Musings from the back of a fire engine.

The weather is getting nicer, which means my mood is improving.

I'm much happier at work when the sun shines warmly on us in the day, and a cool night welcomes what the citizens have in store for us. 

Today was a good day, one that restores your faith in a place that has so much wrong with it at the moment. 

I enjoy long night rides on the highway in the wagon. Getting fuel is a 5-ish mile ride through alternating darkness and harsh sodium lights. Our fuel gauge is broken, so we go every night. My door on our reserve—that is, yet another backup engine, because yet again our shit is broken) sounds as if it'll soon rattle clean off and throw this firefighter, leaning on it sleepily and head in the wind like a dog, onto the asphalt below.

I distract myself with glimpses of the Douglass Memorial Bridge in the distance. The iconic arch of lights make for a fine contrast between the brutalist concrete structures and dilapidated buildings around me, and the blue lights searing over the water and into my eyes surprises me out of darkness every time.

Man, I really wish House of Cards would start up again. 

We turn again—losing the bridge lights—and I can feel the wagon lurch forward as we hit wide open road. I turn my radio to the dispatch channel, I feel the wind blow stiffly through my hair, and I listen to the city tear itself apart around me.

We pass the Training Academy, with its ever-changing carousel of cars of practice. The new burn building stands tall, proudly charred with the best efforts of future firefighters and their instructors; the most important lesson seems to be how to take care of yourself in a department that may not. 

The scrap yard is littered with out-of-service public school buses and grimy police cars. A humongous and flourishing greenhouse (rumored to be where they grow all the beautiful plants for the Capitol, congressional office buildings, etc.) lays incongruously in the chaotic landscape at the bottom tip of D.C.

Something old, something new. 

I chuckle as we pass the statue made out of seized handguns for the thousandth time (it's in front of MPD's new Evidence Control Division). A fitting monument, no? Perhaps a foreboding of things to come on this eerily calm night shortly after the first of the month.

Police cars zoom under us on I-295; a helicopter searches pointedly overhead with its searchlight jumping like a cat lunging for a laser pointer. "He's right here," we joke, pointing at each other as if they could see us. 

We catch a gas leak as we're almost home. Damn. Wait… what? On the interstate? It's a highway. And Blue Plains Waste Treatment is right on the other side of the highway from us. (It always smells like some kind of gas, anyway.)

Nothing found. We turn the lights off and slow from ramming speed back to rambling speed.

The door goes up, we go backwards, and again we're home. My feet make a several-foot thud onto the dirty floor tile; we four, we happy four, we band of brothers… I laugh as the last few lines of Henry V's monologue come to me, altered though it is by my numerical play-on-words.

I can't remember the rest of it. Something about men in England who were missing out on all the fun because they were in bed. That reminds me—my watch isn't for several more hours. No more musings. Just sleep… as long as they'll let us.

/RL

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

1 Comment

  • michael says:

    Awesome writing. (yours, not Shakespeare's, but his was pretty good too.) I used the St. Crispian's Day speech as a forward for my book Rescuing Providence.

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Alex Capece

Washington, D.C. Firefighter and Paramedic

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