There was someone pounding on the door, the pounding grew quicker and more high pitched until the pounding turned into a screeching alarm. He heard the sirens blaring and he knew he had to get his body moving, but his hangover was making it hard for him to concentrate. He got up in a stupor and immediately felt the pain on his right leg, the pain sharpened his senses and allowed him to put his gear on with minimal fumbling. He grabbed his keys, lit a smoke and walked into the bathroom. He washed his face and looked into the mirror. Wrinkles covered his forehead and crows feet circled his eyes. His jet black hair was oily and matted and his stubble only accentuated his unkemptness. He put his cigarette down and moved for the door. He stepped out onto the driveway got into his truck and followed the flashing blue and red lights speeding past.
Five minutes and a few traffic violations later he arrived at the scene to be greeted by a blazing inferno. His station and four fire houses had already arrived. He stepped out of his truck grabbed his helmet and axe from the back of his flat bed and raced to the fire as quickly as his body would allow.
“Charlie, what do you think you’re doing here?” Bill questioned him hastily.
Bill was in his late forties and his weight was close to jeopardizing his position as Fire Chief. Bill had a wide face, beady eyes and an enormous mustache that gave him the look of a tiny walrus. Charlie wanted to laugh but the soot on Bill’s face and the tears leaving clear trails on his cheeks made him reconsider.
“Bill, what happened?” Charlie questioned.
“Its Tom.” He choked. “We lost him. One of the beams gave out and the ceiling caved in on him, we got the whole crew trying to get the body out.”
Charlie lost control, he began to run towards the burning building but Bill stopped him.
“You know I can’t let you in there, not since your injury.” Bill commanded.
“What the h-“. He restrained himself, “You can’t be serious?” Charlie pleaded.
“I’m dead serious, if you go in there you’ll do more harm than good. I understand Tom is your best friend but if you go in there you’re only going to make the situation worse. I got Wood’s and Ramirez keeping an eye out for you, so don’t try anything stupid.”
Charlie knew he wouldn’t try to sneak in, he wouldn’t try anything stupid. Maybe in his younger days when he had nothing to lose. He let out a sigh and walked back to his truck. Charlie decided he didn’t want to be there when they recovered the body. He reached for his pack of cigarettes but he had already smoked the last one. He settled for a swig of whisky instead, the bottle was hidden behind his car seat for occasions such as this. He popped the lid, cocked his head back and took a deep chug. His ex-wife Mary was the spokesperson for M.A.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) He was happy he could still do things that would annoy her despite the divorce.
As the whisky was halfway down his gullet he retched it up and tossed the bottle into some nearby bushes. His drive home was a blur and he was pulling into his driveway a few minutes later. He had barely noticed the fire rapidly consuming his home. He couldn’t help but laugh, he made his way to the curb and reflected on his life. Despite the recent problems he underwent he couldn’t help but feel happy. His house was gone, he was free. Free from the memories of a broken marriage, free from smoking, free from his little materialistic knick knacks. He called 911, sat in his pick up and slept better than he had in 5 years.