State of Shock
While getting for work, Johnny noticed the unthinkable. Panic struck him; sheer, unadulterated panic. Mindlessly, he continued to get ready, then left his apartment, in a state of shock.
A thousand thoughts were running through Johnny’s mind. His concentration was nil and before he knew it, he was at work. Numbly, he made his way into the station and headed to the locker room, not acknowledging anyone along the way.
Back in the kitchen, the three shift mates were stunned that John had just blown them off. Marco was the first to speak.
“What was that all about?”
“I don’t know, but it must be something. Did you see the look on his face?” Chet remarked.
“He seemed, I don’t know, scared,” Mike joined in.
The three were left to ponder about their friend’s odd behavior. When Roy got there, they would find out what was going on with John.
Johnny changed into his uniform. With shaky hands, he buttoned his shirt. What had happened that morning had really shook him up. He didn’t know how he was going to get through the day.
He thought to himself, “I’ll talk this over with Roy when he gets here. Yeah, he’ll help me through this.”
Feeling a little better, Johnny sat on the bench in front of his locker and waited for his partner.
With just ten minutes before roll call, Roy still hadn’t shown up for work. A couple of minutes went by before the locker room door flew open.
“Cutting it a little close there, weren’t you, Pally?!?” Johnny said. Suddenly, he realized he was not talking to Roy but to Craig Brice.
“Since when do you call *me* Pally, Gage?” Brice responded.
“Uh! Sorry, uh.. Cra.. Brice. What are you doing here?”
“DeSoto called in sick. I’m filling in for him.”
“Man, I hope it’s nothing serious,” Johnny said with concern in his voice.
“From what I understand, it’s a stomach virus,” Brice supplied.
“Oh! I think I’m gonna go get some coffee. See you at roll call.” Johnny said as he left the locker room.
Johnny was at a loss as to what he should do. He needed to talk to Roy, but since Roy wasn’t available, who could he turn to? Who could he trust? All the guys were his friends, and he trusted them with his life, but this was different. This was personal. Not something he wanted known.
His decision made, Johnny knocked on Captain Hank Stanley’s office door.
“Come in.” Captain Stanley responded.
Johnny timidly walked into the office. Hank looked up just as Johnny began to speak.
“Can I talk to you?”
“Sure! What’s on your mind, Pal?”
“Well, I wanted to ask….”
“It’s just that…”
“John, I can’t help if you don’t tell me what the problem is.”
“It’s so hard to admit.”
“Scared? Scared of what.”
“Oh man, I knew I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“John, I want to help you, but you have to tell me what’s going on. Are you in trouble?”
“No! Nothing like that!”
“Then, what is it?”
“It’s…. it‘s nothing! I‘m sorry I bothered you.” Johnny started to leave.
“Come on, Pal. If it has got you this rattled, then it must be something.”
“Promise you won’t say anything to any of the other guys, particularly, Chet?”
“What you tell me in confidence, will stay between us.” Hank’s patience was fading fast.
“Thanks, Cap. I appreciate that.” Johnny said with some relief.
“Ok! Now, tell me what’s got you so rattled?”
“I found a….” Johnny just couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“You found what?”
“I don’t want to die. I’m too young to die.” Johnny said with fear in his voice.
“Hey, hold on there a minute, Johnny. What are you talking about? What’s all this about dying? Are you sick, Son?” Hank asked with great concern.
“No, I’m not sick. Cap, I’m only twenty-eight years old. I’m too young. This can’t be happening. Why me?!? What did I do to deserve this?!?” Johnny moaned.
“JOHN!” Hank screamed, trying to get the distraught man to calm down.
Shaken from his agony, Johnny looked at his superior. The concern he saw in his captain’s face was almost his undoing.
“Now I want you to calm down and tell me what’s going on.” Hank said in a soothing tone.
Johnny got his breathing under control and held his emotions at bay. He decided he’d start over.
“Cap, this morning while I was getting ready for work, my worst nightmare came true.”
“What’s that, Pal?”
“You have to understand, this is something that has scared me all my life. If there were a phobia for it, then I have it.” Johnny tried to explain.
“Take your time. I’m here for you. Whatever it is, I will help you through it.”
“Thanks, Cap! When I found out Roy wasn’t going to be here, I just didn’t know who to turn to. I’m eternally grateful.”
“You know you can come to me anytime. Now why don’t you tell me what’s got you so upset?”
Taking a deep breath, Johnny turned his back to his boss and spilled his guts.
“This morning, I was in my bathroom, you know, getting ready for work. I had just got out of the shower and was combing my hair, when I saw it.”
Now we’re getting somewhere, Hank thought.
“I saw a…..” Johnny just couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“Saw WHAT?” Cap shouted.
“A gray hair.” Johnny said dejectedly.
Not believing what his junior paramedic just said, he asked him to repeat it.
“I found a gray hair. Man, my life is over. What am I gonna do?” Johnny wailed.
When he didn’t hear any words of wisdom or comfort, Johnny turned around. What he saw was Cap, at his desk with his hand over his mouth, trying to muffle his hysterical laughter.
“MAN!” Johnny exclaimed.
Getting himself under control, Cap said, “Johnny, I’m sorry. I know you think this is the end of the world, but it’s not. One gray hair doesn’t mean you’re going to go gray anytime soon or that you‘re going to die. So stop fretting over one silly gray hair.”
“When you put it like that, I guess I was overreacting. Thanks, Cap!”
“Right, one gray hair is nothing. Just don’t pull it out. Two will grow back.” Cap said teasingly.
“Oh, man!” Johnny cried. Once again, fear showed on his face.
“I pulled it out!”
Marco, Mike, Brice and Chet could hear the laughter coming from the Captain’s office. All wondered what was so funny.
Thanks to Audrey for the phobia challenge and Jean for the beta.
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