Honestly Kid

by Daniel Damkoehler


premature fiction

Noon — End of Part 2

The Brenlee Volunteer Fire Department has three full-time employ­ees.

Andy Currie pushed the paper work to the peo­ple who knew how to do it, kept the list of keys well sort­ed, main­tained and issued the beep­ers and walkies, made sure the Fall and Spring pan­cake break­fasts made it onto the city cal­en­dar, and gen­er­al­ly used his broad lip­less smile and cheery demeanor to pro­mote the depart­ment in the community.Most peo­ple thought Andy was dumb, even slight­ly retard­ed, they felt the depart­ment humored him by let­ting him serve despite his phys­i­cal and men­tal lim­i­ta­tions (he could nev­er keep a straight face, even at the most inap­pro­pri­ate times, like house­fires and funer­als, and one leg was short­er than the other).Andy has served the Brenlee Volunteer Fire Department for over 30 years. It is the only for­mal job he has ever had. His mod­est expens­es — clothes from the feed store, a new truck ever sev­en years, and the like — are all more than amply cov­ered by an inher­i­tance from his grand­fa­ther, one of the founders of Brenlee. What he earns from the depart­ment, he returns in the invest­ment of new emer­gency readi­ness equip­ment, radios, etc.

Yosemite Hoban Brenlee, Mose for short, tend­ed Brenlee’s large met­al shed turned fire­house through every dark night all year. Those who knew him, had only seen him in the ear­ly morn­ing or on a late night call. His fifty years of ser­vice to the BVFD (he held his first hose at age 14) had net­ted him more respect and author­i­ty among the vol­un­teers and com­mu­ni­ty advi­so­ry board than the all of the oth­er mem­bers of the rotat­ing set of fire chiefs combined.Once an over­grown beast of boy and young man, Mose had, over the past sev­er­al years, gone through a peri­od of phys­i­cal decline. He had thinned out in the bel­ly, chang­ing his eat­ing habits so that few could remem­ber the years when Mose Brenlee made mock­eries of eat­ing con­tests and idle chal­lenges to his sta­tus as a true gour­mand. After years of wear­ing it long, he now kept his hair clipped short and neat. All of that had changed years ago, back when Mose became the depart­ment night owl, mon­i­tor­ing the radio, tin­ker­ing with the engines, pumps, and oth­er equip­ment that need­ed main­tain­ing, and keep­ing the last light in Brenlee lit through the night.Mose Brenlee’s pater­nal great-great-grand­fa­ther, William Brenlee, is that Brenlee, the one who found­ed this town in 1854. His mater­nal great-grand­fa­ther, Charlie Hoban, found­ed the BVFD. He had spent his life here and refused to leave when his wife gave him an ulti­ma­tum twen­ty years ago, ulti­mate­ly tak­ing their kids with her to San Rafael. Mose vis­it­ed every oth­er week, still mad­ly in love with his wife and wild­ly proud of his chil­dren, the first Brenlees to grow up away from the town of Brenlee in four generations.A last note on Mose: he nev­er speaks to, nor, unless oth­er­wise unavoid­able, shares a room with Andy Currie.

Norton was not a per­son, but Brenlee’s 50+ year old Civil Defense siren. Some clever fire­man had named him in hon­or of Ed Norton of the Honeymooners, not so much for the nature of the char­ac­ter or actor who played him, but instead for its son­ic resem­blance to the way Jackie Gleason would belt out his fic­ti­tious neighbor’s name on that tele­vi­sion show. Always begin­ing with a low rum­ble and build­ing to a pow­er­ful boom, “NnnnnoORTON!” nev­er failed to send the dimwit­ted neigh­bor run­ning and the audi­ence laugh­ing. Likewise, Brenlee’s Norton had nev­er failed in its duty, nev­er hav­ing sound­ed for any civ­il defense emer­gency, it had how­ev­er announced noon each day to all of Brenlee.

NnnnnooooOORRTON.” No one runs or laughs. In fact, all of Brenlee is still for moment. Aware, today, of a new unfor­tu­nate ten­sion in the air that can come only from fear, like ani­mals star­tled into a brit­tle still­ness too short to take a breath at the sound of a rifle shot, every­one in town tries to emp­ty their minds of poor Gabriel Velasquez and fails. Quickly then, they retreat into the sec­ond half of the day, con­ceal­ing them­selves in the thick­ets of rou­tine activ­i­ty and the high weeds of invent­ed dif­fer­ences that fail to tru­ly sep­a­rate vic­tims and sur­vivors.