The Favor And The Brown Belt
By Audrey W.
John Gage glanced up at his partner from his seat at the table in the dayroom as DeSoto hung up the phone receiver. The expression on the older paramedic’s face was one of concern.
“What’s wrong?” Johnny asked.
Roy pulled out a chair at the table and sat down, clasping his hands together. “It’s the kids. . .”
“One of them sick?”
“No,” the senior paramedic shook his head and leaned back. “Jenny’s got a ballet recital tomorrow night, and Joanne and I both want to be there. But Chris has Karate class and he’s supposed to get his white belt.”
“I see. Don’t want to have to choose.”
“Exactly. But I think Chris is just gonna have to be disappointed. He can get the belt late and everything’ll work out. But the dance recital is a one-time thing.”
Johnny furrowed his brow in thought. Suddenly his face brightened, eyebrows arched. “I can take Chris to Karate class.”
“Sure! I’d be glad to do it.”
“Well. . .I guess it would solve our problem. . .sort of. . .”
“Of course it will,” Gage beamed. “Well, I mean, I know you’d like to be there to see Chris get his belt. But I can take pictures for him to show you later.” He noticed Roy’s unsure expression. “C’mon, it’ll be fun.”
“Fun? You’ll be in a room full of miniature Bruce Lee wannabe’s.”
“So? It’s not like they’ll be using me for practice, right?”
Roy gave the idea more thought. Johnny was right. It did sound like a workable plan and Chris would be thrilled to have pictures later that he could show off.
“Good deal! What time do I need to pick him up?”
“Six-thirty. The class starts at seven o’clock.”
“Alright, I’ll be there.”
Just then the engine crew walked into the room after returning from a call. Chet took one look at Johnny’s face and knew a plan of some sort had been concocted. Thinking Gage was talking his partner into another of his crazy schemes, the fireman had to get involved.
“So what’s up with you two?”
“Nothin’,” the dark-haired paramedic said, shrugging.
Marco and Mike exchanged a quick knowing glance and shook their heads. They were used to the exchanges between Chet and Johnny following the same pattern.
“He’s taking my son, Chris, to Karate class tomorrow night.”
Johnny’s mouth opened to protest the news being disclosed, then he opted to remain silent.
“Karate? Gage, what do you know about Karate?”
“Nothin’, Chet. You don’t have to know anything about it to take a kid to a class. It’s not like I’m gonna do anything but watch.”
“I don’t know, Johnny. I can’t see you being content to just watch. Call it a hunch.”
“Chet! I’m not gonna do anything stupid and embarrass myself in front of a room full of kids.”
The paramedic looked around and noticed the other three men in the room were staring at him in doubt.
“I’m not!” He repeated.
The following shift, Roy, Chet, Marco and Mike arrived at work a few minutes apart. Gage’s Land Rover was already parked in its spot. As the four men walked into the rear entrance of the apparatus bay, the three questioned Roy on Chris’s night out with Johnny.
“So, did you have to go down to the ER at Rampart and retrieve your kid or Gage last night?”
“No, Chet. Didn’t go near the place.”
“How’d it go?” Marco asked.
“Chris said there wasn’t a single problem while his class was in session.”
The men eyed Roy warily. Something about the way he answered led them to believe Roy was being selective in his wording. Mike pushed open the door to the locker room. Johnny was at his own locker buttoning up his uniform shirt.
“Roy tells us nothing went wrong last night,” Chet said, following Mike and Marco to the other row of lockers.
Mike looked across the room and eyed Gage carefully. “I don’t see any bruises.”
“That’s because nothing happened, Mike.”
Kelly caught Roy sporting a grin. “If nothing happened, why is Roy smiling?”
“I don’ know, Chet. Because he’s happy. . .? Maybe. . .?” Johnny replied closing his locker. He bit his lower lip as he started a quick motion towards the door, then slowed. “Oh man.”
Marco, Chet and Mike were watching, amused expressions on their faces.
“Ah ha! So something did happen!” Chet said, hurrying over to the paramedic’s side. “So what was it? Did a kid flip you?”
“Knock you out?”
Johnny screwed up his face, annoyed. “No, Chet. Look, just drop it. I’m not gonna tell you and Roy’s certainly not gonna--”
“I knew it!” Kelly turned to DeSoto as he clapped his hands together. “You know what happened!”
The younger paramedic gave his partner a warning look as he placed his left hand on his back side and winced.
“Spill it. What did your kid do to Gage?”
Roy glanced at Johnny, then Chet. “Chris didn’t do anything.”
“Would someone just tell us what happened?” Marco asked. “It’s almost time for roll call.”
Johnny had pushed the door partway open. He let it close again and sighed. “Alright. You’ll all find out eventually anyway,” he said, glancing at Roy. “I was taking pictures of Chris getting his white belt when in walked this incredible chick.”
“An incredible chick with a brown belt in Karate.”
“Will you let me tell this, Roy?” Johnny asked, annoyance in his voice. He turned to the others. “An incredible chick with a brown belt in Karate.”
“Where’ve I heard that before?” mumbled Roy.
His partner didn’t hear him and continued on. “Well, my finger was on the camera button when she caught my eye and . . .well. . .I looked up at her and it just clicked.”
“So she got mad. . .” Mike started.
“It was reflex,” Gage defended. “Total reflex.”
“So what’d she do?” Marco wondered.
“According to Chris. . .”
Johnny cleared his throat and glared at Roy. “I’ll tell ‘em. Rhonda. . .I found out later that was her name. . .well, she grabbed my camera and ripped out the film.”
The others all stared, waiting for more. When no more followed, Chet spoke for all of them. “That’s it? She ripped the film out of your camera? So why’re you so sore?”
“Because that’s not it. I asked her what the heck she thought she was doin’ and she said, with a smile mind you, ‘adjusting your camera.’ Well, tempted as I was, I’d never hit a girl, so I had to let it go. But in the meantime, I had to break the news to Chris that his pictures were ruined. And . . . uh. . .” he glanced at Roy and grinned, “I found out Chris will hit a girl.”
“He hit the lady?” Mike asked.
Johnny nodded. “He tried. Can’t blame the kid. It’s a big deal when you’re nine-years-old. But I tried to stop him and then the other little boys decided it was a free-for-all. And somewhere in the melee, I got one heck of a Karate chop in the lower back.”
“I guess you won’t be taking Chris to class anymore,” Lopez commented.
Both paramedics shook their heads.
“And the incredible chick named Rhonda. . .what happened to her?”
The door opened, distracting Johnny from his answer. Dwyer, who was still on duty for C-shift, peeked into the room. “Gage, you’ve got a phone call. Some woman named Rhonda.”
When he saw his shiftmates staring at him in question, Johnny snorted and shrugged. “Hey, she owes me a roll of film. Can I help it if she can’t wait to pay me back?”
He headed out the door, leaving the others standing in stunned silence. Finally Mike broke the quietness in the room.
“Only Gage could pull that off.”
The others nodded and went about getting ready for roll call. Somehow they got the feeling that wasn’t the last they’d hear about Rhonda.