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    Timothy M.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

The fire extinguisher - 1. Friendly fire

We all like to dream of a hot, ginger firefighter, right? But it’s not so easy to act on those dreams.

Dean was woken by something tapping and pushing on his left arm. As he surfaced from an alcohol-induced slumber he smelled something burning. Forcing heavy eyes to open he saw the cigarette had dropped from his right hand and was smoldering on an old magazine occupying the floor. A dark patch was spreading across the perfect abs of the model on the front page, and as Dean watched, trying to get his act together, the first small flame appeared.

”Fire and smoke! Do something, you idiot!”

The wheezy shout from his left side made Dean jump but when he turned around, no one was there. However, at the welcome sight of the fire extinguisher next to him he quickly forgot the strange voice – which could possibly have been his own brain trying to get his attention. Grabbing the handy savior out of need he quickly directed a blast at the growing fire.

“Yaaahh,” he yelled in part fright and part relief, and for a moment it seemed the wheezy voice from before echoed his cry along with the whoosh of the fire extinguisher.

“Jesus, that was close.” Dean fell back in the chair he’d fallen asleep in, cradling the fire extinguisher against his chest. “Lucky I woke up before the fire really started, and that you were right there next to me, my friend.” He patted the red canister with mock affection, but frowned when it occurred to him the fire extinguisher normally hung in the kitchen. Why was it standing next to his chair?

“Luck had nothing to do with it, you moron.”

This time the hoarse voice was right next to his ear and there was no doubt where it came from. Dean turned his head to stare at the fire extinguisher and he had the distinct impression it glared back at him.

“Wha…wha…what?” he stammered, trying to tell himself he was dreaming, but no such luck.

“I’m fed up with your dangerous habit of falling asleep with a lit cigarette in your hand. Have you any idea how many times I’ve put it out in order to prevent what almost happened here?”

“You…you’re talking. That’s impossible.” Dean shook his head. “I shouldn’t have finished that damned bottle of whisky.”

“Yeah, that’s another bad habit of yours, drinking too much. It’s a toss-up what’ll kill you first, a diseased liver or a fire. But at least the first choice doesn’t put others in danger.”

Dean flushed as he considered what his father, the local fire chief, would say if he knew his son had put himself and a whole apartment complex in peril by smoking. It was probably the only thing which might be worse in his dad’s eyes than having a gay son.

“Why can you talk?” Perhaps if there was a rational explanation, Dean would feel less freaked out by the whole situation.

“Maybe those who put me here finally realized it was the only way they could save you.”

“Are…are you spying on me for my father?” The idea was only slightly less ludicrous than a talking fire extinguisher, but it had been a gift from his parents along with smoke detectors, a fire blanket, and a rope ladder long enough to reach the ground from the fifth floor apartment.

“Dude, get a grip. Your dad may have given you this shell, but he didn’t put me in here. Make some coffee and then we’ll have a talk.”

In a daze, Dean found himself in the kitchen starting the coffee brewer, while the fire extinguisher stood on the table next to him. Drinking coffee at three in the morning wasn’t the best way to start a day off, but he did need something to fortify him, and he had the feeling the idea of a drink wouldn’t go across well.

“Why would you want to save me? I mean, apart from preventing the whole house from going up in flames.”

“Well, it’s the task I was given…as atonement.” The last words were said in a low mumble, and somehow Dean could hear the anguish. He busied himself with pouring a mug of coffee before sitting down at the other end of the table from his self-proclaimed savior.

“I guess you wanna know why I was punished?”

“If you don’t mind?”

“I was an arsonist for years and never got caught.”

There was a long awkward silence, and then Dean asked the all-important question. “Did you kill anyone?”

“Myself.”

“You killed yourself by setting a fire?”

“No, no, I didn’t want to die painfully. I took my mom’s sleeping pills and made sure I wouldn’t be found in time.”

“How old were you?”

“Twenty-six. Older than you, but just as dumb.”

Dean decided to ignore the insult. He wasn’t done with his questions. “But you never killed anyone with your fires?”

“No. I burned sheds, stolen cars, a barn with hay bales, things like that. I was lucky…most of my fires were legal – helping neighbors burn their trash, local farmers clearing brush, or the occasional bonfire in the village. I did burn an old farm house shortly before I died, but it was empty and due to be demolished.”

“Did any firemen get injured?”

“I don’t think so. Not physically, anyway.”

“If you didn’t kill anyone, why would you be punished by being reincarnated as a fire extinguisher?” None of it made sense to Dean, but admittedly he wasn’t exactly sober and lucid himself.

“Beats me, buddy, but here I am, and I have the feeling I’ll be stuck like this if you don’t mend your ways.”

Dean felt annoyed at being admonished by this arsonist-turned-fire-extinguisher. What rights did it have to meddle in his life?

“Why did you become an arsonist?”

“Why do you hide in your apartment and drink yourself silly?”

“That’s hardly the same thing.”

“Perhaps not, but the underlying reason is.”

They stared at each other for a while. Dean refused to speculate on how he got the impression of mournful eyes when there was no face.

“Look,” the fire extinguisher said, “I was even deeper in the closet than you are. My first sexual experience was a jerk off dare with some friends at a camp fire. That’s when I realized, but in those days being queer in redneck country might get you killed fast. But, when you’re repressed and scared – well, it fucks with your head.”

“So you got off by looking at fires?”

“Ironic, isn’t it? Since now it’s putting out fire which gives me similar satisfaction.”

“You mean…I now have a patch of fire extinguisher spunk on my living room floor?”

“Yup.”

“Eeeww.”

“Better than having a fire in your living room.”

“Point taken.”

“Anyway, after that house fire, I realized my needs were getting out of control. But that wasn’t the main reason I killed myself. There was this local firefighter…hot, handsome, made all the local girls and one stupid queer boy swoon when he smiled at them.”

“I know what you mean,” Dean mumbled, trying to repress the memory of Hugh asking him to join the crew for a beer after work. Drinking alone in his apartment was better than getting caught drooling over his father’s newest crew member. In spite of being only three years older than Dean, the short red-head was already an experienced firefighter. He was dauntless but careful when it came to search and rescue, and his relatively small but muscular frame also made him a good choice for manning the fire basket. His jokes and ability to cook a mean chili stew quickly elevated the crew’s opinion.

They sat in silence for a while, lost in thought, but finally Dean got up to refill his mug. When he turned, the fire extinguisher was standing on the other chair at the table.

“Whoa, how did you get there?”

“Don’t know, but when I want to be somewhere, I suddenly am. Within the confines of your apartment, that is.”

“So that’s how you came to be next to my chair?”

“Yup. Lucky for you, eh? Although, I have to admit I liked your quick reaction and firm grip.”

Dean decided to ignore the innuendo and return to their previous topic.

“I take it your firefighter was straight?”

“Well, he married the prettiest girl in town, so for her sake I hope he was.”

“And after that you gave up?”

“There were other reasons too, but never mind those.”

“Pressure to ‘find a girlfriend and settle down?’ Feeling lonely and like a dishonest coward? Being trapped with nowhere to go? Not getting any?”

“See, I told you we’re similar.”

“You never came out to your parents or friends?”

“Oh no, I never dared, but one or two may have suspected.”

“I can’t blame you, I suppose.” Dean felt the familiar dread at the thought of having to tell his father, not to mention his two older brothers. One was a policeman and the other a Marine, the only two professions their father considered equal to his own. Dean admired and loved his brothers, but he wished they hadn’t left it to him to follow in their father’s footsteps. Yet, he did love training to become a firefighter, and he cherished the memory of the pride and joy shining on the chief’s face the day his youngest son signed up.

“I left them a note. Not where they found me, because I didn’t want my secret to be spread all over town. Which it would have been if the local sheriff had gotten hold of the letter.”

“Oh. Did you tell them both secrets?”

“No, only the one about being queer. I thought it would make them relieved I was gone.”

The bitterness in the wheezy voice made Dean wince and reconsider the next question. But he had to know. “And did you ever find out what their reaction was?”

“Oh yeah. I hid the note in the box of Christmas decorations my mom would get down every year in late November. Except, that year she told my father she didn’t see much point in decorating. She spent most of December at my sister’s house. She had a small kid and another on the way. My father went there for the Christmas holiday.”

“How long after…?”

“I killed myself on Halloween. I figured that might make it easier to pass to the other side. I was wrong, but at least my disguise as a zombie worked.”

Dean couldn’t help the morbid chuckle escaping him. “You dressed up like a zombie?”

“The local fire station went all out and did a big display. All the local kids loved it. No one noticed me replacing one of the zombies at the back. Well, not until the next day, when they were clearing away the display.”

“You must have given some poor firefighter the scare of his life.”

“I probably did, though I wasn’t around to witness it.”

“Uhm, right. Where were you?”

“Stuck in limbo with that damned note in the Christmas box.”

“Christ.”

“Yeah, it was a shock. Last thing I recall was going to sleep and feeling relieved it would all soon be over, and next thing I hear is Mom crying and calling for my dad.”

“Had she read the note?”

“No, she saw the envelope with their names and the date lying at the top of the box and realized what it was. She went on and on about how she’d have found it the year before if only she had taken the box down. He was trying to comfort her and say they couldn’t have known I’d hide my letter in such a dumb place.”

“Did you try to speak to them?”

“No way, I was totally confused as to what I was doing there, but I knew I was dead, and I sure didn’t wanna make things worse by doing some creepy ghost stunt.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right. What happened next?”

“Well, obviously they read my letter, and the situation became ten times worse. My mom was in hysterics and my dad said more swear words than I thought he knew. He even punched a hole in the plaster.”

“Shit. I’m sorry. It must have been hell to see them upset about something you couldn’t help.”

“Oh, it was way worse than that. They didn’t hate me for being queer. They were angry I chose to kill myself rather than tell them. My mom was distraught at the thought I hadn’t believed she loved me unconditionally, and my dad was furious I hadn’t trusted them enough to come clean. He was also pissed about me being a coward, instead of an honest man.”

Dean didn’t know what to say. He’d never seriously considered killing himself, but the fire extinguisher had hinted his irresponsible behavior bordered on suicidal. It didn’t seem quite fair since he mostly smoked when drunk, and he only got drunk when he had the next day off. Still, the guy had a point.

“What’s your name?”

“Huh?”

“Well, I can’t keep thinking of you as ‘the fire extinguisher.’ And yelling ‘Fire’ if you annoy me isn’t a good idea.”

“Why do you want to know my name?”

“You don’t have to tell me your full name or anything. I’m not going to snoop, if that’s what you think. Just tell me what you’d like me to call my new buddy.”

“I’m your friend?” Now he sounded surprised rather than suspicious.

“You saved me from setting the apartment on fire. You’ve told me your secrets and you seem to care about me. You’re someone I can talk to and be honest with. Pretty much defines a friend in my book.”

“Oh.” The wheezy voice got all choked up. “It’s Bart. Short for Bartholomew, but I hate that name.”

“Nice to meet you, Bart. So tell me, are you still hot for hunky firefighters? I could take you down to the station and ask a couple of the guys to try you out. Tell them I’m not sure if you still have enough pressure, or something.”

There was a different choked sound, and Dean leaned sideways to see whether Bart had leaked foam on his kitchen floor.

“That was mean. Sure, I’d love to see the station and the crew, but I don’t think I can leave this place.”

“Not by yourself, but if I take you? Worth a try, don’t you think?”

“Are any of them as good looking as you?”

“Wait-a-minute, have you been perving on me, Bart?” Dean grinned to make sure his new friend knew he was joking.

“Well, you do tend to walk around in your briefs and eat breakfast in the kitchen in nothing much but underwear. No harm in looking, right?”

“Do you like what you see?”

“Extremely fit body the color of my favorite dark chocolate, handsome face with nice brown eyes and a trendy crew cut. Good teeth and a fair singing voice. What’s not to like?”

Dean tried to remember if he’d ever gone into the kitchen completely naked, or sporting morning wood in his underwear. Luckily, his bathroom was next to the bedroom, and he’d have noticed if the fire extinguisher had been in either room or in the corridor, rather than its customary place in the kitchen.

“Thanks, I guess. But yeah, there’re several handsome guys at the station.”

“Any of them like us?”

“You mean, not out?”

“I suppose so. Still not cool to be a queer firefighter, eh?”

“Bart, the polite word today is gay, not queer.”

“Gay, queer, homo, cock-sucker, whatever. What difference does a word make, when the real problem is our fear of who we are and what we’ll lose if we’re honest about it? I hid all my life, and look what it got me and my family. Nothing but pain, remorse, and wasted opportunities.”

“I’m sorry, man.”

“Fuck sorry, Dean. The only thing I want is for you to do better. Learn from the mistakes I made, and be the man you’re meant to be, not some sad, pathetic ghost.”

“Easier said than done.”

“I know, but are you happy with your life right now?”

“I like my job, and spending time with my family and friends. This place is OK, and now I’ve got you to talk to.”

“But what about getting a boyfriend? Don’t you want that?”

“Sure, but coming out doesn’t mean I’ll find someone.”

“If you don’t come out, only women will consider you as a potential partner.”

“Not if I go to a gay bar.”

“There are gay bars? Man, no such thing existed where I lived. Are they legal?”

“Oh yeah. I know of two in this town and there’s supposed to be quite a few in the nearest city.”

“You’ve never been to any of them, have you?”

“Not yet,” Dean admitted, and Bart made a derisive noise which rhymed with his name.

“Well, I can’t go to the ones in town, in case someone recognizes me and rumors get back to my parents. I’d think you’d be the first to understand how scary that thought is.”

“Look, I’m not telling you to rush out there and declare yourself to everyone. But you need to start thinking instead of sticking your head in the ground – or should I say whisky bottle? You’ll ruin your health and your finances with all the drinking and smoking.”

Dean knew Bart was right, but he hadn’t known how else to dull the pain of loneliness and fear. Even worse, if it escalated, the drinking might eventually affect his ability to do his job. And if he kept refusing to socialize with the crew he’d end up an outcast anyway. At least, if he was out, he’d be able to make new friends who’d accept him.

“I’ll make a deal with you, Bart. Help me cope until I’ve made the grade and secured a job, and I’ll take your advice. Once I’m in, there are laws to prevent them getting rid of me after I come out. Heck, I bet the diversity counselor in the mayor’s office will lick her lips at the idea of a gay firefighter.”

“So, I’ve got to stick around for another two years?”

“Have you got anything better to do? At least, we can chat and maybe watch porn together. I’ll even give you a hand on the hose, if you want.”

“And I get to see your hose spray too?”

“Sure. Do we have a deal?”

“Yeah, we have a deal. I’ll be here for you as long as you need.”

“Awesome, dude. Hey, you might not even want to leave.”

“Let’s face that fire when we get to it. I might not have a choice.”

“But until then, it’s you and me.” Dean got up and grabbed the fire extinguisher. “I need to sleep, but we’ll talk again tomorrow – actually, later today.”

“That’s fine. Hey, where are you taking me?”

“I want you right next to my bed. And when I wake up, you’re going to tell me this wasn’t a dream.”

“Anything you want, man. Thank you for believing me.”

“Firefighters need to trust each other.” Dean’s tired chuckle was joined by a hoarse giggle from Bart. Perhaps being reincarnated as a fire extinguisher was a blessing in disguise?

 

Don’t believe suicide by pills is painless – and please seek help if you’re depressed.

Copyright © 2017 Timothy M.; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments



Great story, Tim!  I'm glad Dean has someone to look out for him, even if it is a reincarnated fire extinguisher. ;) I :rofl:  at the fire extinguisher spunk... :blink:  I hope my co-workers don't think I'm nuts when I giggle at our annual fire safety in-service... :gikkle:  

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No, suicide certainly isn't painless. I'm sorry Bart didn't see any other way out. Now perhaps he can make sure another life isn't unnecessarily wasted... 

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So, what? We now have ghosts in our repertoire as well as angels and imps, cupids and guardians? Cool!

Great story, Tim! Of course like everyone else, I want to know if Bart can get Dean to face his 'problems', get him away from his suicidal tendencies. Will Bart move one then? Get another chance maybe--reincarnation and all.

Obviously I had fun, lol. 

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What a wonderful mixture of the loveable, the serious, and the daft. :P  Kept me glued to the page.

 

It is infinitely sad how many young, gay men consider suicide, or suffer from other mental health issues. Thanks, Tim.

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Awesome job, Tim!  "A hand on the hose"... LOL.  Great premise and very well executed.  I hope that it will expand (pun-kinda-intended) into several chapters, eventually.

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A great chapter, but I second the others that I hope you're going to continue it. I want to find out more about both characters :hug: 

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On 7/30/2017 at 5:55 PM, JohnAR said:

This sounds like a lot of fun! I'm so looking forward to how this is going to evolve - and how Mr. Fire Extingisher can redeem himself. Will we meet Dean's brothers? ;-)

 

I should have known you'd zero in on his brothers. :lol:  This was meant to be a stand-alone piece, but maybe I'll return in a few years' time.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Edited by Timothy M.
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On 7/30/2017 at 6:41 PM, Headstall said:

This was just as awesome as the first time I read it, buddy. I loved how the humor offset some of the sadness while still allowing the message to come through. The loneliness was palpable, and now Dean is no longer alone... he has Bart, someone to confide in and help get him through. You've made something that, on the surface, is a hard-to-believe-concept, and made it not only real, but extremely relatable.  The back stories, especially Bart's, resonated and drew this reader in. Kudos and cheers... Gary....

 

Thank you, Batman. It was fun to have you edit my story, rather than the other way round. I'm delighted you thought the mix of humor and sadness worked. I found myself feeling very sorry for both of them as I explored their back stories. Even in Denmark, LGBT people are much more likely to contemplate suicide and to stay in the closet at work, to avoid offensive nosy questions and being labelled.

Thanks for leaving such an awesome comment. I owe you. :hug: 

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On 7/30/2017 at 7:28 PM, Lux Apollo said:

This was a fun and intriguing romp of a beginning. Cool!

 

LOL, I like how everyone assumes this is just the beginning of a story, but it's also a little dismaying. @droughtquake will surely get out the pitchfork if I don't get on with my two CC stories.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

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On 7/30/2017 at 7:58 PM, LitLover said:

Wow. I was impressed with this.  Bart came into Dean's life at the right time, because he was heading down a pretty self destructive path.  You managed to add some lightness and humour to two very tough subjects... not an easy thing to do. I want to hear more about these two and would love to check in with them again when Dean is finally ready to come out. 

 

I'm proud to have impressed you, since I admire you as a writer. Yeah, Bart came at the right time and he has a purpose now. Dean needs someone he can talk to, and hopefully it will distract him from the abuse of his body. I'm pleased you found the mix of fun and serious stuff OK, it prevented me from getting too sad while writing the story. I won't promise anything, but maybe I'll be inspired to return to Dean one day.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

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On 7/30/2017 at 8:04 PM, dughlas said:

Fire extinguisher spunk :o 

 

I know, right? :rofl:  That was my favorite part too, and I'm delighted you noticed. :2thumbs:

Thanks for reading and commenting.

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On 7/30/2017 at 11:32 PM, ColumbusGuy said:

I learned about this from the Newsletter, and couldn't imagine how it might be interesting--then I saw you wrote one, and on an almost-unnoticed object....

Once again, you craft an amazing story out of a simple task!  Bart's story will have a happy ending I think, despite how badly he screwed up his first life, and Dean now has a chance to avoid similar mistakes with the life-saving qualities of what is ordinarily a soulless object.  You make us thing about a lot of things in this one, and yet inject just a hint of humor when it's needed.  I almost fell off my chair at the 'fire extinguisher spunk' line!

xoxoxoxo min ven!

 

Tak min ven. :hug:  I'm glad you found it, but never fear, I'll always send you an alert, when I post a story. I'm glad seeing my name made you give the game stories a try, I hope you enjoyed some of the others too.

You make me blush with your praise, but I'm so pleased the story spoke to you, and the spunk line made you laugh. I have to admit I had some trepidation about tacking these subjects and doing them justice, so i was relieved the story was so well received by everyone. I agree about the hope for both of them, no matter how it works out in the end.

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On 7/31/2017 at 0:39 AM, Drew Espinosa said:

I absolutely loved this, Tim! :hug::heart: 

 

I'm glad you liked it, Drewbear. Thanks for reading and commenting. :hug: 

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On 7/31/2017 at 1:16 AM, Valkyrie said:

Great story, Tim!  I'm glad Dean has someone to look out for him, even if it is a reincarnated fire extinguisher. ;) I :rofl:  at the fire extinguisher spunk... :blink:  I hope my co-workers don't think I'm nuts when I giggle at our annual fire safety in-service... :gikkle:  

 

:blink:  Ha, ha, after reading this comment I've found myself eyeing my own fire extinguisher as well as the ones at work and grinning at the thought of you thinking of my story during fire drills. I have absolutely no idea where the inspiration came from, but suddenly the image of a wet spot from white stuff clicked. :*) :lol: 

Thanks for reading and commenting, Val.

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On 7/31/2017 at 4:47 AM, Dodger said:

Brilliant Tim. I really enjoyed reading this. Reincarnation was a great way to explain how the fire extinguisher came to life. You also managed to include a gay theme, threw in some humour and picked your way carefully around a difficult topic. Home run, my friend!

 

Aww, thanks, buddy. That's great praise indeed, and I'm pleased you thought the reincarnation was a plausible concept. Picking my way carefully is a good description of how it felt to write this story and the humor was a necessary relief. :yes: 

Thanks for reading and commenting.

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