but now I don’t even get to when I pull overtime.”


Roy stared at him a moment. “That’s it?”


Aggravated with not being fully understood, Johnny shifted his stance and motioned toward the flag pole. “Look, I happen ta like puttin’ up the flags. It’s about pride. . .it’s about exercisin’ my right as an American . . .it’s about--”


“You sure you aren’t waiting for another Cynthia to come along?” Roy interrupted.


Johnny thought back on the beautiful girl who’d gotten a flat in front of the station one morning when he was pulling overtime. He’d been out putting up the flags and fixed her tire, only to be pursued by her afterward until he inadvertently dumped her off on Chet. But once he saw how pretty she really was, he’d regretted it. Unfortunately, it hadn’t taken her long to dump the noncommittal Chet and she met another fireman she’d recently married. He’d blown it big time.


“Yes, I’m sure. I’m not ready for another one like her.”  But he scowled inside because his partner knew him better than he wanted to admit. So what if he was hoping for another pretty chick to come along. . .


“Well, why all the sneaking around?”


“Because, if I didn’t, Mike would know I’ve got the flags and he’d be right out here to put ‘em up. If you haven’t noticed, he’s put ‘em up every mornin’ we’ve been on duty for the past coupla years! It’s like you with the squad. You don’t let me drive, he doesn’t let me . . .or anyone else. . .raise the flags.”


Roy gave it thought. It was kind of funny to think about it, but Johnny did have a point.


When he saw the comprehension register on his partner’s face, Johnny gave a firm nod and turned to walk from the driveway to the pole. But suddenly Mike Stoker walked by, snatching the American flag from the unsuspecting paramedic.


“Thanks, Johnny. I was wondering where they’d gone.”


Gage stood rooted in disbelief as he watched Mike attach the flag to the ropes. When Mike turned to get the state flag, Johnny sighed and handed it over. “Here.”


“Thanks for the help.”


“Sure,” he deadpanned. What was it going to take to get a chance to hang the flags? Maybe if I get up *real* early tomorrow morning, before everyone else. . .


Roy recognized the determined look on Johnny’s face. The obsession was growing behind those brown eyes. He decided to create a diversion.




“Are ya sure you’re okay with me drivin’ the squad?” Johnny wondered. Roy usually drove it to respond to calls while they were on duty, but had offered to give his partner a chance for a change.


“Of course I’m sure. I’ll get a break and you’ll get the driving time you want.”


“All right, far out! You aren’t gonna regret this, Roy."


But the older man wondered why he felt so restless all of a sudden if he wasn’t bothered by what he just did.




Ten minutes later, the klaxons sounded. “Squad 51, unknown type rescue, 21150 Mill Rd, two one one five zero Mill Rd, cross street, 211th Avenue, time out 8:35.”


The paramedics scrambled from the hose rack in the back lot to their squad, Roy almost getting in on the driver’s side until Johnny reminded him of the switch. As soon as they were situated, Captain Stanley handed the call slip to Gage. He in turn went to hand it to Roy when he saw something he’d never expected. DeSoto had his hands up in empty air as if they were on the steering wheel.


Johnny shook his head and rolled his eyes as he handed the slip over.


And people call *me* obsessed. Between Mike and Roy, I’d say I’ve got nothin’ to worry about.







July Picture 2007