Life happens so fast. We seldom stop to think about how our actions affect other people. We don’t realize that doing or saying something that’s minor to us has the ability to change someone’s life forever. One should always think about the impact that can be made on this world and the people in it and not be afraid to leave their mark, even in unexpected places.
It’s Halloween. A bone chilling wind howls through the air. Little Danny’s arms are beginning to hurt from a full tote bag of candy. There’s just one more house on the block to go to before heading home.
Danny walks eagerly up the brick stone steps as his father watches under the orange glow of the street lamp behind. He raises his small, pale hand. His knock is timid. The door swings open.
“Trick or treat!”
“Well, look at you.” The muscular man smiled. “Looks like that firefighter helmet’s a bit big.”
Danny adjusted it, revealing the front of his fire red hair. Innocent blue eyes stared straight through the man, to the silver candy filled bowl behind him.
“There, now I can see you.” The man chuckled. “Do you want to be a fireman when you grow up?”
“Well, I did, but…but…”
“But the kids at school were all making fun of me. They said I look stupid in my coat. That I could never put out a fire because my hair would just set it off again.”
The man motioned Danny’s father over.
“Well, that’s not true at all. Look at me.” Watery eyes stared up as the man pointed to his buzzed orange hair. I’ve put out hundreds of fires and saved hundreds of lives. If you want to be a firefighter, you can be the best one there ever was. “
“You’re a firefighter?” Danny’s eyes opened wide like the sky. The man nodded.
“Rick.” Danny’s father extended his hand.
“John,” the man shook strong.
“It looks like your son has enough candy to last him a long time. I’ve got something better.”
“What could be better than candy?” Danny said with sincere curiosity.
“You’ll see. Here, come in from the cold for a moment.” He ushered them to the warm foyer. “I’ll be right back.” He ran up the spiral staircase.
Rick shrugged at Danny and helped unzip his rubber yellow coat. Seconds later, John came rushing down the stairs like a kid headed for the tree on Christmas morning. “Here.” He bent to hand Danny a picture.
“What’s this?” Danny asked.
“You see that woman holding her baby?” Danny looked down at the glossy image. He could see a woman hugging her baby, who was covered in soot. John was in the background, dressed in full gear, smiling. “This is my favourite picture,” he said. “I saved that baby from a burning apartment and returned her to her mom.”
“Wow!” Danny’s innocent blue eyes lit up like sparking sapphires. “Wait, but if I take it, you won’t have it anymore.”
“Your son is quite a gentleman. How old are you, Danny?”
“Well, Ocho Dan.” The boy furrowed his brow. Rick smirked. “I have plenty of copies. Whenever I’m unsure of myself, or question why I do the job I do, I look at this picture. That’s all I need to know that I’m doing the right thing.”
“Cool.” His helmet almost fell, sitting crooked on his head. “Can you sign it?”
“I’d love to.” He pulled a red sharpie from his pant pocket like a magician would a nickel. “I wasn’t planning on it, though.” He winked at Rick.
“Thank you so much!” Danny said as he took the freshly autographed picture back.
“You’re very welcome.”
Rick checked his watch. “We should get going now.”
“Thanks again!” Danny’s grin spread from cheek to cheek. John waved.
When they got home, Rick gave Danny a frame. He put the picture on a nightstand next to his bed.
The towers were hit. As Clouds of smoking chaos filled the air above, swarms of terrified people scrambled on the streets below. He had never seen anything like it. Nobody had.
Beads of sweat lifted the dirt from his cheeks as they trickled down to the ashy floor. He scanned from left to right and heard it again.
“Help!” the piercing shriek echoed down the corridor of the 75th floor. He bolted down the hall as if his heavy suit were made of feathers.
“Hello?” he yelled. A horrifying scream stung his ears. There were no words behind the terror. He found her lying under a fallen desk, leg crushed beneath. Without a moment’s hesitation, he summoned his inner Hulk and moved the heavy wooden desk just enough to free her shattered limb.
“I’m going to pick you up.” His assuring voice slowed her tears. “Ready? Three, two, one.” She recoiled in pain as he placed her upon sturdy shoulders. As he ran down the hall he motioned to three petrified adults huddled in a corner. “Let’s go!” They all headed for the stairs.
Every step posed a new challenge, but instinct motivated him to push on. By the time he stepped to ground level, the other building had fallen to the ground like a sand castle, dusty and destroyed by the tide. It took mere minutes to locate a vacant ambulance. When he did, the woman couldn’t stop thanking him. He nodded and turned around. Dark blue eyes stared up at the burning anarchy before him, reflecting the fire. He took a deep breath and moved forward.
“Wait!” a concerned voice reached out to him. “You dropped this.”
The man turned around to see the picture of a mother and her baby in her hands.
“Thanks,” he said.
“I never got your name…”
“Danny.” He stared at the picture for a moment, put it back in his jacket, and vanished back into the carnage.
Dave Maze is an author, teacher, musician, and avid fan of rainsticks (mmm…tranquility). To read more about him visit www.mazetheauthor.com