‘Tis The Season
By Audrey W.
December 21st . . .
The men of A-shift filed into the dayroom after their chores were completed. As they each took a seat at the table, store ads from the newspaper were pulled in all directions, until everyone had his own page to look at.
“Hey, look what Eddy’s Electronics has on sale,” Johnny remarked. “A twenty-five inch color console TV. . .that would be nice in here, huh?”
“Dream on, Gage,” Chet said dryly. “Only if Santa himself makes a stop at the station do we have any hope of getting something like that.”
“Yeah, we’re lucky to have the TV we’ve got,” Mike added. “Besides, there’s no room for a console one in here.”
“I wish Bikes And More would have had their sale going on while Joanne and I were still looking for Chris’s bicycle. We paid ten dollars more than what it’s at now.”
“You gotta be careful you don’t shop too soon, Roy,” Gage offered. “Or you miss out on a lot of bargains.”
“Yeah, but not everyone can wait until a few days before Christmas to buy the stuff. The kids are out of school now and it’s harder to keep things a secret.”
“I’ve been waiting to get my momma a sheet set she wants. . .it’s at Denton’s Department store. I was hoping they’d have a sale and look,” Marco said, pointing at the ad in front of him, “it’s twenty-five percent off now!”
The others looked closer at the picture of the palm tree print set Lopez was referring to.
“How long is the sale on for?” Johnny asked.
“Two days. I can pick it up on my way home from here tomorrow. Unless you two can pick it up for me when you’re not busy during this shift.”
Roy shrugged. “Sure, we can do that.”
Just then the klaxons sounded, sending the men out on a run.
“Station 51, Station 18, Battalion 14, structure fire, 2123 North Clemons Street, two one two three North Clemons Street, cross street Billiard Avenue, time out 09:34.”
Once in the squad, Johnny took the slip of paper with the address of the call from Roy. “Sounds like a big one.”
“Yeah, it sure does. The address sounds familiar, too.”
DeSoto drove the squad into the clear street, the engine following behind them. Marco gave a miserable look at Chet.
“That’s Denton’s Department Store.”
“The address. It’s the department store my momma’s present is at.”
“Maybe it won’t be as bad as it sounds.”
“I hope not.”
The two firemen rode in silence the rest of the way, not certain what lie ahead of them at the fire.
As Roy pulled the squad up to the scene, the paramedics were surprised to see that the fire was at Denton’s Department Store. The building was completely engulfed in flames.
“Oh man, would you look at that!” Johnny said as he quickly opened his door. “It’s gonna be a total loss.”
“Let’s just hope everyone got out okay.”
The two men put on their turn out coats as they trotted over to meet up with the engine crew.
Within a matter of seconds, Chet and Marco were busy rolling out hose and soon working the fire. The Hispanic fireman let the thought that the fire would destroy his mom’s gift inside the store leave his mind. As he and Kelly held a line on the west end of the building, Chet glanced back.
“I think you’d better think of something else to get your mom for Christmas.”
Marco frowned. He didn’t want to be reminded that the palm tree print sheets were going to be history.
Johnny and Roy had been directed to a smoke inhalation victim. But by good fortune, that was the only person who needed treatment. No IV was needed, so they were able to send the patient on to Rampart in an ambulance and stay on the scene to help with fighting the fire. By the time it was out, three and a half hours had gone by.
An exhausted crew of A-shift climbed out of their trucks once they were back at the station.
“Man, with a shift starting like this, I hate to see how the rest is gonna be,” Johnny commented.
The men watched as a somewhat dazed Marco silently walked across the apparatus bay towards the locker room.
“What’s up with Lopez?” Captain Stanley wondered.
“He was gonna buy his mom’s Christmas present at the store that just burned down,” Mike explained. “A palm tree print sheet set. It was even on sale.”
“Can’t he get the same thing somewhere else?”
The others all looked at one another. No one was sure. Marco hadn’t said anything about seeing it elsewhere.
On his shiftmates’ suggestion, Lopez tried to think of another store that might carry the same sheet set he wanted to get his mom. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to think of any other places. As a result, the firemen moped around the remainder of the shift, often mumbling to himself, “I should have bought it sooner. Now what am I going to get her?”
The rest of the crew did their best to cheer their depressed friend up, but it was to no avail.
December 23rd . . .
The next shift, all but Marco showed up looking like the cat that ate the canary. The Hispanic fireman was still moping, as he’d spent his day off in search of a gift for his mother, with no results. After roll call, the men split up to do their assigned duties around the station. Marco was sent by himself to clean the dorm.
Once his chore was complete, Johnny walked into the dayroom carrying a plastic green and red striped bag. When he saw Roy had an identical one sitting on the table, he warily eyed the senior paramedic.
“What’ve you got in the bag?”
“Joanne found a sheet set, like the one Marco was gonna buy his mom, at a different store. She just dropped it off. Why? What’ve you got?”
Johnny gave his partner a disgusted look. “Awe, Roy. . .man, I bought a sheet set for Marco’s mom.”
Roy glanced at the two striped sacks. “Well, the same bag from the same store explains it.”
“Yeah. . .I guess so. I bought it yesterday.”
“Since they don’t allow returns at all, looks like one of us is gonna be stuck with palm tree sheets.”
Johnny screwed up his face. “Question is . . .which one?”
“Which one what?” Chet asked as he walked in carrying a sack identical to Johnny’s and Roy’s.
Both paramedics quickly exchanged worried glances, then returned their attention to Kelly.
“Chet, you wouldn’t happen to have a palm tree print sheet set in there would ya?”
“How’d you know, Gage?”
Johnny and Roy took their purchases out of the bags and set them on the table.
Next Mike rushed into the room, stopping in mid-stride when he saw the items on the table. Everyone’s eyes followed his as he looked down at the plastic red and green striped bag in his hands.
“You, too?” Chet asked, pulling the sheet set out of his sack.
“Well, it looks like we all had the same idea.”
“Not all, Gage,” Mike said. “Cap hasn’t--” The engineer cut himself off when Captain Stanley walked in with a palm tree print sheet set.
“Oh no. . .”
Hank screwed up his face. “Don’t tell me you guys had the same idea.”
The four men slowly nodded.
“Now what?” Johnny wondered. “First Marco didn’t have a gift for his mom, now he’s got four too many.”
One thing’s for sure,” Chet began, “taking them back isn’t an option since all sales are final at Bailey’s Outlet Store.”
“I never thought you guys would do the same thing,” Mike remarked, voicing his thoughts out loud. “Especially Gage.”
Johnny shot a glare at the engineer, then quickly getting over the comment, snorted. “I guess four of us’ll be sleeping among the palm trees.”
Roy just rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“What’s going on?”
All heads turned to see Marco standing in the doorway, a puzzled expression on his face.
“Apparently we all had the same idea of where to get the sheet set your mom wanted,” Hank explained. “Problem is, now you’ve got four too many.”
Lopez’s expression went from one of confusion to pleasant surprise, then to a wide grin.
“You guys did this for my mom?”
The five men nodded, happy to see their shiftmate smiling again, but wondering what they were going to do with the extra sets. They were even happier when Marco solved the problem.
“This is great!” He walked over to the table, looking over the five identical items. “Now I can give one to momma, one to my aunt Lolita, my cousin Rosita, my other aunt Carlita, and my sister Nita.”
He looked around at his shiftmates. “How much do I owe you guys?”
Johnny stopped in mid-sentence when he noticed the others staring at him, a mixture of surprised and disapproving expressions on their faces.
Captain Stanley gave his men a questioning look, and the nods he received in return told him he was on the right track with what he was thinking.
“It’s on us, pal,” Hank said, patting Marco on the right shoulder. “Merry Christmas.”
Lopez was elated. His mom and the others were going to be so happy. “Thank you and Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas!” the other crewmembers echoed.
Marco picked up the five sheet sets to take to his car. Chet, Mike and Captain Stanley walked along beside him, all four men discussing what they were going to do Christmas day. Staying behind in the dayroom, Roy turned to Johnny.
“Would you really have let Marco pay you back?”
The younger paramedic looked at him and shrugged. “Hey, I can be as generous as the next guy. But, Roy,” he defended, “ten bucks is ten bucks.” He gave it more thought. “Besides, he offered. I didn’t want to disappoint the guy.”
DeSoto once again found himself shaking his head and rolling his eyes. But he had to admit, to get any other kind of an answer from his partner wouldn’t have been ‘Johnny’.
Merry Christmas, partner.
Thanks for the beta read, Kenda! Merry Christmas! :o)