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What could ruin Johnny's perfect nice day? (No, it's not a water bomb.)
When Johnny left the ranch for work, he felt great. He'd helped his neighbor Charlie turn "The Ladies", John's two horses out into the pasture. His dog, Soot, had frolicked alongside of him in the early morning hours, and now he laid contentedly in the shade, on the front porch. Johnny grinned at his contented mutt and thought, 'Yeah, it's a dog's life, alright.'
The Santa Ana winds had blown the smog away, and there weren't any fires reported in the state. The air actually smelled fresh! The skies seemed to sparkle with the morning sunshine. Johnny hopped into the rover with a spring in his step and a tune on his lips. Since he made excellent time on the way to work, he decided to stop by the bakery and treat the guys to some special pastries to begin the shift.
'Instead of fighting with Chet over the jelly donuts I'm going to get something different,' he said to himself. The girl behind the counter smiled coyly up at him and told him about the different selections, from bear claws to fruit Danish.
While Johnny was making his selections he saw something out the front door of the store that both shocked and dismayed him. With only a quick glance, he saw some people enter a bright red sports car and slam the door closed behind them. He instinctively knew someone was in danger, but there was nothing he could do about it. He headed for the door to try and get a license plate number or do… something, but the little red car revved out of sight before he made it to the doorway of the shop. He stood there for a moment trying to make sense of what he just witnessed.
"Hey mister," the clerk called to him from behind the counter, "you gonna finish your order?"
"Yeah, yeah. Be right there." He glanced back at the clerk and she returned his stare. "Did…did you see that?"
"Those people get into the red car outside," he told her, as he crossed back to the counter.
"Nope, sorry," she replied, giving him a brief look that said, let's finish this up. There are customers backing up behind you. "So, you gonna finish your order, or what? "
"Sure, sure," he replied, as he returned to the business at hand, but his mind wasn't on pastries any longer. "Can ya just tell me how many are in the box now?"
"Sure, you have a dozen of the mini Danish. You get one more for free to make it a baker's dozen, so what would you like?" she asked, surprised by his quick change of demeanor.
"I don't care. Just throw one more of something in the box." She glanced up and did as he requested. "How much do I owe you?" Johnny handed over the necessary amount of money, grasped the box by the red and white strings that held it shut and headed for the door. He glanced about at the girl behind the counter, gave her a sketch of a smile, and said, "Thanks for your help."
The blue skies and sunny day were now lost on Johnny. By rout he drove to work and backed into his regular parking spot. He knew he was early because the only vehicle from A Shift in the lot was Captain Stanley's car. He sat there lost in thought until a knock on his front windshield startled him to awareness.
"Hey Johnny, I know it's an awesome day, but you're here awfully early to be catchin' the morning rays. What gives?" Mike asked his friend.
"Oh!" Johnny answered like a deer caught in headlights. "I'm just…" he fished around for the right words to say, but for some reason, he couldn't think of anything.
"Go figure," John tried to joke as he got out of the car to walk in with Mike, "me without words."
"Who would ever expect that?" Mike replied, as he nudged Johnny with his shoulder.
"I'll join you in a sec. I just need to dump this off in the kitchen," he said, referring to the pastry box.
"I know why you are in so early," Mike said, as he tried to help Johnny out of the funk he seemed to be in, "you want to be absolutely sure you get the jelly donut!"
"Just goes to show what you know Stoker," Gage joked back lightly. "It's danish."
"Did I hear someone say danish?" Cap asked, coming out of his office for a second cup of coffee.
"Yup. Here you go," John answered as he slid the box across the table to the Captain.
"Maybe I should just put this in my office until C Shift has gone home?" Cap said, scooping the box up and putting it under his arm.
"Whatever," Johnny replied.
Cap shot a look of disbelief over at Mike. He just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. He didn't have any clue what was going on in Johnny's head. He wondered if Johnny even did.
Within the next half hour the shift changed without incident, and the men were all suited up for roll call. Marco slid in at the last moment.
Cap's eyebrows rose, expecting it to be Chet. "Sorry Cap. We had car trouble at home." He looked down at his feet. "It won't happen again," Marco assured him.
Cap nodded his understanding but said, "You do know that this means…
"… I get latrine duty. Got it." Chet wasn't a bit sorry to see his best friend stuck with the least favorite task for a change.
Cap quickly handed out the rest of the assignments. He put Johnny in the kitchen, with Roy assigned to the dayroom and dorms. He hoped whatever was bugging Johnny would be straightened out with his partner's help.
"Why does Gage have to cook Cap? I'm sick of his usual fare. Aren't you?"
"Kelly, John began the day off right and brought in a wonderful box of pastries for us, so I suggest you stop complaining," Cap told him.
"Oh? He did?" Chet inquired. "Well then… I won't say anything else!"
"We can only hope," Mike replied under his breath.
Chet glanced his way, unsure if something was said, or not. 'Nah,' he shook his bushy head and thought to himself, 'Mikey doesn't have much to say about anything.'
"Well," Chet continued with his monologue, "After Stoker and I get the hoses hung we will be in to check it out. Be sure to save us some." With that Chet slapped Stoker on the back, missing the slightly irritated glance tossed his way. Chet hustled outside towards the hose tower, with Mike trailing a bit behind him. For some strange reason, the hose got hung in record time. The rest of the men made short work of their chores too and crossed their fingers in the hopes of not getting a call. Everyone seemed to head for the kitchen and the mysterious white box in the center of the kitchen table, all except for Johnny. Cap raised an eyebrow in Roy's direction, but he simply shrugged in response.
A few minutes later Gage wandered into the kitchen and headed for the coffee pot. But he never made it that far. "Squad 51. Child in distress. 521 Magnolia Street. Time out, 10:32" Both men hustled to the squad, concerned about what they might find with such a vague description of the call.
Cap handed them the slip. "KMG 365" and the squad was on its way out of the building. Gage donned his helmet with a grim look of concern on his face, but said nothing. Children in unknown danger were always hard calls for both Roy and Johnny to answer.
In less than 10 minutes they were in front of the home on Magnolia Street and unloaded their gear. They hustled to the front door and a frantic mom yanked the door open.
"Hurry!" she said. "He's having trouble breathing!"
The paramedics quickly followed the mom, as she rushed over to the sofa. "We were playing out back together, tossing the ball around. It rolled into the weeds. He went in to get it and a bunch of bees or wasps or whatever attacked him!"
"Hey there…" John started.
"Kenny. His name is Kenny. He just turned 6 last week."
"Hi there, Kenny. My name is Johnny, and I'm here to help you out." He quickly began to access the boy who was covered by a wet towel over his bare torso. When Johnny moved the towel, he saw Kenny had several red welts on his chest and stomach area. "Everything gonna be alright now, son. I'm just gonna check you out. Can you sit forward for me?" Kenny did as asked and Johnny saw several addition puffy wounds on the boy's back.
"I sat him up on the sofa. I thought he could breathe better than way and I took his shirt off to make sure all those horrible bees and stingers were gone. And…and the cold towel to keep the swelling down."
"You did a fine job, ma'am. My partner, Johnny, can take care of Kenny. Let me take a look at you," Roy told her as he led her over to a near-by chair. "It looks like a few of those bees attacked you too."
"What? No. I'm fine," she said, twisting her head to see what Johnny was doing.
"Relax. Johnny's already talking to the doctors, on that phone in the orange box."
"Rampart, Squad 51, how do you read?"
"Go ahead, 51."
"Rampart, we have a young male, 6 years of age who was stung several times on the chest and back. Mother reports removing most of the stingers. He is experiencing some difficult in speaking and breathing. His pulse is bounding at 72 beats per minute; his respirations are 10 and shallow. He is already on oxygen, Rampart. And his pressure is 130/80."
"!0-4, 51," Dr. Brackett answered. ""You said the boy was six?"
"10-4 Rampart. Victim just turned six years old last week," Johnny said as he smiled over to Kenny.
"51, start an IV with D5W, administer 0.15 mg epinephrine and continue oxygen. Is the ambulance on the scene yet?"
Johnny looked out the door and saw them driving up to the curb. "The ambulance is here now, Rampart." He laid the phone down and scooted the box over to Roy. Johnny continued talked to Kenny in his smooth, gently manner. "So mom said you were out playing ball?"
Kenny nodded, unable to answer because of the oxygen mask. As Johnny deftly started the IV, he distracted the boy by asking in a whisper, "So, is your mom any good at playing ball?"
Jimmy nodded his head again and a smile graced his face. His breathing also seemed a bit less labored.
Meanwhile, Roy's attention was focused on the mom. "So, Ma'am…"
"My name's Joanna." Roy's eyebrows rose slightly.
"That's my wife's name too. Well, it's close… So, Joanna, how are you feeling?" Roy asked as he noted her pulse and pressure.
With a quick glance back over to her son, "I think I'm feeling a lot less worried now that you guys are here!" she responded.
"Okay. I'm just going to take your blood pressure now," he informed her. "It's 160/100…." Roy then turned to the bio-phone to report in. Because of the active swelling from several of her own stings, especially one near her eye, Dr. Brackett also wanted them to start an IV on the mom. "We are going to take you and Kenny over to Rampart Emergency," Roy told her, "but they would like for us to start an IV on you too."
Joanna noticed Kenny already heading out the door on a gurney w/ Johnny, and she whispered, as her face turned deathly pale, "I'm terrified of needles."
"Okay, okay. Just relax. Put your head down between your knees."
"Ugh," she sighed. "I can't believe it. My son can take a needle like a trooper and it makes me feel faint!"
"How are you feelin' now?"
"Ummmm…. I'm starting to feel pretty shaky actually," she replied, as she tried not to notice the tremors that had started in her hands and seemed to rapidly spread throughout her body.
"Johnny," Roy called out as he saw his partner heading down the walkway, "have them send the other gurney in." Johnny nodded his understanding, as a look of concern crossed his face.
"Let's get you to lie down here, Joanna, and I bet you'll feel a lot better," Roy told her, as he helped her position herself on the gurney. He elevated her legs, set up for the IV and suggested, "Why don't you just glance away? It certainly can't hurt more than those bee stings!" He easily started the IV. To her surprise, she hardly felt it. "That wasn't so bad, now was it?"
"No," she replied, taking a deep breath. "But these bites are really starting to itch."
"Hold on. Don't scratch at them, especially the one near your eye. I'll call the doctor from the ambulance. We want to get Kenny in there as soon as we can."
"Absolutely! Let's get me out of here," she told Roy with a look of determination on her face.
The ride to the hospital was uneventful and both patients received an excellent prognosis from the medical staff.
"Wow, can you believe that mom, Roy?" Johnny asked his partner as they left the hospital. "She really had it on the ball. Don't you think so?"
"I…" Roy started to respond but his partner plowed on.
"She was a real trooper. Did I hear her say she didn't even know she had been stung too?"
"Yeah, even though that one by her eye proved to be pretty painful," Roy quickly added to the conversation. "Dr. Early had to get it out the stinger w/ a pair of tweezers. He wanted to make sure none of it was left."
"Hmmmmm…." Johnny added. Everything was quiet in the cab of the squad for a minute or two. Roy glanced over at his partner and saw a pensive look on his face, similar to how he looked earlier in the morning. He let the silence play out, knowing that when Johnny was ready to talk again, he would be there to listen.
They needed to stop at the grocery store so Johnny could get the supplies for meals this shift, so they called it in. Since it was close to lunch time, they opted for soup and sandwich fixings. When they hit the bread aisle Johnny looked around and tossed a loaf of wheat bread in the cart, followed by 2 packs of hamburger buns.
"Wheat bread?" Roy asked.
"Well, Chet is always going on and on about how we need to eat healthier, I guess chewin' a few stalks of wheat won't kill us. Hasn't hurt 'The Ladies' any, that's for sure," he replied with a smile.
Roy decided not to comment on the fact that just because John's horses might like something doesn't mean he wanted to eat it too. He opted for a safer topic. "So…hamburgers for dinner tonight?"
"Nah, I thought I'd try somethin' different. There's this new mix for making Sloppy Joes, Man-something. I saw an ad for it on TV the other day. I thought that might be good. "After they walked past the meat counter for the necessary ground beef, Johnny led the way to the produce department. "I was thinkin' a big salad might round it out. That sound ok to you Roy?" Johnny asked as he gave his partner a sideways glance. "Should we toss in a bag of chips too?"
"Sounds good to me Johnny. Let's just get this checked out, before we get a call." They made it quickly through the line and managed to make it all the way back to the station, in enough time to start lunch. The engine crew was out on a call so Johnny opened the cans of tomato soup and set out the sandwich fixings, so the crew could eat in a hurry if they needed to do so.
After setting the table with Roy's help, they heard the radio squawk with Captain Stanley's voice, "Engine 51. Time out 30 minutes."
"That doesn't sound like it's too bad," Roy ventured. "We better get eating though, if we don't want to miss…"
"Roy! Stop. Just don't say it," Johnny admonished his friend, superstitiously. "We're gonna have a good lunch today. I'm workin' on the tomato soup," he said as he dumped the soup and milk into the pan and started stirring it slowly. "So, you want me to grill that sandwich for you, Roy? After all, I'm just standing here."
"When did you start grilling and stirring in the kitchen?"
"I don't know," Johnny replied, shrugging his shoulders. "Maybe I'm just trying to expand my horizons… that and I'm gettin' really tired of hearing Chet's complaints every time I cook!"
"Then grill on, Chef Gage!"
In a few short minutes, the two friends sat down at the table and enjoyed their soup and sandwiches. Johnny finished his lunch in short order and sipped his milk thoughtfully. "Ya know Roy, kids can be pretty amazing. I mean, you know I love your kids to death and would do anything for them, right?"
Roy nodded in agreement. "They love you a lot too, Uncle Johnny."
John smiled in response to the statement. "While I can't imagine lovin' them anymore, I know that you and Jo have a special, deeper love for them. After all, before you even knew if they were a boy and a girl, you loved them as you watched them grow, right?" Roy made a slight sound of agreement, wondering where Johnny was going with this discussion. He could tell his friend had been giving this a lot of thought.
"Like today, the lady who got stung by the bees. She was so focused on taking care of her son, she didn't notice anything else. And she did all the right things she could do and then called us." He paused. "I wish all parents were like that. I know we have seen to some of the poor kids who have awful parents…"
"That's a real tragedy," Roy agreed.
"I think some parents have real problems with anger, or alcohol or are just downright mean, but sometimes, I wonder what parents are thinkin' about sometimes. Like, why would anyone let their baby alone in the bathtub, or not put poisons up high where kids can't get at them? It's just common sense, right?"
"Yeah. I think so. But I guess you gotta realize not all parents know about the dangerous things or trouble that little ones can get into in just a matter of seconds," Roy said.
"But sometimes, Roy, sometimes, it seems like they don't think at all." Johnny took the last swallow from his glass of milk. "I was really upset this morning after I came in. I guess I was a bit of a bear. If I snarled atcha, I'm sorry."
"It's okay. Why don't you tell me what happened?" Roy encouraged his friend.
"I was at the bakery, gettin' stuff this morning and I saw this young couple with a little baby. His mom had him in one of those new baby carrier things, that's almost like a kangaroo pouch. You know, the baby is all snuggled up to your chest like?" Roy nodded. "They came out of some store and the she got behind the wheel and drove away, WITH THE BABY STILL STRAPPED TO HER CHEST! You and I both know, Roy, what would happen to the baby if they were in an accident. But if she even stopped short at a traffic light or something, that baby's gonna go flying into the steering wheel, and he's gonna be killed." Johnny's voice cracked w/ emotion as his mind ran through the horrible results of simply stopping short. "The baby would never have a chance….and the parents would always have the guilt of knowing that they had a hand in killing their precious baby."
"When I saw what was happening I tried heading out of the bakery to stop them, but they had already roared off down the street in their sports car. There was nothin' I could do or say, Roy, nothin'," Johnny finished in a whisper, with tears in his eyes. "There has to be some way to keep little ones safe when they are in the car."
"You're right there, Johnny," Roy said as he patted John on the shoulder, "there should be something."
NOTE- While child safety seats were first developed in 1962, it wasn't until the 1970's that public health education, insurance companies and the medical community got behind a push to convince parents of the benefits of children safety seats.
I'd like to believe that Johnny and Roy would be at the forefront of this type of community education.
Even with the community education, child car safety seats did not become law until January 1, 1978, when Tennessee became the first state in the nation to require the use of safety seats for young passengers.
On a more personal note- I did see a woman drive off w/ her infant attached in a front carrying pouch. Like Johnny, I had no idea what to say, and the chance to say anything was quickly gone. It must have made a real impression on me, because that was over 25 years ago!
**Many thanks to Tammy for reviewing the story for me and encouraging me to continue writing and personalizing my own version of the Emergency universe.
I understand that it's important to say, that while I love the guys of 51 and the rest of the cast, I don't own them. I wouldn't mind if I did, but I don't. No profits from this story, etc., etc. etc.
Posted to Site 02/03/12
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