By Mike Stevens
Dan Bourbon woke to several inches of fresh snow, which covered the frozen ground. Good, now they’d have to cancel the driving test. He needed for something to break his way. He was trying to secure a fire fighter position, but he was having nothing but trouble. He had spent fruitless hours studying, but it seemed like the longer he studied, the quicker he’d forget. He had cheated on the written test, stealing the answers and memorizing them, but there was no way to cheat on the driving test. Therefore, he was happy to see the snowfall; anything to postpone the test.
He couldn’t believe his bad luck. With snowfall, they would have to postpone the test, but by the time he had showered, ate, and finished getting ready, the sun had come shining down, and by the time he arrived at the fire station, the snow was gone.
Dan put the fire engine in 1st gear and gently eased out the clutch. Sitting beside him and judging him, was Lieutenant Phil Swope, a 15-year veteran of the fire department. Dan was very nervous, as his dreams of becoming a fire fighter rode on the outcome. When he tried to shift into 2nd, he missed the gear and the gears ground together loudly. Swope gave him a sideways look and marked something down on Dan’s score sheet. Dan started sweating.
The rest of the test had gone without further mishap. Swope looked at him and said,
“Well, I’m not supposed to tell you this, but you drove extremely well. After your missing of 2nd gear when we started I wasn’t expecting you to do so well. Now pull up in front of the station, and then back her in the bay.” Dan was ecstatic with relief the ordeal was over and proud that he had done so well. He had surp---”. He searched in a panic for the brake pedal. He couldn’t find it! Instead, he accidentally depressed the clutch, sending the transmission into neutral, and the huge fire truck careened straight past the station and plowed into a parked car. The lighter car didn’t stand a chance. It rose up on end as metal parts shot up in the air, and it crashed to earth several feet from its original parking spot. The impact with the parked car brought the behemoth fire truck to a sudden stop. Dan stared out on the destruction he’d caused with mouth agape. Both of them were so stunned by events, and neither spoke. Eventually Swope managed,
“You were doing great until that last bit. Needless to say, you’ve failed big-time! Please collect your gear, you’re done here.”
It was all over. His dream of getting hired on as a fire-fighter had disappeared like the brake pedal. Dan Bourbon walked dejectedly away from the fire station in a daze. What the hell was he going to do now? Suddenly, he remembered his keys. Damn! He had forgotten them in the locker he had been assigned. He’d have to go back in; revisiting his personal house of horrors. He wanted to get as far away from the scene of his greatest screw-up as he could, but he would need his keys.
Reluctantly, he reversed his direction and walked back towards the station. When he got there Dan walked through the open bay into the kitchen and climbed the stairs to the sleeping area which held the lockers. When he got to the top of the stairs he knocked on the door to the sleeping area. No one answered, so he swung the door open. He started across the floor to the doorway which led to the lockers, and accidentally bumped into a woman coming the opposite way.
“Oh, excuse me ma’am,” Then he did a double take. The woman who he’d run into on accident was Fire Fighter Phil Swope wearing women’s clothes!
Swope frantically said, “I’m sorry you had to see me like this! I---”
“Believe me Phil, no sorrier than I am!” Dan interrupted.
“Please, you can’t tell a soul.”
Dan started to make a smart-a** reply; then stopped. He had a golden opportunity here. “Maybe we can work a way out of this for you to benefit both of us.”
“What do you want?”
“Well, I just might be persuaded to keep my mouth shut about what I’ve just seen if there were something I wanted coming back in return, say a nice fire fighting job?”
“Hey, there’s no way I’m going to—”
“Hey everyone, you won’t believe who I saw dressed as a—”
“Shhhh, keep your voice down! Okay, if you want me to pass you on the driving test, I will, but you’ve got to agree to keep your mouth shut.”
Dan replied, “What did I see? Nothing!”
Fire Fighter Dan Bourbon settled down for what should be a nice boring night of watching T.V. He’d been hired after Phil Swope tore up his original test score and wrote,
“Applicant passed all tests, including listening to my instructions to purposely ram the passenger car in the parking lot. It shows that no matter what the commanding officer tells him to do Bourbon will do it, without questions. Highly recommend hiring of Mr. Bourbon.”
And, after Phil Swope was fired for incompetence for an unrelated matter, he had been.
So far, so good, thought Fire Fighter Dan Bourbon. He had almost made it through his first shift at the fire station. Just 5 more minutes and he’d be finished. He looked around at the others on his shift. There was Fire Fighter Dave Chord, Fire Fighter Alex Alexis, and Lieutenant Sheppard Allen. They were engrossed in watching a football game on television, which should be about over, Dan said to himself. Then he heard the announcer say,
“The field goal from 55 yards is good, and the score is now tied. We’re going to overtime!”
Damn, now he was stuck here; he had car-pooled with Dave Chord, and he wouldn’t be leaving now until the game was over.
At last the game was over; although Chord was in a crappy mood because he’d lost $20 on the outcome.
“Come on Dave, I really need to get home,” Dan said.”
“Okay, keep your pants on!” came his gruff reply.
They were walking to the door when a loud buzzing sounded and the fire department radio screamed,
“This is Fire Control to Engines 2,3,88, and Attack Trucks 3, 7, and 66. You have a fully-involved structure fire at the Stumps Blasting Cap Warehouse, address is 5555 Main; repeat, Engines 2, 3, 88, and Attack Trucks 3, 7, and 66, please respond to structure fire at the Stumps Blasting Cap Warehouse, address is 5555 Main. Time of call, 1750 hours”
Panic set in for Dan Bourbon. He hadn’t given enough thought to actually responding to a real emergency. Maybe he could pretend he didn’t hear; after all, he was off duty. Just then he heard Sheppard Allen’s booming voice,
“That’s everybody; come on!”
Great; now he had no choice but to go. He reluctantly pulled on his bunker clothes and jumped onto the tailboard of Engine 3, the engine housed at his station.
In his seat aboard the engine, Dan was absolutely terrified. He had no clue of what to do. It was hitting him hard now that he hadn’t thought this thing through. He wished he’d actually studied the answers to the test he had stolen. He thought over his reasons for wanting a fire fighting job. In his mind, he’d pictured nothing but parties and big paychecks, not actually going towards danger. Every instinct he had would tell him to do the opposite.