When Presents Fly
By Audrey W.
Roy DeSoto and John Gage headed out to their vehicles in the back lot of the station. The paramedics had just completed their twenty-four hour shift on duty and were going to be off for two days.
“So what is this thing you’re doing today?” Johnny wondered.
“Buying ladybugs for Jo’s flower garden in the back yard. It’s a new idea one of the plant shops in town started. Ladybugs eat other little insects that eat plants and flowers, so for just one dollar you can buy a package of five hundred of them to turn loose in your garden. I’m going to surprise Joanne.”
Johnny got a puzzled expression on his face. “But if ya turn ‘em loose, how do you know they’ll stay in the back yard? I mean, it’s not like they can’t fly over the fence.”
“I’m sure some’ll fly away eventually. But a lot of them should be content to be with the flowers and stick around.”
“What about your dog? Won’t he chase ‘em away?”
“Are you kidding? He’s gotten so lazy lately, I doubt he’ll even take time to notice anything new.”
“Well, do ya mind if I stop by later? I’m kinda curious how it turns out.”
Roy stopped beside his car. “Sure. Come over for lunch if you want. I’m sure Jo won’t mind, and then you can be there for the big surprise.”
“Sounds like a good deal to me.”
“Just one thing. . .”
Gage paused with the driver’s side door to his Land Rover part way open. “What?”
“Don’t say a word about the ladybugs until we take her out to see them.”
Johnny feigned a hurt expression. “Roy, didn’t I keep Dixie’s surprise party a secret?”
“So, I can keep from blowing your surprise for Joanne. Trust me.”
Gage shook his head as he got into his truck. Man, work a few years with a guy, and he doesn’t even have faith in his partner. . .
Just after 11:30 in the morning, Roy came into the kitchen where his wife was preparing sandwiches for lunch.
“What time did Johnny say he was coming over?”
The paramedic shrugged. “He didn’t say for sure, but he knows it’s for lunch, so he should be here soon.”
“Good. Do you wanta set the table?”
“Sure. Paper plates?”
“No, go ahead and use the yellow Melamine ones.”
Roy smiled as he opened a cupboard. So far his plan was working. Joanne had no idea yet that he had bought the ladybugs on the way home earlier in the morning and turned them loose in her garden before coming into the house. He took out five plates and started to place them around the kitchen table. “Where’re Chris and Jennifer?”
Joanne worked on another sandwich as she answered. “They’re out in the back yard playing.”
“Oh. . .ooooh. . .” Roy quickly set down the last plate, then headed for the back door.
“Roy--,” Joanne saw that he’d finished with the table. She then heard the front doorbell ring as the kitchen screen door slammed shut. Seeing that her husband was already outside, she set aside the sandwiches and started for the front door.
Roy trotted into the back yard and stopped at the edge of the covered patio. Six-year-old Chris and four-year-old Jennifer were standing nearby Joanne’s garden, each with a ladybug on their right index finger. The dog was in his house, napping, just his nose sticking out. Roy could hear the dog snoring as the children’s voices carried across the yard.
“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. . .”
As the saying continued, each held their finger with the little insect on it up and slowly took a couple of steps to the parameter fence, then watched as the bugs flew away from the yard.
Roy stood watching, his mouth open to protest, but no sound would come out. He started forward, quickly finding his voice again. “How long have you two been out here?” The father could only imagine how many ladybugs had been ‘freed’ since he set them loose in the garden. He only hoped he had discovered the little operation in time.
Chris shrugged. “I dunno.”
“Since mommy said we were nosey,” Jennifer explained.
Her brother shook his head. “Noisy,” he corrected.
“She was cleanin’ the livin’room.”
Roy recalled Joanne starting on that room about an hour after he’d gotten home from work. It was possible the kids had been setting the ladybugs free for well over an hour.
“How. . .how many of these did you two send off to their ‘children’?”
Again Christopher shrugged. “I dunno.”
“A whole bunch,” Jennifer answered proudly. “And they all went just like we told ‘em to.”
“Oh, that’s great, honey,” Roy said, trying to sound sincere. He bent over to look closer at the plants and flowers in the garden. The paramedic could see a few of the red and black insects still on the stems and leaves, but considering one third were dead when he got them home and the kids had released so many, he hadn’t expected to see a lot. The sound of the back screen door opening and closing got his attention. He stood up straight and turned around in time to see Joanne and Johnny near the edge of the patio.
“Why’d you run out here? Johnny was at the front door.”
Roy gave a weak grin. “Well. . .”
Not realizing anything had gone wrong, Gage smiled as he waited for the surprise to be sprung. His face changed to an expression of curiosity, then to disappointment when he saw his partner looking like the sky had fallen. Or like it might have been filled with departing ladybugs earlier.
Roy continued to try to explain while also trying to spare Chris and Jennifer from hurt feelings. “I. . .uh. . .I had a surprise for you. . .but. . .uh. . .the kids beat me to it.”
Joanne looked around, while Johnny and Roy exchanged a glance and the two kids shrugged at one another, not sure what their dad was referring to. “What surprise?” Joanne wondered.
“Well. . .I know how much you love your flower garden. So I --”
“We found a whole buncha ladybugs!” Jennifer shouted. “An’ we were sendin’ ‘em home!”
Roy nodded. “They sure did. . .and they sure were.” When he saw Johnny’s mouth start to open in question, the older man quickly motioned for him to play along. “I was going to clean out your garden today for a surprise, but Chris and Jen were already taking care of it. Johnny was going to help too, weren’t you?”
“Uh. . .right. Yeah, I was gonna help. But,” he slapped his hands together, playing it up even more, “I guess since the kids did all the work, I’m a little too late, huh?”
“I’d say there’re just enough ladybugs left to keep some of the other pesky insects you don’t want around away now,” Roy added.
“Oh, this is a wonderful surprise,” Joanne said. “I love ladybugs. But where’d they all come from? I don’t remember seeing them here yesterday.”
“I bought a . . . few. So there were some spares when the majority flew away.”
Joanne smiled as Johnny walked over to peer closer at the ‘gift’. Still leaning over, he mumbled to Roy, “How many you figure are left?”
“I have no idea.”
Both men watched the kids hug their mother as she thanked them for ‘helping’ their dad.
“Well, look at the bright side, Roy.”
“I know. The kids had their fun and Jo’s garden still has some of the ladybugs in it.”
“And Joanne won’t ever tell you to quit buggin’ her again.”
Roy glanced at his partner and groaned. “C’mon, Junior. Let’s go eat.”
Thanks to Kenda and Jill H. for betaing this little story. We came across lady bugs for sale in Home Depot here and a discussion with my mom, husband and daughter inspired this story. :o)
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