Gerry Harlan Brown

Ring The Bell

The courage to walk into the flames.The knowledge to come out when the job’s done.
The memory arrived unbidden, just suddenly there, sharp as broken glass. The child had come to him again, as she had countless times since the first awful midnight years ago. His mouth opened. His lips moved, soundlessly screaming, No! No!

Virginia read about the tragedy in the paper the day after it happened. There was a house fire. A child climbed out a window onto a porch roof. The firefighters were almost to her, but something burning fell from above and knocked her tumbling to the ground. The little girl died instantly.

True to his nature, Wayne had come home from the department the next morning and not said a word about the call. That night, as they lay in bed, Virginia finally brought up the article in the paper. Knowing she was violating their unspoken rule, she asked, “Were you there?”

Virginia felt him shudder. He replied with a simple, “Yes.” Heavy minutes crawled by before he added, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

As Wayne was leaving for his next shift after the fire, he stopped in the doorway and turned back to face her.

“You should know,” he said, “it will not happen again.” The determination in his voice frightened her. “Next time I’ll get that baby, or I won’t be coming home.”

Gerry Harlan Brown
Gerry Harlan Brown has spent most of his life in the Bowling Green, Kentucky area. Stints at a factory, a farm, and painting houses have been mixed in with periods as a railroader, a volunteer community crisis counselor, and a professional fire chief. Along the way he acquired an AA degree and took several leadership courses at the University of Virginia and the National Fire Academy. His 29 years in the fire service have influenced his writing more than anything else, for during that period he dealt with people at their best and bravest, as well as their most devastated and petty. His opportunities to wrestle monsters have included—as ludicrous as it may seem—squirrels, white and otherwise.

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