By Linda Reiche
Three irate voices closed in on Johnny as he left the locker room.
"Good morning, good morning, good morning! How is everyone this fine February morning?" Johnny smiled disarmingly.
"Why did you do it?"
"How could you do that to us?"
"Do you know what you've done, pal?"
Johnny stared wide-eyed at the others. Behind the trio of faces surrounding him he caught a glimpse of Chet and Marco standing in the Day Room door. Marco was shaking his head in disbelieve; Chet had an evil smile on his face.
"Me?" He asked innocently. "I didn't do anything. At least, I don't think I did. What's going on?"
"You know very well what's going on," accused Roy. "Why in the world did you talk to Joanne about it?"
"And Emily." Cap had his arms crossed in front of his chest, his whole demeanor demanding an answer.
"Joanne? Beth? Em-?" Johnny's puzzled face cleared and his face lit up. "Oh! The Valentine's Ball."
"Yah, the Ball," retorted Mike.
"I don't understand. All I did was tell the ladies about Rampart's latest fundraiser. I thought they might want to help out."
“Help?” Repeated Roy. “No, they don’t want to help. They want to go.”
“Go? Go to the Ball? Hey, that’s great!”
Mike rolled his eyes, “Do you know what you have to do to go to a Ball?”
Johnny shrugged. “Buy tickets, get your wives new dresses…”
“Not dresses. Ball gowns,” corrected Roy.
Johnny winced as the list grew. “Well, you don’t have to go. They’ll understand.”
“No wonder you’re not married,” groaned Mike. “You don’t know women at all.”
“They’ve got their hearts set on this Ball,” explained Roy. “If we said no, we’d be in the dog house for the next six months.”
The other two nodded in agreement.
“Hey, guys, I'm sorry I told them about it, but look at the bright side.” Johnny grinned at each of his shift mates. “You don’t have to worry about a Valentines’ present. You go out, dance, compliment the dress, have a good time with the lady you love. Everybody’s happy.”
"Gage, you're a twit. If the ladies are wearing ball gowns, what do you think we have to wear?"
"I don't know -- a suit and tie?"
"Tuxedos," growled Cap.
"With cummerbunds," grumbled Mike.
"I haven't worn a tux since my wedding," said Cap. "And do you know the reason why?"
Gage mutely shook his head.
"Because, unless you have your own, you've got to rent one. And rentals never, ever, fit," explained Roy.
Mike just glared at Johnny. He remembered his wedding and the tux that was just a little too short in the arms and a little too tight across the shoulders.
"Since you got us in to this, do you know what you're going to be doing while we're at the Ball dressed like penguins?" asked Cap.
Johnny ventured an answer, "Babysitting?"
"No. Joanne has that covered already," said Roy. "And, boy, are you lucky that she didn't call her mother."
"Forget about going out and enjoying yourself. You, my friend, are going to take my place chaperoning my daughters' high school dance. Five hours of keeping teenaged men and women out of dark corners and alcohol out of the punch." Cap's voice brooked no argument.
Johnny opened his mouth to say something, then stopped and simply nodded his head. He was already in enough trouble.
"And Gage?" continued Cap. "You're on latrines today."
As Hank Stanley left the room, Chet looked at Johnny and shook his head. "Boy, you really dropped the 'ball' on this one, John."
"Shut up, Chet."
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