The Designated Fire-Dowser

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Designated Fire-Dowser

If your neighbor’s house is on fire, you don’t haggle over the price of your garden hose.” –FDR

Floyd didn’t relish his job as the designated festivities-downer, but that was his role tonight.   He had other plans; more enjoyable plans.  His family was going to the vintage theater in town and they were going to watch a screening of Serenity.  Floyd had tried to assign one of his underlings to be on duty for him so that he could share in the calm family night, but both his supervisors and the bosses in Public Relations had nixed the idea.  Apparently The Olympic Committee didn’t like the notion that The Olympic Torch would be babysat by a rookie part-timer.  Floyd had his part to play tonight and that was that.

When Floyd had first been hired as the head of facilities for the arena, he had thought he had scored.  He had a team of twenty men and they had one building to take care of.  As long as all the lights were working and none of the chairs had any loose screens, everybody was happy.  Every once in a while Floyd would take a turn mowing the grass on the outskirts.  The work kept him grounded and made the other maintenance men respect Floyd as “one of them”.  Floyd’s casual lifestyle at work all came to a stop eight years ago.

Around a decade ago, the arena, and the city as a whole, started making bids to host The Olympics.  They wanted the attention, the income, and the crowds.  With the sports teams moving away or drawing pithy crowds, the city wanted to reestablish itself as a mover and shaker in the sports world.  They had four-lane roads, hotels, and parking garages which they yearned to see used beyond capacity.  Floyd did not share his city’s enthusiasm.

Ever since the city had gotten an official consideration from The Olympic Committee, Floyd’s job had become a never-ending battle of paperwork.  Each morning that he came into work he would find his inbox flooded with requests of things to be fixed.  He tried to institute a system where each person would ask for a certain item to be attended to and then logged, but it had failed miserably.

The regular staff had adhered to Floyd’s arrangement rather well.  However the higher-level staff all felt that they could just e-mail Floyd directly and bypass the line.  The biggest problem was the redundancies.  Floyd still remembered the time he received fifteen e-mails to replace one light bulb.  Naturally, it was the light bulb right outside the hallway for the executive offices.

It cracks me up to type this, but the image is from The Department of Defense.

Now that The Olympics were actually upon him, Floyd had somewhat resigned himself to living at work.  He tried to get a night off here or there, but all the managers and supervisors demanded that Floyd assist them in putting their best foot forward.  They would harbor no mistakes.  If something went wrong, they wanted Floyd on site to attend to it.  If this massive undertaking of a ship sprang a leak, they wanted Floyd to keep bailing until the ship went down.  Floyd often felt that if a light bulb went out in the middle of a telecast, he would be dragged onto camera and shot with a Taser to show just how serious they were about perfection.

Thus, the lighting of The Olympic Torch was overseen by Floyd.  He stood in his jumpsuit and checked the fire extinguisher yet again.  Floyd was not a young man.  He had turned fifty earlier in the week, but work hadn’t even gotten him a cake.  He certainly wasn’t afforded a candle as extravagant as the one he was babysitting.  He wiped the summer sweat off of his forehead, his slicked-back widow’s peak keeping his remaining hair out of the way.  Floyd’s thoughts turned to his now-gray moustache.  It was bushy, it was friendly, and it was his son’s favorite feature about his father.  Floyd could only hope that an amber from “Ol’ Sparky” wouldn’t set it ablaze.

Floyd knew that his bosses wouldn’t approve of such a casual nickname for the torch’s end destination, but he also hadn’t told them about his constantly muttering, “Flame on!” underneath his breath.  They hadn’t consulted him when they bought the fire extinguisher, so he thought he was owed some freedom here or there.

Floyd’s lone “weapon” in the battle of an inferno was a fifty-pound industrial fire extinguisher.  It had a stored pressure system, not a cartridge-operated one like he had recommended.  The difference was that when his extinguisher ran out of fuel, he was done.  All he could do after that was toss the giant cylinder aside and hope for a miracle.  The bosses had seen their costs sky-rocketing as they prepared to host the international event and had started to cut corners.  Floyd’s preferred fire suppression system had been the first thing to go.  That, along with the extinguisher’s cart.

The fifty-pound extinguisher was made to rest on a metallic hand-truck.  However, since it cost and extra forty dollars and because there was no ramp to get to the main access door, Floyd would have to do without.  His old frame groaned under the weight of what was essentially a large child strapped to his back.  The supervisors’ thinking was simple; should the igniting not run smoothly, Floyd would run forward and put out the fire.  He would do it alone, he would do it with one extinguisher, and he would handle things until the fire trucks could drive onto the field from the loading dock.  Floyd offered that the fire truck could park under a tent on the sidelines, but that clashed with the aesthetics that everyone else was so focused on.  Floyd tried to argue logic with them, but had instead settled for triple-overtime and a very nice insurance policy, “just in case”.

Floyd really wasn’t all that worried.  He was more annoyed that he was yet again missing out on family time.  The arena had given him the materials to build the housing for the fire.  The parts had all been shoddy and under-insulated, but Floyd had created an effective and safe system.  He had every confidence that he and his crew had done an excellent job.  All the tests had run perfectly smoothly.  In three weeks the whole event would be over and Floyd would cash in on the four months of vacation time that he was owed.  All he had to do was get through tonight’s high-spectacle proceedings and it as all downhill from there.

The athletes started to fill the Astroturf and Floyd watched them all with an amused eye.  He had seen them walking around earlier in the week as they tried to get their bearings and possibly even practice between endless interviews.  They all seemed a little too pretty for Floyd.  The muscles in their neck and shoulders bulged so much that they couldn’t even keep their jackets zipped all the way up.  Floyd kept hoping one of the foreign athletes would have some scar or a unibrow that would instill in him the relief that one of them was human and not some paragon of physical perfection.  So far the results had been as annoyingly fruitless as his search for a day off.

The one thing that Floyd had kept from everyone else, even his staff, was that there were certain advantages to his guard duty.  Everyone was so busy running around and viewing the spectacle that they had forgotten about him.  He wasn’t allowed to be in public sight because his jumpsuit and metal tank-backpack might infuse a feeling of uncertainty into the crowd.  Floyd sat in the shade of the tent and pulled out his new phone.  No one could see him, and his headphones worked just fine.  Floyd pulled up his list of television shows he had downloaded and felt that Firefly was an appropriate choice.  He probably should have been watching the flame when it was lit flawlessly, but at the moment Floyd didn’t care.  He was watching a fun show and, if he was honest, he aimed to misbehave.


About Cosand
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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