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Fire and Water

An Emergency Story By





Heath Royce had a hangover, a bad one.  He and his  work  buddy,  Clark  Reid  had  been to a frat  party  the  night  before.  They had  drunk  too  much,  stayed  out  too  late  and  smoked  marijuana  with  no  concern  for  what  going to  work  on  Saturday  morning  would be  like.   Since  they  worked  for  Clark’s  dad  they had  no  excuse  for  not  being at  work on  time.  Mr. Reid  wouldn’t  pay  until  the  end of the  work  day  on  Saturday.  If  you called in on  Friday  or  Saturday  you better be  ready  to  prove  you  really were  sick  on  Monday  to  get  your  check. Since  they  both had  hot  dates  tonight  they  were struggling  to  get this  job  over .   Mr. Reid owned a use furniture and appliance store.  They  were  on  their  way  to  pick  up a stove and refrigerator and  some  other  pieces of  furniture.    The homeowners  had  decided  it made more  sense  to  sell  the  items  than  move  them.   It was a nice house in a well-kept neighborhood.  The yards around the houses were mowed and many had flowers and swing sets in the yards.


“Man,  your  dad  could have  set  up a  later time  for  this…8:30 is  way  too  early on  Saturday  mornings  to  be  working.”    Heath  said  as he  and  Clark  moved  the  fridge  away  from  the  wall  onto  the  dolly.


“The  old man is  having a  big  sale  this  weekend…He  wants  this  back at the  store and cleaned  up   by  10...They’re  in  really good  condition.”


He lit a cigarette taking a long drag off it. They got the refrigerator into the truck then went back in for the stove.    He gave the gas hook up a twist but didn’t bother to put the cap on the pipe.   They got the stove and other items into the truck. .Before  they left  Heath had turned on the  kitchen  faucet and  splashed  some  cold  water  on his  face,  hoping it  would  clear his head.    He did not care he had made a mess with water splashed everywhere or left the faucet dripping.  There  were  several  puddles of  water on  the  counter  next to the radio  he had  plugged  in  to listen to  his favorite  heavy  metal  station  never  noticing  the frayed  cord  nor  bothering to turn it  off.



Next  door  a  brother  and  sister  watched  as  the  men  loaded  the  truck.  “I hope the new people who move in have kids.”  The small blonde-haired girl said as she hugged her doll.   “Maybe they’ll have girls who like to play with dolls and we can be good friends.”


“If  we’re  really  lucky maybe they’ll  have  boys  who  like to  play  football and  baseball…”  Her brother said more to tease than caring.  He had enough friends in the neighborhood.    The discussion ended when their mother called them in for breakfast.


“Hey Sweet Pea, where are the scissors you keep in the kitchen?”   Johnny called as he looked thru the drawer where all the miscellaneous items were kept.


“Where ever you left them the last time you used them.”  She answered as she wheeled into the kitchen.   “Don’t remember where you put them?”


“Nope.”  He frowned making a silly face.  “Think I have ‘old timers’ disease like Stacy said Mindy’s grandpa does?”


“No I think its more of a case of you were in a hurry and didn’t put them away right disease.”   She laughed at his expression.  “The last time I saw the scissors you were using them to strip the wire on the stereo speaker.”


“Oh, yeah. They are on the bottom of the speaker stand in the bedroom.”  He grinned at her.  “Needed them because I couldn’t fine the wire stripper from my workshop.   Still can’t.”   Johnny said with a shake of his shaggy head.


That surprised her since he usually kept everything in its place.  The wood working shop had been her Christmas gift to him.  


“What were you working on the last time you had them?”   She asked hoping to jog his memory.


“I think they are out in the pool house.  Thanks Sweet Pea.”  He had started calling her that after she asked him to stop calling her Baby girl.   Sweet Pea had been Jeff’s name for her when she first came to live with him.
“Now, I’ve got a question for you.  What do you want me to take to Jo and Roy’s tonight?    I’m taking dessert.”   The crew from A shift was having a carry in/game night.


“Apple crisp with walnuts and raisins in it?  With vanilla ice cream.”


“That does sound good, thank you darlin’.”    He left the room but came back in a few minutes with the missing scissors that he put in the drawer.


“We gonna stop by and see Anna before we go to Roy’s?”  Johnny asked.


“Yeah.  Didn’t you get her some new tapes?”


“Yep.  She seemed to enjoy the other ones.”  After giving her a quick kiss, he went to the pool house.  Because of the mild  winter they had  had so  far,  the  crew  from WBS  had  been able to  get the  pool  house  competed.   The  beds  were set up  but  not  made as Lee hadn’t  settled on a  color  for the  bedding  in  either of the  rooms.   The  two  bath/dressing  areas   had  boxes  of  towels  and  other items ready  to be  put  away.   The  kitchen and  living  room  area  was  still  pretty  bare but they had  time  before  the  official  opening of the  pool.


They  left in  time to  go  visit  Anna  but  knew  it  was a hit and  miss  proposition  Some  days  she  was  awake  and  would  smile  and  even  squeeze  Johnny’s  hand  when he  talked  to  her.   Other  time  she  was  lost in  the  hazy  world  between  conscious and  coma.   Lee decided to wait in the car while Johnny checked with the nurse.  She had the feeling it was not a good day for her to visit.  Johnny came out after only a few minutes.


“I left the tapes with Amy.  Anna is running a low-grade temperature.  They are thinking it’s a UTI.”


“So have they started her on antibiotics?”


‘No they are waiting on the lab work.”   He leaned over and gave her a kiss.  “It’ll all work out the way it’s supposed to.”


“I know…but …it’s so unfair to her…she …Or you…If…”


“I  love  you and  no  matter  what  happens  that isn’t  going to  change,  understand?”   He interrupted her hoping she was listening to him with her heart as well as her head.



Jo  pulled  the  pork  roast  from  the oven,  setting  the  pan on the  back of the  stove.   She slipped the pan of scalloped corn into the oven and setting the timer. She  went out to the deck  where  Roy  was  checking  the  air in  Jenny’s  back  tire.   She smiled watching Jenny giving Roy a hug and telling him he was the best dad ever. 


“I think Santa should have brought her a new bike.  She has almost out grown that one.”   Roy said as they watched her ride down to the corner and back.   “Junior got her and Stacy both bikes to keep out at their place when he went to the police auction a few weeks ago.   The plans he has in mind for The Grove is something else.   The only part that he is having done professionally is the path.”


“Kathy was teasing her and him about putting in a sidewalk to her house from their’s.  It would be on their land until it went into Jim and Kathy’s back yard.   I am so glad he loves that place as much as she does.  I was really worried he would never feel at home there.”


Going back into the house, she began making her pulled pork with her homemade barbecue sauce.   Roy followed her in a few minutes later.


“Is that the recipe you are going to use for the fund raiser?”   Roy asked as he watched her cook.


“Maybe.   Did I tell you we are going to get the meat wholesale priced thru O’Sheas?    That will really save us money…some of the other supplies also   once we make the final decisions.  Johnny Pat is giving us a good discount on the buns.    Lee has arranged for a discount on the soda also.   She is working just as hard on this as if she was on the committee.”


“Does that really surprise you?”   Roy asked.  He knew  Johnny was glad Lee had  turned  down the request from the  president of  the  Women’s  Auxiliary to co-chair the  fund  raiser or  even  be on the planning  committee.   She needed to relax and not have a lot of extra stress.  It  seemed  even through the  holidays  she  was  still  not her old  self  after the  near  drowning  and  surgery.   She seemed to get tired easily and had little energy some days.


“She has seemed a little far away at times lately.  Is there something bothering her?”  Jo  had  wanted to ask  this  several  times  lately  but it had  seemed  as if  every time  she  thought  about it  one of the  kids  had  been in the  room.


“I  know  the  doctor  told  them it  might  take  a  couple of  months  for her  body  and  emotions  to  get use  to changes after  the surgery.”
He  hated  keeping  a  secret  from  Jo  but  he had  promised  Johnny.
It was important to Johnny to know that he could trust Roy with anything. 


“Anything you need me to do to help?”  Roy asked   hoping to change the subject.


Dinner was over, the food put away and everyone was ready to play trivia.  They drew colored squares to see who was on the teams.  Just to be different they were playing four teams instead of two.   Johnny grinned when Lee also pulled a red square. Em, Chet and Melissa were yellow.  Suzi got the third red.  Cap,  Marco  and  Mike   made  up  the  blue  team  while Anita,  Jo and Roy were the white  team.  The game was close but the red team won.   They decided it was a good time to take a break and have dessert.


  “Who wants ice cream with their apple crisp?”  Emily helped dish  up the  desserts  while  Suzi   and  Anita  served and  poured  coffee  or re filled  sodas.   The kids were allowed to eat in the front room as they watched a movie.  The quiet was shattered as the house next door exploded into a huge fireball.   The  windows  in the  houses  nearby  shook  and  some  in the  DeSoto home actually broke from  the force of the vibrations. 


Roy called the fire dispatch…  He  turned  to a  stunned  Jo  who  was  holding  a  crying  Jenny.   Chris stood by looking frighten but holding back the tears.  “Jo, gather up some clothes and get the box from the top of our closet.    MAKE IT FAST and GET OUT.”  He followed the other men out.


“Jo, I’ll help.”  Em said.  The others except Lee told Jo they would gather the family pictures from downstairs.  Lee  told  them  to put them in the  Rover then  she had  Chris  push  her  outside  with  Jenny on  her lap. 


“Go across the street…down towards the Grimes’ house.”  Roy said as he saw her coming down the ramp with Chris and Jenny.  Johnny  and  Chet had  grabbed   hoses  from the  garage  and  were spraying  down the  lawn and the  front of  the  house  trying to  keep  the  flying  debris from  starting  other  fires.  Mike and Marco were doing this at the house on the other side of the one that had exploded.    Hank  was  moving  people  back  from  the  fire into the  yards  across  the  street.   Another fireball formed as the garage exploded.  


Johnny turned   just in time to see flaming boards and other debris land on Roy’s roof.   He knew the garden hose would not help much at that distance.   Chet  had  moved to the  house on the  other side of  Roy  trying to  keep  the flaming  debris from  starting  another fires.  Johnny ran and turned off the hose he was using and made his way into the garage.  He knew Roy had a new hose in there.  He  grabbed the  new  hose and  went outside  and  connected  the  two  coiling  them  the  best he  could  while  moving.  He yelled at Chet.


“I need your help.”  Chet ran over to Johnny.  “Once I get up in the fork of that tree, turn the water on full blast.  I gotta get that roof hosed down.”


Johnny had climbed that tree several times to retrieve items from the roof.  Never in the early evening darkness and never with a wet coil of hose over his shoulder,  It seemed like a long  time  to him  before the  water  began  flowing  with  enough  pressure to  do  some  good.    He  was  not  making  much  progress in  putting out the  fire  but  was  keeping it  from  spreading.   He was relieved to hear the sirens of the approaching engine and squad.


The engine was soon in position and Hank made his way over to the captain and engineer.  The engineer recognized Hank.


“Captain Lloyd, this is Captain Stanley, A shift from Station 51.”  The introduction was made as the engineer set up the hoses.


“Our crew was having dinner with the DeSoto’s.  We’ve  started  using  garden  hoses  to  put out the  small  fires  and  try  to  keep it  from  spreading  to near  by  homes.”


“Too bad you didn’t keep that damn fool out of that tree.  He’s gonna fall   if he keeps inching out like that.”


“Don’t worry about him, he’s part mountain goat,” Hank said with a smile. 


Lee was holding onto a very wiggly Jennifer DeSoto.    Jen  was  trying to  see  where her dad was and  if  her mom and the others had  came out of the  house.   Lee relaxed a little as she saw the women putting items into the Rover.   Jenny began sobbing.


“Stacy Lee!   They are going to let her be burned up.     I have to go get her…”


“Jennifer Lynne, what is the first rule your daddy taught you about a fire?”   Lee said sternly.


The tone shocked Jenny and she fought to stop the sobs.   “Get out fast, move far away and don’t go back in.   Stay with an adult.”


“Right.  Now,  when the  fire is  out and if its  safe,  I’ll  send  your   Uncle  Johnny into  get  Stacy  Lee and  one thing  from your  room,  Chris.”


Jo, Emily and the other two made their way over to Lee and the kids. 


“We  got the  box  and  most of the  special  photos  and  a few other  things  as well as  several  changes of  clothes for  each of  us.”  Jo said in a daze.

The  truck  from  the  deli  came  back  and  everyone  stopped  work  to  eat and  rest.  The garage and shed were packed up and everything was out of the attic.  The trash pile had grown as the waterlogged boxes came out of the attic.   Kathy, Emily and Jo had the three bedrooms cleaned out.   They were sitting there talking when unfamiliar car pulled up.


“We’re looking for Roy DeSoto.”  The car’s driver said as the other man took out a notebook.  “We’re  here to  get an idea  of  the damage and  what  we’ll  be needing to  do to get  started.”


“I’m Roy DeSoto and you are?”


“Ed Jarred and Bob Cabot.    Ruth Anne  called and  said  we  needed to  get  out  here and  get  this  cleaned  up  and  repaired  as  soon as  possible.  Look like the clean up is gonna be easy on this one.  We’ll have a truck out here tomorrow to take what you want to be cleaned and stored.”


“Who is Ruth Anne and how much is this gonna cost?”  Roy said a little dazed at how fast things were happening.   “Who called you?”


“Ruth Anne is Ben Oliver’s assistant.  I’d say Lee called them to do the work.”   Johnny said as he came back into the yard. “I was just talking to Mr. Martin; he is going to have you look over his place also.  It doesn’t look as bad as here.  Told him whatever his insurance paid would cover the cost.”


Ed Jarred had met Johnny before but Bob Cabot hadn’t.  He frowned, who was this person making deals for their company?   


“Whatever you say.  Ruth Anne said you and your wife were the bosses.  Kind of surprised she isn’t here.”  Jarred said.


 “My wife is always the boss.  She’s home pretending to watch the kids but knowing her, she is   playing dolls or dress up with the girls.   I’ll  let the  guys  know she is  expecting  them  for  dinner.    She has already talked to Melissa, Anita and Suzi about it.”   This was for Roy and Jo’s benefit.  “Guess I need to go tell the others that too.”   He left laughing at the look on Roy’s face…


After  Jo, Roy  and  Johnny  walked away  Bob  Cabot  turned  to his  friend.   “Who does he think he is telling people we’ll accept their insurance as payment in full?  Why did Mr. Oliver have Ruth Anne call us out on a Sunday morning?  What makes this   place so special?”


“That was Johnny Gage and his partner.   This is the partner’s house.” 


“So who is Johnny Gage?”   Bob asked still puzzled.  He had only worked at WBS a few weeks.  


“Remember when they were talking about Lee Spencer getting rid of Ralph Franklin and Morris Howard?    Johnny is married to Lee.  She is pretty use to getting what she wants when she wants it.”


“So, is she hard to get along with?”


“Nope one of the nicest people you’d ever hope to meet.   Both of them are, work hard at helping others.   But don’t cross her or him when it comes to family…The De Soto’s are family.”



Roy, Jo, and Johnny headed to the house.  Everything was  packed and  labeled  and  ready  for the cleaning  company  to  pick  up.  Jo had  wanted to  bring some of the  clothes  to  Johnny’s  to  wash  but  Roy  reminded her  that a   smoke  smell  that  bad  needed  professional  cleaning.   Kathy had left a few minutes earlier.   As soon as they got home, all three wanted a bath and just to sit and do nothing.   Lee had coffee and fresh baked cookies ready.   Roy went into the  guest  bathroom  and  quickly  showered  so  Jo  could  get  cleaned  up.


“Why  don’t  you and  daddy  take a  shower  together  like  Uncle  Johnny  and  Aunt  Lee  do?:  Jenny  asked as her  mother  was sitting  at the  table  sipping  her  coffee.   She almost choked on the coffee and sprayed it a little.


“How do you know they take showers together?”  Lee was sitting there trying not to laugh at the look on her friend‘s face.


“Aunt Lee and Uncle Johnny explained to us why they take showers together a long time ago.”


“They did?”  Jo asked surprised.   “What did they tell you?”


“That she needs some extra help sometimes when she is tired or hurting a lot.  Uncle Johnny goes in to help her and to make sure she is safe.  And since he is gonna get wet it just makes sense he takes his shower then too.”


“Yeah, I guess it does.” Jo said smiling at her daughter and her friend.  “That makes a lot of sense.”   Jen left the room as Lee started to giggle.  Jo raised an eyebrow at her.


“Besides its fun.”    Jo shook her head and laughed.   It felt good to laugh.

By  the  time  everyone  who  had  helped  with the  clean  up  got  there  Lee and  Jo  and  Kathy  had   all the food  and the  serving  table  set  up.   Johnny  and  Roy  were  manning the  grill  with its ribs and  chicken and  hot  dogs.  All  enjoyed  the  food and  the  company  but the  gathering  did  not  last  long  as there was  work and  school  the  next  day.  After the kids went to bed, the four adults had a serious discussion.


“From  what they  said today  its  gonna  be awhile  before  we can  move  back  home.”  Roy said.  “I don’t know what would have happen if you all hadn’t been there.  Johnny getting up in that tree probably saved our home.”


“Just call me the amazing half mountain goat half man firefighter.”  Johnny teased.


“No,  it  may  have  saved  your  house,  but  your  home is  wherever you  four are together.”  Lee said, holding tightly onto Johnny’s hand.  “You  gave  Johnny  a  home  when  he had  none…sure he  had an apartment  but that  wasn’t a home.   He has told me what it was like before you all were part of his life.   If it  wasn’t  for  you he  wouldn’t  be  part of  my life…If it wasn’t for him, I  wouldn’t  be part of  your  wonderful family.   So please, consider staying here.   If you like staying in this house fine.  But, I think Jo, you would be happier having your own place even if it was temporary.  So  if  you  like  tomorrow  we can  go  get  curtains  and  bedding  and  set  up  the  pool  house as  your  home  for as  long as  you  need  it.”    Lee looked at the two and smiled.   “Please, let us do this for you.”


“We accept, just remember, you neither one owe us anything.   Everything  we  did  for  Johnny and  you was  love,  not  by  wanting  you  to owe us  in  the  future.”   Roy said  remembering  how  Johnny  had  been  made to  feel  he  owed  others  for  what  they  did  for  him,  even  when it  was  done  cruelly.  Even  now,  once in  awhile  he  would  see that  look  in  Johnny’s  eyes.


“I  promise  not  to  spoil  your  kids  and  so  does  Lee,  right?”  Johnny said with a grin. 


“Why change now?”  Jo laughed.  “I think this is really the best option for the kids.  They already feel at home here.”


“Oh, that reminds me, Jen was worried about her reading book and Chris’ backpack with his homework.”   Lee said.  “I told her you would take care of it if there was a problem.”


“They’re gone…Wet and smelly beyond saving.   I’ll talk with their teachers tomorrow.  I’ll have to fill out new information cards for them.”


They talked some more and then went off to their bedrooms.


Lee was lying in bed reading while Johnny was finishing up in the bathroom.  She needed to talk with him about Anna.  He came out of the bedroom, saw the look on her face, and knew something was bothering her.


“You gonna tell me about it or do I have to play 20 questions?”  He asked as he climbed into bed.


“I was just thinking.”  She answered.   He leaned over and kissed her lightly.


“About?”  He asked as he nibbled on her ear.  She giggled in spite of herself. 


“The Center called today.  Anna has an UTI like they thought.  They started her on a low dose of antibiotics.   They didn’t seem too worried.”


“And you are?”  He propped himself up on his elbow.  “Sweet pea, don’t   do this to yourself. You know they are doing all they can for her.  She is getting the best possible care.”


“I  know  but  she deserved  so  much  more…She  deserved  a  long  happy  life with  Mark and a family…Why is it  sometimes it  seems as if the  good  guys get  all the bad  breaks?    Roy and  Jo  didn’t  do anything  to  deserve  this…I  guess I’m  just  tired and  this is  my  way  with  dealing  with  being so  scared  yesterday.  Then I did not have time to think, just react.   Sorry I’m being so negative.”


“Aren’t you one of those who keep telling me never is ashamed of what I’m feeling?   You have  every  right  to  be  sad  and  worried   you  just  can’t  let  that  rule  your  life.   Most of the time you are the one who brings a smile or a laugh to others. Let us do that for you once in awhile.”


“You  always know the right  thing to  say…to me…to  make  me  feel  safe and  loved and like nothing  can ever hurt me again…”   she  whispered as he  moved  closer.



Lee finished getting dressed as Johnny made the bed.  “Are you and Roy car pooling?”  She asked as she brushed her hair pulling it into a ponytail that she then twisted into a bun.  


“Hadn’t thought about it but it makes sense.   Something smells good.”


“Jo is probably making the kids breakfast.    Does this look ok together?”  She had on a pale lavender sweater and a dove gray skirt. 


“You look wonderful as always.”  He went over, kissed her, and then pushed her out to the front room.


“Breakfast is almost ready, made French toast and sausage.  Hope that is ok?   Lee there isn’t any more  milk,  I’ll  pick  some  up  when I  go to the grocery  after I  take the  kids to school.”


“Ok.  If you have time, you can come by the office and we can work on the grant applications.   There are only 4 or 5 I think.”


“Sure.  When do you want to go look at curtains?”  


“We can do that today, after lunch?  I can leave the office any time after 11.   We can bring the grants home so you can do them when ever you have time.”
“Sounds  like a  plan…We can  go shopping then  by  that time it  should  be time to  pick  the  kids  up.   The sooner we move into the pool house the sooner you and Johnny can have your routine back.”


“And so can you. I know that’s important for kids.”   Sometimes watching the kids with Johnny made her feel more like a failure than she already did.   But she was working  hard to change that since she knew  they  were a  very  important  part of  his  life  and  she  loved  them  also.


Jo walked Jenny to her classroom.  The bell hadn’t rung yet so she wouldn’t be interrupting the class.  Mrs. Hansen smiled as they came into the room.  “Jen go put your things up while I talk to your teacher, ok?  It’s going to be fine I promise.” Jo said giving her a reassuring squeeze on her shoulder.


“OK, see you after school.”


“Jenny was concerned she would be in trouble for not having her reader.    You  may have heard  our  house  was  damaged in a  fire  over the  week end?  The reader is gone.  I’m  going to  stop  by the office to  give them  our new  address and  telephone  number.  I’ll pay for the book then.”


“I’m so sorry …I hadn’t heard.  My family was out of town this weekend.  We got home late last night.   Is everyone ok?”


“Yes.  I’ll  be bringing  Jen to school  until  we  move  back  into  our  home.  Here is the new address and phone number.  The phone is listed under John Gage so if you call and get a recording it is the right number.”   Mrs. Hanson knew all about Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lee.


 Jo went up to the office and gave the secretary the new contact information and asked about replacing the ruined textbooks.  The principal expressed her concern for the family and said under the circumstances there were no charges.


“Please let us  know  if there is  anything  we  can  do  to help  the  children  adjust to the move.”


“I think they will be fine.  We are staying with Lee and Johnny so the kids feel completely at home.”




Lee had sent in a basket of rolls and muffins with Johnny and Roy.  As usual, she included enough for the departing shift.    As Roy made a new pot of coffee, Johnny unpacked the picnic basket.  Cap heard them talking and came out of the office.


“The investigators have sent a parliamentary report.  An improperly capped   gas line was ignited by a spark from an electrical short.  Now they just have to figure out who did what.”


“The family that lived there left two days ago for Nebraska.  They left  some  appliances  and  furniture  for a  second  hand  store to  pick  up.   I’ll check with Jo to see if she knows who.”


“You do ok?   No problem with your temporary accommodations?”


“Yeah, we are moving into the pool house and it should work out fine.  Maybe that way we can keep Junior here from totally spoiling my children.”  Roy said laughing.   “Uncle Johnny melts every time my daughter bats her eyes at him. I think she has been taking lessons from her Aunt Lee.”


“Don’t think so…That was happening long before he ever met Lee.”  Cap   said with a grin.    “You can’t blame her for that.   Now,  granted  Jen  maybe  be  picking  up pointers  from  watching  her  Aunt  Lee.”


“Thanks for the back up, I think.”  Johnny said laughing.   They began chores when the engine was called out on its own.   Johnny and Roy quickly finished their chores.  They had finished cleaning the squad’s windows and chrome.


“John, I was thinking.”  Roy said.


“About what?   Did I do something wrong?”  It worried Johnny when Roy used his given name, not one of his nicknames.


“No, you didn’t do anything wrong….and don’t give me that look.”   Johnny gave him a ‘who me?’  look then smiled.   “Lee isn’t  going to a lot of  extra  trouble and  expense  because  we’re  living  in  the  pool  house is  she?”


“I doubt it.   She has had a vision of what she wanted out there since we first talked about building.  Knowing her probably before that.   She may be moving a little faster getting it where she wants it.”    He sat down on the running board, his long legs stretched straight out.   “She needs a project to feel hopeful about…this is good for her.  She can see the results now not in months.  She’s still scared but each day I think the fear lessens a little.   She is getting really excited about going to Hawaii in three weeks.   She even asked Dr. Shipper if she could go surfing.   He didn’t know what to say to that.   Lee explained it to him and he said if she didn’t feel comfortable doing it don’t but go for it.”   He heard Roy laughing.   “What’s so funny?”


“You.  We all know you hate the water, yet you married a mermaid.  When you talk about anything to do with water and Lee you seem really excited and happy.”


“Because that is where she feels the freest and that we’re doing something as equals. I don’t mind being in the water when I‘m with her…”   There was a quick darkness and sadness in his eyes that Roy almost missed.  Maybe one of these days Johnny would tell him why he disliked the water so much.


Before more could be said, the engine returned.
“Thanks guys for finishing up the bay.”  Marco said when he saw the freshly swept and mopped   floor.  


“Johnny finished the dorm while I was out here.”  Roy said nodding at Mike.


“Don’t suppose anyone finished the latrine.”


“Sink  and  shower  done, so is  the  rest…You  had  most of  it  done  before  you left here.”  Roy said.  “It wasn’t that much…you all had a good start on the chores.”


“Thanks guys,  that’s  a  good  example of  team  work…Now  all that has  to be  done is  hanging the  hose.”


“Cap, we need to make a run to Rampart.  “We need some more sterile water and sheets for burn treatment.  We found several of the packages ruined.”


“How?”  Cap frowned.  It was not like any of the paramedics on any shift to be careless.


“I’d guess some sort of animal….We were parked out in that field the other day and last shift they were out in a field.”


“Tell Lee we said hi.”  Chet called over his shoulder as he headed into the kitchen. 


“She isn’t working today, she and Jo are shopping.”  He looked   thoughtful.   “Cap  you  know I never waste time over there when she’s working…I  mean I  don’t  want  you  to  think…Or  get  Roy   in  trouble.”


“Pal, don’t let Chet get to you.   You  might  run  up and  say hi to her or  grab something  to  eat  but  I  never  worry  about  you  taking advantage.   From what I hear there are others that do…even when she isn’t there.”


“You mean like when a whole case of chips disappear and a case of soda?   Not to mention the lunchmeat.  Yeah she’s a little ticked about that.” 




Lee was working on the daily reports when Jo got there.  She was about done, so Jo started looking thru the grant application.   The phone rang and Lee answered.   Frowning as she, listened Lee made notes on the pad   she kept on the desk. Her comments to what was being said were short and very generic.  She was still frowning when she hung up.


“Problem?”  Jo asked concerned how sad her friend looked.


“Not one that anyone can do anything to make better.”  She shrugged.  “Let’s go do   something about a problem we can solve.”  She closed down the file she was working on.  “Any ideas on what colors you would like in the bedrooms?”


“It’s your house, shouldn’t you pick?”  Jo asked, appreciating Lee’s gesture.


“But you’re going to be the one living there for the next 6 weeks.   I know Jen likes pink and blue flowers.   Chris will want a deep blue or red…something   maybe with Dodger Blue?  And  you  know  what  you  would  like  to make  your  room  feel  like  yours.   Anything you need for the kitchen we can get.  Afraid all the towels are a mix of colors…just bought about 20 sets…Ten for each side…”   She looked at her friend.  “This is  your  home and I  am  not  going to  be  trying to   influence  you  on  anything  you  want.   It is nice having family around.  While  we are  shopping  we  may  as well  pick  out  some  more  furniture  for the  living  room…Get  everything  set  up  like a  real  home.”


Lee  and  Jo  finished  shopping  just  as it  was  time to  go  pick   the  kids  up.


“Why  don’t  we  pick  up  the kids  then  I can  take you  back  to the  office so you  can  pick  up  your car.  It  doesn’t  make  sense to  back  track  to  Rampart  then  to the  school..”


“That makes  sense and  we  can stop  and  get  something  easy to  fix  for  dinner.”


“Or eat at O’Sheas’.     I could really eat their cheese straws every day.   And their rye bread….I threatened to give up cooking and just eat there three times a day.”


“I think Johnny would have a little something to say about that.”   Jo said laughing.   “He loves your cooking.”


“He just likes to eat.”    She said with a sad smile.  “But I do try to fix the things he likes.   Now he will even eat an occasional Brussels sprout…     I  guess  I  wouldn’t give  up  cooking  for  him,  its  one of the things I  can do  for  him.”


“Hey, you do a lot for him.”  Jo said. 


“Yeah like drive him crazy with my moods…Dr. Westmore said it would take awhile.  But  sometimes I  think I‘ve  lost what  little  sanity  I  had.   I just want to run away and hide from everyone.  Knowing  how  sarcastic I  have  been  lately  you  all   would  probably  wish  I  would.”

“No we want you around so we know you’re safe.”  Jo said laughing.  “Seriously, if you need someone to talk to or listen…call me.  We are here for you, all of us.”  

 Two  weeks  later:

The squad was called out to an accident on River Ridge.  Two motorcyclists  had  been  racing  towards  the  bridge  when a  car  turned  onto  the  road  the  motorcycles  crashed.  The one rider crashed into the t far lane.  The other  rider  who  was nearest the  river  hit a  piece of the wrecked  bike and  went flying  into the  river.


“You want me to go in this time?” Roy asked as they were getting the equipment out of the squad. 


“Nah.  You take care of that guy.   Cap, can you guys tie off a line for me?”  He gathered up a belt and more rope and started down the steep bank.  The  water was running fast since it had  been  raining  up in  the  mountains he could see the  rider  hung  up on  some  trees  growing   along the other  bank, their  roots  tangled and sticking up.

Making his way slowly he managed to reach the boy.  He looked to be about 16 or 17.  His eyes were wide open, looking blankly to the sky.  Johnny carefully put the belt on him and untangled him from the exposed roots.   As  carefully  and  gently as if he was working on a living  person  Johnny  took  the   boy  to  shore.  Marco and Chet helped him get him on the bank.


Roy finished giving the vitals to Rampart and began treatment.  “51, any information available on the second victim?”  Dr. Early asked


“The second victim is Code F…”   Roy said the sadness in his voice clear for all to hear.  “He has been brought out of the river and is ready for transport.  Capt. Stanley has notified the M.E.”


“It is such a waste…That is the third person to get killed on that curve in two months.  All near that curve…going too fast or having the bad luck to be in some fool’s way. “Johnny told Roy as they were cleaning the squad.  


The rest of the evening was quiet at the station.  The crew knew that Johnny always took it hard when there was a fatality.  The  boy had  been  17  and had  just  gotten  that  bike as a reward  from his  parents  for getting an academic  scholarship  to UCLA.   After dinner Johnny went into the dorm and read while the other watched a movie.   Even after he went to bed he was restless and slept in short spurts.


Johnny came into the kitchen and smiled as he watched her dice fresh fruit.  She  looked  up  when she heard  him  come  in,  her  smile  turning into a  look of  concern.  She  saw  the  deep  pain  lines  on  his  forehead  and  the  way he  was  rubbing  the  bridge of  his  nose.


“Did you take anything for that headache?”  She asked as he came over to her.  He bent down and kissed her softly cupping her face, his thumb gently stroking her cheek.


“Yeah but it hasn’t kicked in yet.  I don’t think I want anything to eat right now.” 


“You should have something….I can make you some milk toast. I’ve heard it’s not good to take aspirin on an empty stomach.”  She smiled   slightly.  “Not that I take aspirin anymore.”


“Good answer.   Do you ever drive River Ridge?”  He went over and got a glass of milk.


“Not if I can avoid it.  I  take  Baylor  Park  Road…It  takes  longer  but its  safer,  I  think.”  She raised her eyebrows.  “Usually.”


“Brat.”  He drank the milk in one gulp.  “You know I really don’t think you’re a brat.  I’d never be that mean to ya.”


“Boyo, I don’t think you have mean bone in your body.”


“This body is full of tired bones right now.”  He put the glass in the sink. “Think just the milk for now.”


“Then get it into bed.  I’m going to work on some reports for WBSF.”


“Ok,  then  when  I  get  up  we’ll  go  to an  early  movie  then to O’Sheas’.”


“It’s a deal.  Now get some good sleep.”  He kissed her and went off to bed. 


She stopped to check on him before going to the sunroom.  He had  laid  down  on  top of  the  covers  and  was asleep  with  his  arm  over his  eyes.  She  covered him  with the  quilt  she  kept  at the  foot of the  bed  then  went to her desk.   A  half  hour  later the  peacefulness  was  shattered  by  Johnny’s  cries for help.



Johnny asked Lee to call Roy to come over so they could talk.  Roy went in knocking on the door so not to startle his friend.   Johnny was laying there curled on his side, his eyes closed.


“Junior, you want to talk?”  Roy went in and sat down on the edge of the bed.


“No, but I need to.   It was more than a dream…more like a memory.” He turned over onto his back.   “I don’t want Lee to hear this...not now, maybe later.  Maybe never.”


“That’s your choice.  It always is when we do this.”   He used the techniques Dr.  Hightower had taught him and Jo several years before.

Johnny   turned over  and  Roy  began  to  massage the  tight  muscles in  Johnny’s  neck  and  back.  He did not say anything waited for Johnny to begin.



“I was running back to the reservation.   I had stayed too long in town at the firehouse.  If  I  didn’t get my  chores  done it  would  just  give  them another  excuse to hit me.  Not that they needed any excuses…I was an embarrassment to them…a  half  breed  who had  strange  fits…couldn’t   put a  simple  sentence together  without  stuttering.   If I  didn’t   get  home  and  chores  done  there  wouldn’t  be  any  supper.   Not that it would be very good.   Use to  think  when I  was a  fireman  I’d have a  place  of  my  own  and  there  would  always  be  plenty of  fresh cold  milk  and  bread.   Fresh  soft  bread,  not the  old  moldy  stuff  that  was  so  hard  you had  to  soak it in  water  to  eat it.  Sometimes it was so bad even the dogs wouldn’t eat it.   I  kept  looking  back  to make  sure  I  wasn’t  being  chased  by  any of the town  bullies.   The nearer I  got  to the  reservation  the  more  I  had  to  keep on  the  lookout.   My  cousin  Ben  and his  friends…they  were  as  bad  as  the  town  bullies… Maybe even worse.  I  couldn’t   go  to  anyone  for  help…who  would I  go  to?  Ben’s parents?  My grandfather or grandmother?   My  grandfather had  told  me  tears  were not  allowed  nor  was  fear…they  both  were  signs of  weakness.   How  could I  go  to him  and  tell him I  was scared of  my  cousins  and  his  friends?   Thomas,  he  was  one of my  older  cousins  he  wasn’t  so  bad.  Most  of the  time he  just  ignored me  but  every so often if  I  did  his  chores  he  would  buy  me a  candy bar or  some  milk.   I was almost to the river when I heard them. 


“Hey,  half  breed…You  really  think  you  could  out  run  us?”  Will Tudor yelled as he and his friends, Frank Weston and Yancey Black on motor bikes.   They  were  catching  up  so  I  made my  way  to the  river  bank.  There were some exposed roots the dirt had washed away.   They were like little narrow caves.   I kept thinking if I could just reach them I would be safe, hiding like the sniveling coward they called me.”


Roy felt the tension increase in Johnny’s shoulders.  He increased the pressure as he massaged the knotted muscles.   “Well now, Junior, if you ask me it showed good sense.  You were a skinny kid all alone against three older, bigger bullies.   As for you being a coward…you were what 13 or 14?  Ask  some of the  people  you’ve  rescued  over the years  if  they  think  you’re  a  coward.   Hell,  you  risked  your  life  yesterday  to  rescue  those  two  racers.   Climbing  out  on those  limbs   to  get  life  lines  to  them?  That was not the act of a coward.   Don’t  forget  Cisco  is always  telling  you  it  took a  brave  man  to  hook  up  with a  hellcat  like  Lee.”


“That wasn’t brave, that was the smartest thing I ever did.   Well, maybe that and signing up for the paramedic program and being your partner.”  Roy   heard the glint of laughter in Johnny’s voice and felt his shoulders relax.  . 


“I  ran  as  fast  as I  could across  the  uneven  road,  took  a  tumble or  two…It  hurt to  breathe   like  there  was  some  giant  hands  squeezing  all  the  air  out of  me.”   He took a long slow deep breath.   “I heard Yancey laughing as he cut across the road.   He had a  rope…I  could  hear  him  swinging it…Yelling  to the  others  he  could  rope me and  drag me…
The  ground  was  rough and  Yancey  was  getting  mad  at the  things  Will  and Frank  were  yelling.  Yancey worked part time for Will’s dad.   He  was  17  or  18  and had  dropped  out of  school  after  getting into a  fight  with a  teacher.”

Johnny could see and hear them as if it was all happening at that moment.  He quietly watched the replay in his mind.


“Hey,  Yancey,  you  ain’t  nothing  but a drug  store  cowboy,  you  couldn’t  catch a  lame  cow  let alone  Chief  Running  Scared.”   Will Tudor taunt.


“Yeah even if you caught him you wouldn’t know what to do with him.”  Frank Watson added his two cents.  Frank did not much like Yancey, thought he was   white trash.   That was almost as bad as being an Indian or a breed.    However, he tolerated him since   it seemed to amuse Will to have him hanging around.   Frank   liked hanging around with Will since it made life easier.   No one  argued  with  a  Tudor  so  by  association  he  got to  be somebody  no  one  disrespected, at least to  his  face.   Frank worked part time at a local gas station.  “You ever rope anything   except a fence post?”


“Shut up and help me catch this skinny little breed.”  Yancey growled.


“Both of you get back to the business.”  Will ordered.  “I don’t want that little s.o.b.  Laughing at us.” 


Johnny let out a shudder and then rolled over.  “I  still  remember  Will Tudor  and  the way he’d  take digs at my  mom…Calling her names, calling  my  dad  squaw  man…I couldn’t  do  anything to stop  it.   I  didn’t  care what he  called me…But  when he started in on my  mom…I  wanted  to  beat him up to shut him up.   Instead, I ran or pretended not to hear.   Sometimes  after  running I  would  go  away…away  from  the  hurt and  hate and  afraid  of  losing memories  of  my  folks.”   Johnny sat up and looked around the room.  “


“You never lost those memories, they were in your heart.  You went to the only safe place you had then.”   Roy told him.  “You did what you had to do to survive.”


“I almost didn’t survive that night.”


“What?   They caught you?”  Roy had not expected that revelation.


“No, I got caught in a cross fire between them and my cousin Ben and his friends.”    Johnny laid back down and put his arm over his eyes.  Roy waited patiently until he was ready to talk.

“Yancey lost  control  of  his motor bike  and  the other  two  finally  stopped  laughing  at him  enough to help him up.  He was skinned up and bruised but not hurt.  He was more upset about scratching the paint on his bike and said I was going to pay for it.   None of us realized we were back on the reservation.  I don’t  think boundaries really mattered to those three.   However, to the people on the reservation it was different.  If we wanted to fight and beat up each other, no one cared.  But  let  one  of  the Cheyenne  get into a fight with a white man…It  was always  our fault, especially  if  we were off the  rez.   If the town boys   were caught on the rez that was a different story, usually.  If they got the crap beat out of them it was ignored pretty much.  No one wanted to admit that an Indian could beat him up.” 

“Ben had about seven or eight of his friends with him.  Some were cousins   others were just boys he   hung around with.   One thing they had in common was they hated me.  I was a disgrace to the tribe, my family.  They  would chase me and   call me  names…Throw  things at  me  or  try  to  trip  me  when I  went  by  them.  Ben was the worst.  He  would   come  up  behind me and  take  my  plate and  throw it  down  on  the  floor  after  calling  the  dogs  in….He hid  my  shoes  when it  was  cold and  rainy…tore  up  my  school  books…He had  stopped  going to  school.  No one at the school cared.  He caused so much trouble they were glad to be rid of him.”


“Do you need to take a break?  Maybe get something to drink?”  Roy asked concerned at how pale Johnny was and how his breathing was labored.  “You had a rough rescue last night.”


“You mean a rough retrieval.”   Roy knew how Johnny hated to lose a patient.   “There was no reason for that boy to die except someone else’s stupidity.   Think we’ll ever get use to that?”


“If we do that’s the minute we need to quit being paramedics and firefighters.”


“Yeah, I guess so.”  Johnny was up pacing around. The movie began to play again   in his head. 


“ I  was  sure  that  they would  be  busy trying to  get the  motor  bike  started again  and  wouldn’t  notice me  creeping  along  the  edge of the  river bank.  Then I heard them yelling and laughing.  They  hadn’t  seen  me  but they had seen Will  and  Frank and  Yancey.   Ben and his gang had had several run ins with those three before.   It  was  like  they  were  fighting  over who  was  the  biggest  bad asses  around.   Just my luck I was the favorite target of both of them.  The  boys from the reservation…they  were all  yelling  and  doing  war  cries…I  couldn’t  see  them  from  where I  was hiding… I wanted to  run   to  get  home,  but I had  no idea  how  to  without one  or the  other  bunch   seeing  me.   Besides I knew if I didn’t get home soon the aunts would be in worse tempers than usual.  I  moved  a little  farther  down  the  bank  and I  could  see  Ben   and  Eric  and  Matt   and  some others  moving   in  closer  to  where  Will  and  Frank  were  waiting  for  Yancey to  catch  up.    I thought I was safe hidden from each of them.”  He moved back to the bed and sat down.“I  was  scared…All  of  a sudden   I  realized I  could  die  out  there all alone  and  with  no one to  care.   I used  to  ask  God  why  he  didn’t  let me  die  so I  could  be  with my  mom  and  dad.   Guess I  know  now  it  was so I could  be  with my  big  brother and his  family  and  with  Lee…” 


Roy watched with some concern as Johnny began to rock back and forth.   He  suddenly  realized it  wasn’t  because of the AS  but  feeling  the  cold  from  his  dream.   Roy grabbed up the  afghan   that  Lee  kept  folded at  the  foot of the  bed  and  wrapped it  around   Johnny.    Johnny nodded his thanks.  Roy waited  until Johnny was ready to continue.


“I  was  almost  to  the  place  I  thought  would  be  safe to  get out…A small  group  of  trees and  some  brush  grew  right  up  to the  water’s edge.  By  this  time I  was  pretty  cold…The  spring  thaw  in  the  mountains  had  started  and  there  had  been  some  late  snow  the  week  before…The  water  was so  cold, I  guess it had  numbed me  until  I  wasn’t  moving  as  fast  or  as  quietly  as I  thought.     I  think  Ben  and Will  saw me  about the  same  time.  Never  was  sure  who  started it  but  they  began   throwing  rocks  and  pieces of  wood at  me.  I remember dodging a limb only to get hit with a rock.  I could  feel  the  blood  running   down  my  face  and  the  pain  in  my  shoulders  and  arm…there  was  blood  but  it  was a  real  pale  color,  I  guess  from  all the  water  splashing  up on  the  cut.  Yancey  began  shouting…Laughing  and  shouting  about  my blood  being  pink……that  when  you  mixed  white and  red  you  got  pink… Said  no  wonder I  was  such a coward and a sissy ….Called me  some  other names…then  I  saw  this  rock  coming  towards me and I turned  too  quick…I  went  under  the  water.  I  was  caught in tangle of  roots…I thought I was gonna  die…wanted to  die…go be  with  my  mom  and  dad. I was so  scared……But  that day I actually thought  about  giving  up.  Then I heard  my  mom’s  voice,  her telling me how  proud  dad would  be when I  graduated  from  the  fire academy  and  became a  fireman…How  proud he  would  be of me  saving  people’s  lives.  So I started to fight to get my head above water.   They were still throwing rocks at me and then   there was nothing.” 


He pulled the afghan closer.   “The next thing I knew I was waking up in the clinic.  Sean Carlton  was  covering me  with  warm  blankets  and  I had another  cast on  my  arm.   Later Dr. Sean  told me  my  cousin  Thomas  had  brought  me in.  He and  some of his  friends  had  been  hunting  and  they  heard  the  yelling.  Everyone scattered when they saw him and his friend drive up.  Sam  Gray Wolf   went into the  water and  got  me…Never  did  know if I  went away or if I  passed out  from  the  cold.   Guess the accident yesterday   brought back some old memories.   Seeing  that  kid  staring  up  at me…Never  did  like  being  around  the  water after that  unless it  was  standing on  the  bank  fishing.   Learned to surf because Drew liked it and it was a good way to meet girls.   Lee is looking forward to our trip to Hawaii.   She wants to go surfing again.  But she won’t surf when we go to the beach here…Figure that one out.”   He yawned.  “Think I could sleep some more now.   Pally, thanks for listening.”


“Anytime.”   He  stood  there  until  Johnny  got under the  covers and  settled  down  with his  arm  thrown  over his  eyes. 


Lee was out at the kitchen table talking to Jenny and Stacy. 


“Daddy,  Lee  said it  was ok  with her  if  it  was  ok  with you  and  mommy  and   aunt  Kathy and  Uncle Jim  that  Stacy and I  can have a  slumber party  next  Friday.  You  and  Uncle  Johnny  will be at  work  and  Chris and  Jimmy  will be at  scouts.”


“We’ll see.   Why don’t you guys go down to the pool house while I talk to Aunt Lee?” 


“Ok.   Thanks Aunt Lee.”   They left excited about the idea of a slumber party.


“Is he ok?”  Lee asked once the girls were gone.  “He was so pale and his breathing was so harsh…He was having a hard time waking up.”


“He’s sleeping.  You know I can’t tell you about anything we talked about.”  He had poured himself a cup of coffee.  “But I can tell you I think he’ll be fine after he gets some rest.”


“He was yelling …in Cheyenne   before I could get him awake.   Sometimes I wish we never had to have any contact with any one in Lame Deer.”   Roy didn’t say a word.   “I just want him to be happy.”


“You make him happy.  I  think I’m  gonna  head  home and  see if there is anything  Jo  needs.   Maybe take a drive over to the house.”


“You can leave Jen with me if you want.  She and Stacy are   fun house guests.”


“Just don’t let them interfere with any plans you and Junior have.”


“I won’t.”


Kathy was talking to Jo when Roy got back to the pool house. 


“How is he?”  Jo asked after kissing Roy.  “Lee doing ok?”

“He was sleeping when I left and she was fine once she knew he was.  Said she would watch Jen while we went to check on the house.”


“That would be good.  The girls are having such a good time together.”


“You know, the house across the street from us is up for sale.   The kids have decided you should sell your old house and buy this one.”


“We couldn’t afford it…but it is a nice place.”


“Don’t be so sure of that…the owner is anxious to sell it to you.  Heard  they might  even  take  your  old  house in an  even trade…or  do  some  special very low interest  financing.”


“And just who would this owner be?”


“A nice young couple.  The wife inherited the house from her grandfather…One of several he built for friends.  The stipulation in the original sale was when the owners decided to move or died the house would be sold back to the builder.  Not to the builder’s company but to him.   The present owner is moving to North Carolina to live near his daughter and her family.  So the builder’s heirs had first chance at buying it back.  The original buyers will be out in two or three weeks.” 


“And why did the seller talk to you and not us about this house?”  Roy asked.


“They didn’t want to put any undue pressure on you.  They  think  the  market  value of  your  old  house will  make  a  nice  down  payment  even  after you pay  off  your  current  loan.  Seems the value in that area of town has been on a steady rise.”


“I know that the Harmon’s got a good price for their house.   And that people who bought it are going to rebuild.”


“That might  be something  to  look into  …but  let’s  not  say  anything to the  kids  or the  nice  young  couple  until  we  have some time to think it  over.  Does this nice young couple’s Uncle Jeff have any say in the matter?”


“No, he got several other properties.”  Kathy laughed.  “Our house was one of his.   He  sold it  to us  at a  very  reasonable  price  then  Lee  paid off  the  loan  when I  got  hurt.  But  we had  good  well  trained  paramedics  then  and I  responded  well to surgery.   Three months in a wheelchair and two of them it was emotional rather than actual physical trauma.   But that is history and what is important is the here and now.” 


“So you want to ride over to the house with us?  Then maybe on the way back we can look at this other house?”  Roy said.


“I think that would be a wonderful idea since Lee has already offered to watch the kids.”


Lee and the girls were playing a board game when the 3 adults went up to talk with Lee.   Johnny was still asleep so Lee was glad for the company.  Roy said they would pick up some pizza on the way back.



The crew was working hard when they got to the house.  Roy thought the foreman looked familiar.    Jo  and  Kathy   checked  out  the  kitchen  trying to decide   if  Jo  wanted to make  any  changes to  how  the  cabinets  would  be  placed and  looking at  samples of  counter  tops.   Roy and the foreman went upstairs.    After about an  hour  they  left and  went over to  the  house  cross  the street  from  Kathy  and  Jim.   It was a 4 bedroom house with 2 baths upstairs.  Down stairs was a large living room, dining room.  The kitchen was larger than their house and there was a small pantry.   Jo  liked the fact the laundry room  was  upstairs and  was large enough  she  could  set  up  her  sewing  area  in it.  There was more closet space and the master bedroom was larger.  The downstairs bathroom had more storage space including a small closet.    The basement was finished.  The lot was larger and so was the garage.   It would be easy to add a ramp to the deck.


“It’s beautiful.   I love the carpets and drapes.”


“They are about a year old.  Mr.  and Mrs.  Gates had them redone when they painted.”


“The colors they used are really nice…Roy,   what do you think?”


“Johnny  said its  a good  location  as  far  as travel  time  to  the station.   Kathy, how are the schools?”


“Excellent.   Most of the buildings are less than 10 years old.  The  kids  catch the bus  right at the  corner,  I  can  see them  from  my  front  window.   It is 2.4 miles from our drive way to Johnny and Lee’s driveway.  Their backyard boarders mine.   The soccer field is close…There is as  well  kept  public  park  about a  quarter of  a mile  from  here  that has a  baseball  field and basketball  courts,  no  problem  with  gangs or  vandals  because  the  neighbors  keep a  good eye on it.   Easy to get to stores.  Not  sure  how  far it is from  your  church  but there are several  nice ones in the area  if  you wanted to  check  them  out.”   After listening to Kathy, Roy laughed. 


“So do you get a sales commission on this house?”  He asked.


“Nope,   something even better.   Good  friends  for neighbors.  Myra  Barkin  lives  three  houses  down.  She is a  pain in  the neck  but  we  usually  just  ignore  her.   She  wants  to  organize  a  neighborhood  association to keep  the  wrong  kind of  people  from  moving  in.”


“Bet  Lee loves  that.”


“Oh  yeah.   I  think  Lee and Johnny  are  going to have a sidewalk  put in  between  our  houses.   And a  privacy  fence  build  along  a stretch  to  keep Myra’s  son  from  going  onto  their  place.   But they are the exception---the other neighbors are really nice.”     Kathy  handed them an  envelope.  “Here is the  facts about the  house,  estimated taxes…what  other  houses in  the  area are selling  for  and  what  your  price would  be…and  what  WBS Reality  would  offer you for  your  house.”


 The Kildare’s, Gage’s and  DeSoto’s  shared  dinner. Jo  and  Roy  went  back  to the pool  house.  (Johnny had been  more than  ready to eat after  going  on a  run  with Cisco.) The  Kildare family  left  soon  after the DeSoto family. Once the  kids were settled  down  for the  night Roy  and  Jo  read over the  information  Kathy had  given  them  on the  house.  


“This  can’t  be right.”  Roy  said  looking at the  figures.  “Our  house payment  is more  now  than  what they  estimate  the new one  will be.”

He  rechecked  the  figures.  “The interest  rate is almost  nonexistent…Private  financing  instead of  bank  loan…Down payment  negotiable…They sure make it look inviting.. if  they  sold it to  someone else they  could  get a lot more  money…”


“Since  when  does  money  enter into her or  Johnny’s  logic  when it  comes to family?    How many  times have  we heard her  say  that  all that money is  good  for is  what she  can  do for the  ones  they care about?   I  really  loved  that  house.”  Jo  answered.



“You don’t see any problem living that close to them? “


“No, do you?”  Jo was a little surprised at that question.   “The  kids  have  done  good  about  not taking  advantage of  their  being  here…And  they   have  done  really  well not  spoiling them.  The  kids have  done  well respecting  Lee and Johnny’s  privacy. Oh, there is a note from Lee at the bottom of all the official stuff.  Any of the  furniture  we want  from  the house is  ours…saves  time and  trouble of  moving it out as the  owners  don’t  want it.   They are moving into a small apartment and wouldn’t have room for any of it.”


“That is all quality  antiques  in the  dining  room…We  could  put our  set in the basement …fix  that up as a really nice rec room for the …and  you could set up your  pottery  wheel down  there…maybe  even  get a small  kiln like  you always wanted.”


“Let’s think about it…”  Roy was trying to be practical .  He  had  really  liked the house when they checked it out.


Lee and Johnny were getting ready for bed.  


“ Did  Roy  say  anything  about  visiting  the  house  across the  street from Kathy’s?  While you were outside?”   Johnny  got into  bed.


“No.  I thought we had agreed that we weren’t going to ask him about it.”


“We did and I  didn’t. Kathy gave him them the information today.   It  would be really nice having  them close by,  but I worry  they  will think  we are trying to pressure them.”  Lee  turned  so she  was  facing  him.


“I  know they had  thought  about  getting a  larger  house at  one  time…if   they decide to buy this one  it’ll  be their  decision.   I  think one  thing  we need to  think  about is  what the  long term effects  will be.   The  kids  changing  school,  moving  away  from  friends.  Will it  be harder for  Jo  to get to  church  on  Sundays?   There are a lot of things  to  consider.”


“I  can  just hear her mom  screaming at her  we’re trying  to  buy  Jo  and  the  kids’  friendship  and destroy their family. …she is  already  mad at Jo  because  we all are  going to Hawaii...Maybe their  moving  over here isn’t a  good  idea…No  matter  how  much  we  want it to  happen.”  Lee said  looking incredibly  sad. “ Good  thing  our prayers aren’t  limited…One  from  column  A and  two from column  B…”


Johnny leaned over  closer and  kissed her  lightly.  “It’ll  all  work  out  darlin’. 


   A week later:


After  dinner  Jo  and  Roy  asked the  kids to  come  sit  on  the  couch.  They were a little  worried  since their  parents  looked  very serious.


“Your  mom  and I need  to  talk with  you  both  about  something  serious…”  Roy  said as he  looked  down at them.


“Did  we  do  something  wrong? “  Chris  asked.  He knew he had been  late  to  super  the  night  before.  He and Jimmy  had  been  kicking  around  the soccer  ball and he had  lost  track of  time.   “Am  I in  trouble?”


“Do you think you did something wrong?”  Roy  asked .


“Not real bad --  10  minutes late coming back from Jimmy’s house,” he  answered.  “Mom  was waiting  dinner on  me.”


“Then  me and  Chris  were  fighting  over who  got to  pick  the  show  we watched.”   Jenny said looking at the  television.  


“I  think if  your mother  thought  you needed it she  would have  punished  you  last night.,  not  waited  until I  got  home.”  Roy  smiled as the  two on the  couch  looked  relieved.   “What  would  you  think if  we  didn’t  move  back  in  the old  house?”


“It  would  be  kind of  sad.   I’d  miss  my  friends at  school.”  Jen  said  hugging  Stacy  Lee.   “Would  we  still  be  able to  see them  sometime?”


“I  think  that  could be arranged.”  Jo  said,  giving Jen a  comforting  smile. 


“Would it  still  be  close  enough  I  could  do  scouts and  play  sports  with the  same  kids?  Would  we have to  change schools  before the  year  ended?”
“Will we  be  close  enough  we  can  still see Uncle  Johnny  and Aunt Lee?  And  Stacy  and  Jimmy?”  Jen  asked.


“I  need to  check  if  you  can  stay  at your  school  to  finish  out the year.   But if the  school  system  says  ok  we’ll  keep  on  doing  it  like  we are  now.”  Jo  answered  Chris’  question. 


“What  would  you  think about  living  across the  street  from Jim  and Kathy?  You  guys  would  still be able to  be on  the  teams  you’re on now.   The  same  rules about  your aunt and  uncle will apply.  You  won’t  be allowed to  just  drop  in  any time  you  want and no  asking  them  for  special  favors…but  I  am  sure once  they  open the  pool  you all  can  go over  to swim  a lot…as  long as  you  follow  the  rules.”


“When will we  move into the new  house?  I’ll miss  the old  one  but  you told us  it  was family  not a  house or a  place  that made a  home.”  Jenny  said.   The  new  house  doesn’tt  have a  ramp.  Will that make  Aunt Lee sad?”


“If  we  get the new  house it  will have a  ramp.  No  matter  where  we  live  there  will be a  ramp for her if we need it.   Now,  you have to  promise  not to  tell any  one  we might  move.  There are  some  things  we still have to  work  out.   That means  everyone, including  your  aunt and  uncle.”


“And your  grandparents.”  Jo  added.  She was  not  looking  forward  to  that  conversation.   They  talked a  little  longer then the  kids  went off to  finish  their  homework.


“That  went  well.   So when do we talk with  Johnny and Lee?”   Jo  said  with a sigh  as Roy came over and set  down  next to her.


“Lets invite  them over  for  breakfast.   We need to make  some plans   anyway.  I think Johnny gets more excited about this trip every day.”


“He isn’t the only  one.  Can you  believe it  6  days  of nothing to  do  but  whatever  we want.   There  will be kids there  for Jen and  Chris  to play  with.  Lee said  if  we want to  go off  by  ourselves  that  she and Johnny  will be with them  or  some of the aunties  that live there  will be  glad to watch  them.  I  know she  wants us all to go  to dinner  with her  friends  where their  friend  cricket  sings.”


“Then we’ll be eating out most of the time?” 


“No,  it  seems as if the aunties have that all  under control.  The  fridge will be well stocked but they are planning on doing all the cooking.  Johnny is  hoping this trip is what she needs to relax.   She  still has  trouble  sleeping.”

Roy  felt  bad  keeping a secret  from  Jo  knowing how  worried  she  was about  Lee.  But he had promised  Johnny.   Roy  went in and called  Lee  and  arranged  for her and  Johnny to come to the pool  house after the kids went to school. 


The next  morning  Jo  could hear them  laughing as they made theirt  way  over to the  pool  house.  She had  breakfast  ready.  Roy had  taken the  kids to school.  Since  he  was a little  later than usual  getting  back  she  figured he  had decided to talk  with the principal  about  the  kids  staying there until  the  end of  the  year.  


“You  two  sound  like you’re a  good mood.   Want  some  coffee or  juice until  Roy  gets here?”


“Do you still have some grapefruit  juice  left?”  Lee asked.  “We’re  going to the  store  after  breakfast if  you  need  anything.   Boyo is out of  milk  and I’m  out of  Dr. Pepper.  Just the  bare necessities  of  life.  Which  reminds  me,   auntie  Leah  said  they have  stocked the  apartment  with  our  favorite sodas and  some  beer and  wine.  They’re planning on a  pig  roast  Saturday…”    They  heard  Jo’s  station  wagon  pull in the  drive.  A half  hour later they had  finished eating.  Lee noticed  that Roy was kind of  fidgety.   He  poured  more  coffee  for  him,  Jo and Johnny  and  more  juice  for her.


“We’ve  going to  buy  the  house  across from  Jim  and  Kathy.   I  called  the  guy  at  the  real estate  management  office  yesterday.  We’ll  do  the paper work  when we  get back from  vacation.  He  said  if  we  wanted  any  painting  done  they’d  do it  while  we’re gone. They are  going  to go in and  clean  carpets and  do  whatever  else needs to be  done.   If  we  give them a  diagram  they’ll  have all the  furniture  placed.  I  talked  with the principal at the school  and  since the school  year is almost  over the  kids  can  finish  out the  year  there.  The  kids are excited about the move.  They were concerned  it  didn’t have a  ramp  when we talked  last night.  There will  be  one  and  they are  going to  see if   they need to make the  doorway  to the bathroom  a  little  wider.”

Lee had  tears in her  eyes.  The smile on  Johnny’s  face  let  everyone  know  what he  was  thinking.


“We aren’t  going  to  tell  anyone  till  we  get back…I don’t  want to  tell my  parents  until  we  are ready  to  move in.    The kids  won’t  tell anyone.”  Jo shared with them.  “They’re really excited.”
“Us too…It’s gonna be great having you for neighbor.”  Lee said, and then  looked at  Johnny  who  nodded at her.   “We have a secret we want to share  with  you.  Actually,  Roy has  known for awhile   but  I  asked  Johnny  to ask  him  to  promise  not to  share it  with  anyone,  especially  you.  So  if you are  gonna be mad at anyone  …I’m  the  one you  should  be mad at.   The guys  both have  wanted me to  tell  you…but I  was afraid…still  am…”


Jo could see the  tears  in  Lee’s  eyes and hear the  fear in  her  voice.  Johnny   went to  stand  behind her,  his  chin  resting on her  head,  his  arms  crossed  protectively  across  her.


“No one is going to be mad.  If you felt like you needed to keep a secret, you had a good reason.“ Jo said in a reassuring tone. 


“We’re having a baby in May.”

She felt Johnny’s arms tighten around her and  she  relaxed a  little.

 “A  baby?   That’s  wonderful,”   she exclaimed, not  sure why Lee  hadn’t wanted to share  the good news.   “How long  have you known?”

 “Right  after  we moved into this  house   Micha  Little Bear  came and  told us about a  young  couple  that had  been in a serious  auto accident.  Mark,  the  husband   died  instantly.   Anna is at the Trauma Center   not  far  from Rampart.  She…they are  keeping her and the  baby  alive  by  machines.  She is  just  17...Mark  was 19.   At first they  thought  the  baby  was due in  April  but  now  they are  saying  May…Anna  and  Mark  grew  up  in Lame Deer.   Micha  thinks  that Anna  and Johnny may be distant  cousins.   Anyway,  there has  been  some… some … problems  and  the  doctors  are  working hard to  keep Anna  alive  so  her…our  baby  can live.”  Jo  and Lee  both had  tears in their  eyes.   “Johnny   told Roy   just  before I  came  home  from  the  hospital.  Like I  said I  asked him   to promise  not to tell anyone.”

“Why?  We all would have  been  so  happy  for you. We are  so  happy  for you.”

 “Because I  was scared…Scared to  believe  it  was  really gonna  happen. I was afraid of  seeing  the  hurt and  disappointment  and  pity  if  something  went wrong.  But I  can’t  do that  anymore.  It’s  not  fair  to Johnny .I realized  that the other morning  when I saw  him  standing out  on the deck. It  was  about six  o’clock,   He was  leaning on a  post, a coffee mug in his hand.   I watched  him standing  there motionless  for almost  10  minutes,  one   foot  tucked   behind  the  other  leg,  the   toe  of  his  boot  resting  on the  railing.    I couldn’t see  the expression on his face but  his stance had such  a  sad lonely look.  I was worried  something  was  wrong  but  wanted  to  respect  his  privacy.    I watched a  little  while  longer  then  couldn’t  stand  seeing  him  look  so alone.”   Johnny  had  sat  down her beside and had a  tight  hold  on her  hand.  “That’s  when I realized  how  selfish I  had  been.  When he  asked me if I  didn’t  want  Anna’s  baby  or  any  baby…I  am  so  sorry  for  being so selfish and  so wrapped  up in myself  that I  didn’t  stop to think  about  your  feelings… To  even make you  feel  like I   didn’t  want  …To make you doubt I  loved  you…”

 “Shush,  don‘t  cry…I never doubted  you  loving  me.   When  you’re  ready we’ll  tell  everyone…Jo’ll  keep our  secret  till  then,  right?”

 “Of course I  will.  Then  when you’re  ready  we’ll  have a  wonderful shower and when Baby Gage comes into  this  world…They’ll be such a welcoming  party.”

 Johnny  and  Roy  went  out to the  deck to  give  the  girls  some privacy  and to  get themselves together.   “That  took a  lot of  courage on her  part.” Johnny  said.   “I had made a decision that  morning.   I had  been  up  since about  4:30.   She had  asked for a pain  pill about  midnight…think I had  just  dozed  on and  off since then.   While I  was watching the  sun  come  up I  decided  if  something  happen and  we didn’t  get  our  baby…We would just stop trying.   I  couldn’t  put  her  through  that again.   To be truthful, I  don’t  think I  could  stand  watching her  …seeing her  heart  break  a  little more  each  time  the center called  telling  us Anna  had another UTI  or  her  kidneys  were showing  signs of  decreased  functioning.   I  want this  baby .  I  go  see Anna  more than  Lee does….  I  tell her  how  loved her  child  will be and  that I will teach our  child  the  beauty  of our  history and  culture.. Just like my  mom did for me.  I  don’t  know if I  would  ever take her to Lame Deer  but I  would  teach  her the language and  pride…Lee  always  dreams of  our  daughter…”

“And  you?”  Roy  asked.

 “Sometimes a  girl  who looks  just  like  my mom…Sometimes a  boy  like the ones I  remember  seeing playing.  Most of all  I just  dream of a  happy  healthy  baby.”

“If it’s  not?  If there are  problems because of  Anna’s  health issues?”

 “We love her.”

 “Good  answer.   The only  one I  would have expected from  you two.”






The End

This story is dedicated  to  Peggy...She  liked  to  hear me  read the  Johnny and Lee stories  to her  and she always had  interesting  comments and  suggestions.  Thank  you my  friend...miss  your  input  and encouragement.


Posted to Site 03/05/2015



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