The Winning End of Losing

By Audrey W.





“Feeling any better?” Roy DeSoto asked his partner after they’d just arrived back at the after a rescue. They were still seated in the cab of Squad 51.


John Gage shook his head, a slightly disgusted expression on his face.


“I wish. Man, whod’a thought dessert could stay with someone so long.”


He’d come into work feeling nauseated. With no fever or chills, Gage figured it had to be the odd tasting pumpkin pie he’d eaten the night before that had him sick.  With Halloween only a few days away, there was an abundance of pumpkins available here and there. Most likely for carving, but evidently for homemade recipes as well.


“I still don’t get why you ate it if the first bite tasted funny.”


The younger man sighed, then looked at DeSoto in the driver’s seat. “I told you. . .Debbie made it. I couldn’t turn it down.”


“Why not?”


The younger man reached for his wallet in his back pants’ pocket. He then opened it up and pulled out a picture.


This is why.”


He held out the photo for Roy to see. The senior paramedic glanced at it, then his ill-feeling colleague.


“You’ll suffer that bad all for the sake of a pretty girl?”


Suddenly John was filled with more life than he’d displayed the first four hours on duty.


“Not just a pretty girl, Roy! Not just a pretty girl at all. She’s incredible, man. Incredible!”


Roy opened the driver’s side door and started to climb out as he replied, “Well, she can’t be all that incredible if she can just about wipe out her boyfriend with a piece of pumpkin pie.”


John sat back in the seat with a frown, his partner having left. He eyed the picture once more.


“You really are incredible,” he said to it. “But when it comes to cookin’, you aren’t exactly Sara Lee.”


With that, he stuffed it back in his wallet, then climbed out of the squad. He headed for the dorm room to lay down, with hopes the nausea would soon be gone.





Two hours and a rescue later, John was feeling more like his old self. The nausea had gone away, though at times he swore it was still lingering a little at times.


Roy had just replaced the telephone receiver in its cradle on the wall and turned to face his partner seated on the couch in the dayroom.


“Joanne wanted to know if I thought you’d like to come over tomorrow after we get off for some breakfast and pumpkin carving.”


“Is that what that *I don’t think so* was about?”


Roy nodded.


“You coulda’ asked me. I mean it’s not like I have anything against pumpkins. I’m just not gonna be in the mood for pumpkin pie for awhile. . .quite awhile.  That’s all.”


“She’s making pumpkin pancakes.”


Johnny gave a slight lopsided grin.  “On second thought, thanks. But I wouldn’t mind carving one out. That’d actually be fun.


“Okay, well, that doesn’t require advanced notice, so I can just let her know when I get home tomorrow.”


Gage’s grin widened and he lifted a newspaper he’d been reading, satisfied that he wasn’t going to let one bad pumpkin experience spoil the whole batch.




“Squad 51, unknown type rescue,  214 Orange Grove Lane, two one four Orange Grove Lane, time out, 16:22.”


As soon as the announcement from Dispatch sounded, the paramedics trotted from where they’d been busy in the back lot of the station, getting some Halloween decorations up while the engine crew worked on the front.


“I still don’t get the purpose of putting up decorations where no one but us can see ‘um, for the most part, anyway” Gage said as they reached the rear of the squad.


He had to wait until both he and his partner had climbed into the truck’s cab before getting a brief explanation.


“That’s for the crews’ benefit. Cap said it’s so that the other shifts and us can enjoy them  and get in the spirit as soon as any of us pull into the lot.”


“I guess.”


Captain Stanley handed Roy the slip of paper with the rescue information on it. Roy passed it on the John, then headed out toward the street, lights and siren in use.




“It’s my husband. He’s in the livingroom,” a more annoyed than distraught woman informed the paramedics when they arrived at the front door of her home.


She opened the door for them to enter into the kitchen, then quickly led the way, all the while explaining what had happened. As they passed through the room, John and Roy noticed two young lads and a teenaged boy working on gutting out a pumpkin. They were putting the orangish slime into a large bowl on the floor near them.


The two youngest boys looked watched the firemen with wide eyes, impressed to see anyone in a uniform. One got up off the floor to follow when the older boy called him back.


“ . . . so Tom gets this crazy idea to put this table out in front on Halloween night with a sheet over it. He plans on hiding underneath and popping his head up through a hole he cut in the middle to give trick-or-treaters a scare. Only problem is, the first time he sticks his head through, it gets stuck.”


The two men could see the trapped man as soon as she brought them into the livingroom. She motioned toward him.


“I would’ve just taken him to the hospital to have it removed, but there’s no way I would’ve fit him in the car,” she added sarcastically.


Judging by the way he rolled his eyes, John and Roy figured he’d already caught a lot of sarcastic flack from his wife.


“So tell me,” she said dryly to the rescuers as they approached the not-so-happy man. “Does this kind of thing happen often? Someone getting their head stuck, I mean.”


“More than you’d probably imagine,” John answered as he took in the situation up close.


“It doesn’t look like you’ve got a very evenly cut opening here,” Roy stated to her husband.


“The table wasn’t exactly cooperating,” he defended. 


“Tom, have you tried maybe tilting your head slightly as you move?”


“I’ve tried everything. . .except a saw,” he quickly added. “No sawing around my head.”


“Don’t worry,” Roy assured. “We have other ideas.” He looked to the wife. “You have any cooking oil handy?”


“Cooking oil!” 


Tom clearly wasn’t thrilled with that idea.


John nodded. “It can’t hurt to try.”


“Just my pride.”


“And your head stuck in a table is helping it now?” His wife asked.


“Okay. . .give it a try.”


She left to get the requested item while the paramedics talked to the trapped man.


“You sure this is such a good idea anyway?” Roy wondered. With two youngsters of his own, he could only imagine how terrified they’d be with this type of a situation while trick-or-treating. “You might scare the little ones bad enough, it could ruin Halloween for them for the rest of their childhood.”


Tom gave it thought, being he didn’t have anything else to do. He hadn’t considered it before, but with two little boys of his own and knowing how certain things stayed with them easy enough, he figured it was entirely possible Roy was right.


“Maybe I should reconsider.”


John gave his partner a knowing look and nodded once in approval.


The wife came back with the cooking oil and a bath towel to put over her husband’s shoulders to catch any excess. Soon he was free of the table and ready to move it into the garage till he could get a new top put on it.


Things seemed to have ended on a good note, but they’d all soon find out that it wasn’t quite the case.



With the rescue complete and Tom not needing any medical care, the paramedics were ready to leave. Leading the way, John was the first to enter the kitchen. Unfortunately. the two little boys and teen had been busy while the rescue was taking place. The pumpkin guts that were once in a bowl had been spilled onto the floor. The dark-haired paramedic’s left foot hit the slimy mass and he immediately found  himself down on the linoleum floor.




It took a moment for Gage to take in what had happened. He heard Roy call out his name as he landed hard on his bottom. The biophone in his right hand smacked against the solid surface.


“You okay?”


“Yeah,” he assured as he started to get up. The feeling of wetness against his upper legs and seat of his pants told him his uniform trousers would need to be changed out when they got back to the station.


Roy put the drug box he’d been carrying in his left hand and reached to assist Gage with his right.


“I’m so sorry!” the woman apologized. “You boys should be ashamed of yourselves,” she scolded.


“No, it’s okay,” John assured again. “I’m okay.”


Roy had to grin at the pumpkin seeds stuck to the seat and legs of his partner’s trousers. If only Gage could see it as well. Roy knocked a few off as they continued on.


Once back in the squad, Roy questioned, “I suppose this ends your desire to help carve the pumpkin tomorrow?”


John shook his head. “No, quite the contrary. This makes me more determined than ever to triumph over the orange menace. I’ll be there. Mark my words.”


“You’ve got it.”


They headed back to the station, where John could change into a clean uniform.





The fall John took proved to be as minor as he’d claimed. He hadn’t felt any soreness from it at all by nightfall. With just hours left before their shift ended, it seemed that nothing would stand in the way of he, Roy and the DeSoto pumpkin.




At three o’clock in the morning, the crew of A-shift was awakened by the tones. In less than two minutes, they were on their way to a structure fire, the paramedics clad in their turnout pants and blue jackets over white t-shirts; the engine crew in full turnouts. 


As they neared the scene, smoke could be seen coming from a small one-story house down the street, flames present in a large window. Another fire engine had arrived just moments before from the opposite direction and the men on that crew were in the process of rolling out a hose to battle the fire.


Some bystansders awoken by the commotion watched from their porches within the vicinity of the home.


Mike Stoker brought Engine 51 to a stop behind the squad. As John and Roy scrambled from their truck, Captain Stanley gave orders for the rest of his men. They were immediately rolling out a hose from the bed of the engine, readying to assist the others.


John and Roy stood by while their captain inquired about possible victims that might need rescuing or medical care. They watched as Stanley trotted back to them.


“There’s a lady over there not far from  Engine 18. She’s apparently suffering from smoke inhalation.”


“Got it.”


The paramedics gathered up the equipment they expected to need, then hurried over to where the nearly sixty-five year old sat on a lawn chair, clad only in a flannel night gown and blanket over her back and shoulders. The somewhat frail woman stared straight ahead at her burning home.


“How could I be so. . .stupid,” she coughed out. “So stupid.”


“As long as you’re alive, that’s the most important thing,” Roy assured her as he grabbed the oxygen mask for her from the canister he’d brought over. “Structures can be replaced. People can’t.”


“I’ve been trying to tell her that since I pulled her out of the house,” a neighbor man said. “She just won’t listen.”


“You went in?” John asked.


The man nodded, prompting the dark-haired paramedic to stand from his squatted position beside the chair, where he’d just set up the biophone..


“Do we need to take a look at you, too?”


“Nah. I’m okay. She was almost out when I got her.”


John squatted back down and proceeded to contact Rampart General Hospital on the biophone.


In the meantime, the woman went on, her voice muffled by the mask now in place over her nose and mouth. “I thought I finished. . .my cigarette earlier this evening when I couldn’t find it. . .must’ve lost it in the recliner when I got up. . .to answer the phone. . .so stupid.”


“It was a mistake,” John told her after he requested a doctor at Rampart stand by for her vital signs. “My partner’s right. The most important thing is you made it out alive. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always turn out that way.”


“I don’t feel so. . . lucky right now,” she cried as she watched the smoke continue to rise from her house into the dark sky. Suddenly her mouth opened and she pulled down the oxygen mask. “Oh no! I have to go back in there!” She tried to get up, but Roy quickly stopped her.


“You don’t understand,” she explained in distress. “My pumpkin is in there! I discovered it. . .in a bin at the grocery store. . .I was going to enter it in a Halloween contest. . .it’s worth the top prize! I just know it is!”




“You don’t understand!” She interrupted Gage.  “It could be worth . . .a hundred dollars to me! That’s two shopping trips . . .Please. . .if I can’t go get it. . .can you?”


The paramedics exchanged glances. She was clearly serious. The distraught look on her face made it obvious. Her current state of worry certainly wasn’t helping her condition.


“I’ll go ask Cap,” John stated. “Where exactly is it?”


“In the kitchen. . . on the table.”


“Is the room on the west end of the house?”


It would make a difference. The east end was the one involved in the actual fire at the moment.


“Yes. . .yes, it is. . .”


“Good deal, I’ll see what I can do.”


With that he trotted off.


“He’ll do his best,” Roy told her. “Now let’s worry about you,” he said as he placed the mask back on her face. He then collected her vital signs to report over the biophone.





“A pumpkin? Are you crazy?”


It was about what John expected to hear from Captain Stanley.


“Cap, just one quick trip in and I’ll be right out with it.”


Both men looked at the house. The engine crews nearly had a handle on the fire. The smoke was partially white, the flames that had been present from the livingroom windows diminished greatly. Of course, that didn’t make it a guarantee things couldn’t change unexpectedly. Just less likely.


Stanley sighed. “Alright. But make it quick.”


Gage gave a lopsided grin. “I will.” He was just glad that he was going to be able to help out the victim. A hundred dollars might not seem like a lot of money to some, but he knew that to others, it could be a small fortune. Especially to senior citizens living on their own.


He grabbed his turnout coat and SCBA from the squad. As soon as he was ready, John hurried inside.




It didn’t take long at all to find the kitchen in the smoky haze. Gage had stayed hunched over to be below the worst of it. He also could see the orange color of the pumpkin in his flashlight beam. Triumph was his.


However, once he got to it, his outlook changed to one of less optimism. The perfectly shaped pumpkin was big! It was going to take all he had to pick it up and carry it out.


How in the hell did she get it in here at all?  He wondered.  Clearly she’d had to have help at every point, from the time she found it till it was where it sat now. There was no way she could have even budged it.


He was in pretty good shape, though. Maybe he could handle it on his own, he surmised.


He stuffed the flashlight in a coat pocket, then grabbed the pumpkin around with both arms, his hands supporting the underneath on the bottom edges. The paramedic lifted with a grunt, which quickly turned to a gasp beneath his air mask when he felt a sharp pain tear through his right shoulder. 


The pumpkin was immediately back on the table, having only been an inch off the surface.


He obviously was going to need some assistance.


The paramedic pulled the HT out of his other coat pocket.


“Engine 51, HT 51.”


 “Go ahead, HT51.”


“Cap, I found the pumpkin. But I’m gonna need help. The thing is heavy.


“10-4, HT 51. I’m on my way.”






John didn’t tell the captain about his shoulder. He figured he could address the issue once they had the possible top-prize vegetable out and 100 percent safe. He gritted his teeth against the added pain as they carried it out together.


The two men set it on the ground with care near the squad, then stood back. Both removed their helmets and air masks as they looked down at the pumpkin, their energy momentarily expended by their efforts.


“If they’re judging by weight alone. . .it’s a winner,” Gage commented as he swiped at the sweat on his brow with his forearm.


Before the captain could say anything, Roy came up beside them.


“The ambulance is here. I’ll ride in with her. She’s doing better now that she knows that’s safe.” He motioned toward the pumpkin.


“I’m glad one of us is,” John remarked under his breath.


The comment drew sharp looks from both the captain and his partner. The younger paramedic was forced to briefly explain.







Just outside one of the treatment rooms at Rampart, Roy eyed his partner’s right arm that was now in a sling over his blue jacket.


“So what’s the verdict? The deltoid muscle. . .again?”


He was referring to a time just less than a year before when Gage had injured his shoulder during a team lift at a fire. He’d tried to downplay it as he had this time, as a tweaked shoulder and being ‘just fine’. It hadn’t been near as ‘fine’ as he’d claimed. Roy strongly suspected the same in this case.


John frowned. “Did someone tell you already or is that just a good guess?”


“Both. I guessed and then they told me I was right.”


Roy grinned slightly, but it faded when the other remained frowning.


“At least you got Emma Green’s pumpkin out.”


“Yeah.” He looked at Roy, his eyes squinted in thought. “You think it’ll win the hundred dollars?”


“Well, I’m not exactly a pumpkin expert, and I’m not sure exactly what the criteria is for first prize. But if I had to make another guess, I’d say it was near perfect as far as pumpkins go and there can’t be too many of those around.”


The younger man finally was able to smile. “You’re probably right. Maybe she will win that hundred dollars. I sure hope so.”


“Me, too.”


But Roy had something else on his mind as well.


“I suppose this is going to change your plans for later today. . .being you’re just down to one good arm. I mean, it’s not like you can do a whole lot. But you’re still welcome to come over while we carve the pumpkin if you want.”


John shook his head. “Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.”


“Can’t say I blame you. Three strikes with pumpkins, I think I’d be done with them for awhile, too.”


“Oh, it’s not that,” he clarified as they headed for the exit. “It’s not that at all. Ya see, Debbie might not be able to cook very well, but she gives one hell of a massage. In fact I’d say she’s first prize in that category. Period.”


Roy gave a knowing smile as he followed behind his no longer unhappy partner.




Epilogue: Halloween Night 


Emma Green was proud to be the first place winner of the pumpkin contest with her find that only cost her a dollar to own. As a bonus, though she was temporarily without a home, staying with her son’s family for awhile was going to make life less lonely for a change. She could take that as a positive to come from the negative.


John Gage was enjoying his daily massages from Debbie when she’d stop by his apartment after work. The paramedic just had to make sure the meals she offered to cook were simple and goof-proof. All-in-all, his brief time off duty while he healed was proving to be just what he’d expected. . .and then some.


Roy DeSoto looked on with pride at the jack-o-lantern he’d carved by himself while his kids watched. It was now on the porch where trick-or-treaters could enjoy it as well. He’d managed to get the face, including a  toothy grin with multiple gaps, done to perfection. Though it would seem like a small feat to some, with the kids often distracting him, it was a major achievement in his household.




This was inspired by our over-sized pumpkin this year and the picture. :o)



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