(This blog is part of a book that I’ve said I was going to write for the past four years, tentatively titled “My Dad’s Badge”. So, if years from now you’re reading any of these words in some other form of ramblings – a book, a magazine, or written in crayon on the walls of an insane asylum… don’t complain. This is also a letter to the boys of Station 2, minus the words that would only make sense to them.)
She was wrapped in a blanket and lying on the ground. The first thing I noticed was the church parking lot, full, the service not yet concluded. The call came in during lunch, but that’s okay because it was the first one of the day. She was wrapped in a blanket and lying on the ground, nose broken and face bloodied to all hell. She hadn’t been beaten unrecognizable, but only because the swelling hadn’t started.
She was 18.
He was her boyfriend.
The reasons? There are no reasons and you know it.
Her shoes were gone and her legs were covered in small insignificant scrapes, most of them bleeding. The real problem was her nose, because it was in a dozen pieces and she was having trouble breathing.
She gave the police a fake name.
She refused to go to the hospital, or press charges, or stop the cycle of re-occurring violence.
What little we could do for her on a Sunday afternoon in the shadows of Legion Field was not enough. She needed serious medical attention.
In the middle of having that explained to her, she stood up and ran off.
For the past year I’ve put in transfer request after transfer request to get to 14. I begged and pleaded to anyone with “pull” that would listen.
Well I’m here now.
“I hope you’re not disappointed, Cowgill. We’ve already killed everyone off and burned everything down,” said my lieutenant on day one. 24 hours later my head was filled with memories of chaos and tragedy.
A biker gang surrounded one of their own that’d crashed hard. They made sure to empty his pockets before the hospital ride. A gun, two knives, and brass knuckles.
A hooker ran across four lanes of busy traffic, blood streaming from her head, to tell us she’s fine and that the warrant on her record would land her in jail, not the hospital.
A woman, in a fit of jealous rage, blows up her boyfriend’s car. Molotov cocktail.
The reasons? They have theirs.
Day five. 1:00 AM.
We were wrapping up on a harmless medical call when the fire call came in. Our driver missed his turn and put us at the back of the house, but that worked out perfectly. The rear of the house was lighting up the sky. I was out of the engine before it stopped, nozzle in hand. Two hours later I was a mess. Face black, nose running, soaking wet filthy.
I couldn’t stop smiling and you know it.
He was wrapped in a hotel bed sheet and laying against a hotel door. We were watching Scarface when the call came in, but that’s okay because I’ve seen it a million times. The first thing I noticed was the blood; the blood emptying out of him from various wounds, soaking the white bed sheet and pooling on the walkway. He was wrapped in a hotel bed sheet and laying against the door to Room 6, half a dozen bullet holes in his stomach and both arms. He clutched the worst wound over a punctured artery. When he uncovered it blood sprayed wildly. The door to Room 6 opened and a man carried out his five-year-old son, pulling his face tight to his chest. Prevent him from seeing. He stepped over the injured man and his blood and disappeared into the black, keeping his son safe, if for just one more night…
Ask me on my deathbed and I’ll remember that father protecting his son.
When word of my transfer came down the pipeline everyone warned me about 14. 14 is a rundown disaster of a station, infested with rats and roaches. The neighborhood is unappreciative and will label you the enemy. Just like cops.
Well I hate roaches, and I’m deathly afraid of rats.
But I belong at 14. I belong in the middle of chaos and tragedy, a rundown firehouse in a bad neighborhood. I often joke that I should never work at a station my wife isn’t afraid to visit.
The reasons? I have my reasons.
“And in this unstable arena of what’s left or become of my America, I’m asking for this dance so come take my hand…” – Gaslight Anthem