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But the Greatest of these is Love by Mypiot
…and now abideth Faith, Hope, Love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Instead of being a time of unusual behaviour, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses
and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas, in short, is about the only chance
a man has to be himself. ~ Francis. C. Farley.
Why was it that he and Roy always seemed to get the difficult water rescues? Of course he knew that wasn’t actually the case, but right now it certainly seemed that way to the cold and soaking wet paramedic.
Johnny’s head popped up from underneath the water, as he dragged their victim out of his submerged car. He spoke in a calm and quiet tone to the fully conscious man whom he was now towing behind him, reassuring him that they were almost to the shore.
He was totally supporting his rescue victim with his left arm, which he had thrown across the man’s upper chest. He had his left hand holding firmly to the victims right underarm so that his head was safely out of the water.
The victim of the late night accident had been extremely lucky on two counts. Not only had he not been injured when his car had rolled over the small embankment into the lake, but there had been a sizeable air pocket in the back of the totally submerged car that had kept him from drowning.
Unfortunately for Johnny, the man was also a non-swimmer, which meant Johnny was at this moment, doing all of the swimming for both of them.
When it had become apparent that the victim was scared, but unharmed; Roy swam on ahead back to the shore to get their equipment out and some blankets ready for all three of them.
Johnny was about fifteen feet from shore and Chet’s outstretched hands when he felt the victim begin to tense up. He immediately sensed the impending danger, and tried valiantly swing his weight so that he could switch his grip to the back of the man’s shirt collar.
If he had had just a moment longer to act, he might have succeeded, but his victim was a fairly heavy man and Johnny himself was becoming cold and numb. So when the victim suddenly panicked and began to thrash, swinging his arms wildly about, Johnny was in no position to protect either of them.
The man’s right arm connected with Johnny’s left ear, and both men went down underneath the cold dark water.
The unexpected dousing in the cold water caused both victim and rescuer to involuntarily gasp. Both men took in a large mouthful of water, and both men came up sputtering for air.
Johnny felt someone; he assumed it was Chet; grasp him by the back of his shirt collar, and haul him the rest of the way into shore… he was still holding on to the flailing victim, dragging him along for the ride.
When they arrived on shore, Roy took the victim from Johnny’s grasp. Johnny lay on the bank for a minute, coughing and gasping for air before he finally made it up to his feet and staggered up the bank, nodding his thanks to Chet as he passed.
He looked over and saw that Roy was in the process of wrapping the man in a yellow blanket; he had the oxygen sitting beside him in preparation to administer some to their victim.
He groaned inwardly because he knew that when Roy was done with their victim… he was going to be next.
“Are you okay Junior?” he heard Roy’s worried voice ask.
Johnny was still hacking and coughing, so he nodded in the affirmative instead.
Roy shook his head warningly, “Don’t try and help out the others until I check you out. I want you to just go sit on the running board of the squad … I’ll get to you next.”
Once again, Johnny nodded his head in the affirmative and complied with Roy’s orders … coughing and hacking all the way.
Just great… he thought to himself. He had been plagued with a mildly sore throat all day, and he was sure this wasn’t going to help matters out. There was no way he wanted to get sick now. It was the fifth of December and this year he was hosting his first real Christmas at his new ranch.
Station 51’s A shift had pulled a forty eight hour shift over Thanksgiving weekend, and as a result, B shift would be working Christmas Eve, and C shift had Christmas Day.
The best part of the whole deal for Johnny was that this year the DeSoto’s were coming out to his place Christmas Eve morning and they would share their Christmas at his place with just the five of them alone.
After all the holidays they had shared with him, Johnny was anxious that this year be absolutely perfect… and he didn’t want it jeopardized by illness.
Johnny looked over as Roy escorted their blanket wrapped and oxygen clad patient into the back of the ambulance.
Roy had taken off his own wet shirt and replaced it with his turnout coat. That didn’t sound like a half bad idea to Johnny, and he stood up to do the same.
“Don’t you even think of moving Junior … not until I check you out.” Roy warned
Grudgingly Johnny sat back down with a heavy sigh. ~~~
It was almost four in the morning, and Johnny was sitting beside Roy on a gurney in treatment room one, while Chet sat on a stool close by. They were all dressed in hospital scrubs, but Johnny was still shivering.
Back at the scene of the rescue, Cap had come over to his wet crew members, which now included Chet. He had ordered them all into Rampart to be checked over.
Rampart had told Roy to put Johnny on some oxygen for his lingering cough, which meant he was riding in back of the ambulance along with their victim. Roy had also joined them and as usual he was hovering close by.
Chet was driving the squad in since he had been ordered to get checked out himself.
Johnny sat in the back of the ambulance and looked over at their victim, who was lying on the stretcher, swathed in warm blankets, and sleeping peacefully. Once they had him out it was obvious he was slightly inebriated. He was no longer shivering … in fact after the first initial sputtering; he hadn’t been bothered by any coughing at all… that figures.
All Johnny wanted right now was a hot shower and a chance to go back to his warm bed, but he had mentioned to the doctor on call that he had been bothered by a slight sore throat all day, and an initial examination had shown some throat inflammation and a mild fever of 99.8.
All of the usual medical personnel they usually dealt with were not presently on duty. Dixie, Dr. Brackett, and Dr. Early were all scheduled to be on duty in the morning, so they had gone home at seven.
The doctor, who was seeing them right now, was Dr. Patrick Hanson. Roy and Johnny had never had any direct dealings with him, because he usually worked on the burn unit, but he was filling in tonight down in the ER. Both Johnny and Roy found the man to be personable, and he seemed to have a good rapport with the patients.
The doctor had said that he suspected Johnny was in the early stages of a case of tonsillitis, but in order to determine if the inflammation was caused by a virus or bacteria, they would need a throat swab.
Since the results for a swab, took longer to come back, Dr. Hanson had performed a rapid smear test which gleaned results right away.
So here the three of them sat waiting for the verdict. It was another ten minutes before Dr. Hanson came back into the room.
Johnny and Roy both suspected that it was indeed bacterial, as Johnny’s tonsils were what Dr. Brackett had called chronic. He had already had at least four mild to moderate bouts of tonsillitis in the last year.
Dr. Brackett had already cautioned him that if they increased in severity, he would recommend Johnny have them taken out. Brackett had actually suggested that he should have them removed anyway, because of Johnny’s propensity for developing pneumonia.
But Johnny hated hospitals when you had to be there as a patient, and since he’d never been too sick with his tonsils as of yet, he saw no reason to willingly go under the knife.
Besides, he couldn’t take time off right now. He had been working as much overtime lately as he could. He was trying to save up for a very expensive saddle to use when training his horses; on top of that he had spent more on Christmas this year.
This was the first year he was having his family to his place for Christmas and he had wanted to get them something extra special in the way of gifts.
Then there had been all the new Christmas decorations he’d had to go out and purchase; not to mention the large amount of food he had stocked up in his freezer back at his ranch. All of that had cost money and it had put a big dent in his ‘mad money’ savings account.
He had been hoping to snatch another shift of OT later in the week, but headquarters limited how thin they were allowed to spread themselves, and Johnny was already at his limit. He wouldn’t be able to pull any more overtime for at least two more weeks. So he didn’t want to lose any of his regular shifts… He just had to have that saddle.
Johnny’s thoughts were interrupted by the opening of the treatment room door.
“Well, it’s bacterial, but it’s in the early stages. I’m going to start you an oral antibiotic so we can knock it back quickly. I’m told your shift is over in a couple of hours anyway, and that after that, you have the next two days off, so I’m going to go ahead and pull you off duty now.”
“I want you to go home and rest. Make sure you stay hydrated, and take Tylenol for the fever. Make sure you stay on these antibiotics for a week.”
“As long as you’re feeling okay and your fever is down, I don’t see any problem with you working your next regular shift in 3 days. If your symptoms are still present or they get worse, then I want you to come back in and see Dr. Brackett.”
“I have contacted your headquarters and I have officially stood the squad down until your next shift arrives to take over in…” he looked at his watch… “three hours.”
“Mr. DeSoto, Mr. Kelly; everything looks good, and I don’t anticipate any problems, but if either of you develop any sinus or ear problems, you should go see your family doctors immediately.”
Dr. Hanson gave Johnny his first dose of antibiotic in the treatment room and handed him a prescription for the rest. After shaking their hands, he turned and left the room.
Since the hospital pharmacy was closed at this hour, the three men headed back out to the emergency parking lot.
“No fair Roy,” groused Chet while they were crawling back into the squad.
“You get to hop in your car and go home to finish out the night in your own bed, while the rest of us have to wait around for B shift to arrive … all because you have the walking germ factory for a partner.”
Although Chet wore a frown on his face, his voice held no malice in it. He was still feeling his neck from his last disastrous prank on Johnny two weeks earlier that had almost landed him a suspension.
He and Johnny had made up and had managed to put the incident behind them; but Chet was still wary about rocking any boats just at the moment.
Johnny looked over at Chet and rolled his eyes.
“You should be so lucky as to have me for a partner Chet …” he kidded back in a slightly raspy voice.
Roy cast a sideways glance at Johnny and took note of how tired he looked.
“Hey Junior; it’s a long drive out to the ranch, and you’ll only have to turn around and come back in to get your meds. You might as well come and crash in your room at my place. Then Jo can fix us a nice big hot breakfast when we wake up, and you can go pick up your pills before you head home.”
Johnny looked over and grinned and winked at Chet.
“Of course there’s absolutely no ulterior motive involved in your little plan is there Roy?”
Roy looked over at his younger partner and grinned back sheepishly.
All three men in the cab of the squad knew perfectly well how close the two paramedics were, and they also were equally well aware of how much Johnny appreciated the concern.
Johnny smiled back at Roy warmly.
“Thanks pally… I don’t mind if I do.”
Johnny was just relieved that other than losing three hours off of this shift, he wouldn’t have to go out on sick leave.
At nine o’clock the next morning Roy and Joanne were sitting at their breakfast table enjoying some croissants and coffee, while they talked. Both the children were at school and Johnny was still asleep in his room, and had shown no signs of waking up soon.
The night before had been a busy and tiring one for both men, but the added discomfort of tonsillitis had kept Johnny sleeping longer than he usually would. Jo drained the last of her coffee and snatched up Johnny’s prescription from off the table.
“I’ll go pick these up for Johnny on my way home from dropping off those wet uniforms at the cleaners. If there’s time before Jenny gets home from kindergarten, I’ll make up a batch of homemade chicken soup for Johnny to take with him before he heads home. If not, he’ll just have to stay for lunch until it’s finished.”
In the end it was almost two in the afternoon before Johnny made it home. When he had woken up his fever was up to 100.6 and his voice was barely a croak.
Joanne and Roy made him hang around until they were sure that the Tylenol was going to be effective at bringing his temperature down. They had tried to convince him to stay for another day, but Johnny had refused.
He still had some decorating for Christmas that he wanted to do inside, and he figured as long as he took it easy and made sure he napped, all would be fine.
Johnny and Roy had already spent their last two days off, decorating the outside of their homes. They had done Roy and Joanne’s outdoor lights on the first day, and Johnny’s on the second.
The plan was for them all to head out on the tenth to a Christmas tree farm and cut down their own tree. Johnny already knew he wanted a nice ten foot Fraser fir. They had always been his favourite.
Johnny puttered around the house, putting up angels, and wreaths here and there. He had gone out and purchased some Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como Christmas records.
At any other time of the year, artists such as these would have been cringed at and considered to be nothing but schmaltz or cheesy; but at Christmas time the rules changed and these artists were considered perennial favourites.
Even though he wasn’t particularly hungry, at six o’clock he had a bowl of Joanne’s chicken soup and some crackers. He dutifully took his antibiotic with a glass of apple juice and went out to the barn to feed his horses.
His neighbour Bob usually fed and cared for his horses when Johnny was away. Bob happily did it in exchange for free use of Johnny’s back pasture for his few head of sheep and cattle.
Bob’s small hobby farm didn’t have the lush pasture lands that Johnny’s did, so it was an arrangement that worked out to both of their advantages. He had called earlier in the evening to see if Johnny was going to need his services to look after the horses that evening.
Johnny hadn’t seen his “babies” in a couple of days and he wanted a chance to spend time with them so he had told Bob he wouldn’t be needed that night or the next day.
After he had fed, watered and put down fresh bedding for his horses; he gave them each an extra special brushing down. Once he had finished, Johnny locked up the barn for the night and came back inside.
He noticed the right side of his throat seemed to be causing him more pain than it had earlier in the day. He had the beginnings of a headache as well.
Once inside he took his temperature. It was up to 101 and when he had taken the Tylenol he noticed that swallowing was markedly more painful this evening, especially on the right side.
The last thing he needed was for this thing to get any worse, so that he ended up missing any shifts off of work. He was hoping to put away a bit of cash, so he could buy himself that expensive saddle he had had his eye on for the last couple of months.
In the end he phoned up Bob and explained things to him, and asked if he wouldn’t mind taking care of the horse’s tomorrow after all.
He made himself a cup of lemon tea in the hopes of soothing his sore throat and he went up to bed. It was only eight thirty, but he figured he could spend the evening in bed reading, or going over his Christmas list one more time.
He had been going over the Christmas dinner menu for days. He was so excited about the upcoming holiday, and he wanted to make sure it turned out to be absolutely perfect.
Johnny hadn’t been aware that he had fallen asleep while reading, until he woke up just after seven thirty the next morning, with his book open on the bed beside him, the light on, and a cold cup of tea sitting on the nightstand.
The minute he tried to sit up, he knew he was in trouble. Now in addition to his sore throat, he was experiencing some pain in his right ear and neck.
The headache was more pronounced this morning, and swallowing was a new experience in torture.
He didn’t need to take his temperature to know that it too was elevated. He lay back down and closed his eyes in resignation and then he leaned over to the nightstand and picked up his phone.
The DeSoto family was in the kitchen in the middle of their breakfast, when the phone rang. Chris and Jenny were eating their cereal and Roy was spreading some strawberry jam on his toast, while Joanne stood at the counter packing Christopher’s lunch for school.
Hearing the phone ring, Roy stood up.
“I’ll get it honey,” he said as he made his way over to the phone that hung on the wall next to the fridge. He picked up the receiver and spoke into it.
Roy heard a weak, raspy voice on the other end.
Roy was instantly on the alert… Johnny sounded horrible. His illness had obviously gotten a lot worse overnight.
“I think I may need to go see Brackett and get something a bit stronger for my tonsillitis…” he heard Johnny croak out over the phone.
“Stay put in bed Junior; I’m on my way out there right now.” Roy said forcefully.
“ ‘kay,” Johnny answered him in a whispered rasp.
Joanne looked up worriedly, as Roy disconnected from Johnny and immediately began to dial Rampart.
“Johnny’s gotten a lot worse… I’m going to go get him and take him in to see Brackett.”
Doctor Brackett was ready and waiting for Johnny and Roy’s arrival in treatment room three. He had been thankful that Roy had called him and briefed him on the situation. It had given him a chance to pull Dr. Hanson’s notes and go over them before his patient arrived.
As soon as Dixie ushered Johnny and Roy into the treatment room, it only took Kelly Brackett one look at the sick man to know that Johnny was no longer suffering from just a simple case of tonsillitis… and he had a pretty good idea what might be wrong.
He took a cursory look inside Johnny’s mouth and then told Johnny to get himself into a gown, and that he’d be back in a few minutes to do a more thorough exam.
He stepped out into the hall with Dixie for a private word.
“I am almost positive Johnny’s got a PTA Dix… I’m going to do a closer examination, but I think you’d better go ahead and get him a room and start the paperwork on his admittance forms. I’m guessing he’ll be here for a week.”
Back in the examination room, Johnny was feeling miserable. He was feverish, his throat hurt, his glands and neck hurt, his ear pained, he had a headache, and on top of everything else he was starting to feel nauseas.
Laying back he didn’t say anything as Doctor Brackett looked him over. Not that he could have said anything anyway… not only did it hurt too much to talk, he spent most of the examination with his mouth open saying ahhhh, or with a thermometer jammed under his tongue.
After several long minutes of poking and prodding Kel stood up and removed his stethoscope from his neck, coiled it up and shoved it in the pocket of his lab coat.
“Well, Johnny,” he said.
“You have a case of what my grandmother would have called Quinsy."
Johnny looked over at the doctor and raised his eyebrows in question, because his throat hurt too damn much to speak right now.
Doctor Brackett got the message in one, and began to clarify his diagnosis. You have what is known as, a peritonsillar abscess, or a PTA for short. It’s a complication from tonsillitis.”
“How serious is it and what do we do for it?” asked Roy.
Brackett pulled up a stool and sat down between the two men.
“Well first we get you admitted, and then we decide on our course of action. We’ll start you on some stronger antibiotics. With a PTA we administer the antibiotics through and I.V. We also have to treat it with one of three types of surgical procedures.”
“The first option is a needle aspiration, to drain the abscess, but it isn’t always as effective as the other methods, and at this point I’m not considering you as a candidate for that.”
“The second option is an incision and draining… it is much more effective than the first one, but there is a chance of recurrence, especially in someone who has a history of tonsillitis flare ups.”
“Now I’ve gone back over your medical records Johnny and this is your fifth flare up of tonsillitis in eighteen months. Now taking in to consideration that you have now had an episode of PTA, I think the third option is going to be the one we should go with… and that is just to do a tonsillectomy.”
“The question then becomes; do we do what we call a quinsy tonsillectomy, or an interval tonsillectomy?”
“What’s the difference?” rasped out Johnny.
Kel smiled and got up off the stool and walked over beside the gurney where Johnny was laying.
“Well with the interval tonsillectomy, we do the incision and drainage and wait for you to heal up, and then approximately six to eight weeks from now, you’ll come back in and have your tonsils removed… with the quinsy tonsillectomy, we just go ahead and remove your tonsils right now.”
Roy looked over at his friend.
“Well, what do you think Junior?”
Johnny started to speak and then grimaced in pain. Kel reached into his breast pocket and removed a pad of paper and a pen and handed it to Johnny.
“Here Johnny, write it down and give your throat a rest.”
Johnny took the pen and paper and wrote for several minutes. When he finished he handed the note back to the doctor.
Kel read Johnny’s handwritten reply…
So, basically what you’re saying to me is, it’s a choice between one hospital stay or two? Which would also mean that if I wait, I’d have to book time off for sick leave twice in less than six to eight weeks?
Kel held the note out to Roy so he could read what Johnny had written.
“In a nut shell … yes. It’s just a matter of, is it better to let you heal first before we do it, or just go ahead and do it now? But either way they gotta come out Johnny. As for when to do it, it’s kind of six of one, half a dozen of the other. Whichever option you choose is fine by me.”
Johnny reached for the pen and paper. Kel handed it back and Johnny began to write once more. When he was finished he turned the pad around for both men to read.
What is the recovery time…? If I have the tonsillectomy done now, will I be all better by Christmas? I have to be healthy and on my feet again before Christmas!
Kel nodded his head.
“We’ll get you started on the I.V. antibiotics and let them get into your system for twenty four hours. Then tomorrow afternoon we would do the surgery. After that, you would be here for probably another five days… so just about a week in total.”
“After that you’ll be released to go home. Since your throat will be sore for a while you’ll be sent home with some mild painkillers as well as some oral antibiotics. You will need to stay home, take things easy and rest for another ten days once you’re released from here.”
Your total recovery should take about seventeen days in total… after that you can get back to living your normal life again.”
“Now I’ve asked to look at your work schedule and since it’s the seventh of December today; your final back to work release date would be the twenty third. But considering that’s your last shift before Christmas anyway; I wouldn’t anticipate releasing you back to duty until your next scheduled shift on the twenty sixth.”
“Knowing your penchant for complications, I think the extra few days of down time won’t hurt you in the least… But that means you stay out of that barn and away from those horses until at least the twentieth. I want you lying around in bed or on your couch until the then.”
“If you wait and have them out later, you will still be here for a week … and then another week at home resting after you’re released. Then in January, you would have to come back in and I will take out your tonsils and you’ll be off work for about ten days or so after that”
“I want you to understand that we need to err on the side of caution with recovery time because of your profession. Firefighters obviously have a much higher risk of smoke exposure. The last thing we want is for you to have your throat irritated by smoke too soon after any throat surgery … no matter how minor the procedure seems.”
Johnny scribbled on the paper, and held it up for Kel to read.
Well, if that’s the case, I think I’d rather just get it over with as soon as possible, so it doesn’t screw up my Christmas plans any more than it already has. Besides this way I only have to be out on sick leave once … I say go ahead and just yank them out tomorrow Doc.
Kel smiled and patted his leg.
“I believe that you’re making the right choice Johnny, but I think I can be a bit gentler than just yanking them out.”
Just then Dixie stuck her head in the door of the treatment room. She pushed herself the rest of the way in bringing with her a wheelchair.
“There’s a bed up in room 417 with your name on it Mr. Gage.” she teased.
Johnny looked between both Roy and Dixie and rolled his eyes.
Kel turned to Dixie, “As soon as he’s all settled in his bed, we’ll get that I.V. going Dix…”
Looking over at the sick man on the gurney he smiled ympathetically,
“I’ll just leave that pad and pen with you Johnny, so you and Roy can talk.”
Brackett then turned around to face Roy.
“You can stay and visit with your partner for a few minutes Roy, but we’ll be giving him some fairly strong antibiotics as well as some pain medication and fever reducers; so he’ll most likely fall asleep and stay that way for most of the day… which is what we want. He’s going to need his rest before the procedure tomorrow.”
He turned back to Johnny as he walked towards the door.
“You get some rest Johnny… Dixie here tells me she’s going to be personally going up to your room in a minute or so to get your I.V. going …I’ll be up to check on you later on. Now you just rest… you’ll be feeling better as soon as we get rid of those tonsils.”
He opened the door and spoke back over his shoulder as he stepped out into the hall;
“Bye Roy…and remember, just a few minutes okay?”
Roy nodded his head at the doctors back as he walked through the door.
Dixie handed the wheelchair off to Roy with a wink.
“I’m going to let you take our young friend here up to room 417 and get him settled while I gather up everything I’m going to need to get his I.V. going. I’ll meet you up there in ten minutes.”
Roy pushed the wheelchair over to the gurney and helped Johnny slide off the side and into the waiting chair.
“You’re chariot awaits sir…” he said playfully.
Johnny gave a snort of disgust and rolled his eyes as he slid into the chair.
Dixie held out a warm blanket, which Roy took and used it to cover Johnny’s legs. Once Johnny was all neatly arranged in the wheelchair, Roy pushed him out of the treatment room and towards the elevators.
After he got Johnny situated in the bed closest to the window in his room, Roy pulled out the plastic chair that was sitting next to Johnny’s bed and sat down.
Johnny pulled out his notepad and pen and began to write.
This sucks Roy… everything is falling apart on me… all I wanted was to have the best Christmas ever and now look what’s happened … Maybe that kind of thing just isn’t meant to happen for me. No matter how hard I try, things just never seem to work out the way I want them to.
Roy groaned inwardly.
Getting depressed was the last thing Johnny needed to be doing. He didn’t need anything to hinder his recovery from this PTA and the resulting surgery afterwards… complications found him easily enough as it was.
He looked down at the unhappy and ill man in the bed before him… case in point he thought ruefully.
He needed to put a put a stop to these gloomy thoughts, before they started to run rampant and out of control inside his partners head.
“Well, it’s not the outcome we hoped for yesterday, but we’ll get you fixed up and on your feet again in no time.”
Johnny looked up at Roy in dismay. He wrote on the pad for a minute and then handed him the notepad.
We were supposed to go to the tree farm in three days to cut down the tree … It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen now… damn it! Tell the kids I’m really sorry. If you want to just do Christmas at your place now, I’ll understand.
Roy read the paper and shook his head vehemently.
“No way Junior; you heard what Brackett said, you’ll be home in a week. The kids and I will go out the day before you come home and pick out the tree you wanted and bring it back to your place.”
“Then when you come home, you can lie on the sofa and we’ll all decorate it together as a family. Nothing is ruined… it’s just delayed a week. It might not be exactly how you planned, but it will be close. I promise you Junior, this Christmas is going to be awesome … I promise.”
Johnny looked up at Roy and gave a small smile and the thumbs up sign.
It was at that point that Dixie walked through the door pushing a small metal cart in front of her. On top of it lay all the accoutrements necessary for starting and I.V., as well as an additional bag that contained his antibiotics.
Dixie walked over to the bedside and gave both men a no nonsense look.
Okay boys, here’s the deal. I’m going to get this I.V. going and the meds on board, and then you two can have fifteen minutes to chat, and that’s it. After that I expect Mr. DeSoto to go home, and you Mr. Gage to go to sleep. Got it?”
Both men grinned. Johnny nodded, while Roy simply answered, “Yes ma’am.”
Roy left fifteen minutes later as promised, with a list of items Johnny wanted from home. Mainly his robe and slippers and his shaving kit and the book he had been reading.
By the time he had left, Johnny had been fighting to stay awake anyway, and Roy had no doubt his young partner had been asleep before he had even reached the elevators.
True to Dr. Brackett’s predictions, Johnny made it through the operation with no complications.
He had made a remarkable recovery and he was now fever and infection free … and except for a lingering soreness at the surgical site and a gravelly voice, he appeared to be fine.
But his spirits were definitely low. His disappointment at missing out on going with the DeSoto clan to pick out the Christmas tree showed on his face…he had had such grand plans to make this the perfect Christmas. But once again it seemed as if fate had conspired against him.
It had been a week to the day since his admittance into Rampart and Johnny was sitting up in the chair beside his bed in room 417, dressed in his robe and slippers just waiting for Roy to show up and take him home.
Dr. Brackett had just left, after giving Johnny the obligatory and traditional list of do’s and don’ts for the next ten days, as well as an appointment for a follow up on the twentieth of the month.
Then with a smile and some well wishes he took out his pen and the release forms. He laid the papers on the tray table and signed them with an exaggerated flourish and handed Johnny his copy.
It was just after ten in the morning, when he heard the door open and Dixie entered in with the wheelchair, followed closely behind by Roy. In his hands was a large black gym bag full of clean clothes for Johnny to change into for his trip home.
By the time Johnny had changed and exited from the bathroom, Dixie had disappeared leaving Roy to wheel Johnny out to the hospital entrance.
When they got to the first floor’s main exit, Dixie appeared once more.
She reached over and took the handles of the wheelchair out of Roy’s hands.
“Why don’t you go and bring your car right up to the door, and I’ll wheel Johnny out front and meet you there.”
Roy nodded and headed out the door and off in the direction of the South parking area.
Dixie walked at a more leisurely pace as she pushed Johnny out through the automatic doors and into the sunshine. Johnny sat back and let the sun warm his face.
It was a pleasant day in the mid-sixties, and Johnny thought it felt so good just to be able to feel the fresh air and gentle breeze on his face after a week of being cooped up in Rampart, where the only smells were sterile and antiseptic, and the general pall of illness hung dismally in the air.
It was only a matter of a couple minutes before Roy drove up in the Porsche and stopped at the curb in front of the main entrance.
He jumped out and made his way around to open up the passenger door as Dixie wheeled Johnny up closer to the car.
Johnny rolled his eyes, as pushed himself up into a standing position. His voice still sounded quite hoarse; a residual after-effect from the surgery.
“Guys… I wasn’t at deaths door you know, and it’s not like I have any broken bones here. You don’t need to make all this fuss. I’m healthy enough to walk out to the car.”
Dixie put her hands on her hips and looked over at him sternly.
“Mr. Gage, until you are off of the hospital’s property, you’ll do as you’re told. Now hospital procedures state that all patients are to be wheeled out by wheelchair upon their release…and you’re no exception.”
Johnny threw his hands up defensively in front of his body.
“Okay, Okay… fine, I’ll follow you’re rules. But that doesn’t mean I have to agree that they’re necessary this time,” he rasped back.
Before anyone could say anything more on the subject, Johnny quickly pushed himself away from the wheelchair and slid into the front passenger seat of Roy’s car, settling himself back as though it were one of his lazy boy recliners. Putting his head back he smiled with a contented sigh.
He then pivoted around to Dixie; and with an impish grin on his face he pointed to his gym bag that was still sitting on the seat of the wheelchair.
“Well, nurse McCall, aren’t you going to put my bag in the car for me… after all I’m still far too frail to be doing it myself you know.” he said wickedly.
“Smart ass …” Dixie laughed as she picked up the bag and promptly dumped it on his lap.
“Get him out of here Roy, before he can cause any more trouble around here.”
With a final wave of his hand, Roy started the engine and pulled away from the curb, leaving a still laughing Dixie standing there waving at the retreating vehicle.
Johnny’s voice being a bit iffy at the moment meant that it was Roy who took the lead for the brunt of the conversation on the ride home. But when it came to the art of casual conversation, Roy knew he couldn’t hold a candle to John Gage.
When one was riding in a car with Johnny, there was never any shortage of conversation, and unless he was off on one of his wild tangents, the conversations were usually very pleasant.
Johnny usually had something to say about most current events, both in the world news and in whatever scuttlebutt was going around Rampart or the department … not in the gossipy sense … it was usually more in the vein of, who was getting married, or having a baby, or buying a new house or car.
Johnny was well liked and personable, and it always amazed Roy to see that he seemed to know everyone at Rampart; from the doctors and nurses, right on down to the orderlies and the maintenance and cleaning crews. And he knew them on a first name basis. Not only that, he always seemed to know about their personal lives as well.
He and Johnny would be walking down the halls of Rampart, when Johnny would suddenly stop and ask the janitor how his mother’s cataract surgery had gone; or some orderly if his dog had had its puppies yet?
Roy had no idea when or where Johnny had found the time to get to know these people… but he obviously had. And what’s more whenever these people met him the hallway, they would always greet Johnny as if he were an old friend.
But right now, with Johnny’s throat still tender and sore from his surgery, it was up to Roy to take on the role of conversationalist.
It wasn’t his forte, but he made a valiant effort at keeping his young partner distracted with a fairly reasonable amount of success while they made the trip home… or at least that’s where he wanted Johnny to think they were headed.
They had been driving for about twenty minutes and Roy had exhausted everything he could think of to talk about. He had talked about how good it was going to be for Johnny to be able to sleep in his own bed, with his own pillow again… to be able to have the privacy of his own shower again and the pleasure of taking one whenever he wanted to without having to seek permission first.
Then he had started in on how bad the food at Rampart was, and that Joanne had prepared him all of his favourite dishes… and wasn’t it going to be nice to eat real food again, instead of the ‘mystery meat du jour’ that was usually on the menu at Rampart.
Roy was searching around for something new to talk about when he happened to glance over and see that Johnny’s head was leaning against the passenger window and his eyes were slowly drifting closed.
He smiled softly to himself and silently turned his attention back to the road in front of him…this was perfect he thought. He could complete the drive, and Johnny would be none the wiser about where they were headed until they arrived at their destination and it was time to wake his younger partner up. ~~~
Johnny had been sleeping peacefully for almost half an hour, when he felt someone gently shaking his shoulder. He woke up bleary eyed and looked around trying to get his bearings.
As things came into focus, his mouth dropped open in surprise.
There standing outside of Roy’s Porsche was Joanne, Chris and Jenny standing next to the DeSoto’s station wagon. But what was even more shocking than seeing Joanne and the kids, was the fact that wherever they were, it certainly wasn’t his ranch.
He looked up at the sign that was about ten feet to the right of Joanne and read the writing…
Bennington’s Christmas Tree Farm ..
Select your own tree and cut it fresh yourself.
We have a wide variety of trees to choose from, including Spruce, Pine and Fir.
Open daily from 10am to 8 pm
Johnny looked over in confusion.
“Uh… Roy. What’s going on? Why aren’t we at the ranch … and why aren’t the kids in school?”
Roy looked over looking like the proverbial cat that ate the canary and said…“Surprise!”
Joanne and the kids ran over excitedly echoing Roy’s “surprise.”
Johnny just sat there looking flummoxed.
“Relax Junior… it’s not going to kill the kids to miss one day of school… besides they aren’t doing that much in school right now anyway… not so close to Christmas vacation; and I know how much it meant to you to have us all go as a family and get the tree.”
“You said that you wanted to let the kids experience the joy of picking out a tree and cutting it fresh didn’t you? … Well Jo and I just decided that today was going to be family day, and we were going to spend it as a family getting our Christmas tree.”
As the realization of what they had done for him sunk in, Johnny’s face broke out into a huge grin; but almost as quickly it faded and he grew nervous.
“Roy…” he croaked out.
“If Brackett finds out about this, we’re gonna both be in deep sh…”
Johnny looked over at the kids and quickly amended his statement.
“We’re both going to be in deep trouble.”
Roy and Joanne looked completely unconcerned.
“Nope… we cleared it with Brackett yesterday. He says as long as we don’t take too long, and we don’t let you do any of the physical labour, it’s okay… But he also made us promise to make sure that when you got home you wouldn’t do anything more strenuous than lay on the couch and rest for the rest of the day.”
The huge mega-watt smile returned to Johnny’s face once more…
“Well alright!” he exclaimed happily.
Johnny quickly made his way over to Chris and Jenny and took each of them by the hand and started prowling up and down the rows of trees, while Roy and Joanne talked to the owner of the farm, and collected a tree saw.
Roy and Joanne just stood back and watched as Johnny scampered happily around in childlike glee, while his raspy voice explained the finer points of picking out a Christmas tree to Chris and Jenny.
Roy couldn’t hide the self-satisfied smile that covered his face, as he watched the three “kids” pick out their tree. This had been one of his better ideas he thought happily, and it was just what the doctor ordered to put Johnny back in the Christmas spirit once more.
He was still standing there watching and grinning, when Joanne leaned over and whispered in his ear.
“Stop looking so damn smug.”
Roy turned around to reply, but he was cut off when Chris yelled out…
“Hey dad, bring the saw… we found the perfect tree.”
Roy had to admit, it was a beautiful tree. It was exactly what Johnny had said he wanted. It was a Fraser Fir that stood just over ten feet tall. It was going to look amazing in Johnny’s great room which boasted a 12 foot ceiling, a huge stone fireplace and a beautiful hardwood floor that Johnny had refinished himself.
In compliance with Dr. Brackett’s edict, Johnny stood back and let Roy do the cutting of the tree. It took both Roy and the owner of the farm to secure it to the roof of the station wagon.
The happy group finally made it back to Johnny’s ranch about an hour later.
As he opened the front door and stepped through, Johnny was met with the most wonderful smell of a roast beef slow cooking in the crock pot. The smell of it alone made his mouth water and his stomach growl.
Roy secured the tree in the stand and made sure it had plenty of water. Then he left it to stand so the branches could fall back into place while they enjoyed their meal.
After lunch they sat in the great room going through the boxes of ornaments Johnny had bought. Johnny was more than content to sit back on the sofa with Roy, sipping his coffee while Joanne, Chris and Jenny fussed over where to place the tree ornaments.
The afternoon passed by quickly, and before they knew it, it was supper time. They sat around eating hot roast beef sandwiches made from the lunch leftovers. Johnny felt a feeling of loneliness pass over him at the thought that the happy gathering would soon break up.
Even though it was Friday and the kids didn’t have school the next day, Johnny knew that the A shift was on duty in the morning, and Roy was soon going to have to be going.
It was almost eight o’clock in the evening when Joanne finally mentioned to Roy that it was time for Jenny and Chris to get to bed. Johnny heaved a sigh and stood to thank Roy and Joanne for not only bringing him home, but for giving him one of the happiest afternoon’s he had had in a long time.
He was shocked however, when the two small children stood up and made their way over to him and gave him a hug and a kiss, and then proceeded to go over to Roy and repeat the process.
“Night daddy, night Uncle Johnny,” the two youngsters chimed.
Then they turned and started up the stairs, with Joanne following close behind.
After they had disappeared, Johnny turned in confusion to Roy with a … what the hell? ... look on his face.
“Oh yeah,” Roy informed him.
“I guess I forgot to mention that were here for the weekend… I hope that’s okay with you.”
Johnny just stood there in shock for several seconds, before he found his voice.
“Aren’t you on duty tomorrow?” his gravelly voice asked.
“Nope… Dave Peterson from 18’s daughter was having her first birthday party yesterday. When word got around that he was looking for someone to switch shifts with him so he could be there for it, I volunteered. That’s why I wasn’t at Rampart until after ten this morning… I didn’t get home from Station 18 until nine. So Dave is working my shift at 51’s with Clifford tomorrow in return. So I’m not back on duty now until Tuesday.”
Johnny looked around at the gaily decorated tree and thought about how much trouble this family gone to surprise him and he felt himself start to tear up…He swiped at his eyes as he looked over at Roy…
“Thanks Roy.” He whispered his hoarse voice heavy with emotion.
Later on that evening with the children tucked away in their beds, Johnny lay on the couch just staring at his beautiful tree. He was lost in some long distant memories of when his parents were still living.
Joanne and Roy had been sitting in his matching leather lazy boy recliners, just listening to Bing Crosby sing Christmas carols on the record player, and sipping coffee.
Roy let his glance wander over to where Johnny lay on the couch looking up at the tree in wide eyed wonder. He surreptitiously nudged Joanne’s arm and gestured for her to look at Johnny.
Joanne looked back at her husband and gave him a soft smile.
After the dying notes of Bing’s version of O Little Town of Bethlehem ended, Roy quietly asked;
“What are ya thinking about Junior?”
Johnny looked up with a wistful look in his eyes…“I was just thinking about my mom and dad.”
Roy and Jo sat there not knowing what to say. Roy wasn’t sure what it was exactly he had expected Johnny to say, but it certainly wasn’t that.
Johnny continued to smile as he continued on.
“I really want to thank you guys for what you did today. I know it probably took some monumental arm twisting to get Brackett to agree to let me go out tree hunting this morning.”
“I know I made a huge deal out of getting the tree and everything, but … it’s just that getting the Christmas tree is one of the few really happy Christmas memories I have from when mom and dad were alive.”
“Just like most people, I don’t really have a lot of vivid memories of my first four or five Christmases… and the year I was nine was the last one I ever had with them… so my Christmas memories are kinda sparse ya know?”
“My folks were killed just three weeks after my tenth birthday… Anyway, one of my most vivid memories of Christmas with my parents is of the last year they were alive. I can still remember it as if it were yesterday.”
“Up in Montana there is always tons of snow, and I remember it must have been about this time of the month when my dad home from the ranch one evening for supper, and he told me that up in the hills on the ranch he had found the perfect Christmas tree.”
“He had asked the owner, and had been given permission to cut it. So after supper that night, dad and mom bundled me up, and we went out to the ranch.”
“I can still picture how the sky looked that night. The stars looked so close that I swore that if I reached my hand out I could have touched them, and off in the north you could see a few flashes of the northern lights. There’s just something about a cold frosty winters night that makes the stars seem so sharp and clear and close.”
“I used to love being out in the night in the winter when dad was alive… even if it was cold. Especially great, were the nights when I was allowed to join in a game of shinny with dad and the ranch hands. Being a half breed I wasn’t welcome on the outdoor rink that was in the community center on the rez. And it was just as bad at the arena in the local town off the rez. I was too white for the rez kids, and I was too red for the townies.”
“But sometimes dad and the other ranch hands would clear the snow off the frozen pond and get a game of shinny going. They would always clear away a large area far enough away from the pond and build these huge bon fires, and there was always hot cider to drink afterwards….”
Johnny stopped talking as he once more became lost in some childhood memory.
It broke Roy and Joanne’s heart to hear him so casually speak of how he had suffered from racism from all sides when he was a small boy.
Finally Johnny shook himself back to the present and continued on with his story.
“Anyway, the night we went to cut down the Christmas tree, dad went out into the barn and surprised mom and I by coming out with the horse and sleigh. Well it wasn’t actually a sleigh, it was the hauling sled they used for hauling logs out of the bush during the winter, but dad had put three bales of hay on top of it and he had an old bear skin thrown over the top of the bales for mom and me to sit on.”
“Some of the ranch hands had put on the dress harnesses on the horses … the ones with the bells on them. So off into the night the three of us went singing Christmas songs and laughing…Our cheeks were red, our noses were freezing, and the sleigh bells were ringing out across the night air, … it was so much fun… I remember how much in love my mom and dad looked… we were all so happy back then.”
“The tree dad found was a Fraser fir, and it was almost as tall as the one we got today. I can still remember the smell of its needles as it lay across my feet on the sled all the way back to the barn. When we got back to the ranch, Dad put the tree on the back of the truck and drove us back home. He left it out in the back woodshed overnight to melt the snow off of it.”
“I remember later on that night my mom was standing at the counter humming Christmas songs while she made us each a mug of hot chocolate, and my dad was standing beside her with his arm around her waist, trying to steal a kiss.”
“I was lying on the area rug in front of the fireplace with my dog Mapiya’s head on my lap. I was just sitting there in the firelight thinking about what a great a night it had been.”
“I got my first and only pair of brand new store bought skates that Christmas … You know, now that I think about it, I haven’t been skating since they died. I haven’t had a dog since then either… I like dogs.”
“What does Mapiya mean?” Roy quietly asked.
Johnny looked up and explained…“Mapiya is Lakota… it means sky. My dog Mapiya was a Malamute and she had two eyes that were as blue as the summer skies…, so I called her the Lakota name for sky.”
“My mother’s father gave her away to one of the local ranchers for a watch dog when my folks were killed…I never saw Mapiya again.”
Johnny’s voice trailed off sadly, and when Roy and Joanne looked up, they could see a few tears slide down Johnny’s face.
Suddenly Roy was glad that he had fought with Brackett to allow today to happen, and he didn’t regret pulling the kids out of school for the day. Knowing that it brought back such tender memories to Johnny, however bittersweet, had made it worth all the effort as far as Roy was concerned.
Not to mention that he knew that all of them, Chris and Jenny included, would look back on this day with fondness for the rest of their lives. It had been a fun day for everyone. As a matter of fact, he had already decided that Johnny had started a new tradition. There would be no more trees bought from a lot for the DeSoto’s. From now on they would make a day of it, and go cut their own.
Johnny sat staring into the flames of the fire that was ablaze in his own fireplace.
“I’m glad that my last Christmas together with mom and dad was so great, because the next year, was probably the worst one I ever had… and there were a few of those too.”
“It had only been three months since my folks had died, and I was still reeling. I had been thrust into the care of my grandparents, and my life was a living hell. I tried so hard that first year, to figure out what it was I was doing wrong that had made them hate me so much.”
“I had experienced malice before, but never on that level. I remember it was late one night in early December, and I gone to bed hours earlier, and my grandfather had come home pie eyed drunk. When he came into the house, I guess he looked over and seen me sleeping on the pallet in the corner of woodshed … and he went berserk.”
“He kept hitting me with his razor strap, screaming that it was my fault his little girl was dead. I tried to get up and run outside so I could hide until he sobered up, but he caught me by the hair and threw me up against the wall.”
“That was the first time he put me in the clinic… he had broken two of my ribs. It was while I was in the clinic that I saw one of those old Lionel trains sets. One of the nurses had put up one of those imitation trees in the common room, and they had the train set up and it was running around the base of the tree.”
“I made up my mind right then and there that I was going to write and ask Santa for a train set that Christmas. I figured I would hide it in the barn and play with it when no one was looking. In all the sadness and hell that my life had become, getting that train set from Santa became my lifeline to hold onto that first Christmas without my mom and dad.”
Johnny’s face clouded over, and his eyes filled with sorrowful tears.
“Needless to say there was no Christmas for me that year … or any year after that.”
“And that’s how I found out that there was no such thing as Santa Claus.”
Joanne walked across the room and swept Johnny into a warm, protective hug. Her own tears joined with Johnny’s.
“Well, that’s all behind you for good sweetheart. You have a whole new family now, and this year, we’re going to have the best Christmas ever. You just wait and see.”
Johnny smiled through his tears, as he hugged Joanne back.
“You better believe it. This Christmas is going to be one for the books… I promise you that.”
Roy looked over at the clock and seen that it was well past eleven.
“Okay Junior… it’s been a long day, and you’re recovering from surgery… and I did promise Brackett to make sure you took it easy. I think it’s time you headed on up to bed. Jo and I will lock up down here.”
Johnny stood up; the evidence of his recently shed tears still visible on his face. He made his way over to the two of them and embraced them each in turn.
“As long as I live, I’ll never be able to thank you enough for today… I had the best time, and the reason it was the best, is because I got to spend it with my family.”
Joanne was too choked up to reply, but Roy hugged him back.
“You’re welcome Johnny…It was a pretty special day for us too little brother.” ~~~
The week flew by in a flash, or so it seemed to Johnny. He had been very careful to follow Dr. Brackett’s instructions to the letter regarding his health. He wanted to make absolutely sure nothing else happened to throw a monkey wrench into his Christmas plans.
Dixie had dropped by one afternoon and helped him wrap presents, and Joanne spent one entire day out at the ranch supervising while he did some Christmas baking.
He had originally been adamant that he wanted to do it by himself, but he finally had to concede that he knew very little about the culinary arts, so he finally allowed Joanne to come out to the ranch and help him.
Together he and Joanne had managed to bake a large amount of tasty Christmas treats. With Joanne talking him through it, he had even learned a thing or two about cooking.
Roy was on duty when the twentieth rolled around, so Johnny drove alone to Rampart for his follow up appointment with Dr. Brackett. Brackett had been pleased by how well Johnny was healing, and he agreed that there was no reason for Johnny not to return to work on the twenty sixth as originally planned.
The next two days were going to be Roy’s last days off before the holidays, and he had made it clear to everybody that he was going to be spending the time completely alone to do his own Christmas shopping.
Roy also wanted to get to the post office in time to mail his mother’s Christmas gift to her by express post. He wanted to send her an extra special gift this year.
She had moved to Georgia the previous spring and she wasn’t going to be able to fly back to California to visit until May, so she would be all alone for the holidays this year. Roy had offered to buy her a ticket so she could spend the holidays with them, but she had refused his offer.
Since Chris and Jenny were now on their Christmas vacation, Johnny had told Joanne that he was more than happy to have her drop the kids off at the ranch for the day, so she could have some time alone before Christmas, to shop, bake, or just enjoy the peace and quiet before the frenzy began.
Joanne had gratefully accepted Johnny’s offer and dropped the children off on the morning of the twenty first.
Johnny, Chris and Jenny spent the entire day out riding on the horses on the local trails.
That evening Johnny insisted that Roy and Joanne stay for supper, and the five of them sat around sampling some of the Christmas baking, and playing board games.
The next morning it was Johnny’s turn to spend the day at the DeSoto’s. He and Roy packed the DeSoto station wagon full of the presents that Joanne had wrapped up. They were going to take them out to the ranch after lunch and put them under Johnny’s tree.
Joanne’s sister Elaine had stopped by for one final visit before she and her husband David headed upstate to spend the holidays with Joanne’s folks.
In a ploy to get Chris and Jenny out of the house, Roy suggested that Joanne and Elaine take the kids out for some pizza for lunch.
As soon as the children were gone, Johnny and Roy loaded up all of the gifts from Santa that Roy and Jo had hidden in their garage, into the back of the Rover. Johnny made sure he had them completely covered beneath a tarp.
Johnny would take them out to the ranch and hide them in his tack room until after the kids had gone to bed on Christmas Eve.
By the time the twenty third had rolled around, everything was ready for when Roy got off shift the next morning. He, Joanne and the kids would pack their gear and come out to Johnny’s for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Johnny just had one more special present to pick up for Roy later that evening, and then he could just sit back and enjoy.
Johnny was beside himself with excitement… it had been a long, long time since he had been this excited about Christmas… and it was a wonderful feeling. ~~~
When Roy, Joanne and the kids arrived at Johnny’s on the morning of Christmas Eve, they were surprised that Johnny wasn’t out front to greet them.
Roy went ahead and opened up the front door and stepped inside, both his hands were full of suitcases.
He was about to call out, when he heard Johnny’s voice. He was out in his kitchen talking to someone, but Roy couldn’t hear the other voice clearly enough to distinguish who it was. The only thing he knew for sure was that it was a woman.
“Hello Junior, we’re here.” Roy called out.
“We’ll be out in a minute Roy.” Came the reply.
“We?” He looked over questioningly at Joanne.
“Is there someone else coming that I don’t know about?”
Joanne just shrugged her shoulders, and began tugging off her jacket.
Roy was still sorting out their luggage, when he heard a voice from across the room call out;
“Merry Christmas son.”
Roy looked up and there standing before him was, his mother.
Johnny was standing behind Harriet DeSoto, grinning from ear to ear.
“Mom! When did you get here? How did you get here? I thought you couldn’t afford to fly out until May?” a very shocked Roy asked.
Roy’s mother put her arms around Johnny’s waist and gave him a sideways hug.
“Well, this young man here, sent me a round trip ticket to Los Angeles, and told me he would meet me at the airport on the twenty third, and that I had better come prepared to stay for at least a week. He also said he wasn’t going to take no for an answer ... So here I am.”
Roy walked over and tearfully embraced his mother.
“I’m so happy you could come mom…but I already sent your gift on ahead.”
“Nope, I got it here partner. Bellingham’s brother Pete works down at the post office. Joanne phoned me when you left your house for the post office, and I phoned Pete.”
“I had Bellingham show Pete a picture of you and Pete just made sure that it was him who waited on you. Pete just pretended to mail your package. But as soon as you were gone, he phoned me up, and I had Joanne sneak back to the post office and retrieve it. It’s sitting under the tree as we speak.”
Roy reached over and pulled Johnny into a hug.
“I don’t know what to say Junior.”
Johnny’s laugh was warm and pleasant.
“Hey, you’re not the only the only one who can plan surprises you know.”
Christmas Eve at Johnny’s had been everything he had hoped it would be. They sat around and ate the Christmas goodies he and Joanne had baked. They played games and even spent some time singing Christmas carols… albeit somewhat off key.
Then in the afternoon Johnny showed them how to roast their own chestnuts, and he got out the crock pot so he could make some homemade hot mulled wine for the adults to enjoy when the kids were in bed.
By the time the supper was over, the entire group cozied up around the television with some eggnog and watched Christmas movies, until it was time for Chris and Jenny to hang up their stockings and leave out some cookies and milk for Santa.
Once the children had had their bath and put on their P.J.’s, Johnny pulled them onto his lap on the lazy boy and read them, A visit from St. Nicholas.
After that, he gathered everyone around and he walked into his den and came back out with an old worn King James Bible.
He sat down in his recliner and opened up the book and quietly read them all the story of the Nativity.
“My mom used to read that to dad and I every Christmas Eve before I went up to bed… It’s been a tradition I have always tried to keep up ever since… or at least since I was sixteen anyway.” He said giving Roy and Joanne a knowing look.“Anyway, I just wanted to thank you all for sharing it with me this year.”
“No Johnny, I think it’s us who should thank you … that was lovely and you read it beautifully.” Harriet said.
After the kids had gone to bed and they were sure they were sleeping, Johnny and Roy brought in their gifts from Santa.
With Christmas music quietly playing on the stereo, and while they enjoyed the warm spicy mulled wine, the adults set to work. Harriet and Joanne tackled the stockings, while Johnny and Roy put together the toys for the kids, and set them out.
They passed the rest of the evening pleasantly, until finally the clock said eleven thirty.
“Well,” Roy announced.
“Chris and Jenny will be up at the crack of dawn wanting their presents, so I guess we had better get to bed and get some sleep while we can… last year they were up just after six.”
The rest of the adults stood up and after exchanging hugs and wishing each other a Merry Christmas. They all slowly made their way up to bed.
Roy and Joanne had one of the guest rooms; while Harriet and Jenny were sharing the other one. Chris was bunking out with Johnny for the night.
Roy lay awake for almost an hour, before he silently got up and slipped out to the station wagon…Santa had one more gift to put out, before he could call it a night.
Just as Roy had predicted, it was six in the morning when the DeSoto children got all of the adults up to open the gifts.
Johnny had set the coffee maker to come on at six thirty, so they entire group sleepily made their way into the great room.
When he got there Johnny stopped dead in his tracks… All of the gifts from under the tree had been sorted and set into piles.
Each pile had one of their names on it.
And under the tree, where the presents had been when he had gone to bed, Johnny saw a Lionel train set running around the base of the tree.
Roy walked over and flipped the switch to the on position and picked up a letter that was sitting beside the train set.
He walked over and handed the letter to his awestruck partner.
Johnny picked up the letter and read the words that were written on the parchment.
Johnny just stood and stared at the note. And then he slowly walked over and sat down next to the train. For the next five minutes, the rest of the world vanished for Johnny as he sat and watched with rapt wonder as the train made its way around the tracks.
He hadn’t realized that he was crying, until Jenny came up to him and gave him a hug.
“What’s the matter Uncle Johnny? Didn’t Santa leave you what you wanted?”
Johnny pulled the little girl onto his lap and hugged her tightly and he kissed the top of her head.
“Actually, pumpkin… Santa couldn’t have given me a better gift if he tried… I absolutely love it.”
Johnny set the child aside and stood up. He slowly made his way back over to Roy and Joanne and he pulled them into a tight embrace.
“Thank you just isn’t enough to say what’s in my heart right now… It just isn’t enough.”
“The look on your face and the joy in your eyes is more than thanks enough Junior… it’s more than enough… Merry Christmas little brother.”
After the initial shock wore off, they settled down to open up the rest of the gifts.
In the gift department … Johnny had outdone himself.
He had given Joanne a handmade, finely woven Native American shawl as well as a sterling silver and turquoise bracelet that was also Native in its design.
To Jenny he gave a smaller but exact replica of the sterling silver and turquoise bracelet.
To Chris he gave a wrist watch, with a sterling silver band that was inlaid with a turquoise wolf on the band.
Johnny knew that Roy only wore the watch that had belonged to his grandfather, so instead of a watch, he had given him a sterling silver belt buckle with a soaring eagle on the front that was inlaid in turquoise as well. As well as the belt buckle, Johnny gave Roy a bowie knife with a hand carved handle that had a ROY carved along its length, the letters themselves had been inlaid in gold.
He even had picked up a pair of delicate silver and turquoise earrings for Harriet.
After they had each opened their gifts Johnny stood up, and handed everyone in the room a pair of soft deer skin moccasins.
“You will notice that each of your gifts is made from sterling silver and turquoise. Not only is turquoise the colour for December, but in my culture, turquoise symbolizes life… and that’s what you all have given me back. You have given me back life… at least a life that is full of love and meaning. And I just wanted to give you something to remind you every day how thankful I am that you’re part of my family, and how much that means to me.”
When Johnny finished the room fell silent. Roy knew he couldn’t trust himself to speak just yet. He needed to get control of his emotions first.
It was a good ten minutes before the adults in the room had regained enough of their composure to continue opening up the gifts. When they finally got themselves under control and had dried all their tears. Roy walked over to the tree and pulled out large parcel and set it in front of Johnny.
“But I got my gift Roy… I got my train.”
“No, you didn’t Johnny. The train was from Santa. This is from Joanne and I.” said Roy.
Johnny shook his head and began to unwrap the gift. When he finally pulled back the last shreds of paper he froze.
Sitting there before him was the riding saddle he had been saving up for all these months.
“How did you know? I never told anyone about this… not even once. How did you find out?”
“What do you mean how did I know… isn’t this the season of miracles Junior?”
The two men stood facing each other, their eyes met and locked on each other. Both sets of yes, burned with unshed tears. Joanne and Harriet watched in amazement as the two men had an entire conversation without speaking a single word.
The true depth of the bond they shared was openly on display for all to behold. The obvious exchange of gratitude and love was blatantly obvious to everyone in the room.
In a very short period of time the room was once again filled with the laughter and excitement that only comes from happy children on a Christmas morning, and soon the entire floor of Johnny’s great room was littered with torn and discarded gift wrap.
The bright colours of the fragments of wrapping paper, created a kaleidoscope of colours, making the floor look like some festive patchwork blanket.
There had been many more gifts given that Christmas morning. There had been dollhouses, and roller skates, new clothes and books, wallets and Barbie’s and teas sets. There was a mechano set and Lincoln logs and many other tokens of love and affection that had been exchanged.
At noon hour the adults got up out of the midst of the fun filled melee and made their way to the kitchen, where the turkey was roasting in the oven. Johnny tried to shoo them all back out into the great room, but the others simply wouldn’t hear of it.
In the end all four adults spent the next two hours preparing the meal in the kitchen, sipping coffee and sharing some congenial conversation, while the mixture of Christmas music and laughter filled the air.
When everything was ready, they all sat around the table, while Roy stood up and offered the blessing.
All too soon, eight o’clock rolled around and Roy regretfully stood up and announced it was time to go. Both he and Johnny were working in the morning, and they couldn’t afford to stay up late.
Johnny had invited Harriet to avail herself of one of the guestrooms for the duration of her visit, but in the end, it was decided that she would sleep in ‘Johnny’s room’ at Roy’s house.
They picked up the gifts and loaded them all carefully into the back of the station wagon, and exchanged final hugs and kisses goodbye. Harriet leaned over and gave Johnny a tender kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you young man, you made Christmas so special for my son and me. I like the changes I see in him since you came into this family… God Bless you John Gage.”
Johnny’s cheeks coloured as he accepted her words graciously.
“It was my pleasure, Mrs. DeSoto.” He said shyly.
Harriet shook her head and eyed him up sternly.
“What’s with all of this Mrs. DeSoto nonsense? Roy tells me that you’re a part of this family now, and I wholeheartedly agree. From now on you call me mom.”
Johnny nodded his head and smiled “Okay mom.”
Harriet climbed into the back seat with Chris. Jenny being the smallest was seated in the middle between them, while Joanne sat in the front.
The last one to make his way over to the vehicle was Roy. He came up beside Johnny and put his arm around his shoulders.
“It was a great Christmas Junior. Thanks for making it so special.
Thank you for including mom. She would have been alone this year if you hadn’t got her to come.”
Johnny shrugged.“I should be the one thanking you… I started out to make this a special day for you, so I could show you how much you guys mean to me. Somehow you turned the table on me, and I was the one who got all the blessings”
“We all got blessings this year Johnny…but I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be….what does that song say about when you bless other’s you will find blessings yourself?”
“Yeah, Good King Wenceslas… at least that’s the general idea of it anyway. But I do thank you for making this Christmas special… for everything from surprising me with getting the tree, to getting me this train set… and I still haven’t figured out how you knew about the saddle.”
Roy gave Johnny a huge bear hug and said in a low voice.“A little Christmas angel told me.” His voice held a tone of amusement.
“Merry Christmas little brother...” Roy pulled away from the hug and smiled.
“Merry Christmas big brother …” Johnny returned. ~~~
It was well past eleven and Johnny was still awake. He had changed into his shirt and boxers and was now sitting in his robe on the floor of the great room.
All of the wrapping paper had been cleared away, and the dishes were done.
Johnny was now sitting quietly, going over in his mind how it was that Roy knew about that saddle.
Roy had said it was a Christmas angel who had told him…he thought about Roy’s proclamation that when you blessed others, you in turn received your own blessings.
Suddenly it wasn’t important to him whether or not he knew how Roy had found out about the saddle. It really didn’t matter in the end.
The only thing that mattered was the fact that he had just had a wonderful Christmas with his family in his own home.
He had a home now… two of them in fact, and it was a warm and pleasant feeling.
Every light in the house had been turned off, and the only light in the room was coming from the flames in the fireplace, and the soft glow of the Christmas tree lights. Johnny was just sitting there watching his train go around the base of the Christmas tree.
The dying strains of ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’ drifted across the air from the phonograph… The ambience it created was serene and magical and peaceful … very, very peaceful.
And that’s exactly how Johnny felt at this moment; he felt at peace with the world.
The ghosts of Christmases past still lingered; off in some dark corner in the recesses of his heart, but they had been gathered up and constrained, so they no longer come out to overwhelm him.
It had been a wonderful Christmas, full of blessings for everyone. And the more he thought about it, the more he decided that he was more than willing to file the whole thing under the heading of Christmas miracle. After all isn’t that what Christmas was all about?
As he glanced around the room, his eyes lit upon the well-worn Bible that had once belonged to his Aunt Marian. He reached over to pick it up, so he could return it to the bookcase. As he was lifting the book up, it slipped out of his grasp and fell open onto floor in front of him.
Johnny reached over to pick it up. But as his fingers touched the edge of the book, his eyes fell on the written passages that were directly in his line of vision. He started to read what was written on the open page that was in front of him.
… When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part: but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.
Johnny picked up the book, walked over to the mantle and picked up the letter he had gotten from “Santa/Roy”.
He lovingly held it up and read the words that were written on the letter once more. When he had finished re-reading it, he inserted the letter carefully into the page he had just read from his Aunt’s Bible, and gently closed the book.
He slid the Bible into the pocket of his robe, so he could take it up to his room when he went to bed. He decided that instead of putting it away on his bookshelf, a more appropriate spot for the book would be on his nightstand.
He reached inside his shirt and pulled out his necklace, and studied it for the millionth time in his life. He gently fingered each one of the beautiful carved miniatures on the bone.
Johnny looked up at the angel that was sitting on the top of his tree, and then back down to the saddle that was sitting at his feet. For several moments his eyes darted back and forth, between the necklace, the angel, and the saddle.
As he stood there his eyes softened and his face broke out into a soft grin of understanding as he held up the necklace in the soft light.
He walked over and shut the record player off, and he then repeated the process with his train. He slid his saddle over until it was sitting next to the Christmas tree.
He looked up at the illuminated angel that was atop his tree one last time, before he shut the lights off for the night.
He grasped his necklace and slowly he slid it back under his T-shirt, and let it fall back into place next to his heart.
He paused briefly and cast his eyes heavenward and smiled.
“Merry Christmas mom and dad… I love you ...” he whispered … and he slowly made his way upstairs to bed.
Emergency and its characters are the property of Mark VII Productions Inc. and Universal Studios. All rights reserved.
No infringements of any copyrights are intended or should be inferred.
This is a fictional story written for entertainment purposes only. No financial gain is being realized from it.
The story itself and all original characters are the property of the author.
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The Characters of Emergency do not belong to me. They are the property of Universal Studios and Mark VII Limited. No copyright infringement is intended or monetary gain made. I merely like to toy with them and return them to their proper owner in good working order.
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