The Blind Date
By Audrey W.
Thursday, late afternoon
Chet Kelly walked out to the rear lot of Station 51 where his shiftmates were playing basketball after a busy day with chores and emergency responses around town. Paramedic John Gage was about to shoot for the hoop when Chet stopped him in mid-action with a question.
“So, you gonna go tomorrow night or not?”
Johnny looked over, the basketball out in front of him in his hands. “I don’t know. It sounds--”
His reply was interrupted when the ball was suddenly knocked loose by Mike Stoker and the engineer dribbled it away.
Taken by surprise, Gage still stood with his hands held out in the same position, his mouth agape as he watched Mike head off with the ball. After a few seconds, he recovered and with a ‘thanks a lot’ look at Chet, continued with his answer.
“It sounds like a bad idea.”
“Oh c’mon. You get a free dinner out of the deal.”
That comment got the others’ attention.
“I’ll go,” Marco Lopez offered.
Both Johnny and Chet looked over at him, the dark-haired paramedic speaking. “You don’t even know what the deal is.”
“I know. But if it’s to do with Chet paying for dinner, it doesn’t matter.”
As Johnny rolled his eyes at the comment, he noticed his partner Roy DeSoto and Mike looking on in amusement. He forced himself to ignore them and returned his attention to Chet.
“I don’t think so.”
“Because every TV show I’ve ever seen where the characters make a plan like this, something goes wrong and it’s usually the one doing the favor that ends up with the short end of the stick.”
“That’s just fiction. It’s in the script.”
“Yeah, but writers get ideas for scripts like that from real life. Don’t they?” Johnny asked as he looked at the rest of the crew.
“Sometimes they take a situation that can happen and exaggerate on it,” Roy offered, still wondering what the two were talking about.
With that little assurance added in, it gave Gage more to weigh in thought. “Oh, all right. I’ll go. But on one condition,” he said with his right index finger held up.
“I get to pick any dinner from the menu.”
“Any dinner six dollars or below.”
“Ten dollars and under.”
After a few seconds consideration, Johnny shrugged. “You’re on.”
“You mean you’ll really do it?”
“Great! I’ll go call Billy and let him know I’ll go for it.” Smiling, Chet turned and headed back into the apparatus bay.
The other three firemen looked on in confusion, still wondering what could be worth a cost of a dinner to Chet. . . especially one for John Gage. The paramedic was usually his victim in practical jokes.
No time like the present to find out, Roy thought to himself. “What was that all about?”
Johnny shrugged as he grabbed the basketball from the now distracted Mike Stoker and made a score.
“Nothin’. Chet just wants me to be in the same restaurant as him and his blind date. His cousin is setting him up, so this way if she’s a dog or kinda looney, he can signal to me and I go over and interrupt; get him out of it kinda.”
Johnny tossed the ball back to Mike, then went off in the direction Chet had gone.
“I don’t believe it,” Roy stated.
“Me neither,” Marco put in. “I would have done it for eight fifty.”
When Mike and Roy eyed him in disbelief, he shrugged. “It’s a free dinner on Chet.”
Later in the evening, Johnny and Roy were returning from a response. As Roy drove the squad, he glanced at his partner.
“I can’t believe you and Chet concocted a plan for his blind date.”
Johnny turned in his seat, his mouth open in protest. “Roy, don’t blame me. Chet’s the one who’s worried. He’s the one who made up the plan.” Shifting in his seat again, he faced forward and leaned back. “I’m just in it for the free dinner.”
“I still think it’s wrong; free dinner or not. You two aren’t being fair to the girl.”
Johnny shook his head, then eyed the older man. “Didn’t you ever have a chick you went out with that made you just want to end the date and go home?”
“Well, that’s because you had Joanne. I forgot; you’re an exception. Don’t worry, though. We’re not gonna do anything to hurt the girl’s feelings. Chet and I already agreed on that.”
“That’s not what my point is. You two are acting like you’re so sure she’s gonna like Chet. For all you know, she could ditch him.”
Johnny furrowed his brows as he gave the comment thought. “Well, yeah, I s’pose that could happen. We are talkin’ about Chet after all,” he said wryly. Then with an exuberance Roy didn’t expect, he continued, “Hey, maybe she’ll be a real doll and hook up with me!”
Roy rolled his eyes and shook his head slightly. “You’re hopeless, you know that?”
But Johnny was too busy playing out the possible scenarios in his mind that could result from his favor to Chet; he didn’t hear his partner’s comment.
Johnny arrived at the restaurant a few minutes early, so he sat in his Land Rover until he saw Chet go inside with the pre-arranged date. He couldn’t see the girl’s face very well, but from what he could see, she appeared to be fairly attractive.
“This might be the easiest favor I’ve ever done for anyone. If she’s as cute as I think, all’s I’ll have to do is eat because Chet won’t need me.”
The paramedic climbed out of his vehicle and hurried to the entrance.
As he made his way through the crowded casual restaurant, it dawned on him that he might not get a table in the right spot. After all, he was going to need to be able to see any signals Chet sent him.
But the brief concern was quickly put to rest when he spotted an empty table halfway across the room and in plain sight of his friend. After taking a seat, Johnny picked up a menu that was set between a metal cased napkin holder and glass dish with sugar packets in it.
Glancing over the dinner selection, he paid close attention to the prices. Since Chet was buying, he was going to find the most expensive thing under $9.50, whether he liked it or not.
“Man, nothin’s gonna be over eight dollars, and that’s if I include dessert. I shoulda’ known Chet wouldn’t go high-priced on a first date,” he grumbled.
As he closed the menu and set it back in place, a middle-aged waitress stepped over to the table with a pen and note pad in hand.
“Are you ready to order?”
“I guess so. I’ll have the cheeseburger platter with fries, a cup of coffee, a vanilla milk shake and later I’d like a piece of apple pie ala’mode.” That’s as close to $9.50 as I’m gonna get, unless I get another dessert.
The waitress wrote down the information, then turned to leave. “I’ll be right back.”
Johnny was still thinking about getting his $9.50’s worth. Well, who says I have to eat it all? “Uh, Miss!”
The waitress looked over her shoulder, than returned to his table. “Yes?”
“Add a second piece of pie to that. . .cherry.”
“Uh. . .sure. . .sure. Ala’mode.”
She added it to the notepad, then continued on her way.
Once she was gone, Gage looked across the room to Chet’s table. The fireman noticed and rubbed his face at the outside corner of his right eye with his index finger, which was the agreed signal that all was okay. Johnny gave a small wave with his right hand and, figuring the rest of the evening was going to be his own for sure, sat back and relaxed as he glanced around at the other patrons.
Suddenly he noticed a lady who looked old enough to be his mother approaching from a table behind Chet’s. She was dressed in denim jeans tucked into black go-go type boots that came up to her knees and wearing a pink and yellow tie-dyed sleeveless shirt; a black leather jacket was slung over her right shoulder as it hung on two of her fingers. Her bobbed platinum-blonde hair was stiffened with hairspray and she wore a black leather cap on her head. Johnny’s gaze followed the slim woman until she was standing beside his table. After a crack of her chewing gum, she spoke.
“Uh. . .hi. . .?”
“I got your signal.”
“Your signal, honey.”
Seeing an uncomprehending look on his face, she sighed.
“You know, your wave to me. Just a couple of minutes ago.”
“Oh.” Suddenly it registered what she was saying. “Oh. . .no . . . no, you see--”
“Don’t be shy now,” she interrupted. “You look like you could use some company.”
He gazed past her to where Chet and his date seemed to be having a very good time. He sure could use their help at the moment to get this woman to leave him alone. “You got that right,” he mumbled, not realizing he’d just voiced his thoughts.
The woman pulled out a chair and sat down across from him after hanging her jacket on the back.
“Well, then, this is your lucky day. . .or mine.”
Johnny’s attention quickly shifted to her, his mouth open in shock at what was happening. “Uh. . .I. . .ya see. . .I mean. . .uh. . .well. . .”
She smiled at his stumbling over his words. “You sure are cute when you’re nervous. But relax, honey, I’m not gonna bite ya. . .yet,” she added with a devious grin and another cracking sound from her chewing gum.
Gage squeaked out a small laugh then he once again looked in Chet’s direction, but the curly-haired fireman was too involved with his date to notice his dilemma. Johnny gave a weak smile toward the much older lady who was eyeing him like a hungry lioness.
“Uh. . .have you. . .uh. . .eaten yet. . .Miss. . .?” he asked as he squirmed slightly in his seat. He then noticed a peace sign in the shape of a hand and two fingers tattooed on her left shoulder. Oh brother . . .
“Helen. Helen Brewster. And you are. . .?”
“Just call me . . .uhm. . ..John.”
“Okay, John. Well, to answer your question, as a matter of fact, I was just about to call the waitress back over when you got my attention,” she stated.
“Oh. . .well. . .”
His waitress came back with his dinner order and started to place it in front of him as she looked in surprise at his new companion. She didn’t seem like she’d be his type.
“Is your. . .girlfriend. . .ready to order?”
“Uh mine!” He quickly put in. The dollar signs were running through his head as he’d pictured himself being stuck with a big tab. There’s no way I’m payin’ for this lady’s dinner.
“What about you?” both wondered in unison.
“I’m not hungry.”
The waitress raised an eyebrow in doubt as she recalled the dinner, two drinks and two desserts she’d written on his tab.
“Are you sure?” Helen asked.
Johnny nodded, his appetite having indeed gone away. “I’m positive.”
The waitress shrugged and moved the plate to in front of her. “What about the coffee and milkshake?”
He pointed toward Helen, who was sticking her chewing gum on the edge of the plate.
With a sigh she complied, then left.
I’m sure glad it’s almost the end of my shift, the waitress thought to herself. There’re strange ones out *tonight*.
While his uninvited guest ate, Johnny looked to where Chet and his date were seated. The two were getting up to leave. He tried to get Chet’s attention without being obvious, hoping he could send the signal of distress to him. But his friend didn’t look his way.
How could they eat that fast?
But as their waitress headed over to him with some money in her hand, he noticed they’d left behind quite a bit of food.
Man, Chet. . .?
When the other waitress reached the table, she gave him a ten dollar bill.
“The gentleman from that table said to give you this. Oh, and he said to ‘keep the change’.”
Johnny set the money down in front of him. Fifty cents extra. . .big deal. . .he could pay me fifty *dollars* extra right now and it *still* wouldn’t make up for this. . .
“Well, that was nice,” Helen stated.
“Yeah. . .nice.”
Changing the subject, she asked, “So, what do you do. . .John?”
“I’m a paramedic. A fireman/paramedic.”
“Ooooh. Is it true what they about firemen’s hoses?” she asked, then placed her lips on the straw to the milk shake and took a sip.
He hadn’t heard that line before and he now wished he wouldn’t hear the rest of it; not from a lady who had to be at the very least twenty years older than him. Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, he tried changing the direction of the conversation. “Uhm. . .Helen. . .are you . . .do you live nearby? I mean, a . . .lady. . . like yourself. . .alone in a place like this. . .dressed like that. Seems kind of. . .”
“Oh, I’m just passing through. I’m headed for a biker convention up north of here.”
“You really ride a motorcycle?”
She frowned. “No, actually I drive a Ford T-Bird. I’m hoping to be able to hook up with a biker, or even a few, and get a ride across the country with them someday. Before I get too old, you know?”
“Oh. . .” Relief and puzzlement washed over him at once. Relief that he hadn’t mentioned he owned a motorcycle and puzzlement on why she came over to him if she had other interests in the first place. The confusion was evident on his face.
“You must be wondering why I’m sitting here,” she said.
“Well, if you had previous plans. . .”
“When you waved to me, I just figured I’d take you up on your invitation and have a little fun first,” she explained.
With another weak smile, he wondered how he was going to get out of the situation without hurting her feelings.
Roy walked into the dayroom after getting changed into uniform at the beginning of the next shift. He was anxious to hear how the so called ‘plan’ for the blind date turned out.
Johnny was at the table, Mike and Marco sitting nearby, each reading a section out of the Sunday newspaper.
“So, how’d it go?” Roy wondered.
“You don’t wanna know.”
“You two dumped Chet’s date. . .”
“No, Chet liked his date. He liked her so much, they left the restaurant early without so much as a wave ‘goodbye’.”
“You’re right. I don’t wanna know.”
“That’s not the ‘don’t wanna know’ I’m referring to.”
Still wondering what his partner was talking about, Roy didn’t see Chet come in. But Johnny was on his feet and ready to speak his mind.
“Thanks a lot, Chet.”
“What? Didn’t you get your ten? Did that waitress keep the--”
“I got the money. I got the money just fine. I’m talkin’ about you leavin’ me there with Mrs. Robinson meets Harley Davidson.”
“Well, you looked like you were having a good time.”
“A good--- Chet, how can you possibly say that?”
“Because you looked like you were having a good time maybe?” He eyed the others and shrugged.
“Chet! She was old enough to be my mom and she was hittin’ on me. I know I wasn’t smilin’, so how could I be having a good time?”
Roy listened to the exchange, finally getting his answer. “You know, this could only happen to you.”
“Tell me about it. I knew the one helping out always gets stuck.”
Chet patted Gage on the shoulder as he stated, “Just look at it this way, Johnny boy. You can write a TV script and make money off it. From the sound of it, you won’t even have to exaggerate much.”
Johnny narrowed his eyes as the curly-haired fireman headed for the coffee pot.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” Roy said, “How’d you get out of it?”
“Luckily an old biker happened to come in to eat. I assured her it was okay with me if she joined him; that I was really kinda boring anyway.”
“I’ll bet you were ready to thank him,” Marco commented.
“I sure was. And for good measure, I also told her that if things didn’t work out for her and she needed to hook up with someone fun on her way back through town. . .to look up a guy named Chet Kelly; he’s into blind dates.”
The sounds of choking and sputtering came from behind him as Johnny winked at the others and grinned, leaving everyone wondering: did he really get back at Chet?
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