How To Tame A Wild Fireman(4)

By: Jennifer Bernard


“There’s gotta be more words,” Patrick yelled.

But Vader apparently now remembered why he was blocking the excavator like some tree-hugging protester. “Captain wants to know what the fuck you’re doing!”

“Tell him don’t worry about it. He’s going to love this.”

“He said to find out what’s going on. Right now it pretty much looks like you’re digging up the backyard.”

“Shhh.” Since his shushing was hard to hear over the sound of the engine, Patrick put a finger to his lips to emphasize his point. “Don’t tell anyone.”

Vader gazed skeptically at the dent Patrick had already made in the lawn. “I think they’re gonna notice.”

“It’s okay, ’ts okay,” Patrick reassured him. “Everyone’s gonna love this. Big hero, that’s me. I figure we’ll name it after me.”

“Name what after you? The grave Captain Brody’s going to bury you in?”

Patrick cracked up at that, bending over the controls, shaking with big heaves of laughter. “No,” he gasped, when he finally got his breath back. “The Psycho Memorial Swimming Pool and Hot Tub. You’re welcome.”

The next morning Patrick stood in an at ease posture before an extremely serious Captain Brody. “At ease” didn’t describe his mood one bit, but it was better than at attention. “At attention” would be hard to manage with a hangover this bad.

“If,” said Brody, “and it’s a big if, we decided the station ought to have a hot tub in the backyard, funds would have to be appropriated, bids submitted, contractors hired, so on and so forth.”

Patrick nodded. It hurt. He didn’t show it, of course. He prided himself on his ability to withstand pain.

“Of course, some might argue with the need for a hot tub, considering our current heat wave.”

“It was supposed to be both,” muttered Patrick, knowing it was the wrong direction to take.

“Excuse me?”

Patrick gritted his teeth. For all his faults, no one had ever accused him of lacking balls. “Both a swimming pool on hot days and a hot tub on cool days.”

“Very ingenious.” Captain Brody bared his teeth.

Patrick inclined his head. One didn’t pass up a compliment from the captain even if it was sarcastically delivered. He decided to take the reins of this conversation—or at least attempt to. It had never worked with Brody in the past. Patrick didn’t give a crap about most people’s judgments, but the captain was different. It genuinely bothered him that Captain Brody didn’t have a high opinion of him.

And this latest episode obviously hadn’t helped anything.

“I’m very sorry for my actions, Captain Brody,” he said stiffly. “They were very wrong. I’ve already apologized to Perini Construction for the temporary use of their excavator. I’ve replanted the sod I dug up. You have to water it every few hours, which I’ve been doing.”

“I noticed. We now have one lone patch of green on our lawn.”

“If you want, I can resod the rest of the yard.” He decided to reach even further into humility. “After all, station beautification was my original goal.”

Brody’s head snapped up, and Patrick knew he’d misstepped. Brody despised bullshit.

“I thought of that, but it’s too easy. I have a better idea.” Brody reached into the wastebasket, pulled out the morning paper, and plopped it on his desk.

Patrick stared at it. “You want me to write a letter to the editor? Apologize in writing?”

Brody glared at him. “The Waller Canyon Wildfire. Heard of it?”

Patrick looked again at the big color photo on the front page. It showed an SEAT—a single engine air tanker—dropping retardant on a forest of flaming trees. He swallowed hard. “Yes. I’ve heard of it.” It was impossible to ignore, with Channel Six doing twenty-four-hour coverage of the massive and growing fire that was eating its way across bone-dry southwest hillsides. He’d been tracking its every move since it reached Nevada.

“Three states are now involved. Nearly four thousand firefighters are on the scene. They probably have room for one more.”

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