My first shot at fiction. Gentle feedback welcome. Thanks. -Firechick
A small group of us sat on what was left of the reservation school's front lawn watching the lightning dance across the desert sky. We'd been fighting this big fire for weeks, and now the summer monsoons were on their way to Arizona. The wind was soft, blowing up from the Gulf of California but not yet wet with rain. It was still hot, yet there was the promise of cooler temperatures carried on the breeze. The lightning looked to be several miles to the East, so we were safe sitting in the open watching the show.
The engine crews and hotshots were bedded down inside the school so they could rest quietly and in air-conditioned comfort. They did all the hard work and should have the best sleeping conditions. The overhead, including me, camped outside in tents in the yard around the school. I sat next to Skip, my legs splayed out in front of me, leaning back on my hands.
"Oh, that was a good one," he said as a bolt came down out of the clouds and split off into several electric fingers. We were looking down into the low lands and the lightning almost seemed below us.
"Do you get lightning like this in Alaska?" I asked.
"Not like this," he answered and knocked my boot with his.
"Looks like they might get some new fires down there before the rains come. Maybe I'll get reassigned."
"Maybe you will. I almost wish I wasn't headed back to Alaska tomorrow with the rest of the team," he said. "Wouldn't mind fighting a bit more fire."
That's the nature of firefighting. We come from all over and join forces to fight the flames. We work together, laugh together, make new friends and then head back to our homes or to the next fire. I know people who liken us to mercenaries. They're not far off; we go where the work is.
Skip and I had been working on the same divison for about a week. I had come from a fire farther up north on national forest land. His team had been managing this fire on the reservation land and had put their 14 days in. It was now time for them to go home. For the last six days I was in charge of five engines and Skip was our supervisor. He was easy to work for. Even though he was a smokejumper he wasn't arrogant or full of himself like many of them often are. As the urgency of the fire wound down and we began to get a handle on it, he stopped by and hung out with us more and more. We had fun telling smokejumper and hotshot jokes, and he was a good sport. And, to be truthful, easy on the eyes. He looked to be about mid-forties, tall and fit, but the stubble on his face was definitely gray. It's a hard life, and I know a lot of firefighters who look older than they are.
It was late and the lightning was coming more infrequently. People started getting up and heading to their tents. Skip stood up, his knees creaking, and then reached a hand down to pull me off my feet. I stood, wiping the dirt and dead grass from the back of my pants.
"I'm gonna turn in," he said. "It was nice sitting here with you."
"Which is your tent?" I asked.
"That brown one with the yellow fly over there by the corner of the building," he pointed. "See it?"
"Stop over if you need a cup of sugar," he laughed.
"I think I'm going to go take a shower," I said. "No line."
The big joke on fires is that because there are so fewer women than men we never have to wait in line for a shower like the guys do.
"Sure, rub it in," he said. "Well, goodnight."
I took a long, hot shower, washing off several days worth of sweat, grime, and soot. I changed into my running shorts and t-shirt, my typical sleep- wear on fires. I walked back to my tent and looked over at Skip's. What the hell. I threw my dirty clothes and toiletries into the open "door" of my tent and walked back. There's was no one out and about. It was pretty quiet, and the lightning flashed in the distance. The wind was up and I could hear the flag snapping against the pole. This is crazy, I thought, as I paced a few steps back and forth. I thought there was an attraction between Skip and me, but here I was second-guessing myself as usual. Was I actually thinking about crawling into his tent? What if I imagined everything? Shit. How embarrassing. But, then again, he was leaving tomorrow. If I made a complete fool of myself, chances are I wouldn't run into him again this summer.
I took a deep breath and walked over toward the school. I stood next to his tent. Oh, God, what if this is the wrong tent? I quickly looked around. No, this is it. My heart was hammering. Here goes.
I kneeled down and grasped the zipper. It sounded as loud as a freight train as I zipped the door open. I popped my head in. Skip was on his back, but he was propped up by his elbows looking at me. I could see the white of his teeth in the dark. I hoped it was a smile and not a grimace.
"I came to get that sugar," I whispered.
"You making brownies?" he whispered back.
"Something like that," I said.
He motioned for me to come in. I wiggled in on my knees and turned to zip the tent back up, my hands shaking. I turned back, and just then a flash of lightning lit up the inside of the tent. That's when I noticed he was naked. And smiling. Whoa. I pulled my t-shirt over my head and crawled up the length of his body. He smelled like smoke and sweat and I tasted salt on his skin. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me to him. His hands were rough and callused yet gentle as they slid down my back. And then the lightning was in me, bright and hot.