Week 15 Flash Fiction Competition: Last Call

Photo by K.S. Brooks

It was the last hour of the last shift for Mike. Thirty years with the department. After today, he and Sheila sell the house and retire to Boca.

It was almost over. When the call came in, the shift commander tried to wave Mike off, but he would have none of it. He went. He always went.

In 250 words or less, tell me a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until 5:00 PM Pacific Time on Tuesday, April 10th, 2012.

On Wednesday morning, we will open voting to the public with an online poll for the best writing entry accompanying the photo. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

On Friday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted.

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Photograph by K.S. Brooks, used here with the photographer’s permission. Copying or reproduction of any kind without express consent is prohibited. All rights reserved.

For a more detailed explanation of the contest & its workings, please see the post called “Writing Exercises Return with a Twist” from 12/24/11.

By participating in this exercise the contestants agree to the rules of the contest and waive any and all further considerations or permissions otherwise required for any winning entries to be published by Indies Unlimited as an e-book, showcasing all the photos and with the winning expositions credited appropriately and accordingly.

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11 thoughts on “Week 15 Flash Fiction Competition: Last Call”

  1. It was the last hour of the last shift for Mike. Thirty years with the department. After today, he and Sheila sell the house and retire to Boca.

    It was almost over. When the call came in, the shift commander tried to wave Mike off, but he would have none of it. He went. He always went. Yes, Mike always went, but this time the results of his actions left an impact that would be felt by everyone involved.

    Mike’s unit rushed to the scene of a massive warehouse fire, and additional units had to be called to contain and keep the fire from spreading to some of the other warehouses in this complex. When Mike and his other unit members entered the warehouse, they followed the procedures they had been following for years. This fire was different as the contents of the warehouse were very volatile and caused flash fires that quickly consumed the entire structure.

    Mike was up front and fighting the fire with one of the key misting nozzles used to control the spread when it happened. There was an explosion that rocked the very ground Mike’s team was standing on, and threw them against one of the main concrete walls of the structure. It was all over in an instant!

    Mike’s dream of retiring at Boca was not going to happen; Sheila lost her husband and the department lost an entire unit of men to this dangerous fire.

  2. They were raising their cups up to Mike when the klaxons went off in the rec room. Mike smiled. 'You guys can toast me when we're back. Let's go.' He would miss the job. 'One last call,' Mike thought as he climbed into the truck. His partner Jesu was already sitting inside.

    'What's the deal?' he asked. 'Cat up a tree,' Jesu answered. Mike raised a brow, 'Are you serious, why do we need two trucks for that?' Jesu smiled, 'Dude, the other truck is for a different call-out. Anyway it's a nice cat, little girl says it's been up there for two days, scared out of its wits.'

    He turned on the ignition and Mike was still shaking his head as they exited the garage.

    So it was going to end like. No going out in a blaze of glory. No singed eyebrows. Just getting Blackie down into the relieved arms of a girl with bunches in her hair. Mike sat back and closed his eyes. 'Keep 'em, shut Mikey, I'll let you know when we're there.' Jesu said, turning on the siren.

    When he opened them, he was moved to find a sea of familiar faces crowded around the truck. All cheering him. No black cat. No little girl. Just his smiling, applauding wife and a bunch of men he'd have been willing to die for over the years, all there just for him, for the last call of this fireman's life.

  3. He watched the firemen as they started putting away their equipment. The fire was out. The glorious fire.

    He stood silently in the midst of the crowd, watching the results of his handiwork. The smoke rose in thin, spirals from the blackened ruins. It had been a beauty to behold, the fire lapping at the old wood, making the vinyl siding move and distort in a manner that was almost pornographic. He loved the way the fire moved, flowing over everything, bright tendrils consuming everything and growing brighter and taller as they did. He had created this, this work of art, this masterpiece. It was his hand that pushed the button that ignited this blaze of artistic glory. He was a true artist.

    He tried to hide his pleasure from anyone that might be watching. It was so hard, with the potent afterglow making him feel weak and woozy. He knew the night was far from over for him, or the fire fighters who were even know getting ready to leave. He wanted more. He needed more. His hand reached into his pocket casually. His trembling fingers wrapped themselves around the small radio control box, with his thumb resting lightly on the trigger.

    As the first fire trucks started to pull away from the scene, the thumb pressed down with a click that was audible only to him. A new masterpiece began its inexorable march to creation, as voices began to scream in terror. The artist allowed himself that smile.

  4. It was over. Oh, thank God it was over. Mike takes off his singed helmet, allowing his overheated skin to breathe. The rain has just stopped, not that it had helped at all. Spits and sputters were all the heavens had to answer for the worst blaze he's seen in his thirty years. He rests his back against the warehouse wall behind him. Somehow it had escaped the flame’s hunger.

    “Hey Mike,” Jerry says. “You all right?”

    Mike nods, still breathing hard, patting his friend on the shoulder.

    “Yeah,” He swallows. “Yeah I’m all right.”

    “We’re starting the cleanup now, you ah-you all right to help us out?”

    Silence passes between them. Mike can see the blue and red flashers from cop cars and the fire engine. They’ve flushed the scene a bruise purple, casting jagged shadows against the charred skeleton that was “Shelly’s Place”. Mike feels bad for the small New England warehouse pub. It had been a clever little place. He licks chapped lips, forcing himself back to reality.

    “Is the CSU gone?”

    Jerry nods, swiveling his head to look over his shoulder. Mike notices the gash on the back of his head with a wry grin.

    “Hey, uh, Mike?” Jerry says, a different tone to his voice. “CSU’s asking for you.”

    Mike pulls himself from the warehouse wall. He climbs over what used to be the front door, closing the short distance to the stocky uniform.

    “Look familiar?”

    Mike nods.

    Bye bye, Boca.

  5. Mike saw the boy when he went back to the truck to get more hose. The fire was too far gone to enter the house, but the concern was for the nearby woods. One spark and they'd have a raging forest fire. Mike thought of Sheila. They had to pack for Boca.

    "Hey, kid, what are you doing out here?" Mike said. The dark shape froze. Mike could see the reflection of the flames shining in his eyes. Something was off about him. The way he stood. Like his legs didn't work right. He smelled, too. "You okay, kid?"

    "I'm fine," the kid said quickly.

    "Where do you live, kid?" The boy didn't answer. Just looked toward the burning house. No one seemed to know if anyone lived there, but the fire was too far gone to check. "You live here?"

    "No one lives here," said the kid. "Not anymore." He put a hand on Mike's arm. He moved slowly, limping. Mike looked down. The ragged sleeve had pulled up on the boy's arm and Mike could see a dark line on his wrist in the flickering light. Scabs around his wrist. Mike stared at the boy.

    "I have to go now," said the boy. "Thank you."

    "For what?" said Mike.

    The boy shrugged, limping away. The fire was dying. There were shouts from the house. "There's a body here," someone called, panicked. Mike looked back to the boy but he was gone. Into the woods.

    Mike thought of Boca.

  6. “It’s only a one alarm. Sit this one out. We don’t need you.” Ed grinned as he jumped into his suit. “You’ve done your bit.”

    Mike shook his head, boots already on. He’d done this for twenty-five years and wasn’t about to slack off on his final shift.

    Corner of Delion and First – neat, small homes, proudly owned. Not much doing there. Mike jumped off and ran to the door.

    A man struggled with a hysterical woman. “Get him out! He’s in there! I have to get him!”

    She broke free as Mike reached them and dived into the burning bungalow. Dense black smoke poured out the door, making her invisible.

    Mike followed. All he heard were the crackling flames. Then water as the hoses began their work. “Where are you?” Smoke blinded him so he stopped three steps in, no idea where to find the woman, no coughing to guide him.

    He spotted a dark shadow stumble in his direction, heard a single cough as it fell, inert.

    “Mike, where are you, man. Come out.”

    The words registered from far away. Mike lunged forward, unheeding, lifted the still form from the concrete floor and carried it toward the grey rectangle where the door must be. A bundle fell from her arms as the paramedics took her.

    “What is it?” Ed stood beside him.

    A poodle slept, immobile, in a wicker basket. It was stuffed.

    Mike’s eyes met the paramedic’s, who shook his head.

    Last fire, first death. Defeat.

  7. Mike could not believe that he was getting a last chance to be a hero; to save lives. He felt the adrenalin rush, as he jumped out of the fire truck with his mates. Whilst some of the men charged ahead, Mike followed, positioning the fire hose towards the entrance of the building from where the fire alarm had gone off.

    By the time, he entered the house, his mates were standing around a woman of about 30ish, with a toddler in her arms. She could hear them ask her, "Where is the fire?" She answered,"There is no fire." One of the firemen, sounded a little exasperated as he said, "Ma'am, someone reported a fire from this house." "I did not," was the quick reply, though the lady seemed to be avoiding making eye contact.

    Mike came closer to his colleagues and said, "Hey, let me handle this, guys!" Thirty years in the fire force had taught him patience and the ability to strike an instant rapport with people; a great asset considering the co-operation that had to be enlisted from the victims of fire accidents, to help them make their escape.

    As soon as he confronted the young lady, he said, "Don't worry, Ma'am. There's nothing to fear. Just tell us what happened?" His charisma worked instantly, as the toddler chimed in, "Mommy burnt my toast and fire-alarm went off!"

  8. News of the four alarm fire breaks into the radio program as Sheila is singing Kokomo with the Beach Boys while dusting off suitcases she’s brought down from the attic. Her world focuses to a pinpoint as she takes in the details: Smith Avenue at Walker, six people unaccounted.

    Shoving past filled-to-capacity cardboard boxes, she stumbles downstairs into the kitchen and grabs the wagon’s keys off the hook. Gasping hard to pace her breath, she slams out through the back door.

    She knows Mike’s at the fire, loyalty to his crew and dedication to the community compels him to be stupid. Sheila’s head pounds with anger as she spins the truck off their road and careens onto the highway. She’s glad to be defying him now, doing what Mike had told her never, ever to do.

    She hates him for thirty years of choosing strangers’ lives over their own. His decision to be a fireman was made without her. It was assumed she would agree. And now he’s taken her answer for granted again.

    She arrives at the blaze to see Mike’s team rushing into the engulfed warehouse. She can’t stop. She pushes through the barriers, past idiot onlookers, and runs into the building after them, after Mike. She wants him to know she won’t wait for him this time.

    The door disintegrates; broken beams turn to ash and crash down after her. And painful, guttural screams begin, coming from the fire truck parked on the corner.

  9. The adrenalin rush came as always when the call came. He knew he should hesitate, and for just a flash he could picture Sheila’s face, the disappointment at first, and then the reassuring smile she always gave. She’d always known him well enough to know that not answering the last call of his 30 years wasn’t in the cards for him. That’s just who he’d always been.

    When they got there, the fire was out of control. The screams from the woman inside the building seemed to be muffled. At first it was hard to make out what she was saying, but eventually they knew. A beam had fallen on her daughter’s bed, and the daughter had hid under the bed to escape the smoke and the woman couldn’t get her out. The beam was too heavy.

    Three men went in. Mike was one of them. He knew all to well that feeling of being a parent and not leaving a child.

    Sheila had heard the call on the scanner at home. She arrived just in time to see the three men go in. She knew in her heart that Mike would be one of them. Images of Boca flashed through her mind, the smile on Mike’s face when they’d planned the retirement. She couldn’t hide her feeling of dread. She screamed his name, and as the scream died in her throat, Mike emerged from the building with the child, and a smiling mom following behind.

  10. Mike had a feeling of foreboding. How often did you hear about soldiers dying just before they were due to be sent home or cops getting killed on their last shift?

    Well, here it was…his last shift as a fireman. He and Sheila had sold the house; she was home packing the last of their belongings as he was unwinding the thick heavy hose from its reel. Thirty years on the job and almost as many with that same sweet woman. He’d been a lucky man.

    He prayed that his luck would last one more day—one more shift! Come on Boca!

    Hours later, his mind thoroughly on the job throughout, Mike sat on the curb watching the survivors taking oxygen. The streets were wet with water. Soot and debris made a dark reminder of the devastation that had been a family’s home.

    Just as he decided he’d better go help pack up the hoses and get back to the station for his farewell party, a little boy came running up to him. The kid was a mess—he’d been through hell and back tonight.

    “Hey, mither!” His sooty face was brightened by a smile missing two front teeth. “Thanks for saving us, mither! Mommy said I could give this to you.” He held out a dirty towel that seemed to be moving on its own despite the boy’s tight grip.

    Mike took the offering and a little head popped out.

    “His name is Sparky. He’s all yours!”

    Mike smiled.

  11. Mike stared at the image of Jackie, his friend’s granddaughter, standing down the hall of the burning building. Only the glass on his mask kept him from rubbing his eyes. The figure, unaffected by the thick smoke, waved him deeper into the inferno. Mike tapped the regulator on his tank. Was it defective, a bad mix? Thirty years with the department and he had never hallucinated. Mike ignored the commander’s order to evacuate. He couldn’t leave Jackie. Besides, his escape route was already blocked. Four great strides and a leap took him past the collapsed floor — into a cool untouched pocket. Mike’s jaw dropped. The wall of flames stopped three feet from the door. Jackie was gone.

    Fire roared at his back, snapping him into action. Mike kicked in the locked door. Experience sent him under the bed where he found a terrified eight-year-old boy wrapped in a wet towel. Now all they had to do was get out of the building. Mike’s heart pounded as flames crept closer. No windows, no way out. Jackie reappeared next to the bed pointing at a sliver of hope. He raced down the hidden stairs clutching the boy. The old servant’s access led them out as the building crumbled. Events churned through Mike’s head as he tried to catch his breath. There was no way he or the boy would have made it out of that building without Jackie’s help. It was time he gave his old friend a call.

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