Draggin' the Line

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

Dear Aunt Constancia,

I know I promised to tell you about the men I work with at Station 51, so here it is. Better late than never.

Our Captain was Dick Hammer, but Carson was too far from his home, so he transferred back to his old station. I was sorry about that because I liked him. I know you remember him from the Christmas party a couple of years ago. If you remember, I worked with Cap Hammer before I agreed to this change in stations. In fact, he's part of the reason Chet and I agreed to move stations. Now he up and leaves!

A temporary captain took over for a while, a Captain John Smith. Is that a name or what? Kinda stern, but there was something about him when he would watch Roy and Johnny, our paramedics, a kind of yearning. Made me wonder if he didn't have a close friend like that that he lost.

Now our new Captain is Hank Stanley. This is his first command, so he's a little nervous. He seems like an okay guy and he's good at the job. But, Aunt Connie, he is so paranoid about his bosses! He freaks when there is an inspection. I think he'll work out but he tires you out with the constant reassurance.

The guy who's second in command is our engineer, Michael Stoker. Remember Tio Jorge and how you would sometimes wonder if he knew how to speak at all? Mike is like that. He hardly ever says a word, but when he does, it's like that commercial, everyone stops and listens. Like most engineers I've known, he has this really weird relationship with his engine.

Our real heroes are the paramedics, I guess. Roy DeSoto is a family man, wife and two children. He and Cap are the only married men on the shift. Roy's very quiet, too, but not like Mike. Roy has a subtle sense of humor. He gets some good ones past his partner and even catches Chet once in a while. Roy's a good man, steady and dependable. He was in the very first class of paramedics and really pushed the program.

Roy's partner is John Gage. Johnny is a strange mixture of child and man. I don't know much about his background, nobody does, not even Roy. He talks all the time, but it's all in the present, nothing of the past. Of course, Chet keeps trying to get something out of him. I know Johnny is American Indian or, as they call it now, Native American. Must be like us. We're not just Mexicans or Mexican-Americans today, we're Latinos. A rose by any other name, right, Aunt Connie? And you thought I wasn't paying attention in English Lit class.

Anyway, Johnny acts like this big goofy kid, the perennial butt of the Phantom's jokes, until he's on a call. Then he's all business. Yet he has a way about him, so does Roy, that helps keep the victims calm. Johnny tends to do the really dangerous stuff on a rescue. I used to think it was because he was a glory hog, you know the type. But it's really more a case of how he's so skinny he can fit into places that Roy, or any other normal sized person, can't. Mama would love to get her hands on Johnny, fatten him up. The way he eats, I think he has a tapeworm!

I also wonder sometimes if he isn't so quick to volunteer to keep his partner safe. It's not that Roy isn't competent on a rescue. He is. Nor is it that Johnny doesn't trust him, but I think it's because Roy has a family to worry about him while Johnny seems to have no one.

He and Roy are about as opposite as you could be, but they are also the best of friends. Tighter even, more like brothers. They've only known each other for about a year yet, from something Roy said once, they clicked from the first moment they met. Must be nice to have that kind of relationship.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Chet and I are friends. And you're right! It's just that sometimes I feel like I'm just his straight man, I'm his backup on the hose, draggin' the line along behind him. Other times, I'm busy trying to tone him down when the Phantom is off and running after his newest Pigeon, Johnny.

Sometimes, Aunt Connie, I wonder where I fit in. I'm not the hero type; I'm not a paramedic or a rescue man like Johnny and Roy. I'm not the life of the party, like Chet. And I don't know if I'll ever go for command like Cap and Mike. So what is my place?

Some days I don't know if anyone even "sees" me. Maybe I'll grow a mustache. It always worked for Ricardo Montalban!

Well, I've gotta get ready for bed. Give my love to the family, Aunt Connie.

Your loving nephew,