6 lb helmet, 25 lb Bunker gear, 25 lb air pack, 5 lb boots, 8 lb ax, don't forget a fucking flashlight, then grab the trifold pre-connect, throw it over your right shoulder, dig in your feet and pull towards the house until the first coupling drops then head for front door. Take off your helmet, put on your mask, pull the hood down just far enough so you can see, put on your helmet, and stop wasting time fucking with your gloves, go flake the hose.
Signal for water, try to squeeze into your gloves. As the water builds up in the hose, open the nozzle, bleed out the air and adjust your pattern, remember: strait stream first, power cone if needed, and fog if your fucked.
Your officer walks around the residence, other trucks start to arrive. You open your bottle all the way, connect the regulator and start breathing. Windows are breaking from the pressure inside. Your radio opens up. Single story residence, all occupants out, room and contents only, fire appears to be contained to two bedrooms on the charlie delta corner and delta side.
A chain saw starts up. The black smoke coming from inside ignites as it reaches the front door, lighting up the front lawn, yellow and orange, inviting you to come inside.
A tap on your shoulder, you enter the structure through the front door the residents left open. Your officer behind you, another firefighter a few feet back helping with the hose, you hit the smoke and flames above. The flames retreat. The black smoke takes a deep breath and comes back, faster, hotter.
The radio opens up again. Battalion takes over command, another voice, water supply established, another voice, truck-one on the roof par 4, another voice, truck-five power supply cut, you start breathing faster, your officer taps you on the shoulder, you can only see the reflective material on his suit. His muffled voice, keep going, hit the ceiling, your heart rate is going faster, the motherfucker lights up again, come get me.
You push harder, everything your wearing just got heavier. You hit the crap above you and everything goes black again. A voice comes over the radio, vent hole cut, the smoke lifts and you can see again.
Gil stopped there and looked, looked up at the panel. Dr. Kingley tapped her pencil, leaning back in her chair, chin slightly cocked. She new he was lying.
Chairs, paper plates, piles of trash and blackened clothes littered the hallway. You can kneel now, the heat no longer stinging the back of your neck, the orange glow of the human oven at the end of the hall sending fingers of flames to the ceiling...
Thank you Mr. Duran. I think we've heard enough. Please have a seat outside.
He'd lied about it before, rehearsed his expressions, it was truth to him. Professor Valles stepped outside moments later, sat across from him in the hallway, hardwood floors and a hot late evening yellow light moving up the walls. Her arms crossed.
She believed him. She knew he could write. She didn't want to believe anything else. A door at the cool blue end of the hallway opened, a jangle of keys, locked, the tap of heels getting softer and disappearing. He stared at her bare knees and black three inch heels. She caught him staring.
This shouldn't be taking this long.
His gaze moved up, short cropped boyish haircut, green eyes, I don't see what else they could ask me, he responded.
He'd found the story along with others in volumes of binders his father had kept in the dusty cabin where the two hunters had found his decomposed body the week after his high school graduation. The autopsy said cancer. Coyotes had been inside eating whatever the cancer hadn't. One year ago next month.
The door opened. Mr Duran, could you please come inside.
Mr. Duran, we know that you didn't write this essay. She kept talking, Gilbert swallowed, he forgot he was standing.
March, 1992, University Press, Fire and other Ruminations, a collection of short stories written by Joseph Cruz. I used to use this book, along with others, in my intro to creative writing course almost 15 years ago. I don't know the whereabouts of personal lives of authors but I do know the book did not do very well and wasn't in circulation for very long.
Oh shit, dad was an author. He knew he was a firefighter. He knew mom had left him when he was 5. She left two others after him for pettier reasons. He knew he loved old cars and painting naked women. He knew he was depressed and mom was too perfect of a person to stay with a depressed person. He knew he loved jazz and living in the forest.
Your professor vouched for your integrity. You owe her an apology. The University has decided not to expel you.
Oh thank god
However, the fate of your academic scholarship will be handled by the school.
Do you have any questions?
What could he ask them? What fucking time is it? How can I gain access to the bell tower so can start shooting people? What do I tell my professor? They'll tell her. They'll do me right and tell her how I took it like a man and was respectful. They'll tell her that I was smart enough to use an obscure book my father wrote years ago and I'm a prodigy because I'm related to an author. No one knows he was my father. Should I say anything. I'm hungry. I've been here for far too long.
Thank you for your time. Thank you for being lenient. Have a good weekend.
Gilbert, Gilbert we gotta go! Mom was downstairs waiting for him. The car was running. Her boyfriend would've come but he had to go home, probably to the wife he keep lying to mom about. The ride was a 10 hours, she said he'd been out there when he was little but can't remember. New Mexico was beautiful he was told.
They'd spend the next three days at his dad's cabin, cleaning, preparing it for the next drunk. Take what you want but don't take more than you can carry, we still have to go meet Roland in Santa Fe on Friday.
His office was well organized, not what he was expecting. File cabinets were neat and alphabetized, book shelves were separated into genres, trash bin was empty, recycling bin full of shredded paper, even the snuff in one of the drawers was neatly stacked. He stuffed a few in his pocket for the long drive, sat in his office chair and stared out the wall sized window at the canyon below, the cliffs that went on into the horizon, and blue turquoise sky.
The next day they emptied out the house, took what they needed and disappeared from that place forever.