by Marty P.
Johnny and Roy were at the base station when the treatment room door opened and a couple exited with a small boy. The family’s apparel while clean, was dated, as if they’d purchased them off the rack ten years ago. Dr. Early’s eyes followed them down the hall and then he approached the paramedics. With a final glance, he explained. “That’s the Clemens family.”
“Is he the little guy who had lead poisoning?” Roy watched the father tousle his son’s hair and then scooted out of the way so a nurse could get by him to access the drug cabinet.
Dr. Early added a note to the lad’s chart. “Yeah, and then we started treating him for a growth problem.” Dr. Early didn’t mention the accusations that Boyd Clemens had conjured up when he suggested that.
“How’s he doing now?” Johnny brushed the powdered sugar substitute off his work pants. It must have been clinging to the bottom of the coffee mug he’d snatched from the lounge. It was a chronic problem for him but it didn’t deter him from raiding the coffee pot.
Joe Early lowered his voice. “He’s added an inch. But he’s really homesick.”
“I think Dixie said they moved from the country?” Roy picked up his handie talkie and drifted to the other side of the desk.
The gray-haired physician nodded. “That’s right. Seems Piney Cove used to have a big harvest celebration at the end of October and he wants to go home for it.”
“And they can’t afford it,” Roy, knowing how hard it was to stretch a budget, understood.
An orderly came toward Dr. Early with some lab reports and the paramedics returned to the station.
Johnny was stacking bologna on his bread when the topic came up again. “It’s really too bad about that little boy.”
“Yeah, but what can we do?” Roy took lettuce off the plate and passed it to Marco.
Chet was bursting with curiosity, “Wanna let us in on what’s going on?”
Roy closed his sandwich and adjusted the top crust. “We’re talking about Donald Clemens. His father couldn’t find a job so the family moved to LA. They brought their child to Rampart because he was sick.”
“What was the matter with him?” Hank Stanley got up from the table to get the ketchup out of the fridge.
Johnny fielded the question. “First the boy had lead poisoning from his new apartment.”
“The youngster was pretty tiny for his age so Dr. Early did some tests. Things are getting better for him but the doctor said he was upset. I guess where they used to live they made a big deal about the end of October.”
“You mean Halloween?” Chet chomped on a carrot stick.
Johnny took a swallow of milk. “Yeah.”
The crew of Station 51 discovered Chet had taken their lunch discussion to heart when the next shift began. Johnny and Roy, in uniform, were headed out of the locker room when Chet entered with a box.
“Whatcha got there, Chet?” Johnny inquired, trying to peek through the crack.
“You’ll find out soon enough, Gage.” Chet set it on the bench and moved toward the door. “Wanna give me a hand?”
“With what?” Johnny trotted after the fireman.
Chet was opening his trunk when Johnny caught up to him. “Wow, Chet. What do you plan to do with that?” He gaped at the oversize pumpkin.
“Well, I thought we could carve this into a jack o’ lantern and give it to that boy you mentioned.
Johnny rubbed his chin. “From what Dr. Early said, I got the impression they have a tiny apartment.”
“Big deal. These things sit outside anyway. Now, ya gonna help me or not?” Chet flexed his knees, as he got ready to lift the large sphere.
“All right, but I hope you aren’t making a mistake.” He let Chet trudge to the door and held it open for him. Chet deposited it on the kitchen table, right in front of the Captain.
“Kelly, what is that monstrosity doing here?”
“It’s a project for us,” Chet gathered newspaper and pulled out the largest knife he could find.
Hank Stanley detoured him. “You can explain it to all of us after our work is done.”
As the captain walked away, Chet uttered, “After you hear what’s going on, you’re gonna pitch in.”
“I’m willing to wait.” Captain Stanley slipped into his office, and opened the logbook.
The men had a break in the late afternoon and Chet took the opportunity to elaborate. “First of all, this is Gage’s fault.”
Johnny’s lower jaw dropped, “what am I getting blamed for now?”
“Well, you’re the one who brought up that little boy. Ronald?”
“No, Donald,” Roy corrected.
“What do you want us to do?” Marco leaned over to thump the fruit.
Chet was baffled, “What’d ya do that for?”
“Ya always do that to see if a watermelon’s ripe,” Mike explained.
Chet put his arms around the object of their attention, “Hello? What’s that got to do with anything? We’re not gonna eat it.”
“Kelly, get some newspapers under that. Let’s get going on this.” The captain saw Henry reposition himself on the sofa, as usual, a disinterested party.
The crew gathered around the pumpkin and Chet stood poised to make the first cut at the top. Johnny grew impatient, “C’mon. It’s no big deal.”
Chet brushed him aside. With the concentration of a surgeon he made contact with the skin and the knife blade vanished. Before long pulp and seeds stood piled next to the shell.
“Gimme the knife,” Johnny demanded.
Chet shook his head, “What for?”
“Kelly, we all helped empty that beast,” Captain Stanley reminded his charge.
Begrudgingly, the firefighter gave the paramedic his cutting tool.
“I’m doing the eyes.” Johnny announced as he speared their project.
The captain amended, “One of them.”
“Can I do the mouth, please, Cap?” Chet pleaded. “Remember, I brought it in.”
“Well, all of us helped you clean this thing. We’ll see.” Captain Stanley paused while Johnny carved a square eye. “Mike, you’re next.”
Mike stabbed the hollow orb and the creature soon sported a triangular hole. Somehow the two shapes worked together. Mike held the knife out. Chet disappeared from the room and returned with the cardboard box he’d tucked in the locker room.
“I’ll go next.” Marco spotted a pencil on the table and marked the pumpkin. While he was busy adding his artistic touch, the others watched Chet open the bin.
Chet cradled a stiff paper witch in his hands. Gaudy paint made her appearance menacing, yet endearing at the same time. “My mom had these in the garage. She was just gonna throw them away.”
“Don’t you want them?” Johnny asked curiously. His fingers grasped the string for a black cat. The limbs were of folded, fading orange crepe paper, giving the feline movement as he held it.
Chet pulled out a noisemaker. It looked like a can of tomato paste with a handle but it was decorated like a haunted house. When Chet shook it, it clattered and clanged. “Naw, I have plenty of this stuff.” He played with it until Johnny snatched it out of his hand. “Ya know what I wish?”
“What?” Mike rolled the innards of their project in newspaper and shoved it in a grocery bag.
“I think it would be cool to gussy up the outside of houses for this holiday.”
“Ya mean, like lights and scarecrows sitting on hay bales?” Roy clarified.
Chet rubbed his pant leg, leaving a trail of dust. “Yeah, who knows? Witches flying on broomsticks, bats hanging from porches, the possibilities are endless.”
Johnny put a fistful of candy corn in his mouth, “Never gonna happen.”
“I’m done,” Marco interrupted as he walked to the sink to rinse his hands.
Chet rose, “Please, Cap?”
The captain debated, “Roy, why don’t you do half the mouth?”
Roy, not wanting to spoil Chet’s fun, declined. “Cap, I get plenty of practice with these at my house. No thanks.”
“I’ll do it then.” The captain stepped forward and grasped the knife. Positioning it an inch under the trapezoid that Marco made, he began. Tiny pieces of pumpkin fell away as he chiseled a sliver, like a waning moon in the sky.
Chet took the tool from him and formed a tooth and then a half grin. The crew admired their creation. It gaped at them, friendly but ghoulish.
While Chet had been occupied, Roy contacted Dixie for the Clemens’ address. They lived in public housing, not far from the station. He handed the information to the Captain.
“Tell ya what, gentleman.” Hank Stanley shoved his hand in his left pocket and stood up straighter. “We’re gonna make our delivery now. We’ll let dispatch know where we are.”
Chet convinced his superior that the pumpkin needed to sit on his lap in the squad. Johnny was at his usual spot, next to the window, clutching the box of Halloween tinsel. The short caravan took off and parked in the fire lane near the apartment building. The captain led the way and tapped on the Clemens’ door.
Mrs. Clemens opened it, wondering why firefighters were standing on her stoop. “Evening, ma’am. I’m Captain Stanley of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.”
“Did we do something wrong?” It was then she saw the offering Chet had.
Boyd came to the door, carrying Donald. “Who is it, Mary Kate?”
“Hello, my name is Chet,” fireman Kelly spoke to Donald. “We brought you some stuff.”
“I ain’t never seen a punkin so big.” The boy’s face shone with excitement.
Boyd, on the defensive, wanted to refuse. “Now, we can’t take these things from you.”
“We understand. But believe me, the captain won’t let us keep this jack o’lantern at the station,” Roy saw the silent acceptance Mary Kate was trying to convey to her husband.
“Sir, the things in this box will just get discarded otherwise.” Johnny opened the box to reveal the decorations.
“Please, Boyd. It would be unkind to refuse these fine gentlemen.” Marco demonstrated the noisemaker to Donald while she implored him.
Donald’s infectious laughter was his downfall. His son clunked him on the nose with the piece and he set him on the floor. “Son, can you thank these fine men?”
“Tanks.” Donald nabbed the next treat out of the box and whooped with delight when the owl’s eyes opened and closed.
Chet deposited the pumpkin into Boyd’s arms. “Take good care of it.”
Station 51. Assist Engine 36 at an MVA. Aurora and Largemont. Timeout 0512.
Johnny whistled as he opened the closet in the apparatus bay. Something brushed the top of his head as he leaned forward. Glancing up he screeched at the glowing cardboard skeleton dangling in front of his face. “Kelly!”
His antagonist came into view, “Now ya didn’t really think I gave everything to the Clemens, did ya?” With an evil cackle he disappeared.
Author’s note: The Boyd family appeared on Emergency! in the episode “Musical Mania.” The characters in this story belong to Universal Studios.
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Halloween Stories Stories by Marty P.