Sigh! He lay on his bunk, a frown etched on his face, staring up at the dark ceiling waiting … listening… He should be asleep like the rest of his crew, but sleep would not come. His wife would say he was a worrier. He preferred to call it ‘showing Captainly concern’ for his men -- especially these two members of his crew, his paramedic team of Roy Desoto and John Gage. They seemed to have a knack for finding themselves in unusual situations involving ropes, ladders, cactus, even girdles.
The station had been called out to a structure fire just as they were sitting down to dinner. Roy and John had entered the structure -- a three-story apartment building -- several times, rescuing trapped tenants. When they left for Rampart with the last victim, they both seem tired and a little singed around the edges. John was favoring his left arm and Roy was coughing more than would be expected. That was over six hours ago. Sigh!
The squad had been called out on consecutive runs without having a chance to return to the station. It was now 12:45 am and everyone -- Mike, Chet, and Marco -- was asleep; everyone but him. Sigh!
Then he heard it -- the squeak of the bay door rolling up and the steady rumble of the squad’s engine as it backed into place next to Big Red. He waited to hear the sounds from the wayward duo in the latrine… the locker room… and finally here in the dorm as they readied for bed… But no sounds came. 10 minutes… 15 minutes… Sigh!
Quietly getting up, Cap stepped into his turnout pants and crept out of the dorm to see what was going on, his level of ‘concern’ increasing with each step.
Cap crossed the bay to the squad. No sign of either of his men in the vehicle. Then he heard muffled sounds coming from the day room. He opened the door and quietly walked in.
Roy was sitting at the table, back to the door, with his right leg propped on another chair, an ice pack resting on his ankle. The open log book and a plate of leftovers were on the table in front of him.
“No, after the fire, it was the heart attack victim, stuck kid, OD, then the MVA and the bar fight last.” John’s muffled voice came from the open refrigerator.
“Right. I forgot the OD victim.”
“Wish I could. Milk or juice?”
“Milk, please,” Roy rasped.
“Me, too,” added Cap as he leaned on the wall, arms folded with a slightly amused, slightly concerned expression on his face.
“CAP!” Johnny suddenly stood up from behind the refrigerator door.
“You surprised me. Didn’t know you were there. Everything OK?”
“I could ask the same of you two. It’s been over six hours. Sounds like you’ve had a busy night.”
“We’re fine, Cap,” Johnny offered with a slight grin and a twinkle in his eyes. “Don’t worry.”
Cap let his gaze roam over the two of them, taking in Roy’s ankle, bandaged hand and overall disheveled appearance, and Johnny’s wrapped wrist, not-so-tiny bandage above his left eye. Johnny was still favoring his left arm and -- was that a sling on the table?
“It was eventful,” Roy mused.
“And tiring,” added Johnny.
“Then why are you here instead of in bed?
“Oh…, well…, we’re just following doctor’s orders.”
“Doctor’s orders? Please Explain.”
“Actually, what Johnny means is Dr. Brackett gave us an ultimatum.”
Johnny frowned at Roy and tried to signal him to be quiet -- to no avail.
Giving Johnny “the look”, Cap then turned to Roy. “Go ahead, Roy, please enlighten me.”
Taking a breath, Roy glanced at Johnny, who was still glowering at him, and continued. “Dr. Brackett said we could come back to the station only if we promised to eat something before going to bed. Otherwise, he’d keep us at Rampart overnight in the observation ward.”
“Figured we’d get more rest here -- even if we did get called out -- again,” Johnny put in.
“But are you fit for duty? You both look a little worse for wear.”
“Oh, yeah, Cap. Dr. Brackett said we were just fine,” Johnny replied, again with a slight grin.
“Well, would you mind explaining all these to your Captain?” Hank gestured to their various bandages. “Did you both get checked out after the fire? I noticed that you, Roy, were coughing quite a bit when you left in the ambulance. And you, John, what’s the story with your arm? Are you supposed to be wearing that sling?”
“Man, he doesn’t miss much, does he Roy?”
“I’m Captain. Captains are paid not to ‘miss much’.”
Roy began. “Yeah, we got checked out after the fire. My throat is still scratchy and a little sore, but my lungs are clear. Ate some smoke getting the last victim out. Johnny was checked, too. Just a slightly bruised shoulder from when a bookshelf fell and hit him.”
“Okay, that’s a good start. Now let’s have the rest.” Sitting down at the table with the glass of milk Johnny had poured him, Hank grabbed two cookies from Johnny’s plate.
“We just called in available at Rampart and were immediately sent out to a possible heart attack,” Johnny stated. “The victim was a 50 year old male. His wife was, to put it mildly, very upset! When I started to put the leads on his chest to get a reading, she went ballistic! She started screaming that I was killing her husband, grabbed me from behind and tossed me across the room; I sprained my wrist when I landed.”
Hank looked skeptical.
“It’s true, Cap,” added Roy. She had to be about 6 feet tall and weighed about 280 pounds! She was heading my direction when their daughter came in and got her under control. Seems the wife was a former pro-wrestler.”
Cap just stared at them and shook his head.
“Next call was for a six-year-old kid with his head stuck in a wrought iron railing. Don’t know who was more upset -- the kid because his cat got away from him, the mom ‘cause ‘Poor Little Joey’ was stuck, or the dad when he realized we were going to have to cut his brand new railing. We covered him with a blanket and I went under to make sure he didn’t move around while Johnny was cutting the post. Well, Johnny started cutting, Joey started wailing, and Mom and Dad started yellin’! Next thing I knew, Joey sank his teeth into my hand and I let out a yelp!”
“I quickly shut down the K-12. I couldn’t imagine what could have happened to make Roy yell. I pulled off the blanket and there was ‘Poor Little Joey’ with his teeth sunk in Roy’s hand! He finally let go when he realized his head was free. Jumping up, he started yelling for his cat, which by this time had taken refuge up the tallest tree in the yard.”
“While Johnny’s grabbing gauze pads for my hand, ‘Poor Little Joey’s’ mom turned to me and said, ‘You shouldn’t have touched Joey’s head. He doesn’t like that’, and walked away.”
Hank just stared at the two as they continued munching their very late dinner -- or was it a very early breakfast. “Roy, stitches?”
“Nope, but I had to get a tetanus shot,” Roy replied, rubbing is left arm.
Sigh! Cap silently watched them eat for a few minutes, thinking. ‘No thanks, no apologies. How do they handle it?’ Then he roused himself and continued his gentle grilling.
“John, you still haven’t explained the sling.”
“Ah-h, just coming to that, Cap,” Johnny ruefully replied after swallowing a large gulp of milk. “Roy had barely made it out of the treatment room when we were called out to a possible OD. When we got to the address, Vince was waitin’ for us. It was a frat party and someone had spiked the punch with who knows what -- nobody was talkin’.” Johnny took a large bite of chicken.
“Most of the kids,” Roy continued, “were just sitting around with a glazed look to their eyes. We checked them quickly and they were doing OK. Vince was waiting for transportation to take them to lock-up and call their parents.”
“Vince had actually called for a squad because of one kid who was standing in a corner mumbling to himself,” Johnny resumed. “Reminded me of a caged lion.”
“Yeah, you know about caged lions, don’t you, pal,” smirked Cap.
Roy chuckled and Johnny just gave him a pained expression and continued.
“As we got closer, I realized what he was mumbling. He was actually singing!”
“Take Me Out To The Ballgame! About that time, we noticed the guy’s eyes began to focus -- on us -- and that he had been holding a baseball bat behind his back. He got to the part in the song about ‘1 – 2 – 3 strikes you’re out’ and started swinging the bat. Roy and I dropped our equipment and tried to get out of the way. I tripped over the drug box and the kid’s third swing connected with my shoulder, the same one I hurt at the fire. Vince and his buddy finally contained him and we’re off to Rampart again.”
“Cap, Johnny’s ‘just slightly bruised’ shoulder is now a ‘severely bruised’ shoulder and he’s to be wearing the sling to rest it as much as possible.” Roy pinned his partner with a ‘You know this, Junior’ stare.
“Ah, Roy, do you know how hard it is to eat Mike’s fried chicken one-handed? Besides, eating one-handed takes too long. I’m starving! What if we g..."
“DON’T SAY IT!!” Cap and Roy declare together!
Johnny rolls his eyes at them. “Anyway, I’ll rest it and ice it and see Dr. Early on my day off.”
“Be sure that you do, pal. And…, I want written confirmation that you’re fit for duty – for both of you,” declared Hank in his best ‘don’t argue with your Captain’ voice.
“Yes, Sir,” they both mumbled in reply.
“So, what happened next?” Cap inquired with a slightly bemused expression on his face. He was beginning to realize that even though they were battered and bruised, they were OK and for some as yet unknown reason, amused by their situation.
Looking at each other, Johnny gave a small nod and grin to Roy. “We almost made it back here to the station when we were called to a one-car accident,” Roy began.
“Should a’ known it would be a weird call when Dave and Les from Animal Control rolled up just as we got out of the squad,” Johnny interjected.
Roy rolled his eyes and continued. “A van had run off the road and hit a tree. The driver was slumped over the wheel and there were...‘noises’... coming from the back of the van.”
“Noises? What kind of noises?”
“Grunts. Snorts. Banging.”
Cap leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms and stared at his two paramedics. Doubt was written all over his face.
“Anyway, I reached in to check for a pulse and this ‘hand’ with long reddish-brown hair grabbed my wrist! I’m tellin’ you, Cap, I nearly jumped out of my skin! I pulled back and it released my arm”
“What was it?
“Well, just then Dave came up and told us to be careful and move slowly because they knew this guy and he has a pet orangutan!”
“That’s what was makin’ the noises?”
“And grabbed your arm?”
“Sheesh! What next?”
“Well then Les told us that Rusty -- that’s the orangutan -- is pretty gentle but very protective of his owner so we should take care not to do anything that might look threatening.
“What looks threatening to an orangutan?”
“That’s just what we were thinkin’, Cap," Johnny said. “We finally decided to handle things as usual. You know -- talk to the victim and the ‘relatives’.” Johnny grinned. “Let them know what we’re doin’ and going to do.”
“After we got the victim out of the van, I started assessing him and Johnny helped Dave and Les with Rusty. Everything was going along fine till the ambulance arrived. Rusty didn’t like the siren and became agitated. Then when we started loading the victim, he went, well…, bananas! Started screeching, jumping around and throwing things -- anything he could grab -- including the trauma box which landed on my foot as I’m trying to get away. Les wasn’t so lucky. Rusty slammed a bowling ball on his foot!”
“Roy went in with the victims, and I helped Dave get Rusty contained in the back of the Animal Control van. By the time I got to Rampart, Les was headin’ for surgery and Dr. Brackett was lookin’ at the films of Roy’s ankle. Nothing was broken so Dixie wrapped his ankle and we went back in service.”
“We no sooner get out of Rampart’s parking lot when we get a ‘man down’ call – at THAT bar!”
Cap looked at Roy questioningly. “THAT bar?” He glanced at Johnny and noticed he had gone pale and had that ‘deer in the headlights’ look on his face. He looked back at Roy, who continued, “Yep, THAT one. The one where Johnny got…”
“Roy, I think Cap remembers. I know I do and would like to forget!”
“John, you OK?” Cap asked with concern.
“Oh, yeah, Cap. I’m fine, really,” Johnny replied with a grin.
Cap closed his eyes and shook his head trying to forget the images that had suddenly popped into his head.
“Well, Cap, Johnny insisted that when we got there, we park with his door next to the building and not the street. Made me pull a u-turn to do it.” Roy snickered.
“Can’t say as I blame him, can you, Roy?”
“No, not one bit,” Roy replied in all seriousness.
“Anyway, Cap, we get inside,” Johnny continued, “and find two men down -- one sittin’ on the floor against the bar and one flat on his back on the pool table. Vince is there talking to the bar owner and two women at the bar.”
“Cap, you’re never gonna guess who was sitting at the bar,” Roy interrupted.
“Not a clue, pal.”
“Lenore and her friend!”
“No! Wow! Talk about déjà vu!”
“Seems these two ‘friends’ had a disagreement over a game of pool and went at each other with beer glasses, pool cues and balls. They both had some cuts from the broken glass. Roy checked out the guy on the pool table. He’d been beaned by a ball and was out like a light. The other guy had a broken collar bone from a good whack with a cue.”
Roy picked up the narrative. “The discussion at the bar with Vince is getting quite animated with Lenore’s friend demonstrating how the one guy swung a beer glass at the other with a full backhand swing of her arm -- just as Johnny stood up from his victim. WHAM! Johnny never had a chance.” Hank cringed and winced at the thought. “The glass shattered against Johnny’s head and he dropped like a rock!”
Johnny lightly fingered the bandage over his left eye. “Don’t worry, Cap, Johnny said with a grin. “I’m just fine; only six stitches, didn’t lose consciousness, no concussion. Just a slight headache.”
Roy and Johnny were both grinning as they finished their meal.
“OK, you two, give! What’s with the grins every time you say you’re fine?”
“Well,” Roy began, glancing at Johnny who had a big lop-sided smile on his face. “We’re in the treatment room and Brackett was getting ready to stitch up Johnny’s head and waiting on his x-rays. Johnny kept insisting that he was fine and didn’t have a concussion when Dixie slammed the tray of suture materials down on the counter and launched into a tirade directed at Johnny in particular, and police officers, firefighters and paramedics in general.”
“Cap, you don’t know what angry is till you’re the target of a ‘Dixie McCall Lecture’!”
“She went on for almost five minutes about how police officers, firefighters and especially paramedics have no concept of the meaning of the word ‘fine’. Then she stormed out of the room. Brackett, Johnny and I just stared at each other in shocked silence. Brackett finally asked, ‘Where did that come from?’ We were still dumbfounded over what just happened when Drs. Early and Morton came in, looking very concerned, wanting to know what was going on. Dr. Early told us Dixie was at her desk mumbling angrily to herself and writing something on several index cards. We just finished explaining what happened when Dixie marched back in the room. She handed each of us an index card, delivered a declaration, folded her arms, and glared at us, daring any of us to question her.”
“Well, what did she say?”
“She said that from now on, any time a police officer, firefighter or paramedic came into Rampart’s emergency room for treatment declaring that they were fine -- well, what was written on the card would be the definition of that word that would be understood by all hospital staff.”
“Well, what did the card say?”
Johnny removed an index card from his pocket and handed it to Cap with a grin. Hank looked at it for a few moments then started chuckling.
“That’s the same reaction we had, Cap,” announced Johnny as he and Roy joined in the laughter. The card read:
Getting serious, Hank asked, “Roy, John, are you two really OK?”
“Yeah, Cap,” Johnny answered. “We may be battered and bruised and a little bloody, but mostly we’re just really tired. We’re fine, Cap, by anyone’s definition.”
Cap smiled at them, finally sure that they were doing OK. “Well, then, get out of here. Go to bed. I’ll clean up your mess.”
“Thanks, Cap,” they replied in unison. Johnny helped Roy hobble out of the room. Pausing at the door, Johnny turned and asked, “Cap, am I neurotic?”
Cap rolled his eyes and threw a balled up napkin at the two. “Go to bed, you twits,” he laughed!
Johnny and Roy smiled and hobbled to the dorm. Cap stared at the empty doorway and smiled. Sigh! Yeah, they are twits! But I’m glad I can call them my twits, he thought proudly. With that he finished cleaning up the dishes, grabbed Johnny’s sling from the table, turned out the lights, and headed for the dorm and some well deserved sleep. As he stretched out on his bed, his last thought was that he would hear Roy and John’s tales all over again in the morning when they told the rest of the crew. A smile spread across his face. Sigh!
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