The Turn Around
Roy climbed out of his car in the parking lot of Station 51 just as Johnny's Land Rover entered the driveway. ' Papa was a Rollin Stone' playing on the Stereo 8 could be heard through the open windows and Roy watched as Johnny thumped his steering wheel along with the heavy beat as he pulled into the spot to the left of Roy.
"Hi Roy!" Johnny called out brightly.
Roy looked down at the keychain in his hand and mumbled a disheartened "Hello" back.
Johnny knew his partner well enough to know something was up. "What's got you so down in the dumps on this beautiful day?"
Roy looked up into the sky as if he hadn't noticed the clear weather until that moment. "Oh, nothing." he said. Johnny was unconvinced there was nothing wrong but chose to let it go and bounded into the station to greet the rest of the crew.
Shortly after roll call, Captain Stanley came out of his office just as the men were starting their morning chores. "Gage, you have a letter here that came in while we were off shift." He handed the small yellow-colored envelope to his paramedic.
Johnny surveyed the piece of mail closely, a boyish grin playing on his face. Roy looked over on his way to the latrines as he had been assigned that duty that day, much to his dismay. This day was not shaping up very well.
Johnny, still smiling, ran the envelope under his nose inhaling the scent. "Ah, Suzie!" he said to no one in particular. He tucked the prized letter into his shirt pocket and hurried to get his share of the daily work done so he could read it as soon as he was finished.
Johnny bounced out of the dorms into the bathroom area. "I'm done with the dorms, how about you, R…." He stopped short as Roy turned around and faced him. "What the heck happened to you?" He looked down at his partner's pants and shoes. Soapy water streamed down Roy's legs and Johnny could see his shoes were already filling with water. Johnny winced, thinking how uncomfortable wet socks would be.
"Uh, the bucket got away from me." Roy said solemnly. He opened his locker and pulled out a dry pair of pants when he realized he did not have another pair of shoes to change into. His last pair had been ruined in a recent messy fire and he had not replaced them. 'Oh, just great.' He thought to himself.
Johnny surveyed his friend's misery and knew it was not just the wet pants and shoes that had him down. "Let me guess," Johnny said, raising an eyebrow toward his partner, "you had a fight with Joanne, right?"
Roy glanced briefly at Johnny but quickly changed his pants and put the squishy shoes back on. All he wanted was a cup of coffee before they got called out on a run.
"I knew it!" Johnny said, proud of himself for knowing his partner so well. He followed Roy into the apparatus bay. "What did you do now?"
Roy stopped short causing Johnny to bump right into him as they crossed the bay. "What makes you think I did anything? And I never said you were right."
"Ah, but I am right, aren't I?" he said, leaning in for emphasis.
Roy began walking towards the kitchen again, his wet shoes squishing loudly, as he mumbled, "Yeah."
Roy stopped short again just before the door to the kitchen but this time Johnny was ready for it and avoided the collision. "That's just it, I don't know. I…I…" he began but then just waved dejectedly towards Johnny as he breathed out, "Women!" and continued into the kitchen.
Johnny stopped at that and repeated, in a much happier tone, "Women!" as remembered the letter in his pocket and joyously pulled it out, ripping it open.
Roy was already sitting down with his coffee cup as Johnny walked toward the stove reading the letter and grinning like a kid on Christmas morning.
"So, who's your letter from, Gage?" Chet asked, coming up behind Johnny and trying to read the flowery handwriting over John's shoulder.
Johnny spotted Chet behind him and whirled around holding the letter over his shoulder protectively. "None of your business, Chet." he said, annoyed.
Marco could now easily see the letter over Johnny's shoulder. "I had so much fun the other day…" he read aloud in an exaggerated female voice. Johnny whirled again, this time folding the letter in half and gave Marco a cut-it-out look.
"It's from Suzie – If you must know." Gage said as the childish grin returned.
"Oh yeah, I remember you were going to take her to dinner last week. She's that stewardess, right?"
John puffed up, bragging. "Yes she is and we had a great time. She wants to see me again just as soon as our days off match up." He tucked the letter back into his pocket and poured himself a cup of coffee. He down sat across from Roy who was resting his head on his hand and staring into his coffee cup.
"Don't move so fast, John," Marco said, "or you'll end up happily married like Roy there." All the men, including usually quiet Stoker, laughed at the dig.
It took a moment to register but Roy finally looked up from his cup to see all his shift mates staring at him like a he was a dog sent to the dog house. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Oh, it's not that bad. We just had a little fight, is all."
As Johnny opened his mouth to give some of his so-called marriage advice, the tones went off. Roy breathed a sigh of relief at the chance to escape his partner's counsel and silently hoped that it would be forgotten by the time they got back to the station.
"Squad 51, sick child, at the elementary school. 161 East Carson Street. Cross street, Bolsa. 161 East Carson Street. Time out 1005."
Captain Stanley wrote down the address and handed Roy the slip as he and Johnny boarded the squad.
A few minutes later, Squad 51 pulled into the parking lot of the Carson Elementary School. A staff member waved them towards a side door. "In here, please," the woman said nervously.
After gathering their gear, they entered the faded red metal door. Roy led the way asking, "Ma'am can you tell us what's wrong?" as they walked. Johnny didn't miss the quick glance the woman shot at Roy's squishing shoes as she answered.
"It's Jose…Jose Mendoza. He's not feeling well so his teacher sent him to the nurse but his fever is so high we got nervous and called you." She pulled open a door on the right marked School Nurse and motioned the two paramedics into the room as she held the door.
Roy took the lead and entered the small room off the main office area. He found the boy laying on a cot with the young nurse who was holding his hand and patting it, looking like she just could not think of anything better to do at the moment.
Roy squatted down and said gently, "Jose?" The boy looked at him with his eyes wide as the two important looking men came into the room carrying some scary looking boxes and supplies with them. "Hi, my name's Roy and this here is Johnny." Johnny nodded and smiled trying to ease the boy's obvious fears. "We are paramedics and we just want to take a look at you, is that okay?" Roy reached to take the little boy's pulse and felt the fever already. Having done this so long, he could already estimate that it was around 101.
The room was too small for both medics to work on the boy at the same time which was probably a good thing as he looked nervous enough just with Roy being so close. "Johnny, can you hand me the thermometer? Ma'am," he said looking up at the nurse who stood nearby wringing her hands nervously, "can you tell me what his temperature was when you called us?" he took the thermometer Johnny handed him and slipped it under Jose's tongue before he began to wrap the b.p. cuff around the child's arm.
"Yes, it was about 100.5 when he first arrived but within just a short time it hit 101 and he was so groggy that I just thought it best to call you."
Roy gave Johnny the b.p. reading, pulse and respirations as Johnny contacted Rampart on the biophone. He then took the thermometer from Jose's mouth. He stood to more easily lean toward the wall lamp above the cot. Just as he did, Jose turned a decided shade of green, leaned over and promptly vomited onto Roy's already soggy shoes.
"Uh…" Johnny began but it all happened too fast.
Roy paused only momentarily before reading off the temperature. "101.5, Johnny."
As Johnny updated Rampart with the vitals, Jose looked up forlornly at Roy and said quietly, "Sorry, mister."
After deciding it was a mild flu, the boy was released to his mother who arrived shortly after with instructions to take him to their family doctor straight away. She thanked Johnny and Roy, not quite hiding the wrinkle in her nose from the smell of Roy's lower pant leg and shoes. She sheepishly walked Jose out of the office and down the hall.
Johnny took most of the gear back to the squad, feeling sorry for his partner but giving him a wide berth in the empty school hallway. He wasn't looking forward to riding with the vomit smell and planned on rolling down the window as soon as he entered the vehicle.
As they exited the door where they first entered, the sound of children rushing out of classes came to their ears. Roy, who had lagged behind a bit, was suddenly surrounded with wildly screaming boys and girls on their way to recess. The children paid no mind to the man in their way and bounded by so quickly, Roy was spun almost entirely around. One rather heavy boy stomped on Roy's right foot and he winced. Johnny saw it and grimaced in empathy as he stowed the gear in the compartment and shut the door.
Once he had recovered from the sudden onslaught, Roy dropped his arms by his sides dejectedly and slid into the driver's seat. His demeanor drooped even more when he saw his partner quickly rolling down the passenger side window.
Johnny picked up the mic to announce themselves available. On the other side of the parking lot, Roy saw a gardener tending to a small flower garden around a large tree near the school entrance. He hopped back out of the squad and Johnny watched him cross the parking lot and speak to the grounds keeper. He saw the look of confusion on the man's face and then the shrug as Roy nodded at him. Johnny couldn't hear what they were saying but soon was laughing to himself as he watched the gardener turn the hose on his partner's feet.
Johnny quickly forgot about Roy as he spotted a pretty teacher watching him just beyond the playground fence. By the time Roy got back to the squad, Johnny was leaning on the chain link flirting with the young woman. It was all too much for him when he saw Johnny hand the woman his notepad and pencil. The woman handed the pad back just as Roy hit the horn. Johnny jumped and spun around once to face Roy and then back again towards the fence. He flashed his patented lopsided grin, returned to the squad and climbed in. The ride back to the station was a quiet one.
~ E ~
Roy headed to the dorm to change his pants once again. The rest of the crew was working on various jobs on the engine. Chet had the 12-drawer tool box near the rear of the engine and was handing tools down to Mike as needed. Johnny headed into the kitchen and poured himself a cup of coffee as he absent mindedly re-read the letter from Suzie.
Roy hurried toward the kitchen, not quite watching where he was going when his right pant leg caught on the sharp corner of an open toolbox drawer. Riiiippp went the fabric on his third - and last - pair of pants. Everyone stopped what they were doing but remained silent. Roy closed his eyes and appeared to be counting to ten. He then turned on his heel to put on the first pair of pants that had not quite dried yet. The men quietly returned to their duties without saying a word.
Roy entered the kitchen and scoffed softly at his partner who was leaning back precariously on the kitchen chair, his feet resting on the corner of the table. Roy was baffled how Johnny managed to sit like that without ever falling back. He also had radar when it came to the captain and could always get his feet back on the floor instantly before Cap even saw him. Roy picked up a mug and tipped the coffee pot over it, looking forward to…his jaw dropped as about a teaspoonful of coffee dribbled into the waiting mug.
Johnny looked up sharply as he heard the coffee pot being slammed back down on the stove. "Oh sorry, Roy. I guess I took the last of the coffee but didn't notice."
Roy went about starting a fresh pot of coffee, grumbling to himself as he did. Johnny could only catch a few words and they were not words he usually heard his partner utter. He went back to his letter.
Just as Roy set the pot on the stove the alarms went off. He hung his head dejectedly as the station was called out to a structure fire. Would this day ever get any better?
~ E ~
Later that day, Roy was following the ambulance to Rampart after pulling a smoke inhalation victim out of the building. He admitted he was a bit leery about even entering the building considering the rotten luck that had plagued him all day. But everything went off without a hitch and the victim wasn't even seriously hurt.
He backed into his spot alongside the ambulance and headed to the nurse's station to restock supplies as Johnny finished up with the patient.
Back in the squad Johnny rubbed his stomach and made an I'm-hungry face at Roy. "Yeah, I'm pretty hungry myself," he said, not even needing to hear Johnny's words. "We've missed lunch at the station, why don't we stop and grab something to eat at that new taco stand we spotted."
Johnny grinned widely, "Man, you read my mind, Roy." He said slapping his hands and rubbing them together.
Johnny got his order at the window and headed to a nearby picnic table. He started to devour his food as Roy stood, rather impatiently, at the window waiting for his order. After quite a while he asked the young girl at the window if his order was almost ready. He was sure they would be called away before he could even get a bite in at this rate. After a few minutes of confusion, the girl apologized and told Roy that his order had been lost and never even started. Roy held his temper, not wanting to be rude but this was just another example of the bad luck day he was enduring. He placed his order again and sat down across from Johnny to wait.
Johnny had heard the conversation at the window and said through a mouthful of food, "That's too bad, Roy." He glanced down at his tray and back at Roy. "Wanna bite? I have another taco here that you could have."
Roy eyed the untouched taco. "Are you sure, Johnny? I'm starving and I am just sure we are going to get called away before I get to eat."
"Sure, go ahead." Johnny pushed the tray towards Roy with his elbow as both his hands were supporting an enormous burrito.
Roy, grabbed the taco and took a big bite. He suddenly stopped chewing and looking a bit like Johnny with his mouthful of food sputtered, "Is that cilantro in here?"
It took a few chews from Johnny before what Roy asked began to register. "Oh, man, Roy, yeah – I asked for extra cilantro on my tacos!"
Roy leapt off the bench and headed to the nearest trash bin. He leaned over it and unceremoniously spit the large mouthful into the trash. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and looked over at Johnny as he said, "You know I'm allergic to cilantro, Johnny. Why did you offer that to me? Are you trying to kill me?"
Johnny looked hurt at the suggestion. "No, I'm not trying to kill…Roy! How could you ask me that? I was trying to be nice and forgot about the cilantro. Do you think you are going to be okay?" He dropped the last of his burrito into his mouth.
"Yeah, I spit it out so it shouldn't bother me too much."
Just then the bell at the window sounded and his order number was called. Roy took one step forward but then froze as the handy talkie on his belt sounded.
"Squad 51, unknown type rescue…" Johnny quickly dumped the tray contents into the trash as he took a very loud last slurp of his soda and then also deposited it into the trash. He headed to the squad as Roy dragged along behind him, shoes squishing all the way.
~ E ~
By the time Johnny and Roy reached the station, it was almost dinner time. Roy hurried into the kitchen, excited to see what Marco was preparing. Marco was a great cook and Roy thought he should write a cookbook someday. He opened the steaming pot on the stove and leaned over.
Lamb stew? Roy disliked lamb very much but, heck, he was so hungry he'd eat Chet Kelly's fried chicken without complaint. He cautiously tried lifting the coffee pot and found there was actually coffee in it. Warm coffee? He felt the pot with his free hand and smiled. Was his luck turning around finally?
Johnny came into the kitchen taking in a deep breath. "Is that lamb I smell, Marco?" Marco nodded proudly. "I do love your lamb stew, Mr. Lopez." he said as he picked up that day's paper and started to peruse the front page.
Just then Captain Stanley came into the kitchen and dropped an envelope in front of Johnny.
Chet looked up and whined, "Oh is that another love letter, Gage?" Roy looked away as to not let the others see his eyes roll. He wasn't sure he could take any more of Johnny's good luck in any form. He then silently chided himself for wishing bad luck on his friend. 'Well, not bad luck,' he reasoned…'just not as much good luck.'
Johnny's eyes widened as he read the return address. "IRS?" he said incredulously. Roy instantly felt even worse for his thoughts as he assumed anything from the IRS could not be good news. He dropped his head in his hands as he remembered the last time Johnny got mail from the IRS.
Johnny ripped open the letter scanning it quickly, "They say I made an error on my tax return." A small groan escaped Roy but it went unnoticed as Johnny continued to scan the letter. "You will receive a…refund…in the amount of $249.10!" Johnny looked up excitedly and Roy's head also perked up. 'A refund? Who would get a refund?' he thought to himself.
Johnny beamed and leaned back in his chair for an instant before realizing that his captain was still in the room. He returned all four legs of the chair to the floor quickly. Roy ran his hands through his hair and avoided looking at his crew mates. He was happy for Johnny, he was. But then, why didn't something like this happen to him?
Mike began to set the table for dinner and then of course… "Squad 51, possible heart attack…"
Roy pushed himself up from the table with an oh-of-course look on his face. Johnny now tucked this new treasured letter into his shirt pocket and ran ahead to check the address on the wall map before jumping into the passenger seat.
~ E ~
Roy backed the squad into its spot in the bay as Johnny opened the passenger door and jumped out. He was obviously biting his lip to keep from smiling but was failing miserably. Roy slowly left the cab of the truck with a loud squish squash. That's when Johnny couldn't help but laugh. "Roy, I told you to watch out! How could you not see that kiddie pool, man?"
Roy looked across the hood of the squad, "Johnny, please, just don't."
Johnny's eyes danced merrily but then he sobered, saying, "Aw, don't be sore, Roy. You've had just the worst day, I know." The two men headed into the day room to join the rest of the crew. Everyone was seated in front of the television as they watched a new episode of M*A*S*H.
Captain Stanley looked back over his should as he heard the now familiar squishing of his senior paramedic's shoes. "Roy…again? What now?"
Roy opened his mouth to answer but Johnny beat him to it. "Aw, Cap, you missed it. The victim was in the backyard so we grabbed our gear and headed back there. I saw the kiddie pool and managed to side step it but Roy was coming up close behind me and had the oxygen and drug box in his hands and…"
"Splash?" Chet asked succinctly.
Johnny turned towards him and nodded, "Splash." He tried to hide his grin but winked toward Chet.
"Why don't you go change your shoes then, Pal?" the captain asked Roy.
"I can't, remember? These are my only shoes."
"Oh that's right." Captain Stanley made a sympathetic face.
Just then Johnny started sniffing the air. "Mm, what do I smell?"
"Oh yeah," Chet bounced off his chair just as the television show ended. "We had those extra bananas going brown so I decided to make banana bread."
Roy's eyes widened as all he managed to have since breakfast was a very stale candy bar from the hospital vending machine.
Chet turned the top oven light on and peeked in. "Almost done." He said proudly and turned to clean up the dishes and mess he had left behind when M*A*S*H came on.
Roy had plunked himself down at the kitchen table, too miserable to even try to watch television. 'Why me?' he wondered to the heavens. 'This day has got to turn around,' he thought as the phone rang. Johnny picked up the phone and then motioned to Roy mouthing, "It's Joanne." Roy let out a breath, not sure if he wanted to have this conversation. He took the phone.
"Hi honey." He paused as he listened to his wife speak. The others tried to pretend they weren't listening. "Oh?" Roy continued. "Well thank you, Sweetie. I'm sorry too. No? Well, I appreciate that." Johnny turned and openly listened to the one-sided conversation, happy to see Roy smiling for the first time that day.
Roy hung up a short time later and sat back down at the kitchen table as Chet picked up the banana peel remnants and other trash and crossed the kitchen to the garbage bin. Everyone was intent on Roy and did not notice Chet drop one of the banana peels on the floor in front of the sink.
"She apologized for yelling at me this morning," he said to no one in particular, "she said it was all her fault." Roy put his hands behind his head and considered leaning back on his chair but decided not to tempt fate. "Is this day finally looking up? Is my bad luck streak ending?" He said just as Chet's left foot made contact with the rogue banana peel.
Everyone jumped as Chet's legs went out from under him and he landed with a loud thud on his backside.
"Ow!" Chet yelled and Roy jumped up to check on his friend.
"Chet, did you hurt yourself!" Roy asked as the others gathered around him.
"Nah," Chet answered as he reached behind himself and rubbed his sore gluteus maximus, "just my pride."
Johnny snickered and leaned over to Roy to whisper, "Roy, I think your question was just answered."
Captain Stanley tried to act indignant at Johnny's funny but crude remark but he just couldn't keep a straight face and the whole crew burst out laughing.