June Bugs (7)

[Read installment 1]
[Read installment 2]
[Read installment 3]
[Read installment 4]
[Read installment 5]
[Read installment 6]

explosion fire smoke dance

Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

“Put on the damned belt,” Abbey screamed up the ladder towards the bucket, her hands swiftly moving over the controls at the base of the apparatus.

Much to her disbelief, Jake did put on the belt and grabbed ahold of the railing. Without a moment to lose, Abbey raised the ladder and bucket up high enough to clear the top of the engine and then pivoted the entire contraption towards the right in the direction of the sputtering helicopter.

“Back it off!” Jake screamed. She didn’t hesitate. She lowered the boom and reversed the direction while her brain questioned why. In a beat, she understood. Chuck had jumped.

He had a pack secured to his back. Presumably a parachute. The only trouble with that: he didn’t have the height or the wind speed to make his landing. She bit hard into her lower lip and swung the bucket back, jostling Jake like a Szechuan stir fry. Lucky for him he hadn’t just gone through the motions of securing himself. The belt kept him in place and earned him a few points in his favor.

One of the chiefs headed her way while shouting something unintelligible. Probably telling her to stand down and that as soon as this was over, she could head straight to the unemployment line. But Chuck wasn’t going to die. Not on her watch. So she ignored the chief and kept her focus on navigating the bucket to where she hoped Chuck would land.

Nothing prepared any of them for what would happen next. The thunderous clap shook the earth below them, sending out a strong fiery gust of wind that blew Chuck off course as a cannonball of fire chased after him. Her reaction was perfectly in sync. The bucket followed the redirection as smooth as she could ask of it. Once again, Jake wobbled but remained in place, his arms outstretched and ready to catch Chuck. Except the odds were his arms would be broken if not sheered off completely. Chuck’s weight combined with the natural pull of gravity coupled with the force of the explosion meant the chuck wagon barbecue would now become a shish-ka-bob, the two men skewered by limbs and apparatus.

“Back it off!” The chief screamed while motioning towards the firefighters who followed. “Get out the boat,” he commanded.

Boat? And then it clicked.

At the start of their tour, Price–the head of the swift water rescue team–had shoved an enormous box onto the back of the rig in preparation for an upcoming drill. The team’s newest addition. An instant blow-up “boat”. She’d seen the prototype in action. All of them had. Sadly the sales rep, his second day on the job, had failed to put on his show in a space large enough. He proudly pulled the boat out of the box and then pulled the rip cord. Bah-bam! Every last inch of the bay was nothing but boat. The force, so strong, it broke Jerry’s leg as if it were a dried up twig. The city retired him out a week after the doctors determined he wasn’t fit for duty.

The engine’s motor groaned in protest along with Jake as she re-centered the bucket over the roof of the apparatus. Meanwhile, Chuck was blowing past at the speed of a comet.

What felt like minutes yet was mere seconds finally came to an end. Two sounds ripped through the night. First the whapabam and then the thud.

“Chuck!” Jake screamed from halfway down the ladder while continuing to race towards the bottom. “Chuck, man, talk to me! Are you okay? Are you alive?”

Abbey stepped back away from the engine to get a better look. Her heart shot down into the earth through her boots. Somewhere behind her she heard the wails of Bridget.

The Adventures of Jake & Chuck is a weekly installment of an interactive (you, the reader, get to participate by adding your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below) never-ending story. Be sure to sign up and receive notifications of the newest release or follow Kathie on Twitter (@kathieblog) where announcements are also published.

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