John Gage watched out of the large livingroom window of the DeSoto home as the family returned from a week long vacation in Arizona and New Mexico. The younger paramedic had house and dog sat for them when he wasn’t on duty at the station. In return, he was free to eat what he wanted and to unlimited use of the television, appliances, and the spare bed in Chris DeSoto’s room. The seven year old boy agreed to the latter, as long as John promised to keep the room clean and not mess with his toys.
John couldn’t help but grin as he thought back on Chris’s terms. It was the easiest promise to keep that he’d ever made.
As three of the four family members approached their front door, John hurried over to open it.
“Thank you,” Joanne said as she entered, a small suitcase in her hand. She looked tired, but her skin had a healthy tan glow. Chris and his four year old sister Jennifer brushed past her in a hurry to locate their dog and let him know they were home.
“I thought you were tired!” she called after them. But she knew like any other kids, hers got a resurgence of energy as soon as their father pulled the car up into the driveway.
“I wish I could bottle some of that.”
Johnny snorted a laugh. “I hear ya.”
As she continued on her way, he peeked out the door and saw Roy coming up the sidewalk with a large suitcase in each hand.
“Nah, I’ve got it.”
“Good.” John was only wearing socks on his feet and hoped not to have to walk outside. “How’d it go?” he asked as Roy stepped into the house.
“It was a lot of fun. Just a couple of small problems.”
“Their names wouldn’t be Chris and Jennifer by chance, would they?”
Roy laughed. “No. But they kinda helped ‘spread’ one, I guess you could say.”
The two started across the room after Roy set the cases against a wall.
“Oh?” John wondered. “How so?”
“Well, we went hiking in some of the outlying areas around Phoenix while we were staying there and there’s this small problem they have--”
“OW! Sonofa. . .” John suddenly blurted out as he jerked his right foot off the gold shag carpeted floor. “Ow! Man. . .!” He quickly limped over to the couch and took a seat to look for the source of the pain.
“With that,” Roy finished.
John glanced up at him, not nearly as interested in what he was saying. He wondered why Roy was even bothering to go on with the conversation. After all, he was in major pain. It felt like someone had jabbed a large needle into the heel of his foot.
“Roy, can’t ya see I’m in pain here?” He brought his attention back to his foot and winced as he pulled off a three-prong thorn, the body of it just slightly larger than an apple seed. The three small sharp points stuck out in different directions. He set it out of the way on the coffee table.
“Yes, I can. And I know exactly how much. That’s one of the small problems we had. Those things are scattered around in some places in the desert and they’d stick to our shoes. We’d accidentally track a few of them into the hotel room and step on them later when we were barefoot. One of the kids must’ve had one still stuck to the bottom of a shoe when they came in.”
John now had his sock off in search of any sign of a hole in his skin. “Man, it’s outta my foot, but it still hurts like hell. What is that thing, anyway?”
“A sand thorn. And it’ll sting for awhile. Sorry.”
“That’s okay,” he said as he rubbed at the sore spot. “I think I’ll live.”
“You think so, huh?” Roy teased in return.
“So what was the other small problem?” John asked as he picked the thorn up again.
“A young rattlesnake got into the pool area at our hotel while we were swimming. It was on Chris’s Hot Wheels beach towel that he’d let drop on the ground. We had to wait for the fire department to come snare the snake and remove it since I wasn’t exactly in the mood for any heroics, if you know what I mean.”
John looked at the thorn in his hand, then up at his friend again.
“Please tell me you didn’t bring it back with ya. . .”
Roy rolled his eyes. “Give me that,” he said as he took the small thorn from his friend and headed for the kitchen to throw it away.
John once again rubbed at the bottom of his foot. “Man, for as small as it is, that thing sure packs a punch.”
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