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Not as Designed

An Emergency Story by



This is a story I researched some time ago but then decided not to give in to the temptation to have more than one story in progress at a time.  Then the other day I was organizing my computer files and found my research and the first half page I decided it was time to finish it.

As always I don’t own the characters from Station 51 I just like to invite them out to play from time to time.  I promise to put them back where I found them but I can’t promise they’ll be readily welcomed after this one.

Although the story is fictional and what happens in this story are rare occurrences, the details of the rescue and medical treatment are not.


 “Hey Mikey I thought you read the instructions before you left the station,” Chet heckled.

“I did, but it’s still not going together like it’s supposed to,” Mike growled as he studied the attachment in one hand and the printed diagram in the other.

Marco just sat on the back bumper shaking his head and waiting to be told to pull hose.  Although he wasn’t saying anything he remembered well Mike’s mumblings that he didn’t think it would work, when he studied the attachment when it was delivered and was grateful when the Captain had suggested that they wait to pull the hose until they got things hooked up.  This way if it didn’t work like Mike expected it wouldn’t then they wouldn’t have to drag hose out and then put it away again for no reason.

There they were in the middle of some farmers cabbage patch testing a new fangled attachment to the draft hose.  If it worked like it was designed to do it would allow them to attach to the sprinkler system to supply the engine with water in the case of a fire.  Hank Stanley stepped up to his frustrated Engineer and helped him steady his diagram while he looked at it with him in hopes of helping him figure it out.

“How on earth can you read that thing with all this glare?”  Hank inquired as the sun reflected off the white paper and made his eyes water, “let’s take this stuff on the other side of big red and see if it makes sense in the shade.” 

After ten minutes Chet walked over to his superiors to add his ten cents worth and soon Marco came over to see if he could add any suggestions.

“This part just does not fit to this part and this part will not connect to the engine.” Mike repeated for the tenth time in the last hour.

Hank looked at his watch then made one more attempt to attach the connection to the engine before he called the drill over.  It wasn’t that he didn’t trust his engineer it was just that he was under a lot of pressure from Head quarters to make this new piece of equipment work and filled his perceived responsibility to try it himself at least once before giving up.  From the beginning he felt that he needed to spend at least an hour on the drill before he could go back to his superiors asking for a demonstration. This wasn’t even a piece of equipment they would expect to use enough to justify but the department feared gathering complaints from the areas where it would be most used so chose to do their test trials in another section of the valley.

“All right we gave it our best shot; let’s let them make it work the first time.” Hank told his men followed by the tones sounding from his handy talkie.   As Hank listened to see where they were needed, Mike, Chet, and Marco had the eight inch diameter draft hose separated into its two parts and lifted into its brackets on the side of the engine in eight seconds flat.  It still had the draft screen and the reducing ring attached to the two parts but they could easily remove them later.

Mike climbed behind the steering wheel starting the engine and flicking on the lights then checking to see that everyone was on board before putting the truck in gear and applying the gas.  The plume of dust that rose behind the engine as it raced down the dry dirt road made it clear from a distance that something big was moving fast.

The Call was to assist Squad 51 who had rolled on an Unknown type rescue but now needed help.  They were just a few miles down the road so what ever help their crewmates needed they would be receiving it soon.

“Squad 51 to dispatch can you read us now.” Johnny’s voice was heard over the static on the radio.

“10-4 51 there’s significant interference but we can hear you.” Dispatch answered and the engine crew listened.

“Be advised we need Animal control at our location, we have a wild cougar that has us trapped in a tree.  It looks like it might be injured but I can’t tell for sure.” Johnny filled in and Cap realized that they must be high in a very tall tree to be able to get a signal out of the valley.

“10-4 51 animal control and engine 51 enroute to your location.” Dispatch offered as Captain Stanley picked up the mic to respond to his men.

“Squad 51 this is engine 51 do you read?”

“10-4 engine 51 you’re coming in loud and clear.” Johnny sounded relieved as he acknowledged.

“Our ETA (estimated time of arrival) is five minutes, what can you tell us.”

“Roy and I plus three children and their mother are up a tree near the north fence line.  I know that cat can climb up after us but right now it’s being occupied by the duck it captured from the pond. We’re going to need a ladder from the other side of the six foot fence and we may need a distraction if you know what I mean, that duck is just about gone and that cat still looks mighty hungry.”

“10-4 Squad 51 we can see the squad now just hang in there and we’ll get you down.” Hank responded before turning in his seat and starting to bark out orders.  “Marco you grab a 2 and a half and get it charged use the roof ladder and stand ready to give that cat a high power spurt of water if it heads any where near our guys. Chet you and me on the ladder, Mike you know what you need to do.”

Mike drove the engine past the squad, around the house and parked parallel to the north fence where they could see Johnny carefully climbing down from the top of the tree to where Roy was holding a little girl to his shoulder as two boys and their mother clung to branches nearby. With the exception of the little girl who had her face buried in Roy’s shoulder everyone else was focused at the ground on the inside of the fence.

By the time Cap and Kelly had the tall ladder leaning against the tree, Marco had unrolled a length of hose, attached the nozzle and was climbing the roof ladder to get a good view of the big Cat they had been told about.

Mike watched carefully while Marco locked his leg into the ladder rungs before his charged the hose. Mike then replaced Cap at holding Marco’s ladder steady and watched as Cap climbed the other ladder to help the mother down before returning to help the oldest of the boys onto the ladder and then coach him to the ground.

Cap had only made it down a few rungs with his charge when a flat bed pick up with a large cage on the back and Animal Control painted on the doors pulled around the fire Engine and skidded to a stop in front of it.  Two men jumped out of the cab on the run, both carrying rifles and removing the safety latches as they moved. One rifle was for tranquilizer darts, the other was for a more permanent solution just in case the tranquilizers missed their mark or didn’t do the trick.

As the man with the tranquilizer gun stood at the bottom of the roof ladder Marco cautiously climbed onto the roof of a shed to clear the path for animal control to move into position.  Mike helped Marco pull the charged hose up on the roof then held the ladder for Officer Joe Strong to move up as he held the butt of his gun against his hip and moved up the ladder as fast as he could and lay flat on the roof next to Marco pulling his gun sight to his face.

When Cap was about half way down the ladder John climbed on the top and reached for a bundle that was hung on a short branch and held it away from himself as he coached the next boy onto the ladder.  Everyone jumped as the sound of a gun rang out and those who were high enough to see quickly turned their gaze in the direction of the cougar in the back yard.

“He’s going to jump the fence!” Joe Strong called out but Marco changed the cat’s mind with a well placed jet of water just above the cat’s head as he crouched to jump over the fence.  Every time the cat got close to the fence Marco redirected it with a well placed jet of water and when the Cat eyed them and started running in their direction Marco hit the cat in the chest with a jet of water that held enough force to roll him over a couple of times.

With the cat being dealt with Johnny turned his attention back to getting him and his charge down the ladder Cap was able to lift the boy he was helping onto the ground and usher him into his mother’s arms before turning his attention to John.  Wondering what the bundle he was carrying was, Cap gave it a good looking over as it came closer to him one rung at a time. It was wiggling and squirming as John held it away from his body and by the time John was half way down the ladder, Hank realized that it was one of the paramedics jackets tied up in knots.  Once John was close enough, Hank took the bundle from him allowing John to better support the boy he was bringing down the ladder and he wasn’t the least surprised to see a paw, pointed ear and eye of an orange stripped tabby cat peaking out of the neck opening.  It was very clear that it didn’t like what was going on or the confinement it was in.

Turning his attention back up the ladder Hank noticed that Roy had climbed on with the young girl still holding tight around his neck as he moved down occasionally looking up at the sound of Marco shooting jets of water but otherwise making slow and steady progress down the ladder.

When Hank turned his attention to the boy in front of John he noticed that he was holding the bottom of his shirt down by holding his arm across his waist it didn’t take much to notice that he held something inside of his shirt besides his upper body.  The first thing the boy did after John lifted him from the ladder to the ground was to use his free hand to pull the neck of his t-shirt away from his chest and the heads of three puppies popped out to get a good look around.

“He’s going down,” Officer Joe Strong shouted to his partner who was standing at an opening in the fence with his rifle aimed if it was needed.  Joe quickly rolled into a sitting position and after applying the safety on his rifle handed it down to Mike before jumping from the roof and taking the gun back in one motion before racing to meet his partner at the truck.  After climbing in the cab they made a quick U-turn and headed to the section of the fence where they had seen a gate big enough for a camper.

Cap steadied Roy down the last rung of the ladder and then lifted the young girl from his arms into the arms of her mother. “Are you two alright?” Cap questioned with a slap on Roy’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” Roy responded with a glance toward Marco on the roof of the shed still standing guard with an aimed fire hose.

“Thanks for the timely assist,” Johnny added before kneeling down to start looking over the children they had climbed the tree with.

Marco stayed on the roof watching as Joe Strong respectfully and carefully approached the now tranquilized cat once he and his partner carefully rolled the cat on to a tarp and then used the tarp to carry the cat into the cage on the back of their truck.  As the door was closed and latched Marco let out a sigh and sat up on the roof.

“They’ve got it caged now.” Marco replied as he slid toward the ladder with the hose nozzle in hand. Mike quickly shut the water pressure off and helped Chet load the ladder on the truck while Hank helped Marco to the ground and to drain the hose.

“That was some mighty good shooting up there Marco,” Johnny commented with a sideward glance.

Marco just smiled bashfully as he rolled his hose up and stashed it in the proper compartment.

Roy and John were just finishing up their exams on the family when the animal control truck parked in front of the engine and the two officers got out to gather the rest of the information they needed to finish their reports.

“What’s that smell?” Chet questioned as he turned his nose up.

“Skunk,” Johnny quickly responded.

“We’ve sure had a mess of ‘em around here since that fire just over the ridge a month ago.” The mother commented. “Our mother dog is in the shelter now being watched for rabies after she was bit by one a couple of days ago. I’m still trying to get the smell out of the yard. My husband thinks that fire chased a whole bunch of critters over this way.”

“Yes ma’am,” Officer Joe Strong replied, “there were all kinds of critters chased out by that fire and as far as we can tell every last one of them that came this way were pregnant with great big litters.”  “From the smell I suspect our big cat there has been eating a few skunks lately or at least trying.”

“Now that he’s sleeping like a baby he’s a real beautiful animal.” Marco commented as he eyed the dozing animal now in a cage. “What’s going to happen to him?”

“Our Vet will look him over good and if he’s alright he’ll be taken some place where there’s more natural food and less people.” Joe responded as he knelt down and took in the still tied up bundle of house cat. “Now what is this fella’s name?”

“Tiger,” the little girl with scratches on her arm answered. “She got real scared and scratched me but I didn’t let her go because I didn’t want her to get eated.”

“That was very brave of you,” Joe praised the young girl then feeling through the jacket it was tied up in Joe managed to take an expert hold of the bundle in a way to keep the cat from scratching while he gently talked to the cat and scratched it’s ears as he untied it from the jacket.  After slipping the cat into an animal carrier, that was retrieved from the house by the oldest boy, Officer Joe took some time to talk with the little girl and explain that the cat was still really, really scared and needed to be kept in the carrier until she calmed down.  He even recommended keeping the cat in the house for a few days. Everyone was going to be just fine, everyone that is except the duck.


With the scene cleaned up everyone went their way.  The Engine followed the squad back to the station and then like a well choreographed dance the two trucks backed into the bay together.

The two paramedics climbed out of the squad only to realize that they had brought the smell of skunk back with them.

“Dibs on the shower first,” Roy called out before heading to the locker room. Johnny just leaned on the engine shaking his head knowing they were going to be hearing about the smell from the other shifts for a while now.

Marco climbed down from his seat on the engine and stood there with a puzzled look on his face.

“What’s wrong Marco?” Mike asked but Marco just held his hand up.

“Shh, I thought I heard something.” Marco turned to face the draft hoses and they all heard what sounded like something scratching at the side of the hose.

While Marco and Mike moved closer to get a look inside Chet stepped up from the other end as they heard what sounded to them like the screech of a panicked bird.

Johnny recognized the sound, “Guy’s NOOOO!!!!”


The Fumigation of the Station

“NOOOOOOOO!!!!!”  Johnny’s panicked voice echoed through the bay.

As Captain Stanley turned around to see what was causing the panic he felt his sinuses and eyes burn, the smell was so strong that he couldn’t even begin to register what it smelled like instinctively he took in a deep breath and held it as he raised his arm to protect his face while he tried to figure out what had just happened.  It was hard to focus on his men through his watering eyes but what he thought he saw was a yellowish mist spraying outward from the draft hoses both toward the front and the back of the equipment bay as Marco and Mike were pulling their hands and arms up to protect their faces, Johnny was ducking wide to his right while grabbing Mike by the waist and turning to grab Marco in the same way as he pulled them away from the open ends of the draft hoses. 

Chet had just stumbled off the back bumper of the engine and was kneeling on the floor behind the engine with both hands over his face.

“Cap, get the bay doors open!” Johnny called out as he started pulling Mike and Marco toward the doors. 

Cap hurried ahead of him and pressed the buttons to open both the front and the back doors as he saw Roy running from the locker room with his shirt unbuttoned in response to the commotion.

Roy quickly covered his mouth and nose with his shirt tail before pulling Chet from the floor and moving in the direction his partner had drug the other two shift mates, stopping only briefly to grab the bio-phone and drug box on the way tucking one under his arm while holding the handle of the other.  Cap was soon at his side to help but feeling his own lungs burning he raced back to the squad and grabbed the oxygen and a handy talkie.

Out on the lawn of the station Mike and Marco were both on their hands and knees retching and vomiting and Hank was quick to notice the wheezes coming form both of them as they fought to catch their breath between bouts of vomiting.  Johnny was at their side working to unbutton Marco’s uniform but he wasn’t doing all that well himself.  The left side of his face and side of his neck was covered with an oily amber colored substance and his skin was starting to blister underneath it.

Chet was fighting with Roy holding his hands tight to his face and screaming, “My eyes burn I can’t see, I can’t see.”

“Cap we need the garden hose,” Roy called out, “And we’re going to need some help here.”

With panting breaths John called out to his partner, “Get their clothes off and wash them down the best you can.” 

While Cap pulled the garden hose from the front of the building over, flowing with water Johnny pulled the bio-phone open and struggled to get the antenna in place.  Finally using his other hand to find the right spot he was able to feel the antenna into place.  While Cap turned the hose over to Roy then pulled the handy talkie to his mouth.

“This is station 51 we have a code I times six at the station, request—“that was all he was able to say before he started vomiting and soon Chet was rolling on his side to do the same as Roy fought to keep the water aimed at rinsing his eyes out while knowing he was soon to be vomiting right along with the rest of them.

Chet, Mike and Cap were each trying to get their own uniforms off as Johnny and Roy stayed in paramedic mode.  Marco was fighting too hard to catch his breath to do anything except hold himself on his hands and knees.

“Rampart this is squad 51 do you read?” Johnny panted into the head set turning a glance to his partner, “You nauseated too?”  Roy nod his head, “Eyes burn?” Roy nod again, “Lungs burn?” once again Roy nod in the affirmative and knew Johnny was feeling all of those things also.


At the nurses station Dixie was working on her nurse’s schedule after her shift was over when she heard the Code I call in over the fire department scanner.  She was listening in fear as the dispatcher called out two stations to respond when Johnny’s call came in over the radio.

Doctors Early and Brackett were walking up to the nurse’s desk just as Dixie answered the radio. “This is Rampart we read you loud and clear 51,”

“Rampart we have six victims of skunk spray,” Johnny started pausing only to take a breath before he continued. “Three of them were sprayed in the face at point blank range; we are all experiencing difficulty with our vision and our breathing.  All of us are suffering the following symptoms: Nausea, four of them vomiting the last two about to, burning in the eyes and lungs, blurred vision, running nose and eyes as well as increased saliva in the mouth. Mike and Marco are really getting in trouble with their breathing.”

Dr. Early Quickly stepped up to the radio and pushed the talk button. “Administer 2 CC of atropine to Mike and Marco immediately.  Do you have enough on hand to give everyone the same dose?”

“Negative Rampart we only carry four syringes full.” Johnny responded then thought hard to remember if that tray was fully stocked. “We have more help on the way.”

“Dix did you hear how many squads they dispatched?” Dr. Brackett asked as he stepped up to some reference books stored at the nurse’s station.

“Two stations were called out.” Dixie replied.

“Get on the phone to dispatch and tell them to send a third squad and probably four ambulances.” Kell started instructing as he opened his book and started turning pages.

“Johnny, give the atropine to the four who where closest at the time of attack.” Dr. Early made a command decision. “The rest of you make sure you get yours as soon as the first squad arrives.”

Dixie picked up the phone, “connect me with fire dispatch stat.”

Finding what he was looking for Dr. Brackett drew his finger down the page reading quickly as he listened to Dixie order a third squad he then took the phone from her.

“Dispatch, can you get information to all of those responding to this incident?”  “Good relay information that they are to use their air mask when entering the building, everyone should be wearing rubber gloves at all times and their first order of business is to wash down all six victims with soap and continue washing them off for at least 15 minutes.  Tell the squads to start two large bore IV’s on every patient tell them to use ringers and run them wide open.”  “By the way what is their ETA?” Kel stood quiet for the first time listening to his answer and the additional information being relayed over the scanner. When the medical information was correctly relayed and each squad responded Kel thought of one more thing; “Oh and I think their going to need some help from Animal Control at the station.”


Back at the station both Johnny and Roy were having growing difficulties seeing what they were doing as their eyes watered so profusely.

Johnny just reached into the drug box and grabbed every thing that was in the tray marked atropine and set three pre loaded syringes down next to his bare legs.  The package on the last one was pulled open and after making sure there was no air in the syringe Johnny reached over and shoved the needle into Marco’s thigh.  He was growing weak now and having trouble holding himself up so Johnny helped him a short distance away and to lay down on his side before returning and repeating this procedure with Mike.

Johnny then handed Roy one of the syringes to use on Chet who was still getting his eyes washed out.

Johnny then pealed open the last syringe and with out hesitation thrust its contents into Captain Stanley’s thigh.  Technically he should have gotten the last shot because he was closer to the action than Captain Stanley but Johnny altered the instructions from the four closest to the four who were showing the most symptoms.

“That one should have been yours Gage.” Captain Stanley growled weakly and too late as he lay on the ground on his side with labored breathing.

“I hold my breath better than you do,” John answered, “You need it more than I do.”


Cap knew his paramedic was right but he could tell that John was close to being as bad off as he was.  Roy had kept his back to the captain the whole time so Hank had no real idea how he was doing but he was also sure it wasn’t great.

John gave his crew mates a quick glance; there they all were, on the front lawn of the station in full view of the public in nothing more than their underwear.  For a moment he wished he had pulled Mike and Marco toward the back instead of the front but then he thought again. The grass was so much nicer to lay on than the asphalt and being in front meant the crews on their way could find them and come to their aid more quickly.  Glancing back at the station Johnny considered making a made dash to the supply closet to get some blankets, the ones in the squad were surely contaminated by now, but he wasn’t doing all that well himself and didn’t think it was worth the risk of taking in more of that skunk spray to get them.  His decision was made when he heard the welcome sound of sirens coming from both directions on the street in front of the station.  The cavalry was arriving; he just had to hold on for another minute.

The first Squad had just pulled into the drive that led behind the station when Johnny crawled beyond his Captain’s feet and emptied the contents of his stomach. The Engine following the squad pulled up in front of the station blocking the view of their naked bodies from the street.

As rubber gloves were passed around so were surgical masks that did little good to block the smell.

As a paramedic Johnny couldn’t see knelt down next to him trying to roll him on his side to start an evaluation Johnny just turned his head and gasped.  “Marco first, then Mike, then Chet, then Cap, Roy and I are the least effected.” Triage had been done no need to do it again.

The reel hose was pulled from the engine and the shower began. The three crewmen on the newly arrived engine each took on two of the 51 crew and started lathering them up with soap while the Captain slipped into his SCBA and headed into the fumigated bay.

By the time they were all lathered up the second station crew arrived and there were more men on hand to bathe the sickly crew.  John and Roy finally got their atropine in their thighs by the time the third squad had arrived everyone had their two IV’s started and running wide open.  The third squad arrived just in time to replace two of the bags on Marco and Mike. 

As Johnny lay on his side being washed down in cold water he listened to the paramedics call in to Rampart and the vitals he was hearing were far to low even his were not where they should be.

In the middle of reporting Vitals Johnny heard the Captain take over the bio-phone. “Rampart we have found the source of the odor in the station, there seems to be four or five black creatures with white stripes holed up in the draft hose on the engine.  I believe these men are just suffering from the over powering smell in their station.”


At the hospital Dr. Early was shaking his head, “He doesn’t have a clue what we’re dealing with.”

Dr. Early and Dr. Brackett exchanged glances before Kell walked across to the second radio and pressed the button.  “We know what we’re dealing with, Station 51 informed us as well as they could before they were rendered incapable.  Did you say four or five Skunks?”

Dr Bracket left no room for them to misunderstand his understandings.  When the number of skunks was confirmed Kell again exchanged glances with Dr. Early.  “We’ve got problems,” Joe acknowledged.

“Yeah,” Kell acknowledged before turning to Dixie and barking out orders.  “Okay Dix get some help in here and we’re going to need to cordon off a detox area, let’s plan for at least eight rooms because I’m sure we’re going to have to clean up some of the ones working on 51.  We’re going to need disposable hazmat suits for everyone working there and get a hold of the pharmacy we’ll need at least twenty viles of Acetycistein if they don’t have that many tell them to start calling other hospitals and get it. Have one vile ready to add to each of their IV’s as soon as their ambulances arrive.  We better have ready just in case we need it trach trays and respirators Mike and Marco’s breathing is really compromised.  I want chest x-rays on everyone starting with those two to check for Pulmonary Edema.  Their already reporting blisters and ulcerations, have a healthy supply of antibiotic cream on hand and call in an ophthalmologist to take care of their eyes. Call Morton at home and have him come in we’re going to need his help and call upstairs for some help to run the rest of emergency while we’re dealing with this. When all that is ready have pharmacy look up the recipe for and prepare enough of the cleaning compound of peroxide and baking soda to give each man a couple of baths.” Kell then turned back to the radio but turned around once more, “Oh and Dix, you better let everyone know it’s not going to smell so great around here for a while.”

“I’ll do that,” Dixie said with a scowl, the fire Captain who thought the crew was only sick of their own smell didn’t have a clue.


The DeBRIEFing

With the arrival of the third squad each victim had his own paramedic working on him with an extra trainee running around making sure everyone had the supplies they needed.  Each man had two IV’s running wide open and was on oxygen.

Roy managed to look around he hadn’t been in direct fire so his eyesight wasn’t as effected as the rest. Still the oxygen mask on his face was welcomed even if it didn’t stop the burn in his lungs.  All of the paramedics had their hands full, some more than others.  It had become necessary to intubate Marco because he was having so much trouble breathing, Mike and Chet weren’t far behind.

Glancing over at Cap, Roy could see that he was lying on his side with an oxygen mask on, the firemen working on him had just finished washing him down and he was now shivering as he lay in his underwear on the lawn. 

Chief McConnike was kneeling at his side with a hand on his arm.  Roy could tell that he was asking questions and getting a report of what had happened but he couldn’t hear anything and as of yet he really didn’t know what had happened just something about a skunk on the engine.

Roy watched as the paramedic taking care of Cap took a blood pressure and then as soon as he was finished Roy saw the troubled sigh and the shake of his head as he quickly turned to the nearest bio-phone.  He couldn’t hear what was being said but he knew it wasn’t good as he watched the paramedic dig into his drug box for and quickly inject some meds into the Captain’s IV before giving a panicked look that Roy knew was searching for the ambulance gurneys.

Two ambulances arrived together and Marco and Hank were quickly loaded in the first one, while Mike and Chet were just as quickly loaded in the second one: two paramedics in each, Roy heard the tires squeal as the ambulances pulled away, things were definitely not looking so good.

The Animal control truck pulled up on the apron and Roy recognized the same Animal control officer they had worked with earlier that day. All Officer Joe Strong needed was half a whiff before he pulled a gas mask and some kind of a tank out of his truck before following the now Hazmat suit and SCBA clad Chief into the equipment bay.

Roy searched the area for his partner; it was on the second scan of the area that he saw Johnny laying on his side with his back to him.  Roy took in the water droplets still beaded up on his back and the soap suds lying on the grass around him.  From behind Roy could see Johnny’s chest heave as he fought to get enough air in and out and his shivering shoulders.

Roy watched as a paramedic out of 35, Mark Hansen lay sterile dressings on the side of Johnny’s face and down his neck before replacing the elastic that held the oxygen mask tight to his face.

Roy watched his partner nod his head as Mark tucked one of their yellow blankets around his shoulders and then everyone’s attention turned to the Chief and Animal control Officer Joe carrying one of the two draft hoses out of the station followed by the two SCBA clad Captains carrying the second one.

Once a double layer of plastic was spread out on the ground the contents of the two hoses was dumped out.  While Joe strong was moving the euthanized bodies around with a stick Roy and Johnny were loaded onto the next ambulance and Roy was relieved to see that they trusted one paramedic to take care of them enroute.

Just before the doors were closed Chief McConnike stuck his arm in handing a piece of paper to Mark. “Give this to Dr. Bracket it’s the information he needs to take care of these guys.”  The doors were then shut and the customary two slaps were given.

Roy took a good look at his partner who was on the gurney with his head raised; Johnny had definitely felt better.

“Holy Cow guys, Eight skunks!” Mark exclaimed pulling all sets of eyes in the back of the ambulance on him. “They’re going to have to tear the station down and start again to get the smell out. They say it’s a good thing they were young skunks.”

Johnny just huffed and shook his head; He was more than happy to let someone else deal with clean up at the moment.  He had seen two prized hunting dogs die after being sprayed by one Skunk they were trying to dig out of its den when he was younger; right now he felt for sure that was going to be his fate too.  His only comfort was that he could tell that Roy was going to be alright.  It was a good thing he had hurried off to the shower before the rest of the crew spooked the skunks.

“No one’s… go- going… to want… us… around,” Johnny panted behind his mask, “Until this scent… wears off.   We’re go… going to… have to… live in the woods.”

“I’m afraid you’re right about that Junior,” Roy smiled then lie back to endure the ride.


Dixie had everything organized in assembly line at the Emergency Department.  The Ambulances from station 51 were all directed to a secondary entrance Once the gurneys were on the ground Dr. Brackett was quick to check their pupils, the color of the mucus membranes in their mouths, which was an early warning sign of anemia due to ruptured blood cells, and the color of their fingernails, which indicated how well they were oxygenating themselves. 

From there they were rolled forward just enough to leave room for the next patient, there an IV with Acetycistein was piggy backed into an existing IV and a steady drip was started while a nurse on the other side would draw blood for a set number of tests, plus an extra tube incase the lab results required additional testing. From there they were taken into the first door available where Chest x-rays were taken then the X-ray tech would organize the films to hand them off to a runner that would get them developed and returned to the ER with the fastest possible efficiency with out spreading the undesirable scent through out the hospital.

While the films were being handed off a nurse on each side of the patient would lift the blanket at waist level and with bandage scissors would make a quick cut up each side of their underwear and they were then removed with a quick unceremonious tug and dropped in a bag marked as hazardous material.  The patient was then moved out the second door to make room for the one behind him. 

From there a triage Doctor was quick to perform a more complete exam, taking time to listen to their lungs and request a fresh set of vitals, he would then order any additional treatment he thought was needed before sending the patient on to a treatment room. Each room had at least one nurse that stayed with the patient at all times, they had been briefed on what to watch for and that each patient could make a sudden downward turn in only seconds.

While Roy and Johnny were in the hall, getting their exam, one of the treatment room doors opened and they could see that Chet had been placed on a respirator, a nurse exited another room with a urine sample that was clearly bloody.  Who ever was in that room was suffering from their blood cells rupturing as a result of the toxin, er Skunk spray, a condition called hemolysis.

After additional medications were injected into his IV port Johnny was wheeled into a treatment room where the first order of business was to insert a catheter, much to his displeasure but he still felt rotten enough and the meds were making him groggy so he didn’t object.

To conserve on staff demands Roy was wheeled into the same room with Johnny and he too received a catheter. Johnny could tell by the look on his partner’s face and the way he repeatedly took in a deep breath, held it in his cheeks then blew it out, that Roy was as thrilled about this part of the treatment as he was.

While a nurse was tending to the blisters on the side of Johnny’s face two hazmat suit clad orderlies came in and assisted Roy to the shower.  Once he was seated on the shower chair a large bottle of fizzy liquid was poured over his head as he was warned to keep his eyes closed.  After a thorough scrubbing he was rinsed off with a hand held spray wand and then the whole process was repeated.

When he was returned to the treatment room covered with a hospital gown Roy notice that Johnny had been placed on what looked like a kids blow up swimming pool the size and shape of the gurney, he had a simple wash cloth placed over his family jewels and the nurse in charge of him was massaging his hair full of suds.  There was something refreshing about the odor of the room but Roy could still pick up on the scent of skunk and he was sure others could smell it better than he could.

As the orderlies were helping Roy back into bed he took notice of the collection bag to Johnny’s catheter and how red the contents were.  Not as bad as the sample they had seen in the hallway but too close for comfort.  Before he laid down Roy took a look at his own collection bag and felt some relief that it’s contents looked quite normal, even paler than normal but what would he expect the way they were flushing IV fluids through him.

Roy lay back on his gurney and took in his body’s working.  He was starting to feel better and like he no longer needed the oxygen he was on. 

“There, Now you smell significantly better”, the nurse replied once Johnny’s bath was completed and the curtain between the two of them was pulled back. Roy noticed that Johnny was now wearing a lovely green hospital gown with snaps on the shoulders to accommodate his many IVs the blistered side of his face was smeared with some kind of salve and he was now patched up for ECG telemetry but at least looked comfortable under his oxygen mask.

The next thing Roy noticed was the auburn highlights in his still wet black hair. He had to snicker about that one and then spent the time he waited for the doctor to come back and talk to him about his test results, thinking about the rest of the crew and trying to picture what they were going to look like with their new hair tints.

Roy listened carefully as Dr. Brackett talked to his partner about his test results and the bottom line was he wasn’t in perfect shape but there was a good chance that the treatment he was receiving would take care of things given time so they would soon move him to an observation ward where they would watch him through out the night and make further decisions in the morning.

Roy was then given a clean bill of health but given the condition of the rest of the crew and the history of people having delayed reactions Dr Bracket wanted to keep him over night for observation.  Roy was relieved of his oxygen mask and told the catheter would be removed as soon as he finished his current IV’s.

When the orderlies came to move them to their room it was necessary to park them in the hall for a moment. While there they got their first good look of Cap who was also waiting to be taken to the observation room.  Cap looked weak and mildly sedated, and they both noticed among his IV’s was hanging a pint of blood.

“Have either of you two heard anything about the rest of the guys?” Hank asked from his bed across the hall.

“No not yet,” Johnny was the first to answer, neither one of them wanted to tell their captain what they had seen. 

Cap and Johnny were moved out first and while Roy was waiting for them to come back for him he watched a nurse wheel a cart loaded with bottles to his part of the Emergency department.  Just as he was thinking that those bottles looked like the ones that special soap he was bathed in, his attention was drawn to a fresh smell of skunk. Coming around the corner in single file were the men who had responded to station 51’s call for help and Chief McConnike. As they passed by the nurse with the cart each man was handed a bottle and given directions.

“The showers are in the last room to the left. Be sure to put your personal items and your firefighter insignia in an envelope and write your name on it.  There are already towels and clean scrubs waiting for you and your uniforms need to be placed in the red plastic bags.”

Roy was then rolled into a room that was packed with six beds.  Johnny and Cap occupied two of them and Roy was aided into a third.  They could only hope that the rest of their crew mates would soon be joining them.

Do You Still Love Me?

Once settled in the observation room One nurse kept constant vigil but others were in and out of the room on a regular basis and the one left behind was rotated out fairly regularly.  Johnny and Cap were weak enough and on enough meds that made them groggy that they started to doze soon after being settled in their beds.

Roy, who felt so much better than the others tried to rest quietly so as not to wake his room mates. Watching his Captain and his partner and their improving but still labored breathing with frequent coughing, Roy was beginning to suffer from survivors guilt, If only he hadn’t have raced off to be first in the shower. 

The answer was that he would have been as sick as the rest of them and wouldn’t have been as much help at his was. But he still felt guilty for being in better shape.

The door to their room opened frequently as nurses came and went and supplies were delivered, Cap was started on a second pint of blood. Johnny had more IV’s hung. 

Cap and Johnny were getting their vitals checked every 15 minutes and both men had their collection bags emptied.  Roy found himself watching his IV’s and counting the drips until he could be disconnected from all of his tubing.

Chief McConnike came in dressed in scrubs and sat with Cap for a while.  Cap opened his eyes in response to his superior and the two spoke softly for a few moments.  Roy sighed in relief when he over heard him telling Cap that the rest of the guys were stable now and that they were starting to scrub them down.



Was heard the next time the door opened and all eyes in the room turned to see JoAnne Desoto and Emily Stanley standing in the doorway each looking their husbands over from a distance.

As the two women moved toward the beds Chief McConnike stood and made an announcement. “I want you boys to know that your station has been put out of commission for the time being. We are currently consulting with a specialist on the best way to de-fumigate it.  Mean while the other shifts are being temporarily reassigned to other stations.  I’ll be sure to keep you apprised of the situation but for now I expect you all to do just what the Doctors and nurses tell you to do and nothing more. I’ll be checking in on you.” Once he said his piece he left his men in the capable hands of their wives and nurses.

Emily slowly sat in the chair next to her husband’s bed, Hank weakly offered her his hand telling her he was going to be all right and she took hold of his hand and sat their looking at him not able to say anything for a while.

JoAnne tentatively walked over to her husband who reached out to offer her a hug reassuring her that he was fine. But JoAnne was hesitant to accept the offered hug.

“That bad?” Roy cringed as he recognized the reason for his wife’s hesitance.

JoAnne didn’t say a word but the way she moved her head and shoulders told Roy he needed another bath or two or maybe ten.

The wives stayed long enough to make sure their husbands were being taken care of while Johnny slept, JoAnne was first to mention that she needed to get home to the children, but when she went to kiss Roy good-bye she stopped short of her mark and instead studied his hair. “Nice tint job, it makes you look years younger.”

Johnny let out a scoff in the next bed and Roy realized he wasn’t as asleep as he was pretending to be.

After dinner the men were offered another bath.  They all jumped at the chance.  Since Roy had been relieved of all of his tubing he was allowed to soak in a tub and given some baking soda to add to the water.  While he was so soaking he was aware of Johnny being aided to a shower stall on the other side of the curtain where he was scrubbed down with the same fuzzy washing mixture that had been used before.  After a good scrub down and a hosing off he was slipped into a clean gown and then back into bed freshly made with clean sheets.  Cap was then given the same treatment before Roy was finished and he was offered a pair of hospital pajamas with bottoms.

Since both Cap and Johnny were feeling better they started talking amongst themselves. The topics wandered and when they thought they had nothing more to talk about the door opened and a wheelchair with another of their crewmates was pushed through the door.

Mike was wearing the same stylish hospital gown as Cap and Johnny With a warmed blanket wrapped around his shoulders. His eyes were severally blood shot with burst blisters all over his face but mostly around his mouth and eyes.

“Mike, good to see ya up and about,” Johnny called as Cap sat up straighter and Roy got out of bed to help get Mike in his.

“How ya doin there Mike?” Cap inquired as Roy held his pillow up and helped him to lie back as the nurse pulled his blankets up and attached his Oxygen hose to the wall spout before transferring all of his IV’s from the pole on the back of the chair to the hanging pole near the bed.

“Better than I did a few hours ago.”   Mike moved to get comfortable in the bed. “I can see again, and have been able to keep some juice down. Breathing doesn’t hurt as much as it did, it’s a whole lot easier too.”  “They’re telling me that it was just a bunch of baby skunks that did this to us, I thought it had to be some kind of a terrorist attack with nerve gas.”

“They’re saying that they must have climbed inside the draft hoses while we were trying to figure out that new attachment.”  Cap filled his engineer in and it was clear that his friends were glad to see him. “We couldn’t get water with it but it worked great as a skunk trap.”

“Great, let’s donate it to animal control then,” Mike shifted in bed again still trying to get comfortable.

Just then a Nurse came through the door on a run, “Okay Mr. Stoker it’s time for your eye drops again.”

Mike obligingly tilted his head back and held still as the nurse pulled his eye lids up one at a time and quickly administered the drops before charting her work and leaving the room.

“I think she was holding her breath the whole time she was in here,” Johnny commented looking at the door that had swung closed behind her. “We must smell worse that we realize.”

“Hey Mike have you heard anything or seen Chet and Marco?”Cap asked, he still didn’t know where all of his men were and that was not acceptable for a Captain.

“Yeah,” Mike answered then took in a deep breath using the nasal cannula, “I was with them before they brought me here.  They’ve been stable for a while now and their both breathing on their own now.  They took the tube out of Marco’s throat about half an hour ago and were getting ready to take Chet’s out when they brought me in here.” He paused to take in another deep breath.  He was clearly still fighting a little harder than the rest of them with his breathing. “Their faces look about as bad as mine but their mustaches protected their lips a little.”

“Is anyone with them?” Cap hoped all the family members had been notified.

“Yeah, Marco’s mom has been with him since he was in ER.  His sister came in about an hour ago.  Chet’s Mom left a message that she’s on her way and his sister was in with him when I left.”

“So they’re going to be alright then?”Hank continued to quiz, “Do you have any idea what their prognosis is?”

“We all needed a couple of units of blood because our red cells sort of broke apart from the toxins, and all three of us have these ulcers on our eyes” Mike informed his Captain. “The eye specialist said that they should clear up in about a week but we have to be real careful not to get an infection before then. That’s why we have to have eye drops every hour now through tomorrow then three times a day after that.” Mike leaned back against the bed and took another deep breath in through his nose. “All this because of a bunch of baby skunks.”

It was obvious that Mike was using energy that he didn’t have so the group independently agreed to remain quiet.  It wasn’t long before Mike dozed off and so did Cap.  Roy managed to get the TV on with out waking anyone and he and Johnny managed to watch the news.

“Cap we’re on the news,” Johnny called out and Captain Stanley woke up and quickly turned on the TV he could see clearly. “Channel 6” Johnny added.

The four of them watched the news report about the incident with the skunks and saw footage of the foam truck being used to wash down big red and the squad.

“The fire department was set up to turn on large fans to help to clear some of the smell away and were stopped just before they turned the fans on.  It seems there were still small pools of the liquid skunk spray on the floor of the fire station’s bay that needed to be cleaned up and neutralized first. As you can see behind me a piece of fire equipment normally used for oil fires is being used to wash down the engine and paramedic truck when that is done they will wash down the inside of the station.” A news reporter informed her viewers.

A spokesman for the department was given a chance to speak, “As you can see we are getting the station back in shape, the clean up effort is being led by one of the best bio-chemists in the world.  Some of the equipment will have to be replaced but as of yet we don’t know for sure how much.”

“The draft hoses for sure,” Johnny interjected as the next person shown on camera was Officer Joe Strong of animal control.

“The skunks in question were about six to eight months old,” He explained.  “This was likely the first time they had ever sprayed.  The biggest problem today was that they were at eye level when they sprayed and they were startled by three firemen looking into the ends of the hose they were hiding in.  Unfortunately those firemen both inhaled and swallowed a fair amount of the skunk spray which when concentrated enough to be in liquid form is toxic and since there were eight of the critters hiding in the two hoses there was a significant amount of spray.  The firemen also got the oily substance on their faces which can be extremely irritating.”

“You can say that again,” Mike interjected his two cents worth in as he rubbed at his face.

“We have a report from Rampart General Hospital where those men are being treated,” the reporter again took control of the camera. “Four of the men have been upgraded to fair condition but two of them are still listed as serious at this time.  Clearly Skunks are nothing to fool around with especially at face level.”

The news story was closed out with shots of firemen in hazmat suits wearing SCBA gear were giving Big red a bubble bath followed with shots of them foaming up the bay.  Johnny was sure there was more to come.

The night was a long one with constant Vitals checks and Mike’s hourly eye drops.  Roy tried to sleep but found it difficult with the amount of traffic in the room as well as Mike’s frequent coughing spells and trips to the bathroom. 

Roy knew his shift mate felt rotten so he didn’t even let himself think about complaining.  When it seemed as if he had finally gotten to sleep Roy was awaken by a lab tech there to collect blood for the morning lab tests.  Once he was done the lights were turned on and breakfast was brought in.  As Roy wiped the sleep from his eyes and looked around the room he noticed that each of his roommates was looking a bit jaundiced.  Knowing that two of them had received blood transfusions Roy feared the worse that they had all contracted hepatitis.  As he blinked the sleep out of his mind he realized that hepatitis was unlikely at this point because the incubation period was longer than a day.  Their yellow coloring must be a result of the hemolysis.

Once breakfast was finished each man was offered another bath and all accepted it.  They noticed the way the hospital staff acted around them and knew it was needed.

Once the baths were finished Dr. Brackett made his rounds and Roy was given his walking papers.  Now was the time for him to find out how real his worst fears were.  ‘Would JoAnne let him come home or should he be asking Johnny for directions to a good place to camp until he smelt better.’


The Outpouring; From a Distance

While Roy was waiting for his wife to bring him some clean clothes and then hopefully take him home, he asked for and was giving permission to walk up to ICU and check on the rest of his crew mates.

When he stepped into ICU, wearing a hospital issued robe and slippers, a nurse quickly approached him, “Excuse me sir this is ICU,” and then she took a step back. “You must be one of the firemen.”

Roy blushed deeply and hung his head. “Ye-ah,” he responded then gave the nurse’s station a quick scan.  There were air fresheners hung everywhere with the thickest concentration of them in front of Chet and Marco’s cubicles. ‘They must have bought out half a dozen gas stations,’ Roy thought as he shook his lowered head.

“I’ve come to check on my shift mates so I can report back to the rest of them,” Roy explained and was gestured into the room.

Chet looked to be asleep so he stepped over to Marco’s room first. He was talking with his mom who was sitting at his bedside holding his hand. Marco’s face was covered with small open sores and you could see the circle of the draft hose on his face.  His appearance was made worse by his swollen face and Roy figured that it was due to steroids used to help with his breathing. The parts of his eyes that had once been white were now red but when he turned to look at Roy standing in the doorway they had a smile in them.

“Hay,” Marco whispered his voice still raspy from the vent tube, “Look at you.”

“Yeah,” Roy smiled at his friend.  It was clear he had seen better days but Roy was comforted knowing he would see them again. “They’ve given me my walking papers I’m just waiting for JoAnne to come get me.”

“The rest of the guys?” Marco was using all of his energy.

“They’re doing good, resting comfortably; they still have IV’s and all kinds of tubing in ‘em but they’re getting better every minute.”  “The two of you got the worst of it,” Roy added nodding at Chet through the glass. “Both of you had your faces in the hose and got sprayed full force.”

“Real up close and personal.” Marco rasped with a smile.  “The Doc said we should be joining the rest of you sometime this afternoon.”

“That’s great,” Roy smiled wider, “Cap will be glad to have you all where he can keep an eye on you.”

After visiting with Chet for a minute and repeating nearly everything that had been said to Marco, Roy made his way back to the observation room where Cap, Mike and Johnny were enjoying a plethora of deliveries.

In addition to several vases of flowers with their overpowering scent, the room was scattered with stuffed animals, all sizes and several animal shaped hats; all skunks.  Each man in the room even Roy received several bottles of sweet smelling bubble bath, shampoo and after shave lotion.  The load of cards on Cap’s lap was about five times what the rest received because he was presented with all the cards and letters simply addressed to ‘the firemen’.  As soon as the guys had finished with their personal letters he planned to pass them around to help ease the boredom. There were also several deliveries set aside for Chet and Marco once they were moved and Johnny received a large envelope filled with drawings and notes from the children in pediatrics whom he often read to and entertained on his days off.

There wasn’t a patient in the room that didn’t know the reason they were being all kept together was to keep from spreading the scent of skunk through out the hospital but they were enjoying the companionship and camaraderie of being captive with their own kind.

“Hay guys look at this,” John turned his drawing around and held it up for all to see.  It was a drawing of a fireman, at least everyone assumed it was a fireman he was wearing a black hat, a spotted dog and a skunk all the same size standing with their arms around each others shoulders and looking as if they were doing some kind of a soft shoe dance.  “He writes that he thinks it was real nice of us to give the skunk a ride on the fire engine and asks if he can get one too.”

Everyone chuckled then Johnny added, “He says he’s willing to wait till we all feel better.”

JoAnne and Emily arrived together and since JoAnne had her arms full of Roy’s clothes, Emily held the door open for an orderly pulling a wheeled cart stacked with more boxes, bags and flowers.  The highlight of this delivery was two cases of canned tomato juice.

All the laughing set Mike and Johnny coughing so severely that the nurse had to put them both back on oxygen for a few minutes but it didn’t stop them from snickering under their masks. 

Once Johnny and Mike were relieved of their masks again Roy stepped into the bathroom and into his own clothes.

A wheelchair was brought in not to carry Roy out for he was given permission to walk but the wheelchair was needed to haul out all of his gifts.  He chose to leave the tomato juice for his crewmates; the doctors had already explained that it was a myth about tomato juice taking the smell away but a couple of the guys were willing to try it anyway. 

Roy loaded the different toiletries in a plastic bag, he asked JoAnne to pick out a stuffed animal each for Chris and Jenny, JoAnne then placed the skunk hat on Roy’s head and Roy picked out a vase of JoAnne’s favorite flowers.  The nurse was instructed to send the rest of his stuffed animals to the children’s ward and the flowers to someone who didn’t have any.

With a sack in one hand, a vase of flowers in the other and his wife at his side Roy said his good-bye’s and walked toward the nearest exit.

As they walked to the car Roy took in and let out several deep breath of sweet smelling smog filled air.

Roy was allowed to drive and he didn’t miss that his wife rolled the car window down. The drive home was made in uneasy silence until Roy pulled into the drive way.  With the car stopped Roy turned and stopped his wife from getting out of the car.

“I was thinking that it would be best if I pitched a tent in the back yard for a few days,” Roy offered.

JoAnne turned into a sobbing mush and Roy wanted so much to take her into his arms and comfort her but thought better of it. “I’m so sorry Roy, you don’t deserve to be treated like this,” JoAnne continued to sob.

“Hay it’s what I get for wrestling with a bunch of skunks,” Roy tried to lighten the mood.

“Eight of ‘em from what I’ve heard,” JoAnne giggled slightly through her tears. “You do smell a lot better than you did yesterday,” Jo added.

“That’s encouraging; maybe if I use up all the bubble bath, in that bag there, you could stand to give me a hug.”

Still in tears JoAnne slid over in the seat and put her arms around her husband’s shoulders. Then she ducked her head into his shoulder and let the tears flow.  Roy tenderly placed his arms around his wife’s shoulders being careful not to keep her from pulling away if she wanted to. As she sobbed, she babbled and Roy listened.

“They said that you had all breathed some of the skunk spray into your lungs and that you were drowning in your own fluids.  They said that we had to wait till they had the whole situation under control before they could tell us any more.”  “We were all there waiting for the worst, Emily, Mrs. Lopez, and Cindy Kelly.  We tried to keep each other’s hopes up but then a nurse came in and told Mrs. Lopez that Marco was on a respirator and asked if she wanted them to call the priest in.” JoAnne let out a new round of tears and Roy rubbed her back as his own eyes grew moist.

“No one told the rest of us anything until Dixie came and led us to your room, we didn’t know what we were going to see on the other side of that door when she opened it up.  And then you explained that sometimes problems showed up later.” JoAnne finally pulled away just enough to look her husband eye to eye.  “When will we know that you’re safe? How long before we know for sure that you’re going to be alright.”

Roy brushed a few stray hairs out of his wife’s face and kissed her forehead. “Most if not all complications manifest themselves in the first 12 to 24 hours.” Roy did his best to calm his wife down, “My blood work was clear this morning, I’ll probably be called back to work with in 48 to 72 hours.” Grabbing his wife’s shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze and a good rub Roy added. “I’m just fine, I just smell bad. I was in the locker room trying to get the first shower when the skunks went off so I missed the worst of it.”

“So you’re really alright?  I don’t have to watch you for any problems?” JoAnne needed to hear.

“I’m just fine.” Roy confirmed and JoAnne let out a sigh of relief.

As they sat in the car Roy explained how Chet and Marco had their faces up against the open draft hose trying to see what sounded to them like a crow.  Mike was right behind Marco and got a good shot in the face too.  Johnny recognized the sound and knew it wasn’t a crow and ducked pulling Mike and Marco away and then out of the bay, Cap opened the doors then went back for oxygen and a radio while I came from the locker room and pulled Chet off the floor and out of the bay.  The smell was so strong it just burned my nose and lungs and I didn’t have a clue what we were dealing with until I heard Johnny call it in to Rampart.”  “I really felt sorry for all the guys that were working on us. Not to mention the ones who got to clean up the station.”

Once all was calm between husband and wife the two walked into the house arm in arm, Roy carrying the bag and stuffed toys, JoAnne carrying her flowers.  All seemed back to normal until they stepped inside and the family dog came running to get his ears scratched only to take one sniff once he got close and run from the room.

“So tell me,” Roy turned to his wife, “Which one of these bubble baths should I use first?”


Back at Rampart, Johnny continued to share his notes and drawings from the children while Cap dealt out all the cards and letters addressed simply to the firemen, when he had five equal stacks his wife who hung around for a while carried each pile to one of the men placing the pile for Chet and Marco on the bed side tables between two flower vases.

Letters were read out loud one or two at a time between short naps. Just before lunch two of the beds were taken out of the room and Hank was beginning to wonder if they decided not to move Chet and Marco in with them after all.

Just after lunch the two beds were returned with their missing friends in them.  Both men were still using oxygen and both looked like they had seen better days.  Momma Lopez and Mrs. Kelly were right behind them and at their sons’ sides before the oxygen was hooked up.  It was clear at first glance that neither of them had slept the night before. 

None of the men felt their best but it was a quiet Chet Kelly that was the most unnerving especially when his favorite pigeon was in the next bed.

Mamma Lopez and Chet’s mother helped their sons open up their stacks of letters and did all the reading out loud, Cap then requested some paper and pens and those, who felt the strongest, worked together to write replies to the letters, they really didn’t hope to answer them all but made an effort to see to it that everyone sent from the children in PEDs received a response.  Each response contained a coupon good for a personal tour of the fire station.

Cap was also able to write up a Thank you note for the general public for someone from Public Relations to read at a press conference the next morning.

Before dinner was served the curtains were drawn and Captain Stanley, Johnny and Mike were all relieved of their tubing below the waist.  When dinner was served Cap and Johnny were strong enough to spoon feed Chet and Marco letting their mothers know it was safe for them to go home and get some sleep.

The worst of things were over they all felt certain.


Grimacing Forward

Roy did take a nice nap in the tub filled with bubble gum scented bubble bath.  When the dog still ran away from him he went about setting up the large family sized tent on the back deck were he could tie the tent down and not risk damaging the lawn.  He was just putting up the camp cot to sleep on when the children came home from school.

JoAnne had tried not to worry her children but they knew their Dad had spent the night in the hospital and everyone else at the station too.  They were excited when their mom met them at the bus stop with news that their father was home and ran ahead of their mother to see him.  Books and coats were dropped just inside the front door as the children made their way strait to the back deck where their mother had said their father could be found.

Roy had only looked up to see who had opened the back door before he was tackled by his two children.  Happy to see them too he returned their hugs and after a few moments the greeting he expected came.

“Daddy you smell funny,” Jenny looked up at her father but didn’t pull away.

“Yeah Dad, how come?” Chris added nervously.

Roy sat down with his children and told them the story of what had happened, with every detail then taught them again how to avoid being sprayed by a skunk.  He then answered their questions about each of his crew mates.  When Jenny suggested that he take a bubble bath Roy only had one comment.

“I’ve already tried that.”

 When JoAnne announced that dinner was ready Roy guided his children to the table and after dishing his plate was headed back out to deck to keep from destroying anyone’s appetite when the phone rang.

The Call was from headquarters for Roy so he set his plate down and took the phone from his wife.

“Yes sir,” Roy nearly snapped to attention on the phone. “I’m fine sir, just still a little offensive.”

“Thank you for saying so sir.” 

There were several more ‘yes sir’s’ spoken as Roy was informed that he was to report to the station at 7 the next morning to supervise a couple of boots in need of discipline.  The job at hand would involve getting all the mattresses, and linens from the dorm loaded in a truck so that they could be sanitized or replaced,  As well as all the contents of all the lockers. Each Locker contents would need to be properly labeled and hung in the truck to be sent to the cleaners. The department had been assured that the smell could be removed providing it wasn’t too bad.  When all that was done all food in the kitchen that wasn’t in can’s needed to be written down and then thrown out.  If the skunk spray didn’t taint the food the cleaning solvents surely did.

Roy was assured several times that this was in no way a form of discipline or punishment he was just the best person to supervise the final clean up at the time.

“I understand sir, you’re right, my sinuses were fried before I got out of the station and they haven’t recovered yet.  I’m the best person for the job.  Besides I don’t think anyone else wants to be my partner just yet.”

The two men shared a reserved laughter as the conversation was brought to an end and Roy took his now cold dinner out on the patio to eat it.  Before he was finished with his dinner JoAnne brought out the desert and their children and they all sat on the deck together to eat their cake.

While the children were getting their baths Roy slipped into the master bathroom and took yet another bubble bath.  When he headed for his tent wearing his flannel pajamas he found two extra sleeping bags rolled out in the tent with children settling in for the night.

With a warm smile in his heart Roy ruffled the heads of each of his offspring before tucking them in.  After crawling into his sleeping bag, an old one that could be thrown away if his wife couldn’t wash the smell out of it, the tent flap was pulled open and standing there in a pair of adult sized footed sleepers and the teddy bear he had given her for valentines, was JoAnne with her finger in her mouth and mock tears on her face.

“Is there room for one more, it’s lonely in the house all by myself?”


At the hospital, the ‘skunk ward’ had managed to keep themselves well entertained with only minimal assistance from the nursing staff.  Evening Lab results prompted another blood transfusion each for Mike, Marco, and Chet, and Chet and Marco had remained far quieter than anyone felt comfortable with.

It was after lights out as Johnny lay awake thinking about what had happened and how serious things were in a situation that most people would only laugh about. As he looked around he could see that everyone else was asleep.  Cap was exhausted, he didn’t need another transfusion but he was still anemic.  Mike, Marco and Chet were all sedated because their eyes were bugging them and they needed some help to keep from rubbing.

John was just settling in to a comfortable position with his arm over his eyes when he heard a wheeze and a gagging cough.  John threw his covers off and pushed the call button before racing to Marco’s bedside.  Sliding one hand under Marco’s head and the other under the arm on the opposite side Johnny pulled Marco into a sitting position resting his head on his own shoulder as he started rubbing Marco’s back  and since the nurse wasn’t in there yet Johnny pushed Marco’s call button.

While Marco was coughing up a foamy substance all over the front of Johnny’s lovely hospital gown, Johnny worked the mechanism to raise the head of Marco’s bed.  When he had the bed in the right position Johnny lay Marco back against his pillow and moved to hook up the oxygen mask hung on the wall.  That’s when he noticed that Chet was also foaming at the mouth but his respirations were so suppressed that he wasn’t able to cough and so sedated he couldn’t spit it out. 

Johnny was able to reposition Chet and open up his airway more completely and Chet took in a deep breath and started coughing.  Johnny did with him as he had done with Marco and had him sitting up resting his head on his shoulder while he worked with one hand to set up the second Oxygen mask.

When John pushed Chet’s call button the door to their room finally opened and a nurse stepped through. “Is there something I can do for you men?”

“We’ve got a serious respiratory distress with these two men we need a doctor in here ASAP!” Johnny called out as he was adjusting the bed while still holding Chet against his shoulder as he coughed out more frothy sputum all down the front of him.

Lights were turned on and Cap was awakened as Dr. Early and Dr. Morton converged on the room with a crash cart.  They weren’t responding to a code blue but the crash cart held most of the medications and supplies they were likely to need. But the sight of it coming through the door sent waves of terror through everyone in the room, especially Marco and Chet.

So much was going on in their little room over the next couple of hours, that they had to pull a couple of nurses out of ER to help with the crisis.  Both men were given several different medications in their IV’s, along with chest x-rays and breathing treatments.  In the end they were both breathing much easier but the medications made them feel jittery, hyper and even more anxious. 

John had been given a clean pair of pajamas to change into and when he was done he stepped out of the bathroom to see the looks of fear on his crewmates’ faces.

Chet and Marco were each now hooked up to a heart monitor and a pulse oximeter with constant displays of their heart rhythms, pulse rate as well as the oxygen levels in their blood.   Johnny took in the readings of each machine but he was also aware that his room mates were watching his expressions carefully.  He felt the weight of their gazes as he walked up to Chet and took hold of his trembling hand.

“Those are good numbers now.” Johnny told them what he knew they needed to hear. “The pulse is a little on the fast side but that’s because of the medications.  It will settle down after a while. The same goes for you Marco.”

Captain Stanley followed his paramedic’s lead and stepped up to offer Marco a calming hand to hold.

An hour later Dr. Early returned armed with lab results and developed Chest x-rays, “I think we’re headed in the right direction now,” He tried to calm his patients and their friends. “We just need to remain a little more aggressive in flushing your system of the toxins for a while longer and watch your lung functions a little closer.  You two took a lot of that spray into your system. Are either of you aware of getting much in your mouth?”

“I wanted to spit it all out,” Chet spoke softly behind his mask, “but I had to swallow so I could breath and then I wished I hadn’t taken a breath.”

“I think I still have some of that stuff in my mustache.” Marco added.

“Well we could always shave them off,” Dr Early offered, “that’s going to be the best way to get the stuff out.  I don’t know how the rest of you feel but I also think it will be beneficial to these two if we clear all of these flowers out.”

Hank looked at Johnny and Mike, “Fine by me,” Johnny agreed, Mike just nod his head.  As Hank and Johnny each filled their arms with flower vases, Marco and Chet made a decision on their mustaches.

Marco couldn’t get rid of his mustache fast enough; Chet took another couple of deep thoughts before he agreed to part with his.

“The rest of you may want to consider getting a trim, I can’t say for certain but it seems logical to me that the skunk spray would have adhered to the ends of your hair and if you trim it a little shorter it will help rid you of the smell quicker,” Dr. Early offered to the rest of the men in the room.

A cart was brought into the room and quickly loaded with flowers with instructions to share them with someone who didn’t already have any.  A hospital orderly with skills in barbering came in and two men were quickly clean shaven while three more lined up for a trim.  The man was given a stuffed skunk for each of his children when he was done and there was still plenty more where those came from.

Dr. Early came in again just as the men were finishing their hair cuts, “I don’t think you men could have found another barber shop that was open at this hour, but my, don’t you all look Dapper.”

After Dr. Early finished listening to his patients lungs, Captain Stanley moved the chair from the side of Marco’s bed to a spot between Marco and Chet before barking out orders. “All right Gage back to bed I’ll watch with these two till morning and then you can take over till their families get here.”

“But Cap,, your worse off than I am.” John dared to deify authority.

“Do I need to remind you that I’m your Captain?” Hank stood his ground only to hear the laughter of the Dr. who was still in the room.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard one of my patients ordering another around,” Dr. Early continued to giggle as he shook his head. “As far as authority around here, I believe that falls to me and I say you both get back in bed.  The nurse will stay in the room for the rest of the night and I’m sure these two fine men would enjoy her company to you two’s any day.  Besides you both need your rest; we don’t need any more complications around here. Do I make myself clear?”

Johnny gave the good Doctor a sheepish grin before slowly climbing back in his bed and pulling the covers up.  It took Dr. Early giving a hand gesture toward the empty bed before Hank made a move.  Drapes were pulled to block out the light the nurse needed to take care of the two more serious patients and then the rest of the lights were turned out. 


Mike was back to sleep first but then he had been fighting his meds to stay awake as long as he did.  Johnny could see Cap trying to stay awake but he didn’t last much longer than Mike did.  As for himself Johnny fell asleep with a big smile on his face, listening to the nurse flirt, in a professional manner, with his two friends on the other side of the curtain.


Roy woke up before the sun the next morning to the chill of the morning air.  Noticing the tent overhead he quickly remembered where he was and why.  He rolled to his side pulling the sleeping bag tighter around his shoulders as he finished waking up.  There was his loving wife; it had only taken him a minute to set up a second cot for her when she asked permission to join the rest of the family.  She had snuggled until she fell asleep but then she rolled away from him in search of sweeter smells to fuel her dreams.

Getting out of his sleeping bag Roy carefully pulled his children’s sleeping bags tighter around their shoulders as he stepped over their bodies that had twisted and turned during the night till their feet were under his cot and their bodies half on top of each other.  Smiling with love for his family Roy made his way to the master bathroom and another bubble bath before getting dressed for work.  He would be supervising the last stage of clean up for the station and he wasn’t really looking forward to it.

Boot Work

Roy arrived at the station half an hour before he was required to report.  It felt so strange to see the back lot totally empty of cars.  Shuttling their cars home was one of the first tasks that was taken on in order to make more room behind the station to maneuver the equipment used for cleaning.

The hose tower was so heavily loaded with hose Roy had to take a second look to make sure it wasn’t leaning from the weight. It was clear by the amount of hose hanging to dry that they had stripped the engine.

Using his key, which had been returned with his car, Roy entered the building and found it totally void of any sound or smell that made the place familiar.  There was an overpowering smell of bleach and a pine scented cleaner, the combination Roy knew to be hazardous so his first move was to open the back bay door to let the place air out a little.  He was not in the least surprised to find the large fans set up on the floor near the rear bay door so he turned them on also.

Turning around to see what had been done with the place, where the locker room had smelled stronger of pine cleaner the bay carried a strong odor of bleach, although over shadowed by the smell of cleaning liquids there was still a hint of skunk  but for all Roy knew it could be coming from him.

Roy found the engine minus draft hoses or any other hoses for that matter, the compartments were standing open and the tools usually stored in them placed on a burn blanket on the floor.  The Squad also had its compartments open, rescue equipment, back boards, stokes and crow bars placed on the floor behind the squad. There was no sign of their medical equipment and drug boxes, Roy just hoped they were locked up somewhere and hadn’t been stolen. 

From the bay Roy stepped into the day room where he found all of the cupboards standing open and empty.  The counter was lined with all the dishes and pots turned upside down on hazmat towels. Anything that resembled food was pilled on the table. Two large galvanized steel garbage cans stood near by, this was one of his assignments today. 

Wanting to get started but knowing he needed to wait for the paperwork that the Chief was going to be bringing him in about ten minutes, Roy made his way to the dorm room.  It would be a good idea to open all the windows and get the room aired out.

He had just opened the second to the last window in the dorm when he heard foot steps and turned to see Chief McConnike standing just inside the doorway.

Roy turned around and faced his superior properly at attention. “Good morning Sir.”

“Good morning to you DeSoto, I see you got an early start this morning.” The chief responded before adding, “At ease.”

Roy widened his stance and placed his hands behind his back as he followed the Chief with his gaze. The Chief silently walked past him and opened the last window. 

“I see you’ve picked up on our mistake.” The Chief commented as he moved back in front of Roy facing him casually. “We had three crews in here yesterday cleaning.  The crew in the bay was using a cleaning compound heavy in bleach.  The crew in the locker room was using some pine scented cleaner and the crew in the kitchen were using Lysol.”  “We had to send them all home early yesterday afternoon with head aches.”  “The Hazmat team came in last night to check the place out and they don’t think there’ll be any problems today but they did recommend keeping the fans going and opening the windows.”

“Yes Sir,” Roy answered.

“Why don’t we head out back and I’ll show you what we have for you to work with.” The Chief commented and the two men made their way from the dorm.  Once they reached the bay in passing the Chief started to talk again. “They’ve sprayed some sort of bacteria enzyme in here that’s supposed to break down the smell but it should take a couple more days to start working.  The hose has been sprayed too so if there’s time today you can have those two nitwits, your working with, load them back on the truck.  Make sure they do it, not you.”

“May I ask what the two ‘nitwits’ did to deserve this disciplinary action?” Roy asked cautiously not sure if he should be asking.

The Chief stopped and turned to Roy and Roy swallowed hard. They were outside now and the fans were blowing past them. “I guess that’s a fair question, since you’re going to be babysitting the two of them.”   “It seems that one of the fella’s that was here to rescue you guys on ‘skunk day’ was pulling an extra shift, probably because his wife couldn’t stand to have him at home with the smell, Anyway during a foam drill at a chemical factory the two boot’s thought they’d give him a good wash down.  The only problem was that the guy in question stayed back to allow me to lead the company’s CEO and his wife and grandchildren through to get a good vantage point to watch the practice, and I’m sure you can fill in the rest of the story yourself.”

Roy was holding his breath to keep from laughing and turning red with the effort when the Chief added, “It’s okay to laugh, believe me, everyone else is.  Except for the two boots that is.” “Fortunately the kids thought it was the best thing that could have happened so once the CEO was assured there was nothing toxic about the foam he calmed down and had fun with his grandchildren.”

Roy let his breath out with a chuckle and shook his head.

“By the way DeSoto, You don’t smell that bad, at least not compared to two days ago. I can tell by the hint of bubble gum and peppermint that you’ve been working on it.”

“Thank you sir,” Roy managed to get out past his fresh blushing grimace. That wasn’t exactly something he wanted to hear from a superior but he was grateful to know he was making progress.

“I’m sure you’ll be ready to go as soon as the station is. We’ll have you working at headquarters until then.”

For the next hour before the boots were scheduled to arrive Roy was instructed in the procedure and paperwork for clearing out lockers and reporting the food to be disposed of.  He was then presented with the newly disinfected personal belongings and badges for each of his crew mates, their uniforms had been incinerated but their brass and pocket contents had been removed first, and Roy was given the assignment of delivering them personally to the hospital.

When the boots arrived, five minutes late, Roy was introduced as their incident commander and they were ordered to get to work starting in the dorm.  A rented moving van was parked in the back with the hatch opened and the boots made short work of pulling all the bedding off the bunks before starting to load the mattresses while Roy tackled the lockers.

By the time ten mattresses, and the bedding were stacked in the truck and the dorm floor mopped and windows washed Roy had gone through and packaged the contents of about half of the lockers.  He had found one very surprising item in his Captain’s locker that he chose not to send in to be cleaned but instead made sure no one could see him then stuck it in his pocket to give to his Captain personally.

The boots were then assigned to load the contents of the lockers in the back of the truck and by the time Roy was doing the last six lockers the boots were assigned to wash the inside of the ones he’d already emptied.  Roy made a note to get Johnny a new Smokey Bear poster, he knew he needed to update his pictures of his wife and kids and he was sure the same went for Cap, Chet and Marco were on their own to replace their pin up posters. Mike, well Mike didn’t have anything to replace, he preferred the undecorated look.

When Roy was done in the kitchen and with all of his paperwork the boots were just starting to load the hose back on the engine. Roy watched them carefully and needed to give them a few pointers  about how to make sure the connections were properly placed and how to drape the end of the hose so that it would be that much easier to hook up to a hydrant.   When the hose was loaded Roy had the two men load the equipment making sure they put everything in the right places.  He was tempted to make them unload it and do it again when they were done but thought better of it since it was nearly two in the afternoon and they hadn’t had lunch yet.


Johnny was the first in the room to wake up the next morning.  Since they had all been kept awake while the doctors worked on Marco and Chet they had been allowed to sleep as long as they would.   Answering the call of nature Johnny walked his IV Pole to the bathroom and while washing up he took a good look in the mirror, his skin looked normal, not at all jaundiced this morning, he was grateful of that. Maybe he could get rid of his IV today.

On the way back to bed he took a detour past Chet and Marco.  As the nurse smiled at him he looked his crewmates over, they were sleeping comfortably with the head of their bed raised still wearing oxygen masks and a quick look of their monitors showed they were doing as well as they looked.

Mike was starting to stir and feeling for his urinal so Johnny walked over and handed it to him.  He offered his assistance but Mike didn’t need any.  Mike’s skin was still mildly yellow just about where Cap had been the day before.

John looked over at his Captain his eyes were now open but he was clearly still trying to wake up.  Looking around the room he finally pushed himself into a seated position and was letting his head get acquainted with which way was up.

After Mike hung his now filled urinal on the bed rail, Johnny walked over to see if his captain needed a hand up.

“How are they doing this morning,” Hank whispered with a nod toward Chet and Marco.

“Their doing good right now Cap, How are you doing?” Johnny asked then began a visual assessment. The captain still looked slightly pale and though his skin was more normally colored the whites of his eyes were still yellowed.

John gave his leader a helping hand to get to his feet and stood by him till he was sure he was steady on his feet.

“I can take it from here,” Hank assured but Johnny still followed him for a few steps till he was sure.

When Hank returned the nurse helped Mike into the bathroom to freshen up a little and then a late breakfast was brought in for everyone.

It was the smell of food that brought lights to Chet’s eyes and Marco came around shortly afterward.  Surprised by their returning appetite Chet and Marco pushed themselves higher in bed in anticipation of any thing remotely edible, even hospital food.

While they were eating the word went forth through out the hospital that they were awake and people started coming into their room in droves.  First the vampires arrived for their morning blood samples, followed by nurses aids with wheel chairs to take them two at a time to get new chest x-rays and a chance to see someplace out side of their room. As soon as they were back in the room Dr. Bracket was there to do his rounds, followed by the eye specialist to complete a thorough examination of Mike, Marco and Chet’s eyes.

Johnny and Cap could feel themselves holding their breath as the doctor spent extended time with each man.  Johnny could tell by the look on the doctor’s face and Cap could tell by the look on Johnny’s face that not all was well.

“Well men, I can tell that you’ve been rubbing your eyes.  I know it’s hard not to, but rubbing can cause scaring that will effect your vision.” The Doctor began and he stood in front of them with his hands in his pockets.  “I’m going to change the eye drops we’re giving you and since the drops will blur your vision anyway I’m going to have your eyes bandaged to keep you from rubbing.”


Roy arrived at the hospital around mid afternoon to carry out his last assigned duty but also to visit with the guys.  As soon as he walked into the ‘skunk ward’ he could tell that all was not hunky dory.  First of all Mike, Marco and Chet were blindfolded but he also noticed the extra monitors on Chet and Marco and that they were still on Oxygen.  He also noticed the lack of flowers, the fresh hair cuts and the absence of two prized mustaches.

“Hello, how’s every body doing?” Roy greeted in an extra loud voice to make sure Mike, Marco and Chet heard him.

“We’ll we’re not deaf just wearing blinders.” Marco grumbled and Roy could tell instantly what his mood was.

“It’s nice to know you didn’t forget about us,” Mike commented.

Hank decided he had better let his blind folded men know something they couldn’t see, “You’re in uniform have they got you back to work already?”

“Yeah, I started back this morning.” Roy answered, somewhat surprised Cap didn’t know.

“So, who’s your lucky partner?” Johnny asked with a combination stunned and pitying look on his face.

“I’m not back on a squad yet,” Roy explained, “They’ve made me incident commander for the rest of the clean up at Station 51”

The room filled with moans of sympathy for their comrade then Cap asked, “How bad is it?”

“It’s about the same as it is in this room only add the strong odors of every kind of cleaner known to man all mixed together.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Cap exclaimed, leaning back against his pillow wide eyed.

“I only wish I were.” Roy explained, “I guess they had to send the cleaning crew home early yesterday because they were all getting headaches.  That’s when they decided they needed some one to be in charge of the whole clean up so things would be better organized.”

“So you’re not doing everything yourself?” Cap asked with some relief in his voice.

“No, No, I’ve spent the day cleaning out lockers and cataloging everything that was in them but I’ve had the services of two deserving boots to do all the mopping, window washing and grunt work,” Roy informed.

“And just what did the two boots do, to be so deserving?” Chet piped up from the back of the room.  Roy noticed the smiles on everyone’s face and knew that meant they were glad to hear something from the overly quiet man.

Roy proceeded to repeat the story he had been told and as soon as he got to the point where the intended target had stayed back to allow the Chief to lead the CEO and his wife and Grandchildren in, the room filled with laughter and moans of joy at the mental picture that was brought to their minds.

Noticing the weight of the box he had tucked under his arm, Roy proceeded to change the subject. “Before I forget I’m here on official business.  I am to deliver all of your personal belongings that were with your uniforms before they destroyed them.”  Roy then walked over to John and gave him his envelope which he opened and verified it was his stuff before signing the official form saying he had received his belongings.  Roy then went to Cap and after looking up to see that his partner was still looking at the contents of his envelope Roy quickly pulled out the contents of one pants pocket.

“I didn’t think you would want me to send these to the cleaners’ sir.”

In total confusion Hank took the object from Roy’s hand and held it up, when he instantly recognized it his face turned just as red as the bright red lacy piece of ladies lingerie that he was holding.

“Whoooooa!” Johnny would pick that moment to look up. “Whew who Cap!” Johnny then followed up with a loud cat calling whistle.

Cap quickly but way to late, stuffed the panties under his blankets. “Gage, get your eyes back in that head of yours it’s not what you think.”

“Sure Cap, does your wife know? I mean I wouldn’t want to say anything that would let the cat out of the bag.” John continued to tease his Captain a, fellow patient.

The three blind men sat up straight in their beds with great anticipation on their faces.  “What is it Gage?” Kelly asked.

Now John likely would have answered anyway but he was glad to see some movement from his pal that had been far to quiet for his liking and he knew this was just the sort of thing to help perk up the sprits of those who were bored, worried and blindfolded.  “A pair of ladies panties,” he blurted out half in laughter. “Fire engine red silk with lots of lace. Just what every fireman needs in his locker, a great morale booster if I do say so myself.”

“If you must know they belong to my wife.” Cap started to explain but his face was growing redder with each moment.

The laughter in the room was causing Chet and Marco to start coughing and gasping for air.

Johnny was quickly out of his bed and over to Chet putting an oxygen mask on his face and helping him to set up a little straighter as he coached him to take slow deep breaths and concentrate on relaxing.  Mean while the nurse in the room was at Marco’s side doing the same for him.

As Johnny and the nurse worked to calm Chet and Marco down Roy went about handing out the rest of the crew’s personal effects with the help of Cap who co-signed since none of them could see.  As much as he was embarrassed he could see that it was a needed diversion for his blindfolded men and decided he could take the razzing.

Cap had just climbed back in bed and the door to the room had just opened when Chet pulled his mask down to ask a question. “Cap, I got ‘a know, why do you keep ladies underwear in your locker?”

Because he was blindfolded Chet had no idea that standing in the newly opened doorway was Captain Stanley’s wife.

Now Cap was really turning red.

“What’s this I hear about women’s underwear in you locker,” Emily chided her husband.

“They’re yours I swear,” Hank produced the panties from under his covers to show her, “I found them after I got to work; they were clinging to the inside of one of my flannel shirts because of static.  I hid them in the bottom of my locker and I kept forgetting to bring them home again.”

Emily smiled and took the panties from her husband’s hands. “So that’s where these have been, I’ve looked all over the house for these.”

She then sauntered over to where the dividing drapes were gathered and took hold of the drapery. “Pardon me boys, but we need a little privacy,” She said as she pulled the drapery around her husband’s bed.

From the shadows seen through the curtains they could tell that Emily Stanley sat down on her husband’s bed and the two bodies came together in an embrace and as the other men in the room held their breath they heard, “I’m glad someone figured out a way to get some color back in your face,” followed by giggling from behind the curtain and the rest of the guys joined in.


Public Relations

After hearing of the recommendation to get their hair cut, Roy stopped at four barbershops on the way home.  None had any openings and he was sure at least two of them were more afraid of his after spray effects than were busy.  Finally in desperation he stopped at a collage of cosmetology and after explaining his situation to the instructor she was thrilled to bring him into her school to be able to teach her students how to deal with similar situations first hand.  Every, non committed, student was instructed to gather around and the instructor talked as she ran her gloved fingers through Roy’s hair.  She pointed out the hair damage done with the cleaning products that had been used as well as obvious washing more than was advised for hair.

Before Roy knew it he was getting his hair gently washed by no less than four sets of gloved hands and then conditioned, followed by a hot oil treatment and a scalp massage.  Then the hair was finally cut and meticulously styled.  When he paid for his services he was surprised that all the extensive treatment had only cost the same as he usually paid for a simple hair cut so he bought a gift certificate for a full pamper treatment for his wife to make up for feeling guilty about letting so many women have their way with his head.

JoAnne’s first response when he walked in the back door was relief that her husband didn’t smell stronger after spending the day in the station.

“I’m either getting used to you or you’re making progress on your hygiene,” JoAnne joked with her husband as she put her arms around his neck and gave him a quick kiss. “Now you just need to change your after shave lotion that’s all.”

“That’s good to hear maybe the hair cut helped, or maybe I got some of the enzymes that brake down the smell on me while I was working at the station.” Roy responded happily as he wrapped his arms around his wife but was very careful not to pull her closer than she was ready to get.

“What ever it is, I think you can sleep in the house tonight,” Jo offered. “The weather report says that it’s going to get colder and possible rain tonight. We can’t have you catching a cold now can we? Dinner is all most ready you can take the tent down after words.”

Roy quickly changed out of his uniform and put it in the wash, until the rest of his uniforms returned from the cleaners this was the only one he had and tomorrow he was supposed to track down the medical equipment and check it all out and make sure it was ready to go back on the squad.

Dinner was pleasant conversation about the children’s day at school and questions about daddy’s day at work and how the other guys were doing.  After dinner Roy took the tent and camping gear down choosing to drape his sleeping bag over one of the rafters in the garage to air out for a few days before rolling it back up.

While he was outside the children wrote letters and drew pictures for Uncle Johnny and the rest of the guys still in the hospital and when Daddy was done with his chores they all climbed in the bath tub to get ready for bed. Once they were in their pajamas Roy read them a bedtime story and tucked them in before returning to the living room were his wife was waiting to coax him to lie on the sofa with his head in her lap while they watched the late news. Roy stiffened up as she ran her ungloved hands through his hair.

“That might not be a good idea,” Roy reached up and took hold of her hands. “The skunk scent might get on your hands.”

JoAnne pulled her hands away from her husband’s grasp and held them up to her nose.  “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.” She then took hold of his head and guided it into a position on her lap before starting to run her fingers through his hair again.  “Your hair is so soft now; it smells like lavender, I’ve been dying to get my hands in it since you got home tonight.” She added a smile and cradled her husband’s head in her arms while she gave him a passionate kiss.

“I’m either getting used to you or all your bubble baths are making some serious headway.” JoAnne added with a smile.  Roy finally relaxed in his wife’s arms and couldn’t have told you what was on the news that night if his life depended on it.


At the hospital the only time Johnny was in his bed was when the nurse was putting him there.  As soon as the nurse left the room he was out again.  Both he and Hank had been making an effort to drink as much as they could in hopes of getting rid of their IV’s, which translated into several trips to the bathroom.

The new medications they were giving Marco and Chet were majorly helping their breathing and they had been removed from the oxygen for the time being.

When Dinner was brought in the nurses found Johnny, out of his bed again, sitting in a chair equal distances from each of his blindfolded friends describing bathing suits.  Hank lounged in his bed nearby reading a book and fighting not to let himself laugh because he knew Johnny’s ramblings were doing his men a world of good even if the magazine Johnny was making sure they heard him turn the pages of was ‘US world and News Report’.  Hank was sure there wasn’t a single bathing suit on any of the pages inside but he had to admit some of the ones his youngest paramedic was describing would be a sight to behold.  Others, well, he was sure his other men felt grateful to be blindfolded.

It didn’t go with out notice that Chet would have been talking everyone’s head off if he only felt a little better.  Hank also noticed that Johnny was offering his friends fluids on a regular basis coaxing them to drink by telling them the fastest was to feel better was to flush that stuff out of their systems.

After Dinner a nurse came in and made Hank and Johnny’s night, she took out their IV’s.

During the night Hank, Johnny and Mike were awaken regularly by the call of nature. Hank was aware of Johnny helping Mike up and to the bathroom and for a little walk around the room to stretch his legs a little before tucking him back in bed.

Dr. Bracket was later than usual making his rounds the next morning but it was no surprise to Hank that Johnny received his discharge papers; He was however slightly surprised that he received his.

The biggest surprise came when the doctor walked out and before the door closed behind him Roy and Emily walked in, each one carrying an arm full of clothes. While Johnny grabbed his clothes from Roy and hurried to the bathroom to change, Emily pulled the drape around her husband’s bed a proceeded to help him into his clothes.

When they were both ready to leave the room it only took one look at their remaining crewmates to know they were already feeling left behind and lonely.

“Hang in their guys,” Johnny called out, “We’ll be in to visit ya,”

“You bet we will,” Hank added, “And I’ll bet those bandages come off in just a day or two.”

“You guys are just a couple of days behind us,” Johnny continued to work on their morale, “Before long you’ll be looking back at all this as nothing more than a bad memory.”

During his ride home Hank learned that part of the reason Dr. Bracket was late doing rounds was that he had called Emily for her opinion on weather he should be sent home where he could rest or kept another day so he wouldn’t worry about his men.

When Johnny was freed he made a bee line to the children’s ward. After talking with the nurses and seeing if they approved of an idea he had Johnny went into the main play room acting like he was sneaking in with out the nurses knowing it.

“Guys, Guys,” Johnny spoke in hushed tones as he kept looking at the door in mock fear, “I need your help.”

The children quickly moved closer to their fireman friend so that he could talk softly.  “I gotta’ know, how bad do I smell?”

All of the children started sniffing him, some closer than others, and finally one little girl broke the silence.

“Well you could smell a little better, when was the last time you took a bath?”

Johnny pulled his watch up to his face, “About two hours ago.”

“Did you use soap?” the little girl continued.

“Yeah, lots of it.” Johnny answered now sitting Indian style on the floor in the middle of the kids.

“You must have worked a fire at the sewer plant to still smell like this after a bath,” One little boy exclaimed.

Johnny was taking the children’s comments in stride,  he was already sure that he hadn’t gotten rid of the skunk smell yet but needed a fresh set of noses to tell him how much work he still had ahead of him.

“I know, I know,” a boy about 12 raised his hand in the back of the room waiting to be called on, “Were you one of the firemen who had to take care of all the firemen who got sprayed by the skunks that were hiding in their fire truck?  I saw that on the news a few days ago. They had to give the whole fire station a bubble bath, fire trucks and all.”

“Actually,” Johnny answered as he hunched down to look like he was ashamed, “I was one of the men that got sprayed by the skunks and they had to take care of me and the guys I work with.”

“Oh Wow!”

“Way Cool!” 

“Out of sight!”  

“Did it really stink?”

“Was it, like Gross?”

“Did the skunks look cute?” 

“Did you get to pet one?” 

“Are they gonna let you keep it for a pet?” 

“How did it get on the fire engine?”

and several more questions and comments came bombarding from every direction and Johnny smiled.  A Nurse watching over the children had to duck out of the door quickly to hide her all out, side splitting laughter.

After a short nap and a well appreciated home cooked lunch that tasted heavenly, Hank made his way back to the hospital to visit his men.  When he walked into the room he found not only his men but three much younger patients. Two in wheelchairs, one listening to Chet tell a tall tale about a fire he worked on, making himself the hero of course, another was interchanging conversation with Marco in Spanish so Hank had no idea what they were talking about but it did appear to be a question and answer session.

A little girl who was sporting a broken arm in a cast and some rather elaborate bandaging around her head and face was sitting on Mike’s bed next to him being supported by Johnny sitting at her side.  She was telling Mike how the firemen and paramedics pulled the car she was in apart so they could get her out, after a truck smashed into it.  Even though Mike couldn’t see the hand motions she was making the sound effects that came along with them and her description of the tools they used were bringing a smile to his face.

Hank just smiled as Johnny pulled a chair next to him with a free hand and motioned for him to have a seat, 

“What’s a matter can’t you find anyone else to talk to until your de skunked?”

“Me,” Hank smiled and spoke softly trying not to interfere with the story being told by the young lady on Mike’s bed. “Have you even been home yet?”

“A, no, I’m trying to decide if I should check out the YMCA until I smell better,” Johnny replied.

Hank and Johnny just sat and watched the children interact with their friends until a nurse and two candy stripers entered the room announcing that it was time to go back to the children’s ward.  Following a round of moans and pleas for just a few more minutes the children were all wheeled out but it was clear they weren’t the only ones who had enjoyed the visits.

Roy showed up a short time later explaining that he had spent the afternoon in a cluttered storage room in the basement of the hospital going over the medical supplies from the squad and calibrating all the equipment while he put the final touches on the order form for the replacement supplies they would need.

The three visitors stayed to help feed the three patients their dinner before Roy said he needed to get home because his wife would have dinner ready, Johnny turned down an invite for dinner and the offer of a ride home when Roy left but when Cap left he hooked his arm around John’s shoulders and he did go with him.

Johnny was dropped off at his apartment and he cautiously made his way down the walk to his door,  Mrs. Melborn was talking her small dog for a walk.  There were no pet’s allowed in the apartment complex but some how Mrs. Melborn had managed to get an exception.

“Well hello Johnny dear, it’s been a few days since I’ve seen you.  You must be working a lot lately.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Johnny answered.

“Were all those firemen that have been in the news after the skunk attack friends of yours?”

“Yes ma’am they were.” Johnny answered not going into any detail and feeling that if she couldn’t tell he was one of them he wasn’t going to tell her.

“Do you know how they’re doing; there wasn’t much on the news about them tonight?”

“Three of them are already out of the hospital the other three should be in a few days.” Johnny again didn’t go into any real detail.

“Well that’s good to hear, I best take little pooky here for his walk.”  She turned to go but hesitated and turned back.

“John dear, would you accept a little advice from an older and wiser woman?”

“Yes ma’am.” Johnny answered hesitantly.

“That after shave lotion you’re wearing, let’s just say it’s not a winner, I’d loose that bottle if I were you.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Johnny answered again and hurried into his apartment to make use of some of the bubble bath he had been given.

Getting Things Back Where They Belong

Hank woke up the next morning feeling rested. After stumbling to the bathroom to take care of business he took a good long look in the mirror and tried to comb his hair into place.  His hair had other ideas and felt like it was full of baking soda. The auburn highlights also looked strange especially in the part of his hair that insisted on curling. Thinking about Roy’s comments about the beauty school he ended up at, Hank gave them a call after breakfast and made two appointments,  he then called Gage at home and told him where and when to meet him.

John drove by the place twice before he realized the Captain had indeed summoned him to a beauty parlor. He finally parked and just sat in his rover trying to decide the best way to get out of going inside.  He was about to start the ignition and drive off when he saw his Captain inside waving him in so he sat back and tried to build up the courage to go in with his non winning aftershave and all.

While he was trying to think of a way to get out of going in, a shapely blond with all the right curves sauntered out and tapped on the driver’s side window.

“Your fireman friend in there said that you needed a little persuasion to come in,” she said when Johnny rolled his window down. “You know I consider it a great honor to be of service to heroes such as yourself.” She pretty well clinched the deal right then and there as Johnny opened his car door and stepped out to have the pretty young lady take hold of his elbow.

“You know we can do wonders with your hair,” she offered as they walked into the salon and directly to a waiting chair next to where Cap was getting fitted with a cape in preparation of getting his hair washed, conditioned and treated. “We also have a wonderful cream that will help those chemical burns on your face heal faster.” The girl offered as she pulled the plastic cape around Johnny’s neck and secured it into place.

Two girls apiece took on the two firemen and Johnny managed to keep up some flirting chatter while they worked their many wonder creams into his hair under the direction of an instructor.  It had been noticed that their hair was worse off than the other firefighter who had come in and Hank was the one to inform them that he and Johnny had used more of the peroxide and baking soda mixture than Roy had, he also informed them that there where three more guys still in the hospital that were still bathing twice a day in the stuff.

“We were all in more direct contact with the skunk spray than Roy was too,” Johnny added.

“Well tell them to stop using it on their hair!” the instructor exclaimed, “I’ll give you something for them to use on their hair before you leave here.  How long do you think it will be before they get out of the hospital and can get here for us to repair the damage that’s been done?”

Neither Hank nor Johnny could give them an answer but it was hoped with in a couple of days for Mike and probably a couple more days for Chet and Marco.

When they had finished massaging the creams and conditioners into Johnny’s head and then rinsed the excess away the cute blond who had guided him into the parlor began asking him how he wanted his hair cut.

“Oh just a little off the ends,” Johnny stated.

“Regulation is above the ears and an inch off the collar,” Captain Stanley commented from the next chair not moving but holding very still because he was getting his neck shaved.  It seemed that all the flirting Johnny was doing had slowed his beauticians down some.

“A yeah, like he said,” Johnny reluctantly gave in.

“Oh what a shame,” the lead beautician crooned, “That means you’re going to loose most of your golden highlighting.”

“That, I can live with out,” Johnny could see some silver lining in his shorter than desired hair cut.

Once Hank was done he continued to stand nearby his underling and supervise his hair cut.  When that was completed they started applying a cream to the side of Johnny’s face that still bore the healing sores left from the broken blisters.

“This stuff will also prevent age lines and wrinkles,” the beautician applying the cream stated.

Johnny looked at her in terror. “So I need to apply it to both sides of my face or I’ll not, um, a,...Mature evenly?”

“Well a, you might be right I guess I’ve never really thought about anyone only using it on one side before,” the girl responded as Hank snickered. 

As they were checking out of the salon Hank purchased two bottles of the recommended Shampoo and conditioner, one for himself and one for the guys still in the hospital, along with a jar of the cream they put on Johnny’s face.  He planned to run it by the doctor to see if he thought it would be of benefit for the boys still hospitalized, their faces looked a lot worse than Johnny’s did.

Johnny also purchased a bottle of shampoo and a jar of cream while he tried to get a date with the young blond he’d flirted with nonstop since she guided him inside.

“Oh, I’m getting married in two weeks and I don’t think my fiancé would like the idea of me dating anyone,” The girl answered and Johnny blushed red. 

Hank just slapped his hand on John’s shoulder and pointed him in the direction of the door.  “I thought I’d take this stuff to the hospital am I going to meet you there?” Hank talked as they walked out into the open air.

John nod his head and the two men separated to their individual cars and followed each other to Rampart.  Once inside Hank took a bottle of shampoo and conditioner along with the cream he’d purchased and headed to Dr. Brackett’s office while Johnny went strait to the ‘Skunk ward’.  From the hall way he could see three pediatric patients being wheeled out of the room and knew they were following through with the plan Johnny had suggested.

Once inside the room John noticed that his crewmates looked better and happier and Mike no longer had patches on his eyes. 

“Hey Johnny you look like you’ve been scalped,” Mike commented as soon as he stepped inside the room.

“Yea, Cap made an appointment for the two of us at the same place Roy got his hair done.  Then he sat next to me and told them how to cut it.” Johnny informed his crewmates.  “I’ll warn you guys the only reason he didn’t make appointments for you guys is because he didn’t know for sure when you’re getting out of here.”

“Well in that case he can make one for Mike tomorrow afternoon.” Chet piped up half teasing half jealous.

“Hopefully they’re not open on Sunday,” Marco added.

“Is that when they told you guys you’d get out of here?” Johnny spoke with enthusiasm.

They talked for a while and Johnny was brought up on all that the Doctors had said to find out that Marco and Chet would likely get their eyes unbandaged in the morning but were going to be held a couple more days to give their lungs a chance to recover.

“You guy’s did get the worst of it,” Johnny told them, “We were afraid of loosing you there for a while.”

“Ya know,” Chet remarked thoughtfully, “I never dreamed getting sprayed by a skunk could be so hard on a person.  I always thought it was just dealing with the smell they left behind.”

“It all depends on how close you are and where you get hit,” Johnny empathized as he realized how good it felt to not have to worry about offending anyone with his odor.

“You can say that again.” They all heard and turned to the newly open door to see Dr. Brackett entering with Captain Stanley behind him. Your Captain here has brought in some shampoo and conditioners for you guys I agree that you can stop using the solutions we’ve been mixing up here.  The nurses will bring you in some milder soap to use.  I don’t however recommend the cream that has been recommended for your faces.” Kell turned his attention directly to Johnny, “it contains some perfumes and colorants that can lead to an infection.  I have some prescription cream here that will be better for you.”

After handing Johnny a handful of sample sized tubes of cream Dr. Bracket left, Hank and Johnny stayed and visited until they could tell the guys needed some sleep and then they left too. 

On the way out Johnny gave Dixie his jar of face cream explaining why he had it but not saying anything about it reducing wrinkles.  Hank would offer his to his wife later on telling her the whole story but not feeling any ill will from her.

After they left the hospital Hank and Johnny both decided to check out the station and see how it was coming along.  When they arrived there they saw a rented moving van backed up to the rear bay door that was open.  Inside the back of the truck was Roy comparing the information on several boxes with papers attached to the clipboard in his hand.  Before they had made their presents known two very tired looking young firemen came trudging out of the dorm and climbed up in the truck taking hold of four mattresses between them and hauling them back to the dorm.

“Them your boots,” Hank commented once they were inside the dorm and he was sure they couldn’t hear him.

“Yep,” Roy sighed.  “They worked a mean abandoned warehouse fire all night then after only four hours sleep were told to get here.”

“They sure pissed off the wrong people.” Johnny commented before a second truck pulled around the station and started parking next to the one Roy was supervising the unloading of.

“You can say that again,” Roy sighed as he eyed the next truck to be unloaded. “Hay Junior I like your hair cut.”

“Thanks,” Johnny carefully glared at his captain who just smirked.

Hank and Johnny soon started helping to unload the first truck so that the driver could take it back.  Among the items to be unloaded were the contents of all the lockers that had been sent to be cleaned.  All of the clothing from each locker was held inside a single cleaner’s bag with a tag over the out side hanger that told which locker it was to be returned to and who it belonged to. Then there was a box with the same information on it that held the boots and other unhangable items. Once a locker had both a hanging bag and a box it was shut but not until.

When they were collecting the next arm load of supplies they were met by the two boots who had just been ordered to ward the bedding for the bunks and told that their work would be inspected when they were done so they better make sure they used hospital corners.

Once Roy stepped into the back of the second truck to check things out one of the boot’s walked over to Hank and John, “What did you guys do to get sent here?”

“I’m not telling,” Hank answered first.

“Me neither,” Johnny followed his leader’s lead.

“Well just be glad you weren’t here a few days ago, we should have had gas masks in this place, the smell was so bad,” The talkative boot replied.

“Well someone better have learned their lesson or the establishment is going to be hard pressed to come up with similar punishment in the future.” Hank responded as he flung as many hangers as he could carry over his shoulder, “Although I can think of a few.” He added and headed for the locker room.

With a crooked smirk on his face Johnny loaded his arms with as many boxes as he could carry and followed his leader.  Before dinner time the station was loaded with fresh supplies, tested equipment was loaded back on the squad and new draft hoses pulled from their shipping boxes and placed on the engine.  Responding to a phone call Roy ran into the captain’s office feeling a little sheepish as he ran past his captain to do so.

Roy came out of the office calling to his boots who were in the kitchen putting the dishes away after rewashing them. “I have to take the squad over to another station, When I come back the chief will be with me so this place better be ready for his inspection.”

“Why are you taking our squad to another station?” Johnny asked clearly protective of his squad.

“They got involved in a shoot out an hour ago and their squad got shot up.” Roy answered as he clicked the garage door opener and got into the cab of the squad and drove off.

Hank stood in the empty half of the bay and with his hands on his hips watched as the squad rolled out.  He then casually moseyed over to the door buttons and closed the door.

While the two boots spit shined the station Hank and Johnny walked from room to room checking the place out and were going over the engine compartments when Roy and the Chief returned.

“Well, Well, Well, it’s good to see you up and about Hank,” the Chief greeted as he entered the station.  “I was going to give you a call just as soon as I got back to my office. She’s a little different than when you left her isn’t she?”

“It smells a ton better,” Hank answered.  “When is she going back in service?”

“Well,” the Chief responded to Hank’s question, “I got you and Gage’s release to return to duty starting Sunday, I thought I’d let you open her back up Monday morning, that is if you’re ready for it.”

“I’m ready to do it now,” Hank responded, “this laying around is getting to me.”

“Monday it is then,” Chief McConnike responded with a slap on the captain’s back. “You’ll have your squad back no later than Saturday and although not all of your men will be relieved for duty by then we’ll see to it that you have a full team.

“Those of us that are able will be here ready to go bright and early Monday morning.” Hank spoke for his crew.

“Good it’s going to be a media circus,” Chief McConnike dropped the other shoe, “Oh and by the way that attachment you couldn’t get to work.  It was designed for a different engine and a different irrigation system.”

Everyone hung their heads and shook them as they chuckled softly.

“Chief could I talk to you for a moment about opening this place up?” Hank requested.

“Incident commander Desoto, may we use your office for a moment?”

“Yes sir,” Roy responded with a smile and watched as his two superiors walked into the office he had been using for a couple of days longer than he wanted to.

Hank picked Mike up from the hospital when he was released and took him home by way of the school of cosmetology. 

His beautician was looking over his face, “Something must have been protecting your face right here,” She drew a line with her finger.

“Yeah, one of my crewmate’s head,” Mike answered having been aware for days how much worse he’d be if he hadn’t been standing behind Marco when the skunks did their thing.

Unlike Johnny Mike was able to get a date with his beautician at the end of his procedure.

Marco and Chet ended up getting released from the hospital on Saturday in the care of their mothers; Momma Lopez was more than happy to lead the way to the beauty shop on their way home.  Their sons were not going to be cleared for duty when the station reopened for business but they were to report in uniform for the huge media party to open her up again.

Back Where We Belong

When Hank reported for duty Monday morning he was early as usual.  Chief McConnike was there waiting for him in the parking lot behind the station and beckoned him into his car.  For the next twenty minutes the two men went over all the reports the incident commander Desoto had filled out and a rough draft of what was expected to happen that morning.  When Chief McConnike shuffled through all the papers they had finished discussing and started with one a second time Hank knew what was really going on.

“A, Chief, Sir, It’s fine with me if we talk about your grandchildren until who ever they are, have the station ready for us.”

“That obvious am I?” the Chief gave a sheepish grin.

“Let’s just say, I think we would all be a little disappointed if there wasn’t some kind of a welcome back.  I just hope no one goes too far with it.”

“You are a good Captain,” McConnike admitted, “Your suggestion of including the children from the hospital is a real nice touch.”

“The letters and the pictures they sent to us the day after really cheered us up when we felt our worst.” Cap revealed with a smile. “If you had seen the look on my men’s faces when they were visiting with the children after they had their eyes bandaged, you’d have thought of it too.”

One by one the crew of station 51 A shift started arriving in the bay.  Not surprisingly all of them were in Uniform ready to go to work or at least looking like it in the case of Chet and Marco. 

They knew the media was going to be there and none of them wanted to be caught on TV in their underwear.  Captain Stanley helped the Chief keep them from entering the building before the okay was given.

As the men started to look a little antsy Hank ordered Roll Call line up, in the parking lot while Chief McConnike ran inside to give everyone a five minute warning.

When the rear bay door began to rise Hank did an about face putting his back to his men and facing what the open bay was about to offer. “Alright men here we go, follow me.”

With Captain Stanley in the lead and the rest of the men lined up behind him they all walked into the bay.  For some this was the first time they had been there since the fumigation and they were pleasantly surprised by the smells they could detect and the one they couldn’t. 

Once everyone was inside confetti cannons fired followed by a shout of welcome home.  Once their eyes adjusted to the light and were sure there was no more confetti falling the men smiled for the cameras and an expert on smells, Chief McConnike’s mother-in-law, stepped forward to inspect each man.  They were all given a B+ for smell factor and declared ready to unleash on the public.

As the media filmed them inspecting their equipment the men noticed that the cabs of both the squad and the engine were stuffed with stuffed animals and further inspection found several stuffed animals hiding in most of the compartments.

Once Chet and Marco loudly announced that they were not going to pull the ones out of the draft hose, Chief McConnike stepped up and gave instructions on the new policy for checking the inside of the draft hose.

“Alright men this is how the draft hoses will be inspected from now on.” He barked like a drill instructor. “Avoid the ends at all times, step up to the side and two men working together will unlatch the hose, after tipping it on its end and giving a good shake.”  Mike and Johnny were going through the motions as the Chief was calling them out and when they tipped the hose on its end several stuffed Skunks slipped out of the hose and bounced on the floor.

“Once you have given the hose a good shake and feel certain that it is empty then and only then should you look inside to see if all is clear.” The chief ended with laughs and giggles all around him as the crowd began to applaud.

Chet and Marco demonstrated the new procedure on the second hose producing several more stuffed skunks but there were also a couple of teddy bears in that hose.

Once the draft hoses were again latched onto the fire engine Captain Hank Stanley was official declared in charge of the station and he started barking out orders.

“All right men let’s get those stuffed animals unloaded from the vehicles and into bags.  We’ll be taking them with us.”

All of the firemen including Rollins and Carrington, Chet and Marco’s replacements, hurried to make quick work of readying the engine and squad for service.  The stuffed animals were stuffed into garbage bags and tied down on top of the hose then more orders came.  “Kelly, Lopez, your in the seats, Carrington, Rollins, Gage and Desoto your on the tailboard. Let’s move it out.”

The men hurried into their assigned positions and Mike drove the engine to Rampart with a convoy of news crews and a Chiefs car following behind.

Once the fire engine was parked each man on board was given an arm load of stuffed animals and a pocket full of printed coupons, good for a full tour of any fire station of their choice.  From there they walked inside as a group and rode the elevator up to pediatrics.  The charge nurse was ready for them when they stepped off the elevator and each fireman was directed into rooms where they were able to visit with the children there and leave each child with a stuffed animal and a coupon. 

When they had visited every child that couldn’t get out of bed they were all led to a waiting room where several children who could be moved were waiting in wheel chairs. 

Each fireman pulse a few nurses took control of a wheel chair and moved toward the elevators.  It took several trips but then all of the children who were able to, were lifted onto the fire engine. 

Three children who had suppressed immune systems were crammed into the cab with Mike and a nurse while Chet and Marco were strapped into their seats with two kids each on their laps.   The rest of the children and nurses were then lifted up on top of the hose bed. The rest of the firemen including Captain Stanley and Chief McConnike then climbed up in the hoses and helped to hold each of the children, Johnny helped hold a nurse too. 

Each child was given a stuffed animal but no coupons, they had to do something to at least make if feel fare for all those who couldn’t ride on the engine this time.

Mike then took all of the children for a nice slow ride around the parking lot, at five miles per hour, with media cameras rolling.  When they were at the far end of the parking lot Mike let the children in the cab take turns sounding the air horn and the sirens and then asked them to be quiet again when they got close to the hospital again telling them that they didn’t want to wake up the sick patients.

It was far too soon for the children when Mike pulled the fire engine to a stop in front of the hospital once again and while Hank was pushed in front of several microphones to explain in front of news cameras why they gave the children a ride, the rest of the firemen started lifting the children back down from the engine and into their waiting wheel chairs. 

When the children were unloaded and wheeled inside the hospital Hank pulled his handy talkie off from his belt and as the media recorded put the fire station back in service.  It had been prearranged with dispatch that that meant in five minutes, giving the engine time to get back to the station and unload the paramedics to run the squad and the not yet released for duty firemen to go home and get some rest.

Half of the media crews stayed to interview the children while the other half followed the engine back to the station to interview the firemen.

At last but not nearly soon enough for the men the media circus was brought to an end when the station was called out on a traffic accident with injuries.

Chief McConnike mercifully remained behind to help Marco and Chet make their escape from the media with their mothers and answered a few more questions before assisting the Public Relations manager in escorting the reporters and camera men on their way and locking the doors behind them.

As he did so he kept an ear trained on the radio transmissions from engine 51 to make sure all was well.

The accident had involved three cars, one had changed lanes too abruptly clipping another car and causing the axel to break. The second car had then spun out of control and ended up smashing into the driver’s side of the car in the next lane.

The occupants of the first two cars were uninjured just terrible shook up and furious with each other over the damage done to their cars.  It was definitely good that the police had arrived at the same time as the squad.

The third car needed help. The woman driving had hit her head on the drivers side door on impact and was unconscious as a set of six month old twins were strapped into car seats in the back screaming.

Johnny managed to get the passenger door opened and climbed in to do evaluations on the occupants of the car.   The car seats had broken loose from their restraints and were turned upside down but the children remained safely strapped inside the child seats so that all Johnny could find in a hurry was a few bruises.  Both car seats were lifted out with the children still in them and handed to Roy and one of the police officers on site while Cap worked with the crow bar to get the driver side door open.

Once Roy had given the children a good checking over they were placed in Mike’s care while Roy helped Johnny with their mother. Together with the help of the sub firefighters they managed to get their patient on a back board and laid out on the pavement before she began to regain consciousness. 

Once she realized what was happening her one and only concern was for her children and neither John nor Roy were able to calm her down until she was loaded in the ambulance and was able to see for herself that her two small children were indeed okay.  Both infants were still in their car seats and totally mesmerized with a stuffed animal in their hands. 

Johnny was quick to notice that the little dog had a small close pin on his nose so Johnny quickly removed it before the baby could get it in its mouth.  The mother somehow managed to turn her head enough to see that the other baby was holding a skunk and after a moment of confusion she asked, “Are you one of the firemen who were attacked by the skunks last week?”

“Yes ma’am, this is our first day back on duty,” Johnny assumed she was smelling his unpopular aftershave.

“That’s surprising, I can’t smell skunk on you at all, I thought it would take a lot longer to get you guys descented.” She then opened her eye’s wide and turned pink in a hurry.  “I’m sorry, that wasn’t a very nice thing to say.”

“Ma’am, that’s the nicest thing you could have said.  For the most part we haven’t been able to smell skunk since thirty seconds after we got hit and most people are too polite to tell us anything,”  Johnny gave a crooked smile.


For the next several weeks the fire fighters from Station 51 were the public’s favorites even if they weren’t on the shift that got fumigated.  They were the station who was handing out stuffed animals to all of the children they rescued.  The PR was so positive several volunteer groups were providing other stations with homemade stuffed animals so they could do the same.  Some one determined it helped the children deal with the stress of the crisis.

It took a good two weeks for Chet and Marco to produce chest x-rays clear enough to be cleared to fight fires but it was good to get them back on duty. Their family was whole once again.  It was their second shift back when the men were called out on a structure fire in the middle of the night.

As they pulled onto the scene they could see a hay stack on fire but while the rancher was waiting for the fire department to arrive he started up his tractor and started pushing the part of the stack on fire away from the chicken coop and barn.

That was a good move but he wasn’t fast enough to keep the chicken coop from catching sparks so Chet and Marco were ordered to take in a two and a half hose to extinguish it.

Things were getting under control quickly when Hank heard what sounded like high powered water jets hitting the unaffected side of the chicken coop at the same time Mike reported a pressure jump on Kelly and Lopez’s line. 

Hank quickly looked in that direction only to see something coming out of the opening meant for the chickens to come and go through.  It was large, black with white stripes and soaking wet, shaking water from its fur as it ran away from the action followed by three smaller versions.

Johnny and Roy were aware that something wasn’t right and looked to their captain just in case he had orders for them.  The look on his face was one of shock, his eyes wide, his mouth just as wide and his hand at the side of his face looking at the chicken coop.

The two paramedics followed their leaders gaze and managed to get a solid glimpse of the retreating wild life.  Their expressions soon matched their leaders.  Chet and Marco then backed out of the coop door keeping their hose at the ready.

Hank and his paramedics cautiously approached their team mates and when they met half way between the coop and the fire engine Chet and Marco shut their hose off and turned to face their leader.

Cautiously Hank took a breath and then stopped in surprise, “You don’t smell like you got skunked.”

“We tried a slightly different approach this time,” Marco commented.

“Yeah,” Chet added, “When we saw them turning their back sides to us we sprayed first.” Chet then patted his hose nozzle and slid it downward against his leg as if he were holstering a gun.

It took a moment for everyone to catch their breath or rather dare to breath but then they started laughing.

“I guess we can say you’re the quickest spray of the west Kelly,”

“Not to mention better smelling spray,” Johnny added and they all gave out a sigh, a laugh and went back to work. There was still a fire to get out.


The end


Author’s Notes: I told you in the beginning that this stuff can really happen.  It usually happens to dogs that dig their way into the skunk’s dens. But Humans are just as susceptible.  It only takes one drop of skunk spray to fumigate the average home but the actual spray if it touches skin, is inhaled or ingested is toxic.

 To all of those who commented about the euthanizing of the young skunks; it was not something I read but something I’ve learned from both of my sisters who work with Animal rescue associations and Animal control.  The most honest answer I’ve heard as to why, is that some animals such as rats, skunks and Raccoons are such prolific reproducers, prone to diseases and don’t contribute positively, they are considered nuisance animals and are automatically euthanized.  Most agencies sight the high rate of rabies found in these species and the fact that it is too hard to tell a healthy animal from a diseased one until it is too late. Not all agencies do it on the scene but some do, most would rather not take the smell of skunks back to the office area.  I don’t always agree with this practice but I do know that it is a practice.  Just as a form of what I call nickel knowledge,  once a skunk sprays it takes ten days to manufacture enough more spray to fill their pouches. So the fear of getting sprayed again does not play into the decision to euthanize the skunks on sight.

As far as cleaning with tomato Juice I offer a copy of this piece of my research: 

Why tomato juice is believed to eliminate skunk odor. Bathing an animal in tomato juice seems to work because at high doses of skunk spray the human nose quits smelling the odor (olfactory fatigue). When this happens, the odor of tomato juice can easily be detected. A person suffering olfactory fatigue to skunk spray will swear that the skunk odor is gone and was neutralized by the tomato juice. Another person coming on the scene at this point will readily confirm that the skunk spray has not been neutralized by the tomato juice.

The recommended way to deal with the skunk smell is:

Bathe in a mixture of 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide (from drug store), 1/4 cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and a teaspoon of liquid detergent. After 5 minutes rinse with water, Repeat if necessary. The mixture must be used after mixing and will not work if it is stored for any length of time. DO NOT STORE IN A CLOSED CONTAINER - it releases oxygen gas so it could break the container. This mixture may bleach the pet's hair. I have heard of one black Labrador retriever that was chocolate colored after this treatment. (Paul Krebaum's Recipe from Chemical & Engineering News , October 18, 1993, p. 90).

Other research claims that although this is the best method it is still only moderately successful and does tend to lighten the hair, be it on man or beast.

I found a lot of this information very interesting myself which is why I started a story on it.  I will note that most skunk attacks are in open air or sprayed around ankle level this would be a totally different scenario than getting sprayed directly in the face at point blank range and being sprayed by multiple animals.  Which by the way, skunks stay together in litters until they’re about a year in age and they love to find shelter in pipes and hollow logs.  If you see a yellow mist or smoke like substance coming from a hole in the ground or cave it’s best to stay clear, a visible mist is concentrated enough to cause problems.Just in case anyone is interested.


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