She Bugs Me, She Bugs Me Not
By Audrey W.
“I take it your date last night has something to do with your sour mood this morning?”
John Gage glanced over at his partner from the passenger seat of Squad 51. He hadn’t realized that his not so happy mood was that obvious.
“You noticed,” Gage commented.
Roy smiled slightly.
“Let’s just say it was hard to miss.” He then briefly eyed the younger man. “So am I right?”
“Right is an understatement. Man, Roy. . .she was as annoying as a gnat! I tell ya, I’ve never been around anyone like her! All evenin’ long, any which way I turned, there she was. . .right in my face. Why, it was all I could do to concentrate on bowlin’!”
“Surely she gave you space when it was your turn. . .”
Gage gave a disappointed look. “You’d think so. Nope,” he said with a shake of his head. “She followed right behind me, all the way through my approach to the release. It’s a wonder I didn’t accidentally hit her.”
Roy smiled again. “Maybe you should’ve,” he teased.
“Well, all I know is I won’t make the mistake of asking her out again.”
That he was certain of.
Roy stopped sweeping and looked at his partner, who was busy cleaning the double ovens in the kitchen end of the dayroom. He didn’t look very happy at all, and hadn’t since they’d started the shift that morning.
“Let me guess. . .another date with a ‘gnat’?”
John pulled away from his chore, a puzzled expression on his face.
“You aren’t yourself again. Last time you were like this, you said your date was as annoying as a gnat. You went out on another one the other night, right?”
“Oh. . .that.. . .nope, she wasn’t as annoying as a gnat.”
“So why the sour mood?”
“She was as busy as a bee, Roy. Busy as a bee! She invited me to her place for a home cooked meal. Little did I know, I’d be eating alone! First she had to wash the pots and pans in the sink as soon as the food was on our plates. Next thing I know, she’s cleaning this. . .straightening that. . . I’m not even sure she knew I was still there after awhile. She just flitted around her apartment while I ate. . .at first I thought she was talkin’ to me while she did stuff. . .but it wasn’t long before I figured out, she was talkin’ to herself!”
“Didn’t she realize she was still hungry?”
“I don’ know. I left about the time she was on her third room,” he said dryly. He then went back to wiping the interior of the top oven while Roy continued sweeping.
“Why put yourself through this, anyway? Are you that desperate for a date that you can’t wait awhile?”
John stopped again, then stared at him a moment before responding with a firm. “Yeah. Yes, I am.”
Roy had stopped as well, a baffled look on his face.
“Because Chet has a date for Valentines Day an’ if I don’t, he’s gonna make the shift after the holiday agonizing.”
“You mean he’ll be as annoying as a gnat?”
John displayed a pained expression. “Ha, ha, ha. Roy, this is serious.”
Roy once again returned to his chore.
“Well, you’ve got eleven days to find your butterfly among the flowers.”
The younger man looked downward and shook his head his head. Roy certainly wasn’t taking his problem very seriously.
Roy wasn’t surprised when his partner came into the locker room before their next shift started, a frown on his face. In fact, he’d have been very surprised to see a smile. After all, Gage had asked out a young nurse at Rampart General three days prior, thus had another date while off.
“Good morning,” the senior paramedic greeted, despite it obviously wasn’t one for the other.
After a few moments of quiet, Roy spoke again.
“So, how did the date with Marcie Clemens go?”
John eyed him a moment, before responding sarcastically with, “Is that what it was?”
“That bad, huh?”
The younger man had just put on his blue uniform shirt, but let it hang open as he addressed the question.
“Well, the so called ‘date’ started out normal enough. I picked ‘er up at her apartment. . .drove to a nice restaurant that she wanted ta go to. And that’s about where it turned into somethin’ else.”
“That’s when I found myself caught up in her web.”
John stepped out of his jeans and took a pair of trousers from his locker.
“Uh huh.” As he put on the pants and pulled them up, he explained, “She spun quite a big one, too.”
“What exactly did she do?”
“She picked a restaurant her ex boyfriend works at. It became obvious she picked it because he works there, ‘cause she made sure we sat where he’d be waiting on us. But the extent of the web didn’t stop there. No siree. By ‘coincidence’ a female friend of hers ‘happened’ to be there and made sure to talk rather loudly about me, an’ what a nice couple we made.”
“Why would she do all that if he’s her ex?”
He looked at Roy.
“Seems she wants their relationship going again . She. . .uh. . .used me to make him jealous. It worked, too. As we were leaving, he pulled her aside. They talked a short time. She didn’t say anything about it to me on the way home, but when we got back to her apartment, she didn’t want me ta come in. Said she was getting back with her ex and he’d be over when he got off work.”
Gage pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes in thought. After a few seconds, he voiced those thoughts.
“Ya know, I can’t recall them ever showing my kinda problems on Love American Style.”
Roy grinned at the comment.
“Well, I guess you’re lucky you found out what she was all about on the first date. . .uhm. . .night out.”
“Yeah. . .I guess when ya look at it that way, I’m a pretty fortunate guy.”
But he had to admit to himself that maybe this was finally the sign that he should give up for awhile and just face that he was going to be spending Valentines Day alone.
Later in the day while his partner was busy elsewhere in the station, Roy found himself in a conversation with Chet while both were in the captain’s office. Roy was filling out the log book and Chet was being nosy about Gage.
“So does he have a date for Valentines Day or not?” The curly haired fireman asked for a second time.
Roy glanced over his shoulder from where he was seated at the desk. “Look, I told you, I’m not in charge of Johnny’s love life.”
“No, but I’m sure he fills you in anyway. So how ‘bout it? What’s the scoop?”
“If I tell you, will you promise to leave me alone?”
“Sure,” he said with a nod. He came around to the side of the desk to be closer and leaned on it with both elbows. “So what gives?”
“He doesn’t have a date. I think he’s discovered that sometimes it’s better just to be on his own.”
Chet stood up straight. “Boy, tell me about it.”
Roy looked at him in surprise. “Does that mean you don’t have one either?”
“Well, don’t tell John, but no. . .I don’t now either.”
“I thought things were going good. What happened?”
“I tried to make it work, but Peggy’s as annoying as a flea under a collar! With her Minnie Mouse voice and some of the habits she has, like clicking her tongue against her teeth. I had to end it. I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
Roy sat back and stared at the desk in thought. He sure was glad he was married to someone who was perfect for him; Joanne certainly didn’t ‘bug’ him.
The men from A-Shift lined up for roll call in the apparatus bay, just behind the engine and squad. Captain Stanley stood in front of them with a clipboard in his right hand. He glanced over the men, noticing right away there was one missing.
“Where’s Gage? Anyone know?”
The four men in front of him shook their heads side to side, assorted ‘nos’ spoken at the same time.
“Well, if he doesn’t show u--”
He cut himself off when he saw John’s Land Rover pull into its regular parking spot in the lot.
As the youngest crew member came trotting through the open back entrance into the bay, Captain Stanley called out, “You’ve got just under five minutes to be ready and in line!”
“Got it, Cap!”
He ran into the locker room to get changed into uniform. The other men waited.
“He’d better have a good explanation,” Chet mumbled to Roy.
“Maybe his alarm didn’t go off. . .”
When John came back out and joined the others, the captain asked, “How come you weren’t here sooner?”
“I had to help a damsel in distress, Cap. I was actually way ahead of schedule until I came up on this chic who was kinda struggling with changin’ her own flat tire. She kicked at the flat still on her car as I drove by, so I stopped. I got ‘er fixed up with the spare, then followed her to the gas station to make sure she made it okay.”
“Oh. . .well, in that case, I guess accolades are due instead of a lecture. I’m glad you were there to help her out.”
“So am I, Cap.” He glanced at Roy with a wide lopsided grin, then returned his attention to the superior officer.
DeSoto sensed there was more to the story than his partner was letting on. He’d soon find out, he was exactly right.
“She’s a lark, Roy! A real beauty.”
At least he’s off the bug references, Roy thought to himself.
He and John had just finished inventorying the squad and were on their way to the dayroom for a cup of coffee. The latter had told him all about his morning ‘rescue’ of sorts, including that the girl turned out to be not just single, but interested in going out with him on Valentines Day.
“Well, maybe you’ve worked all the ‘bugs’ out of your relationships and this one will last awhile.”
John wore a blank stare a moment then suddenly comprehended what the other was referring to when he thought back over his recent dates and how he’d described them.
He rolled his eyes. “Ha ha.”
As they came into the dayroom in the mid-afternoon having returned from a rescue, Gage patted Chet on the back after he told his fellow crew members where he was taking his new girl. “Sorry you don’t have a date tomorrow evening, man.”
Both Roy and Chet stopped in mid-step and looked at one another with wide eyes.
“You weren’t supposed to tell ‘um.”
“It slipped out,” Roy defended.
“Yeah, he’s right. I said I hoped we didn’t run into you and ‘Minnie Mouse’ anywhere and he said I didn’t have to worry about it because you broke it off.”
“Well, I guess since you know that, you may as well know I got a date after all. A blind date I’m meeting at a restaurant. Larry from 16s set it up. And don’t worry, I’ll make sure we don’t go anywhere near you, ‘cause I don’t wanna ruin my chances with my new girl either.”
“Then you’d better send someone else in your place,” Gage joked.
Chet looked at Roy and quipped,” This coming from a guy who had to find a chic who was stranded and desperate in order to get a date.”
John frowned. Chet’s comeback was too accurate to be funny.
The paramedics paused from their morning chore of mopping the apparatus bay when Chet wandered in on his way from the dorm room.
“Hey!” John called out. “You haven’t told us how your blind date went! Was she everything Larry said she’d be?”
With both the engine and squad parked out in the driveway, Chet made his way directly across to where they were standing by the mapped wall near the captain’s office.
“She sure was. All that and then some.”
He looked upward as if lost in a trance.
Slowly gesturing with his right hand, he elaborated, “There I was. Waiting just inside the restaurant where we agreed to meet, when she walked in, like a centipede with 98 missing legs. . .”
Roy and Johnny eyed one another, their faces screwed up in puzzlement as neither had a clue exactly what that meant. Nor did they want to ask. But one thing was clear. Based on the reference used . . .
It won’t last, they thought in unison.
Note: It’s not common now, but back in the 1970s most full service gas stations sold and mounted tires.
This story was inspired by the centipede line. It sounded so ‘Chet’ to me, I had to do it. :o)
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