The day began like any other day. Captain Hank Stanley reading the days announcements and assigning chores followed roll call. A collective groan echoed in the apparatus bay when he gave the day's cooking assignment to Chet Kelly.
"What?!" wailed the stocky Irishman. "My cooking isn't that bad. At least it's not hamburgers all the time."
John Gage glared at the man and Chet responded by sticking out his tongue.
Hank shook his head in disbelief. 'Oh lord. We've only been on duty for ten minutes and I can see it's gonna be another one of *those* shifts. I don't need this.'
"All right. That's enough! Chet your cooking isn't that bad, however it isn't that great either. No need to cast stones when your own house is made of glass. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes sir," the dejected man replied.
"That goes for everyone."
A quiet chorus of 'Yes sirs' had the captain smiling again.
"So Chet - just what do you have planned?"
"Let's hope it's not green eggs and ham again like last year."
That statement earned the engineer, Mike Stoker, a scowl from Kelly.
"No Mikey, as a matter of fact I have other delights planned for this year."
Hank Stanley froze. He had completely forgotten that tomorrow was St. Patrick's Day and no matter what he cooked, Chet would make sure it was green. The lanky man shuddered at the memory of lime green scrambled eggs and Canadian bacon that had been an odd shade of brownish green.
"Hmmm? Oh, sorry. That's all for today. Let's get busy shall we?" He headed for the kitchen and a cup of coffee. The remainder of A-shift followed.
"You sure you're okay?" Mike Stoker asked his boss.
"Yeah. I'm sorry guys. I forgot what day tomorrow was. I swear!"
"It's okay Cap. We survived last year and this too shall pass."
Hank looked up at his senior paramedic, Roy DeSoto. He appreciated the effort to make him feel better. "I know, I know, but - " Looking up he saw Chet enter the room. "Later," he said quietly.
"Don't be all day. We have plenty to do." Hank took his coffee mug and escaped to the relative safety of his office.
Chet quickly grabbed a cup of coffee and left the room whistling.
"He's up to something," Marco Lopez said.
"Yeah, but what?" asked Johnny.
Mike looked at his friends, "Shall we?"
The four men headed in the direction of the whistling fireman. He was in the locker room. The door to his locker was open and he was hanging up some clothes. The men froze when they saw him. Every item he placed in his locker was green.
"What's with all the green Chet?" asked Marco.
"Marco me boy! Have you forgotten what day tomorrow is?"
"Saturday?" laughed Stoker.
"You mean the 17th?" queried Johnny.
"It's St. Patrick's Day!"
"Oh? I'd think you'd be a bit more enthusiastic Gage."
"Me? Why? I'm not Irish."
"No, but St. Patrick drove all the *snakes* out of Ireland and we all know how much you love snakes," he giggled.
"Ha ha Chet. Not funny."
Without thinking, Johnny reached for his locker and pulled the door open. Green confetti and glitter came flying out at him in a small explosion.
"Wasn't me!" he protested innocently.
"Tell the Phantom to knock it off!"
"If I see him..." he snickered.
The guys were also snickering which didn't improve Johnny's disposition. The men left thinking it wiser to disappear than to incur the wrath of the irate paramedic. Roy remained while his partner proceeded to the sink to comb the mess out of his hair. He listened while the young man mumbled and cursed under his breath. A change in his tone alerted DeSoto that something wasn't right.
"Johnny? What's wrong?"
"Damn! You mean besides me wanting to kill Chet? Some of this stuff got in my eye. It really hurts!"
"There was glitter in that confetti. It got in my eye."
Roy was at his friend's side in no time. "Here, let me see." Sure enough, there was a fair amount of glitter in Johnny's hair, the sink, and his eye.
"Wait right here. I'll be right back."
"Where would I go? I can hardly see." He stood by the sink with his hand over his eye, tears streaming down the side of his face.
Roy returned with some sterile saline from the squad and flushed the offensive material out of his partner's eye.
"Better?" he asked when he got the last of it.
"Yeah. Thanks Roy."
"Next trip to Rampart, I want one of the docs to check that eye."
"But - "
"That stuff could've scratched your eye or done some other damage. Do you want an infection?"
Johnny wiped at the corners of his irritated eye. The thought of pinkeye did not appeal to him at all. "No," he sniffed.
"How's it feel?" Roy asked handing his partner some tissue.
"Thanks. It stings like crazy." His eye was red and watering.
"Why don't you go to the dorm and lie down? I'll be in with something for your eye."
The younger man reluctantly agreed and heeded his partner's advice.
"What's up Roy?" Hank asked while watching his senior medic put the saline back in the jumpkit.
"Oh - hi Cap."
"Don't 'Oh - hi Cap' me Roy. What's going on?"
Roy tried hard to contain his laughter. "The Phan-"
Hank held up his hands and shook his head. "What did he do to Gage this time?"
"Well he mixed in green glitter. The glitter got in Johnny's eye."
"I think so. I flushed out the glitter but his eye is definitely irritated."
"Where is he?"
"Dorm. I'm going to bring him a damp washcloth and a little ice for his eye. I already told him he's being seen after our next run. That is unless it gets worse and we go in sooner. I'll just take him in the squad."
"Will he be alright if there's a call?"
"Yeah. It's watering a lot but I don't think it'll affect his job performance."
"Keep me posted."
Capt. Stanley left mumbling about this being a really long shift if Kelly didn't settle down. This was as bad as Halloween with him. The two holidays Hank Stanley dreaded the most were Halloween and St. Patrick's Day thanks to Chet and his alter ego. He often wondered what he had done to deserve this. 'Maybe I should transfer to a brush station out in the middle of nowhere.' He laughed. 'No, I believe I'd miss this!'
Roy watched Hank disappear around the corner in amusement. Suddenly he remembered what he should be doing and hurried to get his partner some relief.
Johnny swallowed the aspirin. He was grateful that Roy had brought them because he was getting a headache.
"A little. It still burns and now I have a headache."
"Yeah. Glitter is a nasty thing to get in your eyes," he remarked and handed the washcloth to his partner.
"You don't have to tell me that," he groused. Sighing he added, "Thanks Roy."
"Why don't you just lie here for a while. At least till your eye stops tearing. I'll be back to check on you in a few."
Cap found Chet and made sure he cleaned up the confetti/glitter mess in the locker room. Chet was actually glad to have the opportunity to spend more time in there. He had plans for his shiftmate’s lockers. A plan was also in the works for a very special waterbomb to be set later that night.
Cleaning up the glittery mess gave him time to put his mental gears in motion. He couldn't wait to set his waterbomb in the latrine for that unexpected trip in the middle of the night. The only drawback would be if the wrong person sprung the trap. Accidentally catching the captain would not be a good thing especially after this morning's surprise for Gage.
Just thinking about his pigeon getting a face full of cold green water while half asleep had him grinning like a madman.
Chet took advantage of his 'alone' time to rig surprises in Mike, Marco, and Roy's lockers. Each would have a surprise courtesy of the Phantom.
He double checked to make sure the mess was cleaned up before leaving. Rubbing his hands together gleefully he made his way to the kitchen to start lunch preparations.
Chet strolled into the kitchen with his hands in his pockets, whistling an Irish tune. He walked over to the refrigerator and began pulling out items necessary for the salad. He then filled a pot with water and placed it on the front burner.
Roy entered the kitchen, poured himself a cup of coffee and sat at the table. Chet looked up from his vegetables.
An unfriendly look settled on Roy's features. "He'll live. Why?"
"Just wondering. I feel kinda bad about what happened."
'Kinda?" asked an angry Roy. "Did you ever have that stuff get in your eyes?"
"No," he replied quietly.
"It hurts and can easily scratch the eye. What were you thinking?"
Mike and Marco looked from Roy to Chet, waiting for his answer. With all eyes in the room on him he felt even worse. "I'm sorry. It wasn't supposed to get in his eye. I didn't want him to get hurt. I just wanted him to 'sparkle' a little. Honest - that's the truth."
The man's sincerity was genuine but Roy was still angry at the stupidity of the prank. Chet never meant to hurt Johnny with any of his pranks yet the good-natured Gage always fell for them and often ended up injured. DeSoto put his cup in the sink and left the room. Kelly returned to chopping the vegetables. He glanced up to see that Mike and Marco were still watching him.
"You two have something to say?"
"Not really," said Stoker.
"Roy said it pretty well."
"So, you're mad at me too?"
"No Chet, just a little disappointed," replied Marco.
"Wonderful," lamented Chet. "I didn't want him to get hurt."
"You never do, but that's how it usually ends up."
Several minutes passed while Chet thought about it. "You're right. I never realized - "
The tones interrupted the conversation.
"Squad 51. Man down, difficulty breathing. 1537 Jackson Road. 1-5-3-7 Jackson Road. Time out 950."
"Squad 51. KMG 365."
The squad stopped in front of a modest sized home with a well cared for lawn. The two men pulled their equipment out of the compartments and were met at the door by the victim's wife.
"Oh, I'm so glad you're here. Please come in. Eddie is in the living room. He's having trouble catching his breath."
"Ma'am, can you tell us what he was doing when this started?" asked Johnny.
Roy immediately started assessing the victim and obtaining vitals.
"Please call me Marcie."
"He was outside cleaning the gutters and when he came in he was wheezing and couldn't get a deep breath. He passed out and I called you."
"How long was he out?"
"About five minutes."
Johnny set up the biophone and contacted the hospital.
Johnny relayed the data to Rampart. The doctor requested oxygen and an IV be administered.
Gage set up the IV for his partner. While Roy was trying to get a vein, Johnny noticed a large welt on the man's neck and that he was now flushed. Roy looked his patient over again and found hives developing on the stomach and chest. "Hives?"
"Looks like a bee sting. I'll let the hospital know."
"Okay. I'll have this IV started in no time."
"What's going on?" Marcie asked.
"We think he may have been stung by a bee. Is he allergic?"
"Not that I know of. I don't think he's ever been stung before. Will he be alright?"
"We'll do everything we can."
The ambulance arrived and Eddie was placed on the stretcher.
"Are you alright Mr.....Mr. Gage?" she asked.
"Ma'am? I mean...Marcie?"
"You look a little upset. Your eye is all red."
He smiled. "Yeah. I got something in it just before we left the station. Will you be riding with us to Rampart?"
"No. I'll drive. Thanks for everything."
"Okay. See you there."
Johnny rode in with the patient while Roy cleaned up and put the equipment back in the squad. Marcie Barnes followed the ambulance in her own car. Roy notified dispatch that he was enroute to Rampart General and left the scene.
The traffic was heavier than normal and he had to wait through several light changes to get through the intersection.
The patient went into respiratory and cardiac arrest five minutes from Rampart's doors. Johnny managed to get the patient converted and breathing again as the ambulance backed up to the ER doors.
"Room 4," Dixie directed.
Johnny helped transfer the patient to the exam table and continued to assist until Dr. Early released him.
"Thanks Johnny. I appreciate your help."
"See ya later Doc," he answered.
The dark haired paramedic left the treatment room. Sticking his hands in his pockets he leaned against the wall. A moment later he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped at his eyes.
"Johnny? You okay?" Dixie asked as she rushed over to him in concern.
"Huh?" he asked, startled to have her so worried about him.
"Was the patient a friend of yours?"
"No. I didn't know him at all. Why?" he wiped his eye again.
"Uh - you look pretty upset. Is anything wrong?"
"I'm confused Dix. I'm mad at Chet but I'm not upset - " then it dawned on him. She thought he was crying!
Roy turned the corner at that moment. "There you are. Everything go okay with the transfer?"
"No. He arrested on me, but I got him going again."
"Oh man. I had no idea. I got stuck in traffic. Hiya Dix," he smiled. "Got a doc handy?"
Dix looked at him funny then she looked back at Johnny. Now it was her turn to be confused. "Huh?"
"We need a doc if you have one available."
"What for? Are you hurt?"
"Not for me - for him," he replied with a smirk and pointed towards his partner with the HT antenna.
"Johnny? What happened...this time?"
"Chet happened, that's what happened. He rigged my locker and I got a face full of confetti laced with green glitter."
She looked at him and then Roy for clarification.
"Got it in his eye." Roy pointed to his partner who was again wiping his eye.
"Oh! C'mon Johnny. Treatment 2 is free and I think Mike Morton is available."
Johnny gave his partner a look that was full of daggers. Roy snickered because he knew there was no love lost between Gage and Morton. "Awwww...he's not that bad partner."
Johnny shook his head and followed Dixie.
She slapped her hand gently on the exam table, "You know the procedure." She then took his vitals and jotted them down on the ER treatment form. "I'll go get Mike. Relax okay?"
Johnny sighed and took a deep breath. Roy sat in a nearby chair and played with the HT.
"Hi John, Roy. How'd this happen?" he asked and stepped in closer to look at Gage's eye.
Roy got up and quietly left the room while Johnny told him what had taken place that morning after roll call.
"Is he crazy?"
"C'mon Doc. You already know the answer to that."
Morton laughed, "You have a point there!"
He picked up a handheld light and turned off the overhead light. After taking a careful look at his patient's eye he turned the light back on. "I'm going to use a special dye and a different light to see if there are any scratches on your eye. I think that glitter scratched your cornea. That's why your eye is so sensitive and still watering. Glitter is a dangerous thing to get in your eyes. I'll be right back."
Johnny waited patiently for the doctor to return. Dr. Joe Early was right behind him. He watched as Dr. Morton used the dye and then checked John's eye again. Dr. Early also took a look at the patient's eye. He let his younger colleague continue.
He prescribed antibiotic eye drops and recommended he rest his eyes between calls.
"That bad?" asked Gage.
"No. You're lucky. There are three scratches but fortunately they are superficial and should heal in no time. The drops are to prevent infection, you know...pinkeye. Your eye will continue to water and be more sensitive to light while it heals. Resting them will help ease that. Anything I forgot Joe?"
"Nope. You covered everything quite well. A return check in a few days couldn't hurt. However if you have any problems, come back immediately. Okay Johnny?"
"Thanks. I'm really glad it's nothing serious."
"Me too, Johnny. See you later. You too Mike."
"Any questions?" the young doctor looked pointedly at Johnny.
"No. Thanks for all you did."
"That's what I'm here for. I'm really glad it wasn't more serious. Tell Chet to lay off the glitter. Better yet, want me to have another talk with him?"
"No! Not yet, but I'll keep that in mind. Thanks again Doc."
"I know eyedrops are a pain but it really will help."
Dr. Morton left the room. Johnny sat up and Dixie snickered.
"Some of your sparkling personality decided to stay behind," she said and pointed to the glitter on the pillow.
"Very funny Dix."
"C'mon Johnny, laugh. You'll feel better." He couldn't help but smile briefly at his friend. He picked up his prescription slip and left in search of Roy.
Dixie followed him into the hall. "Why don't you go get that filled at the Pharmacy and I'll locate your partner."
"Sure, whatever," he said glumly.
She watched him depart. Johnny was one of the nicest guys she knew, yet Chet Kelly had this insane desire to torment him. She wished she could get her hands on him so she could knock some sense into him.
Dixie found Roy in the doctor's lounge playing with a half-cup of coffee.
"Penny for your thoughts."
"Hi Dix," he greeted her and returned his attention to the cup in front of him.
"I don't buy that for a minute."
"You know me too well," he grinned and sipped the beverage.
"AND your partner. What's going on?"
"I kinda feel bad that Johnny had to deal with the patient arresting all by himself. I know he's qualified and all, but if I had paid more attention then I would have been right behind him. We could have stopped and stabilized the patient instead of him working by himself in the back of the ambulance."
"Roy, you couldn't have known."
"Yeah but I got sidetracked and had to wait an eternity for a light. Then the traffic was heavier than usual."
"I'm sure Johnny isn't even thinking about it."
"Probably not. Where is he anyway?"
"Getting his prescription filled. He should be back in a few minutes."
Roy watched as Dixie filled a cup with coffee and joined him at the table.
"He's really okay?"
"Yeah, according to Mike Morton. He gave Johnny some eyedrops and wants him to rest his eyes between runs as much as possible, but he's good to go. If there are no complications he should be healed by your next shift."
The two finished their coffee in companionable silence. Roy placed both mugs in the sink after he rinsed them. He held the door and they exited the lounge.
Dixie returned to her seat at the nurses' station and Roy picked up the box of supplies that were left sitting by the base station. The only items they still needed were the drugs.
"Ready to go?" Johnny asked when he arrived at the base station.
"It's about time."
"Dix? Can we get the - "
"Sure." The head nurse got the required medications out of the locked cabinet and deposited them into Johnny's hand.
"Take care of yourselves."
The two men smiled and replied, "See ya later Dix."
The paramedics returned to the station in time for Chet's carefully prepared lunch. Eyes rolled when he placed the sandwiches on the table followed by a large pot of steaming soup.
"I recognize the soup - pea isn't it?" asked the captain.
"Uh huh," Chet grinned.
"What's the green stuff on the bread?" asked Stoker.
"It's green...." remarked Hank with a frown.
"Yep. Food coloring! Guess what's for dessert?"
"I'm afraid to," replied Johnny.
"Jello," said Chet.
"Wouldn't be green Jello would it?" he asked.
"Not as dumb as you look Gage," he replied. "I'm impressed."
"Shut up Chet."
"Not bad, considering everything was green," said Roy.
"Wait till you see dinner!"
Silence followed that statement. "You guys are no fun," he groused.
Marco and Johnny cleared the table while Chet prepared to wash the dishes.
The afternoon was quiet with the squad having only a few minor calls and the engine had one false alarm.
Trepidation filled the crew when Chet called them to dinner. He wouldn't allow them in the kitchen while he prepared and cooked the meal. The aroma of the impending meal was not unpleasant.
"Smells pretty good Chet. Why all the secrecy?" asked Marco.
"You'll see. Everyone - have a seat."
Mike looked at the others and then at Kelly. "You don't want any help?"
"Not this time. Everybody ready?"
He then began placing items on the table. First he placed the vegetables. Then he placed the sidedish."
"Broccoli and green beans?"
"Yeah! They're good for you."
"Together?!" asked Mike.
Chet ignored the question and took the lid off another pot.
"Green mashed potatoes?"
"Yep and now...."
He opened the oven and pulled out a large meatloaf. Setting it on the table he noticed the odd looks and raised eyebrows.
"It...ummm...smells good Chet, but is it supposed to look like that?"
"What do you mean Gage? It's meatloaf, of course it's supposed to look like that!"
"I meant the color Chet."
"Yeah Kelly. Why is it a funny color?"
Chet looked at his commanding officer and back at the table. "Well, it's supposed to be green."
"You dyed the meat green? Are you nuts?!" said an exasperated Captain Stanley.
"That explains it," said Johnny matter-of-factly. "Let's eat. I'm starved." He noticed the others had not made any attempt to start eating. "What? At least it smells good - despite how it looks."
"You really will eat anything," commented Lopez.
Johnny gave him a hurt look. "Very funny Marco."
"Sorry Johnny. It was a joke."
Chet looked over at Gage. "Thanks man...I think."
The rest of the crew watched until Johnny had actually tasted the oddly colored meat. "You can quit staring now it's edible."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah Roy. I'm sure."
Chet sat down and dug in. "Eat up. You don't know what you're missing." Eventually they relented and began to eat.
"Well Chet, that wasn't too bad even if it was green."
"Hey that's what he said about lunch," he said jerking a thumb at DeSoto. " You guys just don't appreciate true talent when you see it."
"Chet, you dyed everything green. That's not talent, that's just plain weird."
"A lot you know Stoker."
Hank shook his head and returned to the relative peace of his office. He had a feeling the current conversation would be lengthy and he'd already had his fill. 'This is one time I'm glad to have paperwork!'
The men settled around the television to watch an old western. A quiet evening allowed them some much needed time to relax. Chet served his brownies halfway through the movie.
Hank looked up when he heard a soft knock at his doorway. "Come in."
"Hi Cap. Thought you might enjoy a little dessert."
"Thanks Chet. Looks good."
"Coffee should be ready in a few minutes."
"Okay. Thanks again."
Chet disappeared and Cap sat thinking. Despite all the mischief he caused, Chet Kelly was a good firefighter and he had his rare moments of humanity.
He took a bite of the brownie and as luck would have it, a large blob of the sticky green frosting landed right in the middle of his report. 'This day just keeps getting better and better,' he sighed.
Hank awoke suddenly and looked at the clock. 3:30am. He sighed wearily and sat up. Scrubbing his hands over his face he got out of bed. The night was proving to be quiet and for that he was thankful.
He could hear the slow steady breathing of his men punctuated by an occasional snore. Quietly he left the dorm for the latrine. The cold floor ensured that he was more awake than he wanted to be and he hoped he would be able to go back to sleep.
Hank pushed the stall door open and cried out as the cold water caught him in the face. The unexpected assault angered him. There was no doubt in his mind who was responsible and that someone was going to have permanent latrine duty.
He considered waking everyone up by creating a ruckus but this was the first night in a long time that they weren't running all over the city on one call after another.
Hank swore under his breath as he grabbed some paper towels and tried to dry his face and shirt. Squatting down in front of the stall he cleaned up the water, no sense in leaving it and having someone slip and fall.
He tossed the used paper towels in the trashcan and almost exited the room before he remembered that he still had to go to the bathroom. He was still quietly ranting to himself when he returned to the dorm.
Chet quickly closed his eyes and feigned sleep when he realized that Cap had triggered the waterbomb and that he was going to be in deep trouble come sunrise.
Slowly he rolled over and faced the brick wall that separated one cubicle from the next. He thought, 'Maybe if I pray really hard this will all be a bad dream and everything will be back to normal when I wake up.'
He sighed and tried to go back to sleep. Knowing he was going to be in big trouble certainly didn't help.
The wakeup tones sounded and the men of 51's A-shift slowly rose from their slumber. Cap gave the customary reply to the dispatcher and pulled up his bunker pants. He ran his hand through his hair and headed in the direction of the kitchen. Hank slowed down when he noticed five pairs of eyes staring at him.
"Cap?" Mike began quietly.
"Yeah Mike. What?" he asked impatiently.
"Umm...did you...why is..."
"What?! Just say it already!"
"Why are you green?"
"What do you mean?"
"Your shirt is green and so is your....face."
"Kelly!" the angry captain shouted as he made a beeline for the latrine. Sure enough the t-shirt he was wearing had green stains on it as well as his face. Peering down at the floor he could see where the water had hit the floor. It was also stained.
He had no idea at the time, that the water had been dyed green. However, judging by the previous day's menu he shouldn't have been surprised. He attempted to wash it off his face but a light green coloration remained when he was through.
All eyes were on Chet who had frozen in his place upon hearing the anger in Hank Stanley's voice. The looks of both sympathy and amusement irritated him. 'Why me? Gage was supposed to get it, not Cap. Oh why did it have to be him of all the guys? Man am I going to be dead! If it had just been anyone else.'
"Kelly! My office - now!!!"
Chet hung his head and made his way to the captain's office. Hank followed quickly shutting the door behind him. The four remaining men did not envy their co-worker one bit. A collective shudder passed over them before they headed to the kitchen. Marco started a fresh pot of coffee while Stoker went to raise the flag and bring in the morning paper.
B-shift arrived to relieve them and they went to the locker room to change out of their uniforms. Three of them were greeted by surprises upon opening their locker doors.
Chet, finally released by Captain Stanley, entered the room and burst out laughing. There were green Ping-Pong balls, tennis balls and Styrofoam packing materials all over the floor. Johnny hesitated to open his locker, fearing another glittery assault or worse.
He stood to the side and slowly opened it. When nothing came out he was relieved and surprised. He glanced at each of the others and then at Chet.
"Umm...the ummm...Phantom felt bad about yesterday. How's your eye?"
"Better but it still hurts."
Chet then opened his locker and proceeded to change. He put on a green shirt, green pants, green socks, and a green hat. Stoker and Lopez burst out laughing.
"You look like a...a..."
"A what Stoker?"
"A leprechaun," supplied Roy. That brought more laughter from the guys.
"Har, har, har Roy. Very funny. I do not."
"You do," added Marco.
"Thanks a lot...buddy," he added testily.
"Any time Chet," he snickered.
Hank looked into the locker room to say goodbye and was stunned by the mess on the floor. He shook his head and mumbled incoherently.
"Bye Cap. Have a great time off."
"See you in a few days. Chet - "
"Yes sir. I'll make sure it's cleaned up."
"Goodbye," he sighed wearily and the door swung closed behind him.
"Cap's really - "
"I know. I know. You don't have to tell me. He really let me have it about the waterbomb."
"He wouldn't have been so mad if you hadn't put green dye in it."
"I know. Hindsight is 20/20."
"So what's with all the green?" asked Johnny while he finished buttoning his shirt.
"Today is St. Patrick's Day. There's a big parade downtown. I'm meeting my family there and afterwards there's a picnic and then..."
"Big family day, huh?" remarked Johnny. He was a little jealous and also a little sad. There were no big family celebrations in his past and he didn't foresee any in his future.
"Yeah," Chet replied. He felt bad about his bragging. He realized that his friend didn't have that growing up.
Roy closed his locker and scooped up a few Ping-Pong balls. "The kids will love these. Thanks Chet."
Chet just looked at him. "Got any plans?"
"Yeah. A 'honey-do' list about three quarters of a mile long."
"Not taking the kids to the parade?"
"No. Jenny has dance class and Chris has softball practice."
"They'd love it you know."
"Yeah, I know. Maybe next year. See you all later."
"Bye Roy," said Johnny.
"Anyone else wanna go?"
"Nope," said Stoker.
"Sorry Chet. Mama needs my help in the yard today," answered Marco. Both men waved and exited the room.
"Hadn't given it much thought. Why me?"
"Why not you? I thought you might enjoy it. The parade is a lot of fun and then there's the green beer..."
"I don't know," he said. The taller dark-haired man then picked up his eyedrops and walked over to the sink. He looked in the mirror and noted that his eye was still red but not as puffy as yesterday. He could see Chet staring at him.
"Will you quit staring? This is hard enough to do without an audience."
"Sorry," Chet looked away.
Johnny proceeded to administer the required number of drops and swore softly as he put the cap back on the bottle. His eye was stinging from the medicine and watering like crazy.
"Here," said Chet handing him a bunch of tissue.
Chet watched him wipe his eye and then his nose. "You okay man?"
"Yeah. I really hate that."
"The way your nose runs after you put drops in your eyes," he said and laughed.
"Oh. I'm really sorry Johnny."
"Did you do it on purpose?"
"No. Yes. I mean... Yes I put the glitter in the confetti but I didn't want you to get it in your eye. I really am sorry."
"It's okay. I know you didn't mean for that to happen. So - when does this parade start?"
"You mean you wanna go?"
"Sure. Why not."
A huge smile brightened Chet's face. "Okay! That's great. I think you'll have a good time. If we leave now, you can meet my family before it starts!"
Johnny laughed and shook his head. He put the bottle of eyedrops in his pocket and followed the stocky man to the back parking lot.
"I'll drive," Johnny offered. He really had no desire to be seen anywhere in Chet's VW van.
"Okay." He then gave Gage the directions to the restaurant where his family met every year. To his surprise they arrived at a large facility called O'Leary's. The parking lot was nearly full.
"Do all these cars belong to your family?" he asked feeling slightly overwhelmed.
Chet laughed at his pigeon's discomfort. "Yeah!" he replied enthusiastically.
Johnny swallowed hard. 'What have I gotten myself into? A whole brigade of phantoms may be in there waiting for me. Maybe I should back out.'
"Relax Gage," said Chet still laughing. "They're not all relatives. Some are family, some friends, and some are neighbors."
"I just wasn't expecting there to be so many people, that's all."
Chet laughed again, "Yeah right! C'mon find a spot so we can go in. I'm starved."
Johnny parked the Rover and they got out.
"Don't worry. They're harmless...usually!" Johnny shot him a look and Chet smiled. "I'm kidding. They're harmless."
Once inside Johnny met Chet's mother, aunts, uncles, and a multitude of cousins. Chet's mom was a sweet yet stern woman who immediately liked Johnny. She told him some stories about her son when he was younger. When Chet found out he was mortified. He didn't want his mother telling his pigeon anything that could be used against him in the future.
Johnny seemed to be having a great time and Chet was glad he had agreed to come along. After a hearty and boisterous meal, they headed downtown for the festivities.
The parade route was lined with a grandstand for judging, many booths selling food and souvenirs, and beerstands. They found themselves a place to watch from and settled in. The parade was long and exciting. Johnny had never been to the St. Patrick's Day parade and he was having a blast.
Chet's cousin Ryan brought some green beers over and they enjoyed the cold and colorful beverages. A second round was supplied by another of Chet's cousins, Colin. This time Ryan and Colin shook the bottles and sprayed everyone around. Shrieks from the ladies were followed by laughter. Chet was shaking his beer for another shower when he noticed that his friend was no longer laughing.
"What's the matter Gage?"
"It's not nothing. Talk to me."
He noticed that Gage had his hand over his eye and realized what had happened. "Maybe we ought to go."
"Nah Chet. It's okay. It hurts but I'll live."
"There's a coffee shop nearby with a washroom. Let's go at least get the beer out of your eye."
Johnny reluctantly agreed. They were back in time to see the conclusion of the parade. Gage decided to wear his sunglasses for the remainder of the parade, just in case anyone else decided to shower them with beer or whatever. Colin made a reference to Johnny thinking he was Dirty Harry or something. Chet told his cousin to shut up.
Myra Kelly invited the gang back to her home to continue the celebration. She wouldn't take no for an answer so Gage also attended. Despite his somewhat odd relationship with Chet he had a good time at the Kelly home.
Johnny gave Chet a ride back to the station to pick up his van.
"Well Gage - what did ya think?"
"You have a huge family!"
"I had a good time Chet. I'm glad I went."
"I'm glad you did too. So, how does it feel to be Irish for a day?"
"Interesting. I think your Mom adopted me."
"Yeah. You know that obligates you to future Kelly family gatherings."
Johnny laughed. "Thanks Chet. I really needed today. It sure beat sitting around with nothing to do but watch television. The rest of the guys don't know what they missed."
"You got that right."
Johnny pulled into 51's driveway and waited for Chet to start his van. "See you in two days Chet."
"Yeah Gage, see you in a few days."
The two men left the lot and went their separate ways. The Phantom was already busy hatching plots for his pigeon's future.
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Saint Patrick's Day Stories