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.