For Valentine's Day, I will play along with "A Dozen Roses Contest"
|A dark red rose symbolizes unconscious beauty.
For Day 3, write a flash fiction story (no more than 1,000 words, and please provide the word limit at the bottom of your story) about unconscious beauty.
The siren vibrated off Clark Johnson’s chest like a second heartbeat. The engine sliced through the sweltering evening air whipping across Clark’s face, and sweat ran down the small of his back under his turnout gear. He’d twisted the hair elastic at the crown of his head too tightly again, and the pulled follicles beneath his helmet felt like razor sharp barbs stabbing his skull. He should cut his damn hair. The other firefighters razzed him without mercy, addressing him “Miss Johnson” and adding “ma’am” to the end of their jeers. He had no good reason for growing his hair; he wasn’t going for a trendy look or anything. He just hadn’t cut it since Anna left him. Two years ago, she’d walked out his door and into the arms of her lover. Just like that. He’d been devastated, depressed and, over time, developed numbness to the world. His hair grew, and like his feelings for Anna, he tried hard to ignore it.
He tuned out his thoughts and listened to Captain bark the size-up of the situation.
“Working fire in the Belmont District -- old part of town, boys! Two story structure, expect fast flames. Lovell, on arrival you three-sixty the perimeter; I want to know exactly what we’re dealing with. McNeil, you wrap the plugs. Fitz and KC, you’re my line droppers. T-Bone and Johnson, stand-by for on-the-ground orders!” A round of ‘Yes’sir’ went up as the screaming engine swung around the last corner and rocked to a halt in front of a house engulfed in flames.
With the grace of practiced movements, the men jumped from the truck to their tasks. Clark, flanking Captain, had only taken a few strides from the bumper when Lovell came running towards them.
“Captain! The first floor is fully engulfed. There’s a second story west window with something hangin’ out it. I think we got a would-be jumper!”
“T-Bone, Johnson! Grab the stick – Let’s move!”
Clark pulled the top end of the ground ladder off the truck and he and T-Bone ran it after Captain to the side of the house. Synchronized, Clark maneuvered his body between the house and the ladder and heaved his end up as T-Bone positioned the base and immediately began to climb. Billows of black smoke issued from the window five feet above him. When he shouted down, his voice was high-pitched.
“Damn! It’s a baby! He’s crying – he’s ok!”
As T-Bone cut the infant carrier from the knot of sheet it dangled from, Captain shouted, “Dispatch the white taxi! We’ve got victims!” He turned to Clark. “Pack up, Johnson! Where there’s a cub, Mama Bear ain’t far away. Find her!”
Clark pulled his SCBA mask down and as T-Bone stepped off the ladder with the wailing baby in tow, Clark shot up it.
The smoke was thick but when Clark peered in the window there were no visible flames. He forced his body through, twisting his shoulders so the oxygen tank would clear the sills. Once inside, visibility was zero. Clark began a blind search, dropping to his knees and sweeping his arms in swift arcs as he moved farther in. The sheet dangling out the window was taut, and he followed it to a bed. At its foot, where the sheet was anchored to a bedpost, the back of his hand nudged a human limb.
The noxious smoke was slightly thinner down here, but still so dense Clark couldn’t see the body. It was impossible to tell if the victim was what they callously called a “crispy critter,” or still alive. His gloves moved up the body, relaying information with each touch: Woman. Unconscious. Approximately five and a half feet tall. On her back, head oriented away from the window. He shoved his arms under her back and knees, and lifted her as he stood.
Only three minutes had passed since he’d entered the room when he flung the woman over his right shoulder and backed out the window. His extensive training was paying off big-time, which was the only thought that got away from his otherwise focused mind. He shifted his center of gravity on a second by second basis, mindful of his foot on the rung, his gear clearing the window, and the location of the woman’s lolling head as he moved. He ignored the searing exhaustion of strained muscles as he descended the ladder quick as caution would allow under the weight of his burden. With only two steps to go, strong hands lifted the woman off his shoulder.
Seated on the bumper of the truck, he watched the ambulance tear around the corner and out of sight. T-Bone walked by, clapping Clark on the shoulder. “Great work up there, Miss Johnson.”
The next day, after a restless night full of dreams of babies hanging out of windows, Clark decided to visit the victims in the hospital. Outside the room, gripping a bouquet of gift shop flowers, Clark met a nurse pushing a rolling, Plexiglas crib.
“Excuse me,” Clark addressed her, peering with a smile at the sleeping baby. “I was on the scene of the fire yesterday. How’s he doing, and the mother?”
“This little guy had no injuries. His mama saved his life. She’s sedated. Suffered from smoke inhalation, but she’ll make a full recovery. You coming in?” she asked brightly as she opened the door and pulled the crib through.
Clark stepped in and his breath caught in his throat. The woman lying asleep was angelic, with a delicately angular face and full lips. Long, tawny hair framed her face with loose curls. He stood rooted to the spot; he couldn’t take his eyes off her.
The nurse put a hand on his arm as she passed, and said with a smile, “I believe she’s a single mom.”
Clark strode out of the hospital, smiling as he freed his hair from the elastic. He was pretty sure there was a barber shop on the next block.
(Word Count: 998)
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