Sticking to Tradition

By Audrey W.  



John Gage dashed across the apparatus bay toward the squad as he and his partner were toned out for a response at the beginning of their shift. Captain Stanley had just lined his men up for 8:00 roll call and was waiting for the lagging dark-haired paramedic to join them when the Klaxons went off.


The captain trotted to the podium to acknowledge the call, while Engineer Mike Stoker hurried to open the doors.


Roy DeSoto glanced at Johnny as the younger man slid into the passenger seat having gotten to their truck after him.


“Cutting it kinda close, aren’t ya?”


Gage gave a wan smile and a shrug, taking the slip of paper with the run information from him.


The senior paramedic shook his head slightly, his attention now fully on the street ahead. He figured he’d find out what made Johnny uncharacteristically late eventually.




Roy brought the squad to a stop alongside a park where some patrons were enjoying an early morning jog. The call had been for a woman stuck, but there didn’t seem to be anything obviously wrong.


The two paramedics exchanged puzzled glances, then approached  a set of joggers.


“Excuse me,” Roy began. When they stopped, he continued. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about someone being stuck somewhere, would you?”


One jogger nodded, while the other pointed and answered, “We sure do. Just over that small hill, on the playground area. There’s a lady stuck in one of the swings.”




Trotting over the grassy mound, they made their way to the playground. Sure enough, a young woman in a sweat suit was sitting in a plastic bucket-style swing designed for a toddler. A bar that was welded in place across the front to hold a child safely in place was keeping the woman in as well.


“I hope you can get me out of here!” She called out in a whiny voice as the paramedic s approached.


“Why’d you get in there in the first place?” Johnny asked.


Roy quickly looked toward his partner. He hadn’t heard him speak yet for the day and now he knew why. The younger man’s voice was raspy, a sure sign of. . .


A sore throat?


Gage was surprised at the sound of his own voice as well. He hadn’t been sure what to expect it to sound like, though his throat had been bothering him off and on since the night before.


Noticing Roy’s reaction and wanting to avoid a string of questions later, he quickly cleared his throat a couple of times.


“Just thirsty. . .” came a more normal sounding reply.


He was relieved by the fact clearing his throat had helped some, though there still was a hint of hoarseness.


Maybe Roy won’t notice. . .


In the meantime, the woman was answering his question. “I’m in here because of a bet. I’ve lost a lot of weight jogging every morning, but  my boyfriend bet me that I couldn’t fit in this swing. I said I could and that I’d prove it.”


Johnny glanced around. “Where is he? Doesn’t seem like much of a boyfriend to leave you out here all alone.”


“Oh, he’ll be back. Or he’d better be. He went to call for you guys; guess he must’ve had to go pretty far to find a phone.”


“Are you hurt at all?” Roy asked as he carefully examined the swing’s construction.


“No, just stuck. Guess I wasn’t quite small enough to fit right. Look,” she said, glancing from one to the other, “Can you just get me out of here?”


Roy nodded and looked up at Johnny. “I think the bolt cutters’ll do it.”


“Okay. I’ll be right back.”


As he headed for the squad, Gage met a young man coming from the other direction.


“Are you her boyfriend?”


“Yeah. Boy, you guys got here fast.”


“We do our best.”


“So how easy is it gonna be to get her out?”


Johnny looked over at Roy and the stuck woman. “Oh, it won’t be too difficult. I’m on my way to get bolt cutters now. They should be able to handle the thickness of the bar on the swing.”


“Good. But you know. . .there’s just one thing I didn’t consider when I called for help.”


“What’s that?”


“What I’m gonna do when Karen is free. She’s gonna want to wring my neck.”


Johnny snorted slightly and nodded. “You may need our services too,” he teased. Continuing on his way, he didn’t see the sour expression on the boyfriend’s face.




After a short while, Karen was free, her boyfriend apologetic for the whole situation.


“So who won?” Johnny wondered.


“I guess it’s a draw,” the young man answered. “She fit.”


“But I couldn’t get out,” she agreed.


Gage nodded. “Sounds like a draw to me.” 


With everything okay, Johnny and Roy left the couple alone and walked toward the squad.


“You think they’ll still be a couple a week from now?”


Roy glanced over his shoulder at the pair. They were already smiling as they started jogging toward another path. Returning his eyes ahead, he stated, “I’d say they’ll be okay. You on the other hand. . .”




“That’s what I said.”


“What about me?”


“You know. . .your voice.”


“Oh that. . .”


“Yeah, that.”


Johnny shrugged as they arrived at their squad. “I told ya. . .I’m just thirsty.”


“Why don’t I believe that?”


Gage opened the passenger side door after returning the bolt cutters to their storage place. “I sound okay right now, don’t I?”


“Maybe. . .”


Johnny climbed in the squad. “Roy, I’m fine.” He closed his door and waited for his doubting partner to get in on the other side.


As he slid into the driver’s seat, DeSoto asked, “Do we need to make a stop at Rampart?”


“Roy. . .I’m not sick.”


The word ‘sick’ came out much hoarser than he’d hoped.




The conversation on the subject of Johnny’s health resumed as Roy backed the squad into the apparatus bay after their return to the station.


“Just let me take a look at your throat.”


“No, Roy. Look, I’m not sick. I’d tell ya if I was.


“You’re sounding a bit more hoarse again.”


“I haven’t gotten a drink yet. That and you’re makin’ me talk more tryin’ to convince ya that I’m okay.”


Roy brought the squad to a stop and turned off the ignition. “What if it’s your tonsils?”


“Oh I see what this is about. You hear a tiny little bit of a change in my voice,” Johnny said as he held up his right hand, his thumb and index finger very close together. “And you jump on it to get even for that time I was right about you having tonsillitis . . .again.”


“I’m not trying to get even. I know how much we can be in denial concerning our own health, that we’re stubborn about it. I was a prime example of that.”


“Well, I’m not.”


 Gage got out of the squad and headed for the dayroom; Roy climbed out as well and waited for Johnny to come around the front end of the squad.


“How come you were running late this morning?”


The younger man stopped just as he reached the driver’s side door and let out a loud sigh. “I had to gargle. Okay? There, ya happy? My throat was bugging me a little, so I took time to gargle before I left for here.”


“Ah ha. So now we’re getting somewhere.”


“But I feel fine now, honest. Besides, I read an article the other day that said the way to beat a cold coming on is to refuse to let it; to keep a positive mindset.” He turned to face Roy straight on, narrowing his eyes. “Did you know a recent study showed that very often early cold symptoms can be affected one way or another just by a person’s outlook?”


“Where’d you get that information? From Cracker Jack box?”


Johnny rolled his eyes at the comment. “It’s attitude, Roy. Attitude.”


“Well, let me take a look and see if your attitude is working.”


“It will if you leave it alone. Besides, it has to. Tomorrow’s Saint Patrick’s Day”


“Yeah. . .so. . .”


“So. . .it’s an important holiday. You know, with lots of traditional celebrations. I have to be okay.”


Roy’s eyes widened. “You aren’t even Irish.”


Johnny’s unhappy expression turned to one of a smug grin. “No, but Arlene O’Malley is. And I happen to have a date with her tomorrow. We’re gonna celebrate together. And not only am I lucky to have her as a date. But I’ve made Chet green with envy in the meantime.” He rocked slightly on his feet, still grinning. “It’s a win-win situation.”


“I should’ve known there was a girl involved. . .so you think if you keep saying you’re not getting sick, you’ll be okay by tomorrow.”


“The power of positive thinking.”


“All I know is you’ve positively lost your mind.”




Later in the afternoon, Roy found himself shaking his head as his partner once again was a tad late sliding into the passenger seat of the squad. It was the fourth response of the day and Johnny had spent most of his in between time off by himself, away from the ‘negative vibes’; or in the dayroom to grab a drink of water or cold soda to keep his throat from feeling scratchy.


“Why don’t you just give in and ask Cap if you can go home? You’re ‘attitude’s’ obviously losing the battle. Besides, it’s not good if you spread any germs to a victim who’s already sick or injured.”


“That’s why I’ve hung back and handled the biophone most of the time. But really, I think I’m winning.”


Roy handed the paper with call information on it to him and put the squad in gear. Pulling forward, he mumbled, “Right.” Once they were on the street, he added, “I’ll bet by morning, your voice is gone.”


Johnny turned slightly in his seat. “Roy, would ya stop with the bad vibes already? You aren’t making this easy.”


“That’s not my bad vibes. That’s reality.”


Johnny once again rolled his eyes as he shifted position in the seat and looked out the passenger window.


Oh brother. . .




Not wanting anyone else to notice the trace of hoarseness in his voice while he tried to keep his outlook positive and deal with it without others jumping in, Johnny only said as much as he absolutely had to when it came to requesting refills on supplies or small talk with the staff at Rampart; his comments consisting of mostly one or two words at the most.


So far that plan had worked and much to his delight, Roy was letting him handle his oncoming cold in his own way, not interfering.


As the senior paramedic came out of one of the treatments rooms after going in with a victim, Johnny gave a quick, “bye” to Dixie and Doctor Early and started for the exit. Both the head nurse and doctor raised an eyebrow in question.


Roy glanced from the two to his partner’s departing backside, and back to them again.


“You don’t wanna know,” he assured them.


“Did you and Johnny have a fight?” Dixie wondered.


“No. Well, not really. It wasn’t an argument, so much as a disagreement.”


The nurse watched as Johnny disappeared from view around the corner near the exit after briefly glancing back at his partner. She then returned her attention to Roy. “It must’ve been a doozy.”


“Really, there’s not that much to it.”


Joe Early and Dixie exchanged an amused glance. They were used to the paramedics being at odds on a subject from time-to-time, usually Johnny being the stubborn one.


Roy sighed at their obvious assumption. “It’s just another one of his wild ideas he gets obsessed with now and then.” After a brief pause, he opened up, explaining the basics of the new theory his partner had locked onto.


“With him being a paramedic, I wouldn’t expect Johnny to buy into that kind of philosophy,” the doctor reasoned.


“Well, somehow he has. He claims when he gives in and takes anything as a preventative, he always ends up getting sick anyway. So he figures keeping his mind set on everything being okay, that he stands a better chance.”


“Well, if this new theory he’s on doesn’t work out, you guys know where to find me.”


Roy nodded. “Thanks.” Shrugging, he added, “I guess I’d better go; I’m sure he’s wondering what’s taking so long.”


“Good luck.”


“Thanks, Dix.”


He stepped away from the desk near the enclosed base station and headed off to join his partner.




Johnny watched as Roy slid into the driver’s seat of the squad. “You told, huh?”


“I just explained why you were being so quiet. You know, when a person is normally talkative and then doesn’t say a whole lot, people start to wonder.”


Surprisingly, Gage just nodded and didn’t get upset with the news. He had to admit, Roy was exactly right.


The senior paramedic continued. “Just so you know, if you do find you need a doctor’s care, Joe Early left an open invitation.”


“Roy, I’m not--”


“I know. You’re not getting sick.”


Instead of adding a comment, Johnny just wished it was already March 17th. He wanted to get to his date with Arlene before he did get sick, then it wouldn’t matter afterward.


Having started the engine, DeSoto put the squad in ‘drive’ and the paramedics were on their way back to the station. 




By morning, Johnny was up before the others, quietly going to the dayroom to get a drink of water to relieve his sore throat. Remembering what Roy had predicted, he tried saying a few random words to himself on his way across the apparatus bay.


“Mornin’. Fine. Coffee anyone?” 


His voice was still there, although hoarser than the day before.


A drink of cold water is gonna feel so good on my throat. . .


After entering the dayroom, he filled a glass with tap water. Facing the door, he began to drink it, feeling relief after the second swallow.


“Good morning,” Roy said suddenly coming in through the doorway to join him.


Taken by surprise, Gage gulped down the remainder of his water. Then still holding the empty glass, he answered,  “Uh. . .mornin’.” He was more than relieved to hear some of the hoarseness was at least temporarily cleared.


“Well, I guess I was wrong about you losing your voice. How do you feel?”


“Okay. . .pretty good.” What he didn’t want to admit was he felt pretty crappy despite having a full, uninterupted night of sleep.


“I owe you an apology. Apparently your theory works after all. Or it did for you. You sure don’t sound any worse than yesterday.”


Johnny forced a smile. “That’s right. Sometimes it pays to keep an open mind about some of these new theories.”


Roy turned on the faucet to fill a pot for making coffee. “Yeah. Well, I think I’ll stick to the familiar ways. They’ve always worked for me.”


“Roy, you gotta live a little.”


“I do. But I also wanna live a long time. I think the old fashioned ways have already been proven there. Why mess with ‘em?”


Johnny leaned his backside against the counter near the sink, a frown on his face. “You know, Roy. . .you’re right.”


DeSoto looked over sharply in surprise.


“I can’t go on pretendin’. The fact is I feel like I’ve just been hit by a Mack truck. My whole body aches from head to toe and my throat is killin’ me.” For the fifth time in the shift, he sighed. “Face it; I’m sick.”


“You mean you’ve felt this bad all along?”


“No. . .no, just when I woke up this mornin’. I really felt okay yesterday, except for a scratchy throat. And it seemed to be going away. Man, was I wrong.”


“So what about your Saint Patrick’s Day date with that Arlene girl?”


Johnny shrugged. “I’m gonna hafta cancel.”


“So much for celebrating with tradition.”


“Oh, I’m still gonna get my green in. I’m not completely giving up.”


Roy turned on the stove burner underneath the half-full pot. “I don’t think green food or beer is a good idea for you right now. ‘Course, a four-leaf clover might do you some good.”


“Very funny.” Gage shook his head. “Nah, NyQuil, Roy. Good ‘ol traditional green NyQuil.”


“I know it usually works, but you sure you want that?” he asked, screwing up his face at the thought of the unpleasant taste.


“I’m positive.”




Note: I'm not knocking nor endorsing NyQuil, I just needed a green colored medicine. :o)




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