By Audrey W.
“Anything you care to talk about?”
John Gage looked up from where he was seated on the side of his bed at Station 51. Captain Stanley was looking over at him from the doorway that led to the apparatus bay.
“Roy says you’ve been awfully quiet since you got here this morning. He thinks something might be bothering you, but figured he wouldn’t get much of an explanation if he asked.”
“Oh. . .no,” Johnny shook his head. “No, Cap. It’s nothin’. . .really.”
“Okay, well if you decide you do want to talk about what ever it isn’t, my door is always open.”
Johnny watched as the senior officer started out the doorway.
“Uh, Cap. . .”
He turned around. “Yeah?”
The seemingly despondent paramedic paused a moment, then shook his head. “Nothin.”
So he wouldn’t talk about it. There was always another cure for being in a funk.
“Well, as long as everything is okay, how ‘bout you go help your partner with the squad? I’m sure he could use a hand.”
Johnny nodded as he got to his feet. He knew if he didn’t do it on his own, the next words out of hank Stanley’s mouth would be, ‘That’s an order’.
Roy was busy polishing the squad when Johnny joined him. Captain Stanley continued onto his office after giving a quick shrug to the senior paramedic as he went by.
So much for Cap getting an answer. . .
“There’s another rag in the supply closet. I could use the help,” he said.
But when Johnny remained staring into the closet near the rear of the squad, his hand still on the door knob, Roy stopped his chore and went to see what the hold up was.
“What’sa matter? You forget what you came for?”
He shot a gaze at his partner. “Huh?”
Roy rolled his eyes and reached inside. He handed Johnny the rag.
He closed the door and Johnny followed as he walked away.
“Look, I’ve got a lot on my mind, that’s all.”
“A lot of what?” Roy questioned while he went back to work on the front end of the red truck.
‘Stuff. . .” Johnny shrugged.
His partner glanced at the rag still not in use. “It works better if you actually apply it to something.”
Gage frowned. He wanted to tell Roy what was bothering him. He really did. But he wasn’t sure Roy would take it as seriously.
He opened his mouth to hint at his situation when the klaxons sounded.
“Squad 51, man shot, thirty-one twenty-two West Citrus Street, three one two two West Citrus Street, time out 09:45.”
The paramedics tossed their rags off to the side on the floor. They climbed into the squad as Mike Stoker ran from the dayroom nearby to acknowledge the call at the podium in the bay.
When they arrived on scene, the paramedics saw a police car parked in the driveway and a throng of neighbors standing in and near the yard as they tried to see what was going on.
One man came out of the one-story home and motioned for Gage and DeSoto to come in.
“He’s in here!”
They glanced at one another, then followed him inside.
“We’ve got a victim here who was watching a friend clean a gun,” Officer Vince Howard explained once the firemen were in the kitchen. “The owner had forgotten it was loaded. Shot him in his right lower leg from across the room.”
They hurried over to the wounded man lying on the floor. His bad leg was bandaged with a bloody towel and propped up on two throw pillows.
“You did the right thing by propping his leg up,” Johnny said to the other man as he and Roy set the medical equipment down nearby.
The man simply nodded, his concerned gaze never leaving his friend.
Once Johnny removed the temporary ‘bandaging’ they could see that there was an entry but no exit wound. It was very possible the bullet was stuck in a bone.
Johnny set up the biophone to contact Rampart General while Roy began an assessment of the victim’s over all condition after putting sterile bandaging over the wound.
“At least my wife isn’t here. . .” the man said between gritted teeth. “I was spared all her ‘told ya sos’. . .for now”
Spared. . .Johnny thought. Did he have to use that word?
While Roy went into the treatment room at Rampart with the victim, Johnny went in search of his and Roy’s favorite head nurse, Dixie McCall. Many times she could be found at the desk near the base station. But she wasn’t there now. He’d come in a few minutes after Roy and the others, maybe she was in the room with them.
He leaned with his shoulder against the wall near the desk and glanced around. Suddenly a pretty blonde nurse he’d never seen before caught his eye. Johnny jerked his gaze in her direction and watched in wonder as she went into Treatment Room Four.
What room had their victim been taken to?
Maybe that one. . .
He wished he’d been the one to bring in Mr. Higgins. Of course, there wasn’t any harm in taking a peek to see if Roy was in that room. In fact, it was a great excuse.
He wandered past a few hospital personnel that were in the corridor and once at the door, slowly opened it and peered inside.
“Oh! Sorry,” he said with an embarrassed grin. “I was just. . .uh. . .I was lookin’ for my. . .uh partner. We’re paramedics.”
When he didn’t get anymore than stares, he closed the door with, “I’ll just go look in another room.”
Johnny hurried back over to where he’d been standing and blew out a breath he’d held on his way over. He hadn’t given thought as to who might be in the treatment room if it wasn’t Mr. Higgins. Turns out it had been an elderly lady. . .very elderly. . .with her blouse off and just a brazier for a top as a female doctor checked out her right side and shoulder.
Well, there was always door number two. But ‘Let’s make a Deal’ came to mind and he decided he’d be better off staying with what he had. . .a place in the hallway. . .until Roy joined him.
His gaze traveled to the door of Treatment Room Four, his mind once again on the other female in that room.
Johnny sighed when he saw Roy come out of Treatment Room One. He’d have to wait for another time with the nurse even if she did come out now. With Roy already on his case about his current funk, letting on he’d spotted another girl he was interested in would only add fuel to the fire, so to speak.
“How’s Mr. Higgins?”
“Okay, considering. He’s going up for surgery soon.”
“His friend isn’t here yet. I imagine he’s feeling pretty bad.”
“Yeah, probably so.”
The pretty nurse came out of the other treatment room and Johnny caught a glimpse of her. He had to fight to keep from staring and giving his latest infatuation away.
“So, you ready to go?”
“Did you refill the supplies?”
Roy shook his head. Johnny was hopeless today. He flagged down another nurse and had her get them the supplies they needed.
“Is it bigger than a cake?” Roy asked from the driver’s side of the squad. They were on their way back to the station.
“Don’tcha mean bread box?”
“I thought if I used a different word, I’d get your attention.”
Gage cracked a grin at that answer. “Yes and no.”
“Okay, well, we’re off to a start.”
“Roy, I appreciate your wantin’ to help, but trust me. There’s nothin’ you can do, man. Nothin’.”
He glanced at the younger man. “Okay, but don’t say I didn’t try.”
Johnny looked out the passenger window as he gave his problem more thought.
Where’m I goin’ wrong?
When they got back to the station, Johnny climbed out of the squad and followed Roy into the dayroom. The engine crew, minus the captain, had pulled the chairs away from the table and lined them up in a row facing the TV at the opposite end of the room from the kitchen area. The threesome was watching the late morning game show Let’s Make Deal.
“What ever you do, don’t pick door number four!” Johnny advised the current contestant on the screen.
Mike Stoker glanced over his shoulder. “There is no door number four.”
“Lucky for him.”
Roy had no idea what that was about. Maybe it was part of the mystery that ailed his partner.
“So you met four girls and don’t know which one to ask out?”
Johnny turned around to face Roy, his face screwed up in puzzlement.
“What’s bothering you. You have to choose from four girls and don’t know which one to pick.”
Johnny sighed. “Roy, that wouldn’t be a bad problem.”
“You’re still not going to tell me what it is, are ya?”
Johnny grabbed a glass from the cupboard, then walked past Roy to the refrigerator. He opened the door with a free hand and kept it open with his left side as he reached inside for the milk. Once in hand, he let the door close freely as he made his way to the counter, where he set down his glass.
“Not in here I’m not. No.”
“Shhhhh” came from a couple of the others.
“What?” Johnny asked. “You guys afraid you’re gonna miss Monty tellin’ that banana she’s got a zonker or somethin’? You can see what happens plain as day on the screen.”
“John, do you mind?” Chet said as he looked over his shoulder. “Spare us, would ya?”
“Spare,” Johnny said as he took a sip of the milk he had just poured. He dumped the remainder of the white liquid in the sink, returned the carton of milk to the refrigerator, then headed out the door to the apparatus bay.
Thinking he was onto something, Roy followed.
Johnny grabbed his rag from earlier and went right to work wiping down the hood of the squad.
Roy picked up his rag as well and went around to the passenger side.
“You got a flat on your day off and the spare tire was flat, too?”
Johnny shook his head. “Not even close.”
Roy chewed his lower lip as he gave it more thought. After a few more wipes with the rag, he questioned, “You spent the last of your spare change?”
“If ya gotta know I’ll tell ya. But not out here. In the dorm.”
They walked around the front of the engine toward the dorm room. But Johnny had no sooner opened the door when the klaxon sounded, this time sending them out for a possible heart attack.
The two trotted back to the squad and climbed inside, Roy on the driver’s side and Johnny as a passenger. This time Chet had acknowledged the call. Once Roy had the information Chet had jotted down on a slip of paper, he handed it to Johnny, then drove the squad into the street with the lights and sirens in use.
“Right this way,” a worried middle aged woman said as she led the paramedics to the livingroom of her home. She’d met them at the front door, explained that her husband was having chest pains, and that he’d been resting on the couch once she called the fire department.
“When did it start?” Roy asked.
“About ten minutes ago. Jack was out mowing the lawn and I heard the motor shut off. Next thing I know he was at the door complaining his chest hurt and he couldn’t breathe very well. I called for you just as soon as got him to lay down.”
Once at the victim’s side, the paramedics asked him a few questions to assess the situation. They then comforted him with as much assurance as they could while Roy set up the scope to get an EKG reading. Meanwhile, Johnny contacted Rampart after taking a BP reading.
“I knew all about you paramedics,” the wife said as she watched. “There was a couple of them that saved one of our neighbor’s lives about a month ago. Doctors on wheels is what he calls you now.”
“We’re not doctors,” Roy softly corrected. “But my partner there has one on the other end of the line. Everything we do is what a doctor directs us to.”
After sending an EKG strip to Rampart via the biophone, it was decided Jack needed to be taken to the hospital as soon as possible. Hooked up to an IV and oxygen, he was placed on a stretcher, then wheeled out to the ambulance that had just arrived on scene. This time Johnny rode in the ambulance while Roy followed behind in the squad. Jack’s wife had gotten a ride from another of their neighbors.
“I heard I missed you two earlier,” Dixie said as Roy approached the desk near the base station.
“Or we missed you.”
“Kind of a half full/half empty analogy.”
Roy nodded with a smile. “Kind of.”
“I had to go upstairs for a meeting. Believe me, I’d much rather have been down here.”
“You may change your mind on that.”
She looked at him, eyebrows raised.
“Johnny’s in another of his funks. Every time I almost get to the bottom of it, we get toned out.”
“Well, maybe together we can get it out of him.”
But before that plan could be put into place, the cute nurse who’d caught Johnny’s attention earlier came up to them.
“Miss McCall, Doctor Early says he needs you in Three.”
“Or not,” Dixie said to Roy.
He gave a small shrug of ‘oh well’. It didn’t surprise him another chance to dig into his partner’s problem had been thwarted.
Just as Dixie was walking away, Johnny came out of another of the treatment rooms. He immediately locked his gaze on the younger nurse.
“Oh man. . .” he whispered.
Oh no! He thought to himself, sudden alarm on his face.
Roy was talking to her and she was smiling! It wouldn’t be the first time the married paramedic had attracted a girl away from him, despite him being the available one. He had to step in and he had to do it now!
Johnny once again quickly composed himself, then forced himself to wander over nonchalantly.
The casualness cost him. Just before he got to the minglers, Jack’s worried wife arrived with her neighbor and interrupted the conversation. The pretty nurse left right away, allowing Roy to give them his full attention.
Although it showed Johnny that his new interest was polite, he’d lost another opportunity to introduce himself.
He joined in with the others to give an update on Jack, who was faring well so far.
Roy glanced at his partner as they once again were on their way back to the station. Johnny was even quieter now.
“I’ve got an idea.”
Gage looked over from the passenger side with disinterest. The look wasn’t lost on the other, but he decided to go forward on his thoughts anyway.
“How ‘bout you tell me what’s bothering you now. . .before we get back to the station. Seems like you might stand a better chance of getting it out and you can be sure no one else’ll hear what you say.”
Johnny still didn’t look impressed.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Roy added.
“All right,” Gage said with a sigh, finally giving in.
The response was followed by silence.
Johnny put his right hand up as if to signal for calmness. “I’m gettin’ to it, I’m gettin’ to it. I’m just wonderin’ if you’ll laugh.”
“How can you be so sure? You don’t even know what it is yet.”
“Because I know if I laugh, it’s going to push you into a deeper funk, and I don’t wanna deal with that until tomorrow morning.”
Not the best explanation, but at least it was an honest one.
“Okay___you know how I love to bowl.”
Roy nodded, his gaze still straight ahead on the traffic in front of them.
“I mean, it’s my livelihood. My relaxation. . .if I hadn’t become a fireman, it might’ve even been my career!”
That got a disbelieving glance from the listener.
“Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a little.”
“Anyway, I’m a good bowler. I don’t think anyone___anyone,” he emphasized, leaning toward Roy, “Can dispute that.”
“So I meet up at the alley with some of the guys, we make a few friendly bets. . .you know, a few bucks in from each of us and whoever scores the highest after each game wins the pot for that game.”
“It was, except somethin’ strange happened. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get a strike! I could gutter a ball__once. I could leave a few pins, but mostly, I spared! Like six times in a row I spared! One game I even spared seven _ times! I mean it was just unbelievable, Roy. Unbelievable.”
“So that’s what’s got you bothered?”
Johnny sighed. “I knew you wouldn’t understand.”
“I understand. It would be frustrating. I guess. I mean, some people would love to get even one spare, let alone six or eight. But if you’re used to getting strikes frequently--”
“Which I am.”
“Which you are,” Roy agreed. “It would definitely be frustrating.” After a few seconds he added, “Maybe it was just one of those days.”
“No,” Johnny shook his head. “No, it was more than that.”
“Have you bowled since?”
“Of course not. It just happened yesterday.”
“Then how do you know it wasn’t?”
Johnny gave it thought. A wide lopsided grin spread across his face. “Yeah. . .maybe it was one of those days. I mean, it’s certainly possible. We’ve had those kinda days here,” he said as Roy backed the squad into the station’s apparatus bay.
“We sure have.”
Both men exited their truck feeling like everything was going to be just fine. Maybe.
A few hours later, Johnny and Roy were back at Rampart after a rescue. This time they both were able to grab a cup of coffee near the base station while they visited with Dixie.
“So, anything new we should know about?” Johnny questioned as he glanced around before taking a sip of his brew.
She shook her head. “Not that I can think of.” She shifted her gaze to Roy and cocked an eyebrow as she looked in the direction toward Johnny without moving her head.
Roy caught the meaning and nodded that yes, he did find out what was bothering his partner. He then addressed Johnny. “Why don’t you see what Dix thinks of your latest problem, maybe she can be of some help.”
“How many are there?” Roy wondered, a surprised look on his face. He only knew about the bowling.
“I’d love to help if I can,” Dixie offered.
“Maybe you can help with both.”
Johnny ignored Roy and pressed on. “First of all, since my hint didn’t work, I noticed there’s a new face here. Some of us have gotten a chance to talk to ‘er,” he said with a glare toward Roy. “But--”
“Oh, you must mean Brooke. She’s blonde, very pretty.”
Johnny nodded. “That’s the one.”
“She seems really nice.”
Again Johnny glared at Roy.
“She is,” Dixie assured. “She’s also a very good nurse, very professional. She can carry a tune, too.”
Johnny had an anxious expression on his face as he waited for the most important bit of information.
“And she’s single,” Dixie finally added for his benefit.
That was all he needed to hear. “Where is she?”
“She went up to the third floor for the remainder of her shift.”
“Well, there you go,” Roy said after swallowing a sip of coffee. “You can go up there and meet her.”
Johnny shook his head. “No.”
“Huh uh. It’s gotta be less obvious than that. Like if I run into ‘er down here. When does she work again?”
“If I remember right off the top of my head, I put her on for the day after tomorrow.”
Well, that wouldn’t work either. He’d be off. Obviously it was going to be awhile longer before he could introduce himself properly.
“What’s the other problem?” Dixie wondered.
Roy nodded in answer for Johnny. “It appears he’s in a slump.”
“Well, tell me about it and don’t spare any details.”
The frown from the dark-haired paramedic had her looking to Roy for another explanation.
“That’s his slump. Spares.”
She listened while Johnny went into detail about his inability to get a strike, while having the incredible ability to spare one time after another. After he was done, she only had one idea to offer.
“I’m willing to bet it’s a temporary thing that’ll solve itself all on its own. After all, it was only one day. I’d just wait it out and sooner or later things’ll improve. I mean, you were able to get strikes before, right?”
Johnny set his cup down on the desk. “Sure I was. That’s what’s so irritating. I was really good at it. Then all of a sudden. . .bam. . . no strikes. Not__a__one.”
Roy stared in amazement as his partner took in her advice. . .which was basically the same as his. . .without protest.
“Give it time. You’ll be back in your game,” she said with confidence.
Gage believed what was being said. He just didn’t know how long the wait would be nor that he could be that patient about it.
The following shift, a rather quiet and despondent John Gage came into the locker room where his partner was almost finished getting changed into uniform. They’d had two days off in a row and hadn’t seen each other since getting off duty forty-eight hours earlier.
“Uh oh,” Roy said as Johnny stepped over to the locker one door down from his.
“It’s that obvious, huh?”
“Let’s just say you can probably ‘spare’ me the details,” Roy said with a slight grin, referencing Dixie’s comment from the shift before.
“Oh, that’s so funny, I forgot to laugh.”
Johnny’s locker was open now and its door with the Smokey the Bear poster on the inside of it blocked Roy’s view of the younger man. If he had to guess, Gage was still frowning.
“I take it you went bowling again?”
“Two days in a row.”
So much for Dixie’s. . .*our*. . . advice. . . Roy thought to himself.
“Your luck wasn’t any better?”
Still in his denim jeans and shirtless, Johnny turned around and sat on the inside edge of his locker.
“Roy, I can’t get a strike ta save my life!” He groaned. “I tried everything. I spared when I switched to a lighter ball and again when I went back to a heavier one. I spared when I tried a finger tip ball. . .I even tried changin’ shoes! An’ still, all I do is spare. I just don’t get it. I know I’m better than that!”
Roy peeked around the locker door. Johnny was up on his feet again and back to getting changed into uniform.
“How many games did you play, anyway?”
“Enough that I should have had a strike somewhere along the way. That’s how many.”
As Johnny put on his blue uniform shirt, he grimaced slightly. Roy was no longer looking around the door and didn’t see, which was fine with the younger paramedic. He didn’t need anyone knowing he’d bowled so much in the past two days that his right shoulder and elbow were sore. Flinging a ball down an alley over and over for as much as he did, even being in pretty good shape wasn’t enough to keep his arm from getting overtired.
At least so far he’d been ‘spared’ the humiliation of his partner finding out. Johnny groaned inwardly at his own pun.
Later in the day, the crew of A-shift was out in the back lot playing basketball. Captain Stanley missed his latest attempt at a basket, then had to watch as Mike scored on the next try. In fact, Mike scored every time he threw.
“Man, maybe you’re in the wrong line of business,” Chet commented to him.
“Yeah, Chet’s right. Maybe ya oughta consider joining the Los Angeles Lakers,” Johnny kidded.
“Why don’t you take a shot at it, pal?” The captain wondered.
Johnny quickly declined. “I’m more of an observer.”
He didn’t want anyone even getting an idea his right arm was sore. He’d been able to ignore the fact it was while on rescues. It was always easy to push his own problems to the side in the line of duty. But basketball for fun? He didn’t see a need.
However, Marco Lopez had nothing but a look of doubt on his face about Johnny’s statement. “Since when?”
But no one waited for another answer, which made the dark-haired paramedic happy. Mike had impressed them all with another successful shot.
“How do you do it?” Johnny asked. “You never played this consistent before.”
Mike shrugged, then pulled a rabbit’s foot out of his trouser pocket. “Maybe it’s got something to do with this. It’s my good luck charm. I started carrying it in my pocket everywhere I go.”
That was it! He had his answer to his lack-of-strikes problem. Except for one thing.
What do I own that’s lucky?
“Hey, remember that time we were accused of stealing that money from a victim’s wallet and we went to see that lawyer?”
Roy glanced at his partner, who was standing beside him near the sink in the station kitchen area. Roy was washing the dinner dishes and Johnny was drying them.
“How could I forget? I was so sure I’d be making my one phone call to Joanne before long.”
Johnny snorted a laugh. “Me too.”
Roy gave him a puzzled look.
“That I’d be making my one phone call, not necessarily that it’d be to Joanne. Although, I sure wouldn’ta wanted to call my aunt and drop the bombshell on her.”
“Why are you bringing it up now, anyway?”
Johnny took a wet plate from Roy and rubbed it with a somewhat balled-up towel.
“Well, I’m thinkin’, we were pretty lucky we didn’t waste a lot of money on his fees when we’da gotten off anyway. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.”
That settled something he’d been thinking about all day. He had a pair of patchwork pants that things often seemed to go in his favor while wearing them. He’d worn them to the lawyer’s office the day he and Roy had gone for a free consultation for that very reason. Soon afterward, they were found innocent of the theft charges, and hadn’t needed a layer after all.
“So what’s this about?”
“Oh, nothin’. I was just thinking.”
Another thing he firmly believed. Talking about something ahead of time often made it not work out.
Not long after the dishes were done, Station 51 was toned out for a motor vehicle accident on the 405 Freeway. When they’d arrived on scene a few miles away, they saw that at least eight vehicles had been involved. Most were still up against another in some way, be it a front or rear bumper, or one side or another. With it being sunset, they were going to need to use spotlights to illuminate the area.
Johnny and Roy scrambled from their parked squad and immediately were given directives from Captain Stanley once he’d received a very quick briefing from one of the police officers already there.
“John, we’ve got a woman complaining about a lot of pain in the red station wagon, Roy you check on the man in the white sedan. He’s pretty banged up.”
Another squad arrived on scene and would take care of the other victims who needed immediate care.
Johnny’s patient was a thirty-year-old belly dancer who was in costume. Her pale green harem type outfit left much of her skin exposed. An encounter with her under normal circumstances, his eyes would be about ready to pop out of his head. But just as with anyone else, he was all business in talking to and treating her.
“Cap said to help you out,” Marco said after Johnny had time to assess the situation.
“I’m gonna need a c-collar and a back board, Marco.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll have you out just as soon as he gets back,” Johnny promised her.
“I can’t believe this. I‘m going to be late for work.”
He didn’t want to upset her, but truth was, she was going to be more than just late. He figured it was likely shock from the accident that was keeping her from thinking clearly at the moment.
“Uh, I think you might wanna consider taking the night off,” Johnny suggested, though he knew she wouldn’t have a choice anyway.
“But this is my first night on the job!” she cried. “I just changed careers.”
“Oh yeah? What’d you used to do?”
“Operator on a switchboard.”
She certainly had made a big ‘switch’.
“I’m sure when they hear what happened, they’ll understand.”
Marco arrived with the equipment, so Johnny pulled back from the car and stood up.
“You know, sometimes I think if I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all,” the belly dancer pouted.
Johnny could certainly sympathize with her on that. As he placed the collar around her neck, he assured, “I think we’ve all had times we’ve felt like that.”
It came out sounding as sincere as it was, which helped her to trust him the remainder of their time together, all the way to Rampart.
Johnny watched as Doctor Early examined Maggie, the dancer. He’d found out her stage name was Sasha, but she hadn’t made it legal yet. He’d also found out she’d need to call her boyfriend eventually to let him know what happened.
“Doc, do you need me for anything else?”
“No, you can go. Thank you.”
“Sure.” He stepped over and gave Maggie’s left hand a quick gentle squeeze, at the same time offering a warm grin. “You’re gonna be fine. You’re in good hands.”
“Okay, thanks again.”
“Hey, no problem. Just doin’ my job.”
He turned and left the room, ready to meet up with his partner.
Roy wasn’t anywhere in sight. Johnny figured he must still be in with the man they’d brought in with Maggie.
But there was someone he wanted to see there. Brooke. Either she’d substituted for another nurse or Dixie had scheduled her two days in a row.
She was now on her way into the nurses’ lounge down the corridor. He glanced around once more before making his way in that direction as well.
Johnny took a deep breath and exhaled, then opened the door, a nervous grin on his face. He could hear a woman’s voice as she talked about how busy the past couple of hours had been.
When he peeked inside, Johnny was once again discouraged. A middle-aged nurse was seated at the round wooden table, listening as Brooke went on about needing the break she was on. He sure couldn’t flirt now.
When both looked in his direction, he gave a quick wave. “Just checkin’ to see if Roy was in here.”
He cringed at his over-used excuse, then quickly let the door close and frowned. When would he get his chance?
By morning, Johnny’s right arm was less sore. He planned on trying his luck at bowling later in the afternoon.
The following shift, it didn’t take Roy long to figure out his partner was still bugged. Johnny hadn’t admitted he was going bowling again, so Roy could only assume his moodiness had something to do with that. He’d give Gage awhile to bring it up first before mentioning it himself if that didn’t happen.
“Can you spare a minute?” Captain Stanley asked Johnny once he and Roy returned from a supply run to Rampart.
“Oh, I can spare all the time you want,” Johnny said sarcastically.
Roy had his answer. He watched as his partner followed the captain into his office, the door closing behind them.
“Have a seat,” Hank offered as he sat in the chair behind his desk.
“That’s okay, Cap. I’ll stand if you don’t mind.”
“No, not at all.”
The captain studied him a few seconds before speaking again. “I couldn’t help but notice you seemed a little down again this morning at roll call.”
“Down? Uh. . .I’m not down. I guess I was jus’ tired, ya know? I stayed up too late last night.”
“You sure that’s all it was?”
Johnny nodded. “I’m sure.” He flashed a crooked grin.
“All right. But the offer I gave you the other day still stands.”
“Thanks, Cap. I’ll keep that in mind.”
With that he left the office, wondering if Hank Stanley would have been as understanding if he told him the real reason he seemed down.
Roy was pretending to dust the squad with a rag while he waited for Johnny to emerge from the office. When the door opened, he increased his efforts.
Johnny came up beside him.
“Looks good__right there,” he pointed. “How long have you been dusting in that one spot?”
“Okay, so you caught me. What’d Cap want?”
“He said I seemed a little down.”
“He’s right. And your answer about having plenty of spare time tells me I think I know why.”
Johnny suddenly became more animated, first placing his right hand on his chest as he went on with, “Roy, I have tried absolutely everything I can think of to get a strike! Everything.” With a wave of his hand, he added, “I even wore my lucky pants.”
He nodded. “That’s right. You know, those patchwork ones I wore to the lawyer’s office that time.”
“You wore those to the bowling alley?” Roy hoped he didn’t have a grimace on his face. But he didn’t think those pants were all that great to wear out in public. In fact, he’d almost tried to stop Johnny from wearing them to the lawyer’s office.
“I sure did. An’ you know what I got?”
“Certainly not a date.”
Gage pulled back. “What’s that s’posed to mean?”
“Nothing. I’d guess you got a spare.”
“Try nine. In a row! Next game, I had seven, then nine again. Man, I just don’ know what I’m gonna do.”
“What about our. . .uh. . .Dixie’s advice? Give it time.”
“But that could take forever.”
“Well, you know, there is one thing you haven’t tried.”
Johnny screwed up his face. “Divine intervention?”
“That’s right. Pray for a strike.”
Gage couldn’t hide the wary expression on his face. “You mean like get down on my knees and pray? That kind of prayer?”
Again Roy nodded. “It can’t hurt,” he shrugged.
“Prayer,” Johnny said again, more to himself. Well, he certainly hadn’t expected that one.
The next morning, Johnny headed straight home to his apartment after he was off duty. He thought about going into his bedroom, but first a breakfast of eggs, toast and milk sounded better. Afterward, he made himself a cup of instant coffee. While he drank the dark brew, he pondered what Roy had said.
“Divine intervention,” he scoffed for the second time since he’d gotten home. Surely Roy couldn’t be serious.
It wasn’t that he didn’t believe in God. He certainly did. He just wasn’t sure bowling should come into play with divine intervention.
“It can’t hurt,” he repeated after recalling what Roy had said.
Johnny drank the remainder of his coffee, then got up from the table in his kitchen and headed for the bedroom. He got on his knees beside his bed, but as he clasped his hands together, he gave it more thought.
I wonder if I have to be like this. . .maybe I can just think about it when I;m sittin’ on the couch. . .
It wasn’t that he hadn’t prayed before. But he felt silly getting down on his knees to do it as a grown man. At least this time.
Nope, he wasn’t ready.
Johnny decided he’d take a shower while he debated on the issue more. After he’d gotten cleaned up and a change of clean clothes, he ran some errands. He passed by the bowling alley but decided he wasn’t going to go any closer to the place until he felt more confident again.
Finally, late in the evening, John Gage knelt down beside his bed. He clasped his hands together and with his eyes closed, prayed.
A-shift only had one day off between their last shift and the new one. Thus Johnny didn’t get to try out the results of his prayer yet.
“So you gave it a try,” Roy said as the two walked toward the dayroom after roll call.
“Gave what a try?” Chet wondered as he walked alongside them.
“C’mon, John. You aren’t gonna get off the hook that easy.”
“Okay, eight hours of sleep. I’ve been keeping my nights short, but Roy here said everyone should get eight hours a night every chance they get. So I did.”
Chet looked at Roy, who nodded in agreement.
“He’s right,” Johnny added. “If you haven’t tried it, you should.”
Chet didn’t quite buy the explanation, but he was being summoned to the hose rack in the back lot, so he didn’t have a chance to question them further.
The two paramedics no sooner got into the dayroom to clean it up when the klaxons sounded. They were sent out on a run for a dog bite victim.
Johnny met up with Roy at the base station at Rampart. The older man had driven the squad in while Gage rode in with the victim.
“So did the prayers work for you?” Roy asked.
Seated behind the desk on a stool, Dixie waited to hear the latest update as well.
Johnny glanced down the corridor and saw Brooke standing by the water fountain by herself.
“I don’ know, I haven’t had a chance to try it out. . .till now.” He had a gleam in his eyes as he explained with a nod toward Brooke, “I threw in somethin’ else besides bowlin’.”
He wandered off in the direction of the pretty nurse. With every step he got closer to Brooke without her having to leave or someone else coming up to her, it appeared to him that divine intervention was really the way to go.
Johnny couldn’t believe it. He got all the way up to her, introduced himself and talked a bit before finally suggesting maybe they get together sometime.
Dixie and Roy chatted, taking a glance once in awhile to see how things were going for the dark-haired paramedic.
“So far, so good,” Dixie commented.
Roy shook his head in amazement. “I’ve gotta hand it to him for slipping that one in.”
It wasn’t too long before Johnny was walking toward them again with a grin on his face. Brooke had gone the other direction. When he got back to the desk, Gage folded his arms across his chest and rocked slightly on his feet.
“Ya know, sometimes life can be so funny how things work out.”
“Don’t tell me,” Roy said. “You’re going bowling together.”
Gage shook his head. “No. No, that’s not it. I prayed for a chance to talk to Brooke. Then I prayed for a strike. I talked to ‘er.”
Dixie and Roy waited anxiously for what was coming next.
“And I finally got a strike! She said I was ‘cute’, but that she doesn’t date anyone who’s associated with places she works. Can you believe it? I struck out!”
The two raised their eyebrows in surprise at his chipper mood.
But after all he’d been through, it didn’t surprise him in the least it ended up this way. In fact, he figured it was probably the most fitting outcome possible. Johnny knew he could either take it all in stride__ or cry. Not being the type to do much of the latter, it only left him the one choice.
As the two paramedics headed for the exit, Roy offered, “I guess ‘be careful what you wish for’ comes to mind, huh?”
Johnny let out a long sigh. “Roy__spare me__.please.”
Wii bowling and hearing the words, "Nice spare!" over and over made me go 'hmmmmm. . .' :o) Thanks to the 'guys' for what has been a fun week!
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