“I did it, I did it!”
Little Johnnie pulled on his mother’s skirt to get her attention and she sighed in resignation.
“Yes, I know dear, you’ve been telling me that all afternoon!”
Susan Wright was struggling with the cake mixer blades jammed at a most inopportune time. The pie mix was only half done and there were items in the oven needing her to check on. Tomorrow was Thanksgiving and the sister who lived in town who’d offered to help get things organized for the extended family gathering had sprained her ankle and was at the medical centre getting it attended to.
The skirt pulling continued and Susan’s irritation began to rise.
“Johnnie why don’t you go to your room and read your fire engine book. It will help you remember what happened better and we can talk about it at bedtime.”
Then as a whispered aside to herself as she snapped the blades into place again nodding her head when the machine responded.
“Give me a little peace Johnny, enough already!”
Susan felt better now the machine was working properly. She knelt and hugged her son who was looking crestfallen. His Mom didn’t want to hear his story? But the hug reassured him, and he laughed and clapped his hands.
“I’m going to go to my room and read my fire engine book Mom!”
He scampered off down the corridor to his room while the dog leaped up and barked looking warily around the room to see what had caused John’s sudden exit. It followed him down the corridor sniffing the air for danger then relaxed turned in circles several times and flopped on the floor to resume sleeping.
Susan smiled as she remembered the excitement of the morning. She’d been initially angry at her husband when the story began unfolding. It could have been a disaster! After an initial scalding of her husband Tom, and being reassured all ended well the humour of it clicked in and she joined a relieved Tom in a good belly laugh.
Susan was smiling at the memory of Tom’s reaction. He normally gave a wide berth when Sue and her sister Alice were working on the big family Thanksgiving project and her frustration at her sister’s accident when she was needed added to the initial angry torrent when told of Johnny’s big adventure. Tom had been ready to slink off with his tail between his legs when he heard Sue’s musical laugh behind him. That was the sound of forgiveness and to encourage that change of mood he laughed tentatively at first to make sure it was OK then loudly when he saw Sue had forgiven him.
She remembered reaching out to him. She couldn’t stay upset with this man. She loved him with a passion, but he needed to be more careful. Johnny was her life, anything that happened to hurt him would drive a knife deep into her heart. She’d hugged her Tom then shooed him off. He had to be back to work at the county office where he was sheriff.
It was quite a story and she reconstructed it in her mind.
Tom had a few days off for Thanksgiving, but a town sheriff never rests so Tom was alternating between home and town on his day off. His cell phone sent up an occasional trill of excitement and his hip wireless device narrated a torrent of activity as he monitored the rhythm of the town. He was in touch with the movers and shakers of town monitoring services to be ready when needed. He was the Mayor’s ears and eyes and had been re-elected by a grateful community. He’d casually remarked he was going to stop by the fire station to talk with the guys there. They were all buddies from school days in this close-knit community.
And Susan looking for an opportunity to engage Johnny while she single-headedly managed the preparations for the extended family celebration first quizzed Tom, then learning there were no dangerous events to divert Tom suggested he take Johnny with him to visit the fire station.
Tom was thrilled at the suggestion, and hurried down to Johnny’s room to tell him the good news and see he was dressed appropriately. They were soon on their way with Johnny chatting excitedly. He was obsessed with fire engines and informed his parents each day someday he’d be a fireman.
Tom greeted his friend Andy on the way in to check with the fire chief and Johnny pulled on his leg. “Can I stay with Andy while He checks the engine?”
Tom looked at Andy and his friend smiled broadly. “Why sure little fireman, you can help me check things as long as you don’t get in the way and mind what I tell you!”
Johnny clapped his hands and nodded excitedly. Andy was a regular in the Wright home and treated Johnny like his own son. And things did work out for five minutes, then while Andy was temporarily diverted while keeping up a running conversation with the boy he became aware of a sudden silence and looked around in surprise. He called Johnny’s name over and over looking around and in the rig then shouted out to Tom asking if the boy was with him. Tom came running and they both repeated their search alerting other men to search for him to.
It was at that fateful moment the fire siren sounded and men came sliding down the brass pole in response. There was a major fire in town that needed their urgent attention and the rigs were mobilized while the search continued. But Johnnie was nowhere to be found. The men looked at Tom and shook their heads. Their primary responsibility was fire rescue not finding a lost boy and they sped on their way after a quick search.
Tom was beside himself as he watched the rigs depart while remaining staff repeated their thorough search of the building. He was torn. He felt the responsibility of following to the fire to help control a usual curious crowd even though it was other’s responsibility on his holiday but his heart was almost breaking as the boy continued to elude them.
Meanwhile an incredulous Andy saw a familiar image appear in the rear mirror from behind his seat rubbing his eyes and draped with a canvas covering he’d fallen asleep under. A torrent of angry words from Andy arrested the increasing excitement of the boy and he began to cry. The rest of the crew crowded into the cabin muttered their disbelief and irritation. The last thing they needed in this emergency was custody of a lost boy. One of the men grabbed the wireless microphone and thundered into it.
“Tell Tom we found his kid. He needs to get to the fire site quickly as we can’t be responsible for Johnny’s safety.”
Tom’s wireless device fed the news to him and he rushed to the patrol car and activated the siren speeding toward the building on fire. He sped through lights and arrived the same time the rigs arrived.
Andy glowered at Tom as he rushed to the cab to collect his son. “Keep him far away from the crew!” He barked the command irritably then plunged into directing the crew to roll out and attach hoses. Good it was an industrial site and not a high-rise building so ladders would not be required in the rescue.
On duty police looked on in amazement as they saw Tom retrieve his son from the fire engine.
“What in the world were you thinking Tom?” It was a chorus of disapproval and Tom felt an icy breeze from his friends. Local news media were just arriving and sensed a story heading for the sheriff and his son in the knot of police supervising the crowd. But loyalty transcends disagreement and there was no comment from any of the service men involved that day. But news hounds when they are onto a story keep probing until one by one details emerge like teeth pulled in a dentist chair.
Joan Whittaker smiled. They could go several directions with this story. Parental neglect in high places, or a lost boy who accidentally ended up being a juvenile fireman? She decided to explore the latter provided Tom cooperated with an interview in the home which he gratefully accepted.
“Just remember you owe me for this and I’ll be expecting scoops in future Tom whenever there’s a crisis!” Joan laughed mischievously.
In the meantime, Johnny had recovered from Andy’s scolding and was watching wide eyed as the firemen professionally rescued trapped people in the industrial building and put the fire out. He turned to his Dad who was recovering from the stressful experience and tugged on his shoulder inside the patrol car.
“I rode in the fire wagon Dad. I’m going to be a fireman someday”
Tom nodded his head and sighed. “Yes, you did sonny, but you should never disobey me again. We were so worried about you.”
“I didn’t mean to Dad, I lay down behind the driver’s seat and the motor noise was making me feel sleepy. Are you mad at me, are you going to tell Mom?”
“No, I’m not mad at you son, just disappointed you didn’t stay close to Andy like I told you to. I hope you learned a lesson from this as everyone is mad at your Dad because of what you did.”
Johnny hugged his Dad. “I’m sorry Dad.”
Tom sighed again, “OK let’s go and tell your Mom before she finds out about it on the news, or probably worse from Mrs Jones next door!”
And as reported in the commencement of the story there was an ominous brief silence before a torrent of accusations rained down on poor Tom’s head while Johnny held onto his father’s leg apprehensively. He’d never seen his Mom this mad before and held on tight.
But all’s well that ends well. Tom’s buddies in the fire service and police department eventually saw the humour and Tom was the cause of their mirth for months after that event. Joan Whittaker’s news story was received with good humour around town except for a small group of political rivals who attempted to make it an issue at the next election. But Tom had the goodwill of townspeople in general and easily made it through to serve the town again as sheriff.
Oh, and when Johnny grew up and went to college he changed his mind and trained to be a teacher.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2017 All rights reserved”
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