The Wrong Bird
By Audrey W.
Chet watched from around the corner as the squad backed into the apparatus bay. Not wanting to be seen by the paramedics, he slipped back into the dayroom, a gleam in his eyes.
“You sure Gage is gonna come in on cue?” Mike asked, taking a bite of a cookie.
“Yeah, Chet, what if Roy walks in first?” Marco questioned.
“That’s not a problem, gentlemen. I’m gonna be standing right here, off to the side and holding the rope. So when the pigeon walks in, he gets a special delivery, as planned.”
Marco shook his head. “Why don’t you just do another water bomb?”
“No, no way. Even I like a little variety. I’m sure Johnny does, too. Even if it is at his expense.”
The three men ended their conversation abruptly when Roy walked into the room. Chet gave the other two a look that told them they’d almost blown the prank.
“What’s up?” Roy asked, looking around at the others.
“Nothing,” Chet quickly answered. “Why?”
“Oh, just that you’re over here by the doorway, Mike and Marco are at the table, and I heard the words ‘at his expense’ as I came in the room.” Roy glanced around at each of the three men again. “So it’s what, at whose expense?”
“Oh, okay. I’ve got a little prank to pull on your partner. But don’t worry, it’s harmless.”
“A water bomb over the door?” Roy asked, looking up at a bucket hanging above the entrance to the room.
“Roy, I swear to you, there’s not a water bomb in this building. Not one.”
“Uh huh,” Roy commented, not convinced. “Then what is it?”
“You’ll see. For now, let’s just say, the pigeon is gonna be a little white for awhile.”
“Not paint! Chet, if you dump paint on him--”
“No, now that wouldn’t even be funny.”
Roy looked at the other two witnesses to the set-up. “You guys want to spill the--”
Just then, footsteps could be heard fast approaching the dayroom. Roy turned around to watch what Chet was going to do to his hapless partner next. Chet grabbed the rope that had been tacked against the wall, and gave it a hard pull as his victim entered the dayroom.
“What in the hell?” the flour covered man yelled.
The grin Chet had been wearing faded as he realized it wasn’t Johnny who’d walked in the door.
“Cap?” Chet’s eyes were open wide.
Mike and Marco each quickly picked up a section of the newspaper and opened it to completely conceal their faces. Roy stood watching Chet, waiting for the Irishman to get out of this one.
Captain Stanley held his flour-covered arms out, turning them over to see if there was a clean spot anywhere on him. As he shook his white powdery head, more flour flew out to the sides, sprinkling the floor in a thin coating.
Chet leaned against the wall, his eyes shut as a sick feeling churned in his stomach.
Man, Gage, what did you get me into?
“Chet, what in the world were you thinking?” Stanley barked.
“Uh. . .that Gage was gonna walk in the door.” Chet answered sheepishly.
“Not that, you Twit! I mean by rigging a bucket of flour to begin with. Look at the mess!”
“I. . .uh. . .I was trying to get away from the usual water bomb, Cap.”
“Uh huh,” Hank nodded, surveying the white powder all around him on the floor. “Well, go get a broom and start cleaning this mess up. You guys know where I’ll be.” He turned around and headed for the latrine.
~ *~ * ~
Johnny came in from the back lot and stopped in mid stride when he saw a white covered Hank Stanley hastily making his way to the latrine.
“Cap, what happened to you?”
“Seems I was mistaken for someone else who was supposed to walk in to the dayroom after Roy.”
“You mean that could’ve been me covered in powder?” Johnny asked, pointing at the Captain.
“That’s right, pal. And it’s flour. Nice, huh? I just hope I can get cleaned up before we get a call. Or rather, Chet better hope I can.”
Johnny nodded, half lost in thought. “Yeah, good luck.”
~ * ~ * ~
As he neared the dayroom, it dawned on the dark-haired paramedic what he had done. By his going out to look for a book in his Land Rover, he had avoided a prank from the Phantom, plus inadvertently gotten the prankster at his own game. It was at the captain’s expense, of course, but nonetheless, he had mistakenly out phantomed the Phantom. A smile crept across Johnny face.
The tones sounding took everyone’s thoughts off the mess at hand and they all ran to their perspective vehicles. A partially wet, but still somewhat floured Hank came running out of the latrine, his uniform still covered in the white stuff. He climbed up on the engine, as he buttoned his shirt, then pulled on his turnout coat as they pulled out into the street behind the squad.
Johnny looked in the side mirror at the truck behind them.
“You know, Roy, I have a feeling it’s gonna be a long time before I have to worry about the Phantom again.”
“I have a feeling you’re right. Cap wasn’t too thrilled with Chet’s trick today.”
“Man, that’s an understatement. I’d hate to be Chet after this run.”
“He means well, you know. It’s just to liven things up.”
“Yeah,” Johnny snorted. “I know. And he did, too.”
Roy glanced over and saw that Johnny was still looking in the side mirror.
“What’s going on, anyway? Can you see if Cap still looks mad?”
“On a scale of one to ten, and ten being the maddest, I’d say he’s at a twelve.”
“Well, one good thing will come from all of this,” the senior paramedic remarked.
“Yeah? And what’s that?”
“We know we won’t be cleaning the latrine for awhile.”
This story is dedicated to Pam. Thanks for the betas Jane and Kenda! :o)