Note: This story refers to another I wrote in 2002 for New Years, entitled 'Thanks For The . . .Memories?'. It is not necessarily a sequel however. :o)
By Audrey W.
Captain Stanley stood in front of his crew, a clipboard in his right hand, as he finished the morning roll call at the start of their shift.
“So, that’s the mandatory stuff.” He glanced at the five men lined up facing him as the group stood in the apparatus bay behind Engine 51. “Now on to something a little lighter. Since today’s Thanksgiving and we’re working, I thought we could try to add some fun to the holiday by taking a moment to share what we’re each thankful for.” He noticed four of the five men open their mouths in protest, but held up a hand to stop them, then continued on with, “I realize we’ve done this before. But I thought maybe. . .just maybe. . .we could all think of things that didn’t pertain to John here.” He nodded toward the dark-haired paramedic who was the youngest of his crew.
When they’d worked the previous New Years Eve and he tried the same idea, they’d all ended up focused on John Gage’s close calls with death while on duty, thus expressed gratitude he was still with them, healthy. While it was all thoughtful and in good spirit, the captain had hopes this time he could steer them toward broader thoughts on what to be thankful for.
“Cap, it’s not my fault,” Gage said, a hand splayed on his chest. “I didn’t tell um to make it about me.”
“I know, I know. . .”
He sure did know. He remembered John’s surprised and maybe even partially annoyed expression on his face when he was suddenly the topic of the thank yous, considering the reasons why. They almost made him seem accident prone.
“Well,” the captain began again as he clapped his hands together, the clipboard still in his left. “Who wants to go first?”
The crew was silent as the men just traded glances with one another.
“You guys can’t think of anything?”
“You want it related to here, right?” John’s partner Roy asked.
Hank shrugged. “Sure. . .that’ll work.”
After the hint of clarification, the group remained silent as they gave the request consideration. Finally John broke in with exasperation.
“Oh for pete’s sake. I’ll go first an’ get the ball rolling. I’m thankful for water bombs in my locker on hot summer days. . .”
Chet looked at him in surprise.
“I said I was, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, but you always get mad at the ‘phantom’ when you get hit with one of his bombs.”
“Well, sure, Chet. I’ve gotta. If I don’t, it’ll take all the fun away from the ‘phantom’. Who wants to do that? However, we’re talkin’ hot days here. When it comes to chilly winter days? It’s a whole ‘nother story. You might wanna pass that on to the ‘phantom’, by the way.”
Chet chewed his lower lip in thought and gave a slight nod. Being the ‘phantom’ they were referring to, though no one ever actually admitted he was, he could only wonder if Gage was being sincere or trying to pull one over on his alter-ego.
“I’ll go,” Roy said, realizing he could really have some fun with the idea. “I’m thankful for a partner who knows when to let a subject drop.”
It was John’s turn to look in surprise, if not amazement. How many times had Roy gotten frustrated with his rants? Too many to be saying that.
“Relax, pal, he’s gotta be talking about home after all. . .and Joanne,” Hank offered.
Roy grinned , then shook his head. “Wishful thinking.”
But Marco interrupted the comeback by Gage with, “I thought of something.”
“Go ahead,” the captain prodded.
“I’m thankful for the trophy we got at the firemen’s picnic when we did the barbershop singing, even if the award was for the wrong reason. And I’m thankful we gave it to my mom. She still shows it off to any of her friends when they visit, she’s so proud of us. It just made her so happy that day.”
John gave a lopsided smile at Roy, who in turn rolled his eyes. The five-man barbershop group singing in a competition was one of the many ideas Gage had driven his partner crazy with, not letting it drop until he could get Roy to help them with the music. Though the senior paramedic clearly wasn’t whole-heartedly in it, and he certainly wasn’t in support of the idea even later, it had made life more bearable to go along with the plan at least for the rehearsals. . .the rehearsals that didn’t make much difference when the time came to perform.
Roy thought about adding that he was thankful he had gotten sick and didn’t have to witness the fiasco that turned into the best comedy act, but decided to take his own wishful thinking into consideration and let it drop.
“Mike? Any input from you?” Hank wondered.
The engineer nodded. “I’m thankful I don’t say a lot around here. That way no one has much on me to use later. ”
That had them all thinking. . .and thinking. . .and thinking. . .
Hank gave up and went on with his own. “Well, I’m thankful for the best crew any captain could ask for. And I mean that sincerely.”
With that expressed, he dismissed the men to get to their chores. But as they walked away, five of the six men decided to themselves that one thing they weren’t thankful for was the one thought that was likely going to be with them. . .nagging them. . . the rest of the shift, maybe beyond: wasn’t there one thing they had just on Mike?
They’d be thankful if any one of them could bring one up.
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