Today’s blog takes us to the fictional location of Mount Bloom Fire Station, where I’m interviewing a handful of my central characters. It occurs to me, belatedly, that these folks often take a backseat to my narcs, Rush and Bobby, so I’m hoping today to rectify that, and to provide my readers with a fuller glimpse of this crew – essentially, who they are and what they do.
“Most memorable call?” Chief Cotton lounges in the doorway with a coffee mug cradled in his big hand, brown curls on end and a sardonic smile quirking his lips. “Hey guys, c’mere! The nice writer lady wants to know about our most memorable call.”
“The five kids in the rollover.” Jess Cantwell offers in his unabashed fashion. He is the baby of this bunch, at twenty-two, and the only guy with an earring – big gaudy diamond in his left earlobe. His sandy hair is buzzed short, but he lets a stripe down the middle grow to an inch and a half Mohawk.
Cotton is frowning at him. “Ugly call,” he says briefly. “Entrapment, sleet, Life Flight couldn’t get to us. We did what we could do.”
It takes a moment for me to understand there will be no further embellishment, and in that time, Cantwell has moved off to the doorway, where he lights a Marlboro and lets the smoke drift up around his face.
“Downtown fire,” Allen Burwell speaks into the quiet. “Coupla’ kids lit up the old Laundromat. Connected roofs downtown, shared basements, hard wind out of the north.”
“Ten freakin’ degrees below zero,” Cotton elaborates. “Pump froze up, street was a skating rink. Quill broke his ankle.”
“We were frozen in our gear,” Cantwell says. “Like icemen. We couldn’t unbuckle. The newspaper man took pictures of us.” He holds his arms out stiffly and laughs. “I frostbit two fingers.”
“We lost three buildings.” Burwell runs a hand over the bald dome of his head. “Finally brought a bulldozer in and took out the fourth. Stopped it right there.”
“My ex lived in the upstairs of the building we took out,” Cotton chuckles. “Which pretty much put a cap on the whole mess.”
Nic Thomas wanders in from living quarters with a coffee and a bag of Oreos clutched to her chest. Mount Bloom ’s only female, she is short, and blonde and sturdy in the way of a small athlete. “What about the time me and Jess dropped Albert Logan?”
“Criminy, Thomas, confidentiality.” Cotton pokes her with an index finger, snatches the cookies and scowls at me. “You didn’t hear that name.”
Nic is undaunted. “Grouchiest patient ever,” she says around a mouthful of cream filling. “Frequent flier. He could never talk to us, not one word. Hated the hell out of us. The wife always called, and we’d load him up, not knowing if it was chest pain, stomach, whatever. All the way to Sorrows, we get nothing, not a word.”
“So one day,” Cantwell picks up the thread. “We get a call just like all the others, but when we pull the cot out of the rig at the hospital, it gives. Just freakin’ collapses, and Albert’s on the ground. Thumped the piss out of him.”
“He spoke!” Nic is laughing now. “He said, ‘Ah God, you’re killing me!’ That was it. Never heard him speak again.”
“Dead now anyhow,” Burwell says, and his bright eyes settle on Nic for a moment.
“Her and Quill had a good call last week,” Cotton rallies. “Big guy, full arrest. I’ll never know how they got him into the rig, must’ve weighed four-fifty. He’s still alive. Got him in ICU, but he’s not gone yet.”
“It was a nice save,” Burwell acknowledges, and Nic grins.
“The little boy who fell through the ice,” Cantwell pitches his cigarette outside, and the group grimaces as one.
“Jesus, enough gloom and doom,” Cotton says. “That’s it. We gotta’ do rig checks.”
They are gone – trailing laughter and Folgers scent behind them into the bay - while Cotton’s order is still resonating.
I love these guys.
I love these guys.