The Tumbleweed Connection
By Audrey W.
Christmas Season, 1975:
“What in the world is that?” Captain Stanley questioned, a sour expression on his face.
He’d just arrived for the latest duty at Station 51 and had spotted an eyesore in the rear lot as he climbed out of his car.
Having also gotten there early, John Gage started to explain, “Well, it’s like this, Cap. I was pullin’ extra duty at--”
The senior officer held up a hand to stop him in mid sentence.
“Never mind. Just promise me that thing. . .whatever it is. . . isn’t going into the squadroom, the dorm nor anywhere else inside the station. We’ll be getting a Christmas tree in the squadroom soon anyway.”
“Uh. . .no, sir. It’s not.”
Dammit. So much for that, Gage thought to himself as he watched the captain go into the apparatus bay. The first room mentioned was exactly where he’d planned to put it, thinking it would be a fun sort of festive decoration for Christmas.
Well, outside was probably better for a make-shift snowman anyway. Make-shift meaning, one not actually made of snow. Plus there was no need to give a tree competition, especially since the tree would obviously ‘win’.
Having just come out on the losing end of his own debate, he gently lifted the creation made from tumbleweeds and carried it through the bay toward the front of the station.
Roy did a double take as he drove past the front of Station 51 on his way to the back parking lot.
What in the. . .?
He had no idea what he was seeing. It was like a stack of dried out weeds had sprouted . . .
“Well, that explains it,” Roy said after his partner had told him how the tumbleweed ‘snowman’ had come to be.
“I thought it was pretty clever. Kinda far out.”
“Oh it’s far out, all right,” Captain Stanley said when he overheard their conversation just outside his office. He’d come outside to give the bizarre item another look, thinking perhaps it may not seem as strange in a different setting.
Nope. Still just as ugly with its two black eyes and stick for a nose.
It wasn’t long before the rest of the crew of A-shift had arrived, each doing a double take as well at the strange tumbleweed ‘art’ as they did.
“What is this? Some kinda joke from C-shift?” Chet wondered.
“Yeah,” Mike Stoker chimed in.
Paramedic Tom Dwyer was one of the last members of C-shift still at the station, their captain being the other. He’d come outside to see what his shiftmates had described as ‘farout’, ‘bizarre’ and one as ‘freaky’ before they headed home.
“It wasn’t us. Trust me.”
“This, I’ll have you know,” Gage said, a hand splayed on his chest, “Is my creation.”
Chet shook his head. “I should’ve known.”
“My only question is. . . why?” Marco asked.
“I pulled overtime duty at Station 8 yesterday. And we had a run out to that house with all the tumbleweeds. . .you know, the one where they couldn’t get out an’ the old guy expected us to clear ‘um out.”
“Oh right” Captain Stanley acknowledged. “Who could forget that?”
Roy nodded in agreement, a slight grin on his face. He recalled delivering the news to their captain that the man mentioned them getting rid of the massive amount of tumbleweeds that had blocked them inside their home after strong winds hit the area. Of course, they weren't able to do it.
“Well, we didn’t go there for the same issue, the lady wasn’t feelin’ well is why. But they still had some of the tumbleweeds around so when we got done assessing her condition, and Doctor Brackett determined she didn’t need to be transported to Rampart, one of the guys made a crack about makin’ a ‘snowman’ outta the weeds. Of course he was jokin’, but I figured, what other way can ya have one in southern California? So I asked the old guy if I could have a few. Believe me, he was more than happy to oblige. So we carefully secured the stuff up on the back of the squad and here it is,” he said motioning toward the strange object. “The result.”
“It looks like it could come to life and kill us in our sleep.”
Gage giggled. “Chet, you’ve seen too many B-horror movies.”
The curly haired fireman shook his head. “Just the same, I’m not so sure I wanna sleep with it here.”
“Oh, c’mon. It’s the Christmas season, not Halloween.”
“Yeah, Chet,” Marco chimed in. “You’re supposed to have faith now, not fear.”
“I do. I have faith that thing looks like it could come alive and do us in.”
Before anyone could say more, the klaxons sounded from within the station.
“Squad 51, possible heart attack, 3110 West Clairmont Drive, three one one zero West Clairmont Drive, time out 08:10.”
Dwyer trotted into the apparatus bay with the two on duty paramedics and acknowledged the call for them at the podium. He handed Roy the slip of paper with the information on it. Already in the cab of the squad, Roy took it from him and started toward the street after handing the paper to his partner..
As the red truck passed by the rest of the crew still standing out front with the tumbleweed man, Chet commented, “I’ll bet something like this could cause a possible heart attack.”
Captain Stanley laughed slightly.
“C’mon, let’s go inside and get some coffee.”
When they got back to the station, the first thing Gage noticed was that his creativity was no longer on display out front.
“Don’t tell me someone stole it!” He groaned as he climbed out of the squad.
He immediately started toward where it had been, Roy about to join him, when both heard Chet say, “Not a problem. No one did.”
The two turned around to see their shiftmate standing between the engine and the squad, his arms folded across his chest.
“Then where’d it go?”
“It wandered off.”
John couldn’t hide the bewilderment on his face. “It what? Chet, that’s not funny.”
“Actually, I had Marco and Mike carefully move it to the parking lot,” Captain Stanley explained, having just joined them.
The dark-haired paramedic shot a scowl toward Chet.
“But you gotta admit even you gave it thought for a few seconds there.”
Both DeSoto and Gage ignored him and brought their attention to the senior officer.
“We almost had three wrecks right in front of the station since you left, because of people being distracted by it,” Hank told them. “I figured it was only a matter of time before we had a rescue right in our own driveway, so to speak. So I decided it was probably better in back.”
“Look at the bright side,” Roy said with a hand on his partner’s left shoulder.
“You created quite a conversation piece. Look how many we’ve had just between all of us. I’ll bet those people had plenty to say.”
The captain grinned as he recalled some of the words he’d heard. “It was colorful language, that’s for sure.”
“They probably thought we’d been invaded,” Chet teased.
John shook his head.
Kelly and his horror movies.
Later in the day, the crew minus Captain Stanley, were playing basketball behind the station. It was something they often did to pass free time.
After missing his fifth shot of the game, Chet came up with the reason he was sure explained his worse than normal playing.
“That tumbleweed man is making me nervous, guys.”
“That’s jut an excuse,” Marco stated. “He’s not even close.”
“He’s still here, though.”
“Maybe you two ought to trade places, Chet” Roy suggested. “Nothing seems to phase him. He always looks the same.”
John and the others snickered while Chet just rolled his eyes.
“All right, all right,” Gage gave in. “I’ll turn it so it’s facing away. Will that do it for ya?”
The other shrugged. “It’s a start.”
The paramedic gave his partner a ‘can you believe this?’ look then walked over to his creation and did as promised.
As expected by four of the firemen, Chet’s game didn’t improve.
When night time came, it was bedtime for the crew just after eleven o’clock. They’d had a busy afternoon and evening with one tricky canal rescue and one large structure fire.
Chet lay in his bed, wanting to go to sleep. But the tumbleweed man kept coming to mind every time he closed his eyes. Logically he knew nothing would come of it. But still, it made him uneasy.
If only Cap had suggested Gage take it somewhere and dump it.
After awhile of lying awake, Chet sat up in bed and looked toward the doorway that led to the locker room. He almost could imagine the tumbleweed man walking into their darkened room.
Maybe Gage is right. Maybe I have seen too many B-horror movies.
He gave it a few more moments of thought.
Nah, there’s no such thing as too many. . .
He lay back down, then half berated himself as he pulled the covers up nearly over his head.
Much to John’s dismay, however Chet’s relief, sort of, the tumbleweed man didn’t survive the crew of B-shift, who pulled duty after them.
Bumped into first, then run over the second time, he was now just a crushed pile.
“Sorry,” the culprit apologized. “But it was either that thing or me. And I wasn’t about to go.”
“I guess I’m not the only one who watches those B-horror flicks,” Chet commented with a satisfied grin.
The next duty for A-shift came after a four-day break. Most used the time off to relax or get caught up on holiday stuff, but John found another opportunity for overtime when a fireman from Station 8 couldn’t pull his duty due to illness.
He met Roy in the locker room, where the older paramedic had just finished changing into uniform.
“Wait till you see what I did.”
“Is it bigger than a bread box?”
“Oh, it’s bigger all right.”
“And where did you do it?”
“In the squadroom. C’mon,” he said, motioning for Roy to follow as he headed for the doorway that led to the bay.
Roy closed his locker and trailed after Gage.
“Just tell me this time it’s Cap approved.”
“Of course it is, Roy! Of course. I learned my lesson,” he assured. “And it even goes perfect with the tree in there now. C-shift put that up,” he said over his left shoulder.
They entered the dayroom and John immediately directed his partner to the refrigerator. The very much decorated side by side refrigerator, made up to be a snowman face on one of the doors and a snowgirl on the other.
Four round black circles cut from construction paper, two taped to each of the doors, made for the eyes. Two orange paper triangles lying on their longer sides were used for the noses. Eight smaller black paper circles, four on each door, were the mouths, in a pattern that formed a smile for each. Eight more larger circles were the buttons in two rows straight down. What made one a girl was a bow taped above the eyes of one as a ‘hair ribbon’.
When DeSoto didn’t speak, John prodded, “So? Whatayathink?”
“Nevermind that. Whataya think of the faces? Pretty farout idea, huh?” He asked with a wide lopsided grin. “When I was pullin’ overtime yesterday we went to a house that--”
“Say no more. I get it. But they aren’t white like snow.”
“Just use your imagination, Roy,” he said, a hint of annoyance in his voice. He'd been excited about the whole idea when the lady at the rescue handed him the supplies needed when he commented on her refrigerator. He'd really hoped the rest of the crew would get the concept, especially Roy.
The senior paramedic hadn’t quite decided he could totally be on board with the creation when Chet came into the room in search of a cup of coffee. The latter stopped in his tracks when he saw the two ‘snow people’.
The captain, Marco and Mike came in right behind him.
“Who’s the artist this time?” Chet asked.
“Johnny pulled overtime again,” Roy explained. “Does that give you a big enough clue?”
“I think they’re cute.”
“You would,” Chet said to Marco.
“But they’re brown,” Mike pointed out.
“Where’s your imagination?”
Gage grinned at his partner’s comment as Roy winked at him.
“At least they’re out of the way, and you have to admit,” Captain Stanley stated, “They look a whole lot better than his last creation.”
No one could disagree with that, not even John.
“I guess I can get used to faces staring back at me every time I want a glass of milk,” the curly haired fireman gave in. “But if I hear them plotting during the night . . .”
The men all rolled their eyes.
“You and your B-movies,” John and Roy said in unison.
Tumbleweed and refrigerator 'snowmen' on facebook inspired this story.
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