The Fireman

“It blotted out the sun,” is a rather dramatic phrase to attach to a fire in some wheelie bins, but that’s what happened. It did so.

I’d been flat on the chaise with a book as usual when I heard a sort of cracking noise, which I thought was Samara coming home and struggling to unlock the door for some reason. I got up to help and saw that the bin shed behind our building was AFLAME!

We live on an upper floor so I didn’t panic too quickly. There was a healthy distance between the fire and my flammable, flammable face. But a thrill rose in me as I peeped down and saw the flames swirling.

I’m not trying to be dramatic, madam, the flames were swirling. Yes, madam, like a maelstrom.

I quickly closed the windows and sealed up the ventilation slots. I’d already begun the dubious pleasure of breathing a bin.

As I watched the plastic blister and contort, I’ll confess to enjoying the experience (“chaos! glorious chaos!”) but when the sun-blotting business kicked in, it all got a bit scary. Phrases like “backdraft” and “charred remains” and “it started on Pudding Lane” began to occur.

I pulled on some shoes and (yes) trousers just in case escape should beckon and then I called 999. A neighbour had already called though — perhaps because she or he had been dialling neufs instead of shouting “chaos reigns!” and leaping up and down — and the fire brigade were on their way.

The fire engine came and the dousing began. One of the firefighters climbed onto the roof of the bin shed, which seemed a bit much, but he did’t roll anywhere and if he shouted, “Go! Go! Go!” I didn’t hear it.

A little while later, there was a knock at the door and I could tell from the fuzz of a walkie-talkie that it would be one of the firefighters.

I let him in and — it may have been his charisma or the fact that his badge identified him as having the silliest name in the world, ALAN, or the fact I’d just inhaled the best part of a municipal bin — but I began to understand why all those mad women are so keen on firemen.

“Hello Alan.”

He wasn’t especially handsome but he knew his stuff and he was tall. I mean, I’m considered tall, so he was tall. I’m not accustomed to looking up at dreamboats.

He began to explain what had happened to the bin and that we’d soon be hearing from the council and that he’d also like to “take this opportunity” to tell me about good evacuation procedures.

“I put my trousers on,” I said.

“Right,” he said, “That was a good start.”

He then went into some information about testing doors for heat before opening them and various other things that could “save my life one day” but I was lost in his fireman’s presence. They really should send uglier people out to explain these things, a sort of firemanuensis (come on!) with hairy ears or no head or something.

Samara suddenly arrived home, which was probably for the best really. Or was it? How do I know that our life together is better than the life I could have had with Alan?

“It blotted out the sun, Alan,” I said.

Samara gave me a funny look.

“Yes,” he said, “you’ve been a brave boy.”

Well, he didn’t actually say that but can you imagine? Swoon!

Alan had a burn on one of his arms.

Do the fire brigade give out lollipops to brave boys or is that just dentists?

I could go on.

What an exciting hour.

Three plastic green splodges — former wheelie bins — now adorn the pavement. Bits of our rubbish protrude from them. It looks like a teleportation accident in a cocktail bar.


If you enjoyed this story, (a) shame on you, and (b) please consider buying my books A Loose Egg and Stern Plastic Owl for countless other encounters with Earthlings.

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