Disclaimer: The wonderful characters from Emergency! do not belong to me. But I appreciate the opportunity to write about them and keep the spirit of the show alive.
By: Vanessa Sgroi
Johnny Gage looked down at the two books in his hands, debating which one sounded better to read. With one more quick perusal of the back covers, he chose the thriller. Approaching the counter, he laid the book on the counter and reached for his wallet to extract his library card.
“Hi, Miss Higbee,” the paramedic greeted cheerfully.
The large, gray-haired lady silently accepted his card, her lips pursed in a perpetual frown. After stamping the “Date Due” card and pushing it in the pocket affixed to the inside cover, she handed it back.
“That will be due in two weeks, Mr. Gage. Ten cents a day for every day it’s overdue,” Miss Higbee’s voice was just a shade away from sheer ice.
Johnny smiled at the woman and nodded his head. No matter how hard he tried to be friendly to the librarian, she remained aloof and rather unpleasant.
“Okay, Miss Higbee. I’ll get it back on time.” Stepping away from the counter, he spied Janie Ames, a library intern, across the room. Quickly striding over to her, he greeted, “Hey, Janie!”
“Johnny!” The pretty young girl smiled up at the handsome firefighter.
“Are we still on for tonight?” he whispered.
“You bet! I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’ll pick you up around 6:00 p.m.”
The sound of someone clearing their throat directly behind them caught Johnny and Janie’s attention. Miss Higbee stood there frowning and pointedly glancing at her watch.
“See you later,” Johnny waved to Miss Higbee as he walked past her and left the building.
* * *
Happy whistling echoed throughout the locker room, as Johnny Gage changed into his uniform. He was just tucking in his light blue shirt when his partner entered the room.
“Hey, partner,” Johnny greeted, before continuing on with his whistling. “You’re sure cheerful this morning. Must have had a good couple of days?”
“You bet! I went for a long hike on Friday. And yesterday I had a date with Janie, this sweet chick I met at the library.”
“The library?” Roy DeSoto’s voice held more than a hint of disbelief.
“Why do you say it like that? I do read occasionally, you know!” Gage’s hands rested on his lean hips as he indignantly faced his partner.
“I didn’t mean it like that. I just don’t picture you as hanging out at the library.”
“Yeah, well—you know there might just be more to me than you might think.”
Wisely deciding to stave off a rant, Roy changed the subject. “So how was your date?”
“It was great! We grabbed a burger. Then we went to a movie and out for ice cream.”
“Wow, you must really like her! All three things in one night?” Roy couldn’t help but tease his penny-wise partner. Watching Johnny open his mouth to argue, he grinned and held up his hand. “I was kidding. Let’s get to roll call.”
Roll call was interrupted by the sound of the tones.
“Squad 51, unknown type rescue, Sunny Acre Beach, 4700 Cold Water Avenue, cross street Carr. That’s 4-7-0-0 Cold Water Avenue, cross street Carr. Time out – 08:16.”
The paramedics rushed to the squad while Captain Stanley acknowledged the call. They were on their way in a matter of seconds.
It took them fifteen minutes to reach the secluded location. The gated entrance was marked with a hand-lettered sign designating “Sunny Acre Beach – Private”. An elderly gentleman, dressed in nothing but a pair of navy shorts and flip flops, stood at the gate. Pulling off to the side behind several other cars, the two paramedics exited the vehicle.
Roy approached the man. “Sir? Is there a problem here?”
“I’m Jervis. Jervis Mason. Yes, yes. There is a problem. It’s George. The old fool burned his arm.”
“Where is he?”
The older man gestured to his left. “Oh, he’s back here on the beach. We’ll have to walk back; the road’s overgrown with scrub. You’ll never get your truck back there.”
Roy glanced at the “road” in question. It was barely a dirt track and was indeed choked by brush. Turning to his partner, he grabbed the biophone, leaving Johnny to follow with the trauma box and oxygen.
After a considerable hike through the scrub, they came upon the beach. At this time of the morning, it was deserted except for a half a doze people knotted on a little grassy knoll at the far end of the beach.
Gage’s mouth dropped when they reached the group. He felt heat climbing his cheeks and tinting them red. Out of the corner of his mouth, he whispered, “Roy! They’re . . . they’re naked!”
Roy, whose own cheeks were also a little red, whispered back, “I see that!”
Overhearing their whispered comments, Jervis answered, “Oh, yes. Sunny Acre Beach is a private nude beach. We have over a hundred members now. And our members are all required to be 60 and over.”
Carefully keeping his eyes focused only on faces, Roy approached the injured man. Clearing his throat, he queried, “Sir, I’m Roy DeSoto with the fire department. This is my partner, John Gage. What seems to be the problem?”
“I still don’t know why these silly fools called you. I just burned my arm on the dadgum grill. T’aint nuthin’.”
“Now, George, the way you was hollerin’ and swearin’, I thought it might be serious,” Jervis Mason admonished.
“Well, since we’ve come all this way, why don’t you let me take a look? How’d this happen?” Roy reached for the man’s arm.
“Ah, we decided to get an early start on the day. Thought the six of us would come out and make breakfast on the grill.”
“And tell them how you tripped, George! Just tell ‘em,” Mabel, George’s wife, leaned forward to wag a finger in his face. Her movement placed her uncomfortably close to the younger paramedic, who had just begun obtaining a set of vitals. He swallowed hard and turned his head.
“Uh . . . ma’am . . . could you step back, please. Give us a little room to work.”
“He was arguing with me. Weren’t you, George? Arguing with me just like he always does. Wasn’t watching where he was goin’.”
One of the other women stepped forward and said, “Mabel, dear, why don’t you come over here and let these nice gentlemen work.”
With a final sniff of anger toward poor George, Mabel walked away with her friend, the brim of her floppy yellow sun bonnet bouncing indignantly.
Johnny finished collecting vitals and repeated them to Roy. He then reached for the biophone.
“What’s that for?” George questioned.
“I’m going to contact a doctor at Rampart for treatment orders,” the dark-haired man informed.
“Bah! I’m fine. Don’t need no doctor.”
Roy looked up from his examination of George’s arm. “Sir, this is a pretty good burn here. You’ll feel better if you let us treat you.”
At that moment, the sound of Mabel’s raised voice filled the air. She was still railing against her husband and his stupidity.
Grimacing at the sound, George Taylor looked at Roy and whispered, “Do I get to go to the hospital?”
“Good,” he muttered with a furtive glance at Mabel, “Go ahead then.”
While Gage opened the line to Rampart, Roy asked Mr. Mason, who’d met the squad, to go await the arrival of the ambulance.
Before too long, George Taylor was on his way to the hospital, leaving the lovely Mabel behind at Sunny Acre. A relieved smile lit his face.
* * *
“Can you believe it? A private nude beach!”
The two paramedics were just leaving Rampart after delivering Mr. Taylor. Gage was still marveling about Sunny Acre.
“Would you or Joanne do something like that, Roy?”
“No. I doubt we’d ever be that . . . brave. But Joanne has a cousin who belongs to a nudist colony in Minnesota.”
“Minnesota? But it’s cold there!” Johnny shuddered, “I imagine it at all—especially not anyone over 60.”
Anxious to contemplate something else as well, Roy changed the subject.
“So tell me more about this Janie.”
The remaining minutes of the trip back were filled with an animated praising of all things Janie.
* * *
The rest of the morning passed quietly with only one more call out for just the engine.
It was just after 1:00 p.m. when Roy called everyone to the table for lunch. Generous servings of creamy casserole were dished out and passed around.
Johnny picked up his fork and poked experimentally at his serving.
“Ahh, Roy, why’d you have to put mushrooms in this? You know I don’t like mushrooms.”
The blond-haired man looked at his partner in surprise.
“You never said anything the last time I made it.”
“Well, that was before I knew how mushrooms are grown. Janie told me all about it,” as he talked he used his fork to flick away the palate offenders.
Captain Stanley looked at his youngest crew member. “John, I suggest you eat while you have the chance.”
“But, Cap . . .”
Johnny’s protest died on his lips when Hank Stanley gave his famous “Captain” look.
With a vexed look on his face, Gage shoveled a forkful of casserole into his mouth. The fork was making a second journey when the klaxons blared.
“Squad 51, possible heart attack, Sunny Acre Beach, 4700 Cold Water Avenue, cross street Carr. That’s 4-7-0-0 Cold Water Avenue, cross street Carr. Time out – 13:11.”
After the tiniest hesitation, the paramedics abandoned their meals and rushed to the apparatus bay. They waited for the call slip to be passed through the window and headed off.
“I wonder if it’s one of the people from this morning,” mumbled Gage.
“Guess we’ll find out in a few minutes.”
They pulled up to the location and discovered a much longer line of cars were now parked alongside the road. As before, Jervis was there to greet them. The two men grabbed their supplies and followed the agitated man.
“Hello again, young fellas. It’s Harold . . . Harold Heckler . . . this time. He was chasin’ Miss Longwell around the picnic table and she . . . she picked up a plate of deviled eggs and threw them at old Harry. He ducked and all, but then started having these chest pains. I’ve told him and told him to leave Prissy Longwell alone. She don’t take kindly to being chased. But does he listen? No!”
The man’s tirade ended just as they reached the beach. He pointed toward a crowd of people by the picnic tables which were laden with food.
Gage was awed to see the number of elderly nudists had grown from the five left that morning to around 35 or 40. Half of whom were gathered around Harold Heckler. A woman, presumably the infamous egg thrower Prissy Longwell, knelt beside him. She was holding his hand and apologizing.
After asking everyone to step back, the paramedics squatted next to the stricken Mr. Heckler.
“Oh, dear, I should never have thrown those deviled eggs at him. This is all my fault!” A few tears trickled down her wrinkled face.
“Ma’am? I need you to move out of the way for me.”
“Is he going to be all right?”
Gently disengaging her hand from Harold’s, Johnny said, “Ma’am, please?”
Finally realizing she was in the way, Miss Longwell stood and moved back with the crowd of onlookers.
Now with room to work, DeSoto began examining their patient while Gage first administered oxygen and then opened the line to Rampart. Within moments, Johnny was sending Dr. Brackett an EKG strip. Picking up the biophone receiver, he jotted down the doctor’s orders. After acknowledging the instructions, he hung up and repeated them to his partner, who had the IV set up ready to go.
By the time Roy had the medications on board, Jervis was escorting the ambulance driver to their location. The stretcher bumped and rattled behind them.
With the help of the white-clad driver, Roy lifted Harold onto the stretcher as Johnny monitored the IV tubing, cardiac monitor wires, and oxygen. After the patient was situated and covered with a blanket, Gage tucked the equipment around him. The trip back to the ambulance was bumpy, but soon Harold Heckler was on his way to Rampart.
* * *
“I’m tellin’ ya, Dix—it’s the weirdest thing. All those naked people standing around. First this morning, a few having breakfast. Then just now—a picnic! A picnic!”
Dixie McCall chuckled at the young paramedic in front of her. The expression on his face was priceless.
“Well, now, Johnny Gage, I think it’s great that they’re comfortable enough with their bodies to do something like that.”
“But . . . Dix . . . naked? Would you even consider doing something like that? And at that age too?” Johnny’s comment ended in a squeak.
With a big grin, Dixie murmured, “Hmm, I might. Though I’m a long way from 60, my friend.”
Gage was still furiously trying to think of a comeback when his partner joined them at the nurses’ station.
“How’s Mr. Heckler?”
“Mild heart attack. Brackett thinks he’ll be just fine.”
“Roy, your partner here was just telling me about Sunny Acre Beach.”
DeSoto nodded his head. “Yeah. It’s . . . it’s an interesting place.” Any further comment was cut off by a loud rumble from the fair-haired paramedic’s stomach.
“Hey, Junior, let’s get going. My stomach’s really complaining about not having anything in it.”
Enchanted by the thought of food, Johnny bid a hurried goodbye to Dixie, and both men headed for the squad.
* * *
An hour later, the dark-haired man swallowed the last of his milk and banged the glass down on the table. He patted his now-full stomach and sighed.
“That casserole was pretty good warmed up.”
Roy stood and began gathering their dirty dishes. “Even the mushrooms?”
“Hey! I was just too hungry to pick ‘em out!”
“Uh huh. C’mon, let’s get these cleaned up.”
It only took the pair a few minutes to wash and dry the dishes they’d used. Afterward, Roy sat down at the table to record run sheets.
“You want any help with those?”
“Nah, I got ‘em.”
“Good. Then I’m gonna go look at the squad. I swear there’s a little pinging somewhere.”
The paramedic was happily ensconced under the hood of the squad, humming, when Chet spoke directly behind him.
“So, Gage, tell me about this nude beach.”
Startled, Johnny jumped, banging his head on the hood.
“Ow! Chet!” He rubbed the sore spot on the back of his head.
“What? All I did was ask you a question.” The slight smirk on the mustached man’s face belied his innocent words. “So tell me about this nude beach.”
“Chet, you don’t want to know.”
“Yeah, I do. C’mon, Gage! A NUDE beach.”
The paramedic sighed. “It’s not what you’re thinking, Chet. It’s a private nude beach for people over 60. Some club or something.”
“Over 60! But . . . why would they . . . oh . . . nevermind.”
“I told you you didn’t want to know.”
For once Chet Kelly wholeheartedly agreed with his pigeon. The whole concept made him uncomfortable. It was like thinking of his mother on a nude beach. His mother! Chet shuddered.
“Hey, me and Marco want to play some cards later. You game?”
“Sure, why not. Anyone else in?”
“Haven’t asked yet. Man, I’ll warn you, I’m feeling lucky.”
“Don’t be too sure, Kelly! I think tonight’s my night.”
* * *
Gage bit back groan as he looked at the hand of cards he’d just been dealt. Ah, c’mon. A pair of twos? With a furtive glance at his shift mates, he wondered if he could bluff.
Before he could even try, the tones sounded.
“Squad 51, unknown type rescue, Sunny Acre Beach, 4700 Cold Water Avenue, cross street Carr. That’s 4-7-0-0 Cold Water Avenue, cross street Carr. Time out – 19:35.”
The dark-haired paramedic threw down his cards and pushed back his chair. When the address of the call registered, he groaned, “Not again!”
No more than a minute later, they were well on their way back to Sunny Acre Beach.
This time even more cars lined the street, forcing Roy to park quite a distance from the entrance. Once more they grabbed their equipment and jogged to the gate. Jervis was not there to greet them. Instead a portly elderly woman in a pink robe and matching hat stood waiting.
“Ma’am?” Roy greeted.
“Oh, it’s horrible, just horrible!”
Motioning for the woman to lead the way, Roy prompted, “Ma’am, can you tell us what’s happened?”
“Yes, yes. Oh, dear. We were having a badminton tournament, you see. And there was an accident. It was the finals, and Jervis and his brother, Cyrus, were playing against Nanette and Agnes. And Cyrus was going after the shuttlecock for the winning point and missed. He hit Jervis right smack in the nose with his racket. Poor Jervis hit the ground. There’s blood everywhere!”
Once again the paramedics found themselves on the beach surrounded by the elderly nudists. Pushing their way through the crowd, they finally came upon the site where the badminton net was standing. On the ground lay Jervis Mason. He was moaning and holding a hand to his bloody nose. His brother stood nearby, still clutching the racket in his fist.
Roy bent over the injured man.
“Well, now, Mr. Mason, I didn’t expect to see you again today.”
“It’s all his fault,” Jervis mumbled, pointing at his brother, “Always has been too competitive for his own good.”
“Let’s check you out here. Just relax.”
DeSoto began to gently examine Jervis’s nose.
For the third time that day, Johnny was getting ready to open the biophone and establish contact with the hospital when he heard a very familiar voice.
“Oh, dear, is he going to be okay?”
He turned and froze in mid-motion. There stood Miss Higbee from the library, wearing a red hat; and nothing else but a pair of white tennis shoes. Johnny closed his eyes for a second and shook his head, hoping he was seeing things. To his dismay, when he opened them again, she was still there and staring at him intently.
“M-M-Miss Higbee?” he gulped.
“Yes, Mr. Gage. Is Jervis going to be all right?”
“Y-yes, Ma’am, . . . uh . . . he’ll be fine.”
“Now, Nanette, Johnny’s a good boy. He’ll take care of Jervis just fine. Don’t you worry!”
The paramedic had been so shocked by the sight of Miss Higbee, he’d failed to notice the frail, tiny woman next to her. He shifted his gaze and felt the world shift under him. It was his widowed landlady, Mrs. Oliver—Mrs. Agnes Oliver. She, too, was nude; a purple hat, silver necklace, and purple tennis shoes her only accoutrements.
His face now bright red, Johnny quickly averted his gaze and concentrated on setting up the biophone. “Ladies, he’ll . . . he’ll be just f-f-fine.”
Roy, hearing his partner’s discomfiture, glanced up. He was also shocked to see Johnny’s landlady standing there. He’d met her a few times at Johnny’s apartment complex. Clearing his throat, he went back to examining Jervis and awaited Rampart’s instructions.
Before too long, they were loading Jervis into the ambulance parked out in front of the gated entrance to Sunny Acre Beach. Johnny climbed in after the stretcher and sat down. Before Roy could close the doors and signal them on their way, Johnny called out softly.
“You wanna help me tomorrow?”
“I . . . uh . . . I think I need to go apartment hunting.”
Recalling the sight they’d just witnessed and the embarrassment flaring on Johnny’s cheeks, Roy smiled and nodded. “Sure. I’ll bring the rental ads.”
Closing the ambulance doors and giving them the customary two slaps, Roy turned as the vehicle pulled away. As he walked to the squad, he glanced at the entrance to Sunny Acre Beach and began to laugh.
Oh, Joanne’s gonna love this one!
* * * THE END * * *
Author’s Note: I dedicate this story to my good firefighter friend, Ron, aka Resque. I hope I did the story justice. Thank you so much for all the encouragement and for the laughs.
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