The toy Rubik’s Cube mentioned in this story does not belong to me. It is the invention of a man named Erno Rubik and is distributed by Seven Towns and Oddzon. I just borrowed it for enjoyment purposes. Although the Cube didn’t become popular until the 1980’s, I’m using it as a 1970’s fad for story purposes. I have a feeling the results would’ve been the same. :o)
A Puzzling Christmas
By Audrey W.
It was Christmas morning at Station 51 and the men from A-Shift gathered around the decorated tree in the dayroom to exchange their gifts. The shift had just begun, but once the squad’s supplies had been checked, the men decided to put off chores and take care of the holiday celebration first.
The men had drawn names in the middle of December and agreed to set a $10 limit on what could be spent.
Captain Stanley marveled at the letter opener he had received from Mike. It had a little fire engine on the handle.
Chet loved his gift from the captain. . .two free movie passes to the theater in town that played the B-type horror movies Chet loved to watch.
Marco had gotten an apron with chili peppers on it from Johnny and the words ‘The Hottest Chef In The West’ were printed across the front.
Roy got a pocket photo album from Chet. He had pictures of his family loose in his locker and had been meaning to get something to put them in.
Mike smiled at the plastic model kit of a fire truck that Marco had bought him. He could work on it at the station between calls.
Johnny opened his gift from Roy. Silence filled the room when everyone heard the words, “A Rubik’s Cube?” come out of John’s mouth.
The four other men looked first at Johnny who was trying to get the plastic off his new gift and then to Roy in disbelief.
“You got him a Rubik’s Cube?” Chet asked incredulously. “Didn’t you learn anything from that experience with the ball that held the secret of the universe?”
Roy shrugged. “I figured he’d enjoy something that would keep him busy. It’s not as hard as that ball was . . .is it?”
Marco and Chet nodded in slow motion.
“It is?” Roy glanced at his partner who had just gotten the toy out of its packaging.
Johnny held up the colorful square object and turned it over a few times. “Well, I guess as long as a person can back-track their steps they use to undo it, the thing can’t be too hard to solve.” He slowly turned the rows a few times, causing the design to be scrambled.
Chet shook his head as the others watched, hoping Johnny ‘s theory would work.
Johnny gave the onlookers a smug grin. “Watch this,” he said as he started to back-track his steps. When he thought he had made the right moves, the paramedic held up the still scrambled square and frowned. “Now wait a minute.”
The guys continued to stare as they saw Johnny make the square even more scrambled than it was before. Roy stood up and slowly backed out of the dayroom. He had just about made it out when he heard his partner say, “I’m gonna get this thing back how it was, if it’s the last thing I do!”
All eyes fell on Roy, who in turn shrugged. “Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea?”
Johnny was up and brushed by the older paramedic as he headed out the door, his present in his hands. “I’ll be in the dorm where I can be alone to think.”
Johnny looked up from his bed as Roy walked into the dorm.
“Any luck yet?”
“Nah. I’m not even close.” The younger paramedic sighed. “Roy, have you ever tried one if these things?”
“No. We bought them for the kids for Christmas, too, though, so maybe I’ll give it a try.” Roy cleared his throat. “Cap wanted me to remind you, the chores aren’t done yet.”
“Chores? Oh yeah.” Johnny stuffed the Rubik’s Cube under his pillow. “I guess I got carried away.”
“You? Carried away?” Roy asked sarcastically.
“All right, all right. I know I tend to be over-focused on stuff.”
Johnny frowned. “Okay, obsessed. But in a healthy way,” he quickly added.
Roy rolled his eyes. “C’mon, Junior. The mop and bucket in the dayroom await you.”
Just as the men finished their chores, the tones sounded, sending them out on a call. As Roy pulled the squad out in front of the engine, he glanced to the right, catching a sour expression on his partner’s face.
“I forgot the cube under my pillow.”
“You mean you’re gonna carry that thing with you every where like you did with that ball?”
“You know . . .the one made in -- the one with the ‘secret of the universe’ inside.”
“Oh, that one,” Johnny answered in a disgusted tone. “Don’t remind me.” He shifted in his seat. “Secret of the universe,” Johnny mumbled, snickering at the end.
The men rode in silence for a few minutes. Johnny glanced at Roy, then out the passenger window, before staring at DeSoto.
Feeling the gaze on him, Roy asked, “Now what?”
“I was just thinkin’ about that ball and how long it took me to get it back together after you took it apart. I hope you’re not planning on doin’ a similar thing with the cube.”
Roy sighed. “Wouldn’t think of it.”
Why didn’t I just buy him a deck of cards or something?
An hour and a half later the paramedics had dropped their patient off at Rampart and were back at the station. Roy headed for the dayroom, while Johnny ran straight for the dorm.
As he walked into the room, Roy noticed the engine crew look at him expectantly.
“He’s . . .uh. . .in the dorm.” The paramedic shifted on his feet. “He’s. . .you know. . .involved. . .with his gift.”
“Obsessed.” They all answered in unison.
Roy made his way to the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee. As he turned to face the table, he saw the others hadn’t taken their eyes off of him.
“I just want to know one thing, Roy,” Chet said. “What were you thinking?”
“Maybe he’ll get discouraged and give up,” Roy offered.
“You really believe that?” Mike asked.
Just then Johnny came into the dayroom, a bounce in his step. “I’ve got it! I think I’ve got it! If I just turn this one row here. . .” He turned the row and frowned. “No, I haven’t got it.”
Once again the tones sounded, this time only sending out the squad.
The two paramedics hurried to their truck, as Marco ran to the podium to acknowledge the call. Johnny climbed into the cab and took the paper with the address from Roy that Marco had handed him. Johnny set his Rubik’s Cube down beside his lap as he made a note on the paper.
Roy gave a quick glance to the toy sitting on the seat.
Boy, would I love to toss that thing out the window along the way.
After delivering a baby in a station wagon on the freeway, Roy and Johnny found themselves back at Rampart. Dixie smiled as she saw Roy come towards her desk, while Johnny went into treatment room two with the mother and her baby.
“How’re the new mother and baby doing?” Dixie asked, motioning with her head towards the treatment room.
“Great! Johnny did a good job with the delivery.”
“Sounded like it earlier on this end of the radio. He looked like he was beaming when he just came in.”
“He was,” Roy assured. “And I’m sure he’ll tell you about his magnificent idea, too.”
“Oh?” Dixie raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, you see--”
Just then Johnny came out of the treatment room across the hall and stepped over to the counter.
“Hey, Dix! Roy tell you about the delivery?”
“A little. He was just about to explain your idea.”
Johnny slapped his partner on the back and grinned. “Go ahead, Roy. Tell ‘er.”
Roy looked from Johnny to Dixie.
“Well, the lady was having some real bad labor pains, so Johnny--”
“So I got her thinking about something else--” Johnny cut in. “I was explaining the mystery of the Rubik’s Cube to her and she forgot about her labor pains.”
“I wouldn’t say she forgot them,” Roy clarified. “But she seemed to not be as focused on them. She was more annoyed by someon--something else.”
Johnny shot a glare at Roy. “Very funny. But at least it worked . . .sort of.””
“You’ve just got to be careful what you say to a woman in labor, Johnny. The littlest thing could set her off. I’m glad it worked,” Dixie said, smiling. “What brought up the Rubik’s Cube?”
“Roy got me one for Christmas.”
Dixie gave a surprised look at Roy. He in turn shrugged.
“Seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“Have you figured it out yet, Johnny?”
“No. But the day is young, Dix. The day is young.”
Dixie nodded. “I’ll see you guys later. I have to go see if the new schedule printed out yet.”
“Okay, Dix, see ya!” Johnny said, grinning.
“You ready to head back?”
The two men walked towards the exit . . . Johnny thinking about what he could try next with the cube to solve the puzzle, and Roy wondering what his partner was thinking.
As soon as they were back from Rampart, Johnny plopped down on the couch next to Henry the bassett hound. He studied the toy in his hands closely, hoping to see some new move he could make to bring it closer to being solid colors on all sides again.
The engine crew was out on a run, so Roy sat by himself at the table. He glanced over at Johnny and shook his head. Boredom quickly setting in, he pulled a chair over by the television set and turned it on. The movie ‘White Christmas’ was playing.
Roy watched the movie until a familiar voice sounded from behind.
“Oh, I love this movie!”
Roy turned around and was up in an instant.
Roy looked behind his wife. “Where are the kids?”
“They’re at a friend’s house. The neighbor’s got a pool table for Christmas and the kids wanted to play over there.”
Roy nodded. “Okay. Dad comes somewhere after a pool table.”
“Only today,” Joanne said, smiling. She peered across the room at Johnny, who apparently hadn’t noticed her come in. “How’s Johnny doing?”
Roy glanced at his partner on the couch. “Oh, he’s involved with that toy we gave him.”
“The Rubik’s Cube?”
“Yeah. Hey, how did the kids do with theirs? I know Chris was having a hard time with it last night.”
“Jennifer can’t figure it out and Chris has solved it three times today.”
“Shhhh,” Roy put his right index finger to his lips. “Don’t let him hear you,” he said, pointing to Johnny.
Joanne smiled at the man on the couch engrossed with the toy, the dog bedside him, watching with curiosity. “He’ll get it sooner or later.”
“I hope sooner,” Roy said.
“How about we go out by the car to talk?” Joanne suggested.
“Sounds good to me.
When the engine returned the men filed into the dayroom. They saw Johnny on the couch with his latest obsession, Henry beside him.
“Where’s Roy?” Chet asked.
“Hmmm?” Johnny finally looked up from what he was doing. “I. . .I don’t know. He’s here somewhere.”
“Well, the squad’s still here, so he didn’t go on a run without you,” Marco said.
“Ha ha,” Johnny got up from the couch, the cube still in his hands. “He’s probably in the dorm reading or something. What’s on TV?”
“You tell us,” Chet said. “You’re the one who had it on.”
Roy came into the dayroom, interrupting the conversation.
“Where’ve you been?” Johnny asked, like he had been looking hours for his partner.
“I was outside with Joanne. She saw you were hard at work, and thought we should go out there to give you quiet time.”
“Joanne was here?”
Chet and Marco looked at each other and shook their heads.
“Yeah, she just left.”
“Why didn’t she say anything?” Johnny asked, sounding hurt.
“Because you were too engrossed in the puzzle. She didn’t want to disturb you.”
“I guess I was kind of into it, huh?” the younger paramedic admitted. “Were the kids here, too?”
“No. Just Joanne. The kids were too much into a pool table at the neighbor’s house to come along.”
“Tis the season, huh, Roy?” Chet said as he snatched the Rubik’s cube out of Johnny’s hands.
Gage narrowed his eyes at the fireman and snatched it back. “Give me that!” He sat in the chair Roy had pulled over earlier to watch TV and turned the cube over a few more times, examining it.
“You know, Roy, I don’t know if there is a solution to this anymore.”
Roy rolled his eyes. I could’ve gotten him a new bowling ball bag.
The rest of the shift followed the same pattern. Johnny was trying to figure out the Rubik’s Cube anytime that the paramedics weren’t on a call, and he made sure no one could get to his present when he wasn’t around. He didn’t want anyone butting in this time.
December 26th, the men got off shift. Johnny was thrilled because he would finally have time, without any interruptions, to figure out the cube.
December 28th , the men were back on duty. Roy walked into the locker room, only to find Johnny sitting on the bench in his uniform, still fiddling with the Rubik’s Cube.
“Haven’t you solved that yet?”
“I’ve come close. . .got it all the way to two squares off.”
“Chris. . .” Roy stopped himself before he revealed too much.
“Uh. . .Chris and Jenny are having a hard time with theirs, too,” Roy smiled, relieved he could think of a quick lie. At least it was only a half lie at that. “I guess they’re pretty tough to figure out.”
Chet and Mike walked into the locker room and went to their prospective lockers.
Mike saw that Johnny had the toy in his hands. “Still?”
Chet shook his head. “Give it up, Gage. Face it. . .you’re whipped.”
“I’m not whipped. I didn’t have that much time to do it on my days off. I had dates, ya know.”
“Dates?” Chet asked, not sure Johnny had meant what he said. “You mean a date, right?”
“No, Chet. I mean dates. As in two different chicks and two different dates.”
“Who dates a man obsessed with a kid’s toy block?” Chet wondered.
Johnny grinned as he stood up and left Chet standing stupefied. He tossed the square toy up in the air and caught it as he went out the doorway to the apparatus bay. “Eat your heart out, Chet! And don’t worry about me, I’ll get this thing yet! If there’s a solution, I’ll find it!”
Chet and Mike looked at each other, then at Roy, who was still staring at where Johnny had been sitting. He couldn’t believe Johnny was still determined to solve the puzzle.
“Well, there’s one bright side, Roy,” Chet offered.
Roy took his eyes off the bench and looked at the stalky Irishman.
“And what’s that?”
“It’ll be easy getting him a birthday present. You can just buy him the book that gives the tips and solution to the Rubik’s Cube.”
A big thanks to Kenda for the beta read! Also a huge thanks to Jennie and Pam for the inspiration!