On Second Thought
A sudden queasiness erupted from the pit of Logan's stomach as he closed his truck door and took a step toward the dark rear entrance to the fire station. If only he hadn't rushed off so quickly from his apartment, hardly waking Morgan while dressing for his first day back to work. "Get present," the wavering fireman commanded himself. Most of him was still back home with his lover, lying next to her soft warm body. A faint sweet scent of perfume drifted up his nose, carrying him back to last night's pleasure. The fire station faded, becoming instead, a shining ring of candles, inhabited by two green-robed figures.
"God!" he huffed quietly, shaking his head brusquely to refocus himself. "Stay present!"
Logan looked around him once again, then gazed upward into the starry sky. Blowing a thin cloud of warm condensation into the chill air, he refocused on the station house door, prompting the sickening feeling even stronger. "Got to fight the urge. . . ." the determined fireman mouthed, deeply wanting to return to his truck and just drive away. His head began to spin with nervous fear. "Uuuggghh!" he mumbled out of pure anguish. "I. . . I can't. . . do this!" He spun on his left heel, reaching for the truck's door handle.
The whish and light squeal of car tires turning slowly into the smooth concrete parking lot behind him, distracted his attention. Logan turned to see who was coming in. The bright glare of headlights temporarily blinded him. He rubbed his eyes, listening as the car pulled to a stop and the engine fell silent. The car door clicked open as a familiar voice rang out. "Logan, buddy! Great to see you back!" John Grissom, slamming his car door and almost ran to Logan. His friend grabbed his hand, shaking it so hard that Logan thought his eyes were going to pop out. "I can't believe you're back so soon!"
Me neither, he thought truthfully. "Yeah, you know how it goes! The public just can't live without us. Pretty boring laying around the house anyway." Logan looked at his friend then turned toward the elusive station door again.
The sound of another car caught Logan's ear. "So what's been going on around here?" he asked John, prolonging his entry for as long as possible. He would just have to make his way into the fire station a step at a time. That's the trick, first step was to get comfortable on the parking lot. Second step was to see his comrades, get back into the swing of being with them. Actually entering into the fire station was a little further down the line.
The second car pulled into a space next to Logan. Captain Riley slid out of the driver's seat, closed his door and sauntered toward Logan. "Hey, guy," the Captain called out to Logan, smiling warmly. "It's great to have you back! You're looking great! Ain't he Grissom?" John shook his head agreeably. "You bring the donuts?" He scowled playfully at Logan. "You know you always bring donuts when coming back from a vacation!"
"Va. . . " Logan started, shifting at once to a smirk. "Shit! I knew I forgot something! I guess I'd better go back and get them!" He mockingly turned toward his truck door.
"No, no, not really. I was just bull shitting you! You're not going to get away from us so easily again!" Captain Riley laughed, poking him boyishly on his left shoulder. "Come on in when you're ready. Take your time, we're not going anywhere. Not for a while at least, I hope," the captain added gently, a sparkle of knowingness in his eyes. He turned abruptly, sauntering off into the direction of the door.
Two more cars pulled into the lot, taking their places as the rest of his pals began their arrival. Step one complete, getting on with step two, Logan thought.
"Hey, you hear we got a new rookie?" John quizzed him enthusiastically.
"Yep, a woman! She's assigned to the ambulance with Cornell and Johnson. This will be her third day. That's her now."
Logan turned to see an attractive young woman with short blond hair getting out of her car, heading directly into the station. She took no notice of the two of them standing there. "Seems to be a real friendly sort," the calming fireman commented snidely. "Kinda' cute though."
"She's a bitch." John was the last person that Logan thought would make a comment like that. He usually got along with everyone, a real station house peacemaker at times. Everyone liked John and he liked everybody. This girl must really have an attitude.
"What's her name?"
"Lisa. Lisa Gowen. God's gift to humanity."
Andy Cornell strolled up to the two firemen. "Mornin', guys! You're lookin' mighty chipper there, Mister Keohane. Last time I saw you, you looked like shit!" the paramedic laughed, tousling Logan's short red hair. "So, you ready to get back out there and eat some more smoke?"
"Yeah, uh, well, no! Not like the last time I had smoke for a midnight snack! The last fire I worked was enough action for any one lifetime. Besides, I plan to stay cool and dry for a while longer, I'm temporarily assigned to strict ambulance duty. Hey, I hear you've got a new partner!" Logan commented smoothly, watching as Andy shifted his weight and smirked. "Are you in love yet? You told me once that you'd probably fall in love if you ever got a female partner!" Logan winked slyly at John. Andy had always been quite a lover. The paramedic had never been married, moving from one ‘true love' to another. Logan could recall at least six women who were ‘the one'.
"Get outta' here, you turd!" Andy laughed, tousling Logan's hair once more. "I'd better get to work." He turned, walked to the door across the brightening lot and disappeared inside.
"I'd better go relieve my man, too," John responded. He followed Andy into the station. Several more cars pulled into the lot in one big wave. One by one the firemen exited their vehicles, immediately greeting Logan with cheery salutation. Absently, surrounded by a group of fellow firefighters, Logan walked through the entry to the living area of the firehouse. He was so engrossed in conversation, catching up on all the new departmental news and gossip, that there had been no conscious realization of his location, until finding himself pouring a cup of hot coffee from the station coffee pot. I guess steps two and three are complete, Logan chided himself, chuckling under his breath.
"I see you're still talking to yourself," Captain Pierce, the senior station officer prodded him laughingly. His dark blue eyes always seemed to be smiling under his closely cropped grey hair. This was a man that Logan truly liked and respected. He had known lots of firemen during his career, including plenty of captains and quadrant Chiefs, but if he were choosing to work under one command, this would be the person. The class of the department was the only way Logan knew how to put it.
Captain Pierce was the finest, fairest man that Logan had ever known. This man was one of very few who knew how to let a man be a man, accept responsibility for his own actions and praise for his own deeds. If there was a dispute among the troops, the Captain usually knew how to handle the situation equitably. The greatest thing about him, though, was the way he was a real, down-to-earth person himself. He didn't put on aires or asserted his authority. Everyone liked and respected his command. The men's faith in him told them that this man would never intentionally send them anywhere that was inordinately dangerous.
Of all of Logan's friends and peers in the department, Captain Pierce had visited him most while he was hospitalized. He must have come to see him three or four times that Logan knew of. Yeah, this was a good friend, selfless, fair, honest and self-secure.
"It's great to have you back, Logan," the captain addressed him honestly. "You've been missed. Take it easy for a while, get your legs under you again. I really think it's too early for you to be back here, given the circumstances. But, we all know departmental policy. You have to live by the rules of the Rulers!" he smirked, shaking his head. "How about a cup of that coffee?"
Logan poured his captain a cup of the steaming liquid. "Thanks, I guess it's good to be back. I really do appreciate everything you and the guys have done for me while I was out. Now I just need to get settled back into the routine. I have one question, though. I see we've gotten a new rookie assigned to the ambulance. That already makes three other people on board. There's no more room for me. I was told I would be strictly on ambulance duty until further notice. Is there an odd man out or something?" Logan looked quizzically at the captain.
"No, Johnson has just started his vacation. He'll be gone about a month. Deer hunting, I was told." Captain Pierce looked longingly out of the room's only exterior window. "Then he goes on special assignment. He'll be teaching some new special course to the cadets at the Fire Academy. You'll have plenty of room on ‘the box'."
"Well, I can't say I'm rearing to go, but, here I am. It would be awfully nice to get a nice slow start today.
"Yeah it would. I wouldn't mind that a bit myself. Come on, let's go see if anyone's cooking breakfast this morning!" The captain patted his shoulder, turning toward the kitchen with a sniff of the air. "I think I smell bacon right now."
Step three seems to be in full progress. I've almost reached my goal, Logan mused, fairly amazed at the turn of events. It all flowed so naturally, much easier than he would have imagined.
Logan sopped up the last drops of syrup from his plate with his final bite of pancake. He swallowed, beginning to feel somewhat at ease. Picking up his plate, the fireman moved to the sink, setting the sticky dish on the white plastic counter top.
"Leave it there," a voice called from behind him. "I'll clean up today." Jake Garcia wasn't a bad guy really, for a rookie. He definitely did his share of the work load around the station. The guy was just so confounded rambunctious, someone who just needed to learn to slow down a little. It's easy to see the resisted parts of yourself in someone else, Logan thought sympathetically.
"Thanks Jake, I appreciate it."
"No problem! Get outta' here." Jake smiled warmly at Logan, waving him away from the sink. "You know us rookies, it's always our turn to do everything!" the young man chuckled easily.
"Where's the new rookie?"
"Oh, she doesn't come out of her quarters much. Fortunately!"
"Come on Keohane, leave the rookie to his housework. We've got an ambulance to check." Andy sat his plate beside the sink on top of the others. The paramedic grabbed Logan by the arm, dragging him through the single swinging door leading to the apparatus room. "The last shift said they only made a couple of runs yesterday but they think the oxygen is getting low. If you'll climb in and check the gauge, I'll get a mop to clean out the inside."
It was Logan's first glimpse of the fire equipment. A brief shudder ran up his tightening spine. Whoa, I guess step four just crept up on me! He stopped dead in his tracks about ten feet from the rear of the ambulance. His feet were leaden, melted into the slick concrete floor of the large, open room. The scent of old, musty soot filled his senses. There's nothing quite like the smell of damp ash ground into flame retardant fire gear to bring you into the stark reality of being inside a fire station. It's a smell that, once experienced, leaves an indelible mark on your sinuses. Mixed with a slight hint of diesel fuel the odoriferous concoction can be overpowering.
Logan closed his eyes momentarily. Andy turned to retrieve a wet mop from the rack just outside the rear bay door of the room. The stymied firefighter listened as his partner's footsteps pattered away, leaving him in silence with the ghosts of his near past. He couldn't let anyone see him like this, trembling involuntarily like a scared bunny. "Get a grip," Logan whispered to himself. Footsteps approached from the direction opposite the way Andy had left. Oh, Jesus, just get me through these next few minutes. Forcibly, the weak-kneed fireman moved his right foot toward the rear of the ambulance. Step one complete, now for step two. He slid his left foot forward, planting it firmly only six feet from the rear of the apparatus.
"Reminiscing?" a high pitched feminine voice called out from behind him, echoing off of the exposed girders high overhead.
Logan turned to see the new rookie, Lisa, approaching him. The young woman never cracked a smile, just brushed past him en route to the cab of the ambulance. Opening the white, pickup truck style door, she reached in, retrieving the records of the previous crew's emergency calls. Lisa whisked past again without even looking in his direction. "Hi, how are you. Wonderful to meet you, too." Logan responded cynically upon hearing the swipe of the swinging doors that led into the ambulance personnel's dormitory.
Andy slipped through the rear glass exterior door of the firehouse, carrying a dripping mop, still steaming from the hot water. "Open the door, Logan. Get the stretcher out and let's get this show on the road."
Logan gritted his teeth, crossed the rest of the distance to the ambulance door, swinging it open wide. The smell of alcohol and hydrogen peroxide mixed with various other medicinal aromas took his breath. The stunned fireman reeled, taking a step backward, bumping roughly into Andy. Again, he just wanted to scream, turn and run out of the door. Logan never imagined that getting back into his job would be this difficult! My God, what will I feel like on an emergency run?
"Are you alright, man?" Andy stammered, bewilderment all over his face. "Here, sit down. You want some oxygen?"
"Naw," Logan managed, hoarsely. He spun around, plopping roughly onto the rear step bumper of the large white vehicle. Taking in a large breath of natural air, his body quaked with a final chilled shudder. He released the breath slowly, allowing his body to deflate and relax. "Guess I'm just having withdrawal from being off work," the nervous redhead returned, still a bit breathless. "I'll be okay in a few minutes." He took another deep breath, releasing it slowly with a huge sigh.
Logan's breathing slowed slightly. He gazed around the large room trying to get his mind off the situation and onto some practical matters. The tan block walls of the apparatus room on his right came into view, God they needed some cleaning. Weren't they supposed to be white? Look at that hose rack over there, the railings are so dusty that it's unimaginable how the contraption ever passed inspection. He usually kept that rack clean himself. How could anyone let it go like that? His view shifted to the tail end of the pumper on his left with the ladder truck parked one space over. They actually looked halfway clean. They must not have had any calls last night. Above him the mellowing fireman took notice of the open, once white girders and metal pan roof. Smudges of black soot from the diesel exhaust had greyed the entire ceiling. How would they clean that? Shhh, if I don't say anything maybe they won't notice. I know I don't want to get up there and scrub.
The fireman took another long breath, closed his eyes and forced himself to his feet. "I'm alright now," Logan sighed to Andy who had been kneeling on one knee in front of him. "Just needed to catch my breath." Relief slowly flowed through the squeamish lad's mid-section. His heart slowed to a reasonable rate and his muddled brain cleared.
The station lights suddenly clicked on, the toner sounded, followed by a voice blaring over the loudspeaker. Logan's heart jumped, beginning to beat erratically once again. An involuntary low whine caught in his throat. "Oh, God!" he whispered as he finally heard the voice on the loudspeaker announce, ". . . the time is now eight o'clock." Logan closed his eyes and sighed heavily. Eight o'clock toner, he thought, relieved, allowing his thoughts and emotions to once again come under his control.
"Keohane, you got a call on line one!" a loud voice announced over the station P.A. speaker. Logan pulled himself quickly off of his bunk, making his way into the living area to the nearest phones.
"Hello," he answered spryly.
"Hi, honey!" Morgan's cheery voice brought a smile to Logan's face. "How's everything going?"
"Oh, alright so far. There were a few touchy minutes earlier, though. I don't know, honey, I've pretty much begun wondering what I'm doing here."
"But you love your job, Logan. You've told me several times just how important it was to you. You're probably just having some temporary reaction to being back in the grind."
"Yeah, that's true to a point. I had a couple of pretty horrific reactions earlier. Shit, I almost turned around and walked off a couple of times this morning. I've gotten over the initial shock now, but, for some reason I just feel totally out of place. It's like some part of me is ready to move on to something else. I just don't know how to explain this deep longing.
"Yeah, I've been feeling some strange longings myself. I just can't put a finger on what they are."
Logan began once agin contemplatively. "I just feel like I need some time to get away, to think some things through. Somewhere away from the fire station, away from Houston, away from everything, you know? But it's a bit too late for that right now, I'm afraid. I think everyone around here would kind of frown on me if I just up and told them I needed some vacation time to get my head on straight, see if I really wanted to be a fireman any more."
"I can't really say I know what you're going through, honey. But you know I am here to help you in any way that I can. You know can always talk to me about anything. Just let me know if I can help you in any way, hon'." Morgan's tender voice pulled new- found emotion from deep inside of him. Logan's eyes began to sting as tears formed lightly in them, blurring his vision.
"I will," he answered with a muffled sniff. A small tear streaked out of his left eye. Hurriedly, the fireman wiped away the wet trail. "Oh, I didn't tell you. We've got a new rookie!" He had to change the subject. This one was getting too deep. "She's a girl, assigned to the ambulance."
"Really? How is she? How are the guys doing with her there?" Morgan knew that this fire station was male oriented to a pretty hefty degree. A woman, especially a rookie, might not fit in too well with some of the members.
"I don't think most of the guys have a problem with the fact that she's female, but honestly, she's about the biggest bitch that I've ever seen. She won't talk to anyone. She doesn't socialize at all. All she does is hang out by herself in the ambulance dorm. Even John doesn't like her and you know John, he likes everyone!"
"Sounds like the girl has had some pretty rough times to me. She's new and maybe doesn't feel very comfortable with the guys around there yet. I mean, if she's anything like me there are probably some things about hanging around as the only woman that she just doesn't like. She surely isn't going to put herself in the intimate view of a bunch of male egos. That would be kind of like stripping naked in the middle of Main Street! Do you think she socializes with a bunch of rough and tumble firemen off duty? Especially with some of the guys at your fire station! Some of them can be pretty crude. If you remember, that Delaney fellow made some pretty risque insinuations to me with you standing right there!"
"Yeah, I guess I can feel compassion for her. But, I don't have to force myself to get along with the woman. I can just deal with her."
"Yeah, I don't think we have to become an intimate part of everyone's life. There are some people who have completely different philosophical views on life than us. We don't have to hang around them or make them wrong." Morgan stopped speaking, leaving an unbroken silence on the line. "Then again," she then continued, "It seems to me like respecting someone's ideas and beliefs sometimes just means leaving them the Hell alone! God knows there are some people here in my office that are like that."
Logan smiled gratefully. The astounded fireman was becoming more amazed everyday at the similarities he shared with Morgan. Sometimes it seemed they even shared the same thoughts. "Well, what is your suggestion on handling this situation?" the pondering lad asked seriously.
"I don't know. I guess, just give her the space to be who she is. Sometimes that can be the greatest form of love. People will be who they want to be whether we like it or not. Trying to force them to like us is what creates feuds and animosity."
"True enough, Miss Plato," he laughed. "No, really, thank you. I hadn't really looked at the situation like that. I'll just let her be who she is. If she wants to be friendly the door will always be open, if not. . . ."
"Good for you! So, Mister Fireman, have you had any calls today?"
"You know, we have made one call. I thought I was going to pass out as the alarm sounded and information came over the loudspeaker. It actually took my breath away. But, after the initial shock I was fine. It still just seems that everything I thought I wanted not long ago isn't that important anymore."
"Yeah, I know what you mean! A lot of my feelings and goals have changed, too. My grand desires of having a huge house in the rich part of town with all of the frills, like my mom and dad always wanted, somehow seems pretty trivial right now. I also need some time to re-evaluate my own goals. You know, I went to college to get my Master's Degree in business completely for the approval of my dad. Lotta' good that did! I really don't want to be around him right now! I guess, I'm really not sure what I want to do as an occupation for the rest of my life! My whole mind's kind of at a blank at the moment."
"I understand very well! Honey, I'm going to let you go and get back to work. You've just helped me clear up some things and stirred up a lot more questions at the same time."
"Bye, hon'. I'll see you in the morning. Be careful, won't you! I do want to see you in our bedroom in the morning!" Morgan's voice quivered momentarily. Logan could sense a feeling of apprehension in her words. She almost seemed afraid of something.
"I'll be careful, I promise. I'm not going anywhere. I'm just on the ambulance, I don't even have to go near a fire."
"I know I must sound silly, but last night I felt something unexplainable. Something that has kind of stuck as a fearful feeling way back in the back of my brain. I can't even really tell you what it is."
"Don't worry, hon', I'll see you in the morning. Everything's going to be just fine! Bye now, have a wonderful night. If you need anything call me back later."
"I will. I love you!"
Logan hung up the phone with Morgan still occupying all of his attention. Something did feel kind of strange. He couldn't quite put his finger on what was troubling him either. The feeling was something that he had encountered before, locked away deep inside of him. The fireman stood, slowly walking through the large room to return to the dorm. He would have all day tomorrow to think about that, since it would be an off day. Maybe when he returned to work on Sunday he would have a grip on what was troubling him.
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