Jim’s words nipped at my ears like an angry Chihuahua biting an intruder’s ankle. For the umpteenth time that week, we were arguing over chores and responsibilities and who’d done more or less, which seemed completely asinine since I’d just given birth to our daughter.
“You report to a fire station, play with tools on a fancy red truck, and then you cook together,” I reminded him as I stood over the bathroom sink disinfecting my hands from yet another dirty diaper. “I mean, come on. You eat hot food!”
Jim rolled his eyes and leaned on the counter, his backside pushing the breast pump out of the way. “Is that what you really think happens at the firehouse?”
I stopped working my fists under the rushing current. For almost a decade now, Jim and I have been a couple. And for longer than that, he’s been a rescue fireman with the FDNY. So, when Jim posed this question, deep down I knew he didn’t just “hang out” in a firehouse for a wage, but still.
What Jim hadn’t done was carry a fetus deep in his gut for nine grueling months, experiencing weeks-long nausea reminiscent to being trapped aboard a ship on what appeared to be an endless voyage in choppy waters, nor did he need invasive surgery to his abdomen to get said baby out who’d gotten stuck in there for over twenty-four hours during labor; my plight was personal.
“Tell you what,” he said and crossed his arms. “Tonight we’re going to pretend we’re at the firehouse.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m going to simulate mock calls like the ones we get from the 911-call system.” Jim stood straight and slapped his hands together. “Every time there’s an emergency, we have to get dressed in our snow pants and boots and run outside to the car.”
“Yeah, okay.” I threw a towel at him. It landed on the breast pump, which I reached for.
“Don’t even,” he said and took the machine from my hands. “I know motherhood is hard; I never questioned that. I just don’t want you thinking I leave here to go ‘chill’ with the guys. This’ll show you what our shifts are like at the station. Deal?” He stuck out a firm palm.
“Fine.” I touched my hand to his. “My snowsuit is buried somewhere in the closet. Good luck finding it.”
The day seemed to fly as maternal duties took my attention away from timekeeping, but once the curtains were drawn and our child was asleep in her crib, I was reminded of the night ahead.
“You ready?” he said, one brow furrowed. “It’s time to cook our meal.”
“Finally, something hot.”
I ignored his smirk and headed for the kitchen.
After we breaded chicken cutlets and put them in the pan, an alarm sounded. Startled, I looked at Jim.
“Shut the flame. Let’s go,” he said and wiped raw egg from his hands with a paper towel.
I did as I was told and pushed the pan to the back of the stove. Jim ran to our bedroom and I followed. He got dressed in one quick motion as I wrestled to get the outerwear over my thighs.
“We don’t have time. Let’s go. Let’s go,” he said and took my hand.
I stumbled out of the room, trying to zip the suit as we went. When we got outside, Jim leaned against the car and glanced at his watch. I looked at him breathless and disheveled.
“It’s a gas leak. These take a good twenty minutes or so.”
“But what about the baby?”
He pulled the monitor from his coat pocket and handed it to me. I clicked the button to find our child still asleep, comfortable on her side. I gave the device back. “Now what?”
“A quick lesson.”
Jim helped me onto the car and went on to explain what happens during these types of calls. He spoke about the dangers of odorless gasses creeping into the atmosphere, but I was more taken by his gentleness when he’d sat me atop the metal, making sure I was at a safe distance from the edge before letting go. This way about my husband–how kind he can be even while trying to make a point–always fascinated me. I’m not like this. I tend to lose sight of niceness and go right for the jugular.
Jim rested his arm on my knee and held up his cell phone. On the screen was a video clip from social media of a house exploding due to copious amounts of unwelcomed gas inside.
“What made you want to become a firefighter?” I said.
I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to ask this before.
Jim shrugged. “I like helping people. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
His answer fortified my decision of choosing him as my life partner.
Jim put his hands around my waist. “Ready? It’s time to make those cutlets.”
I smiled. “Yes.”
He lifted me up and set me down on the curb.
“Don’t get too cozy in there,” he said, motioning to our house. “We have a busy night ahead.”
Back in the kitchen, I discovered the two breaded pieces of chicken had drowned in the pool of oil in the pan. Jim peered over my shoulder and plucked them out.
“No worries. There’s more. Happens all the time.”
I watched as he tossed the meat into the trash and started again.
“A lot of food must be wasted at the firehouse, huh?” I said, igniting the flame on the stove.
After dinner, I excused myself to the bathroom.
“Just got a call,” Jim said, barging in.
“But I’m mid-stream!”
“Hurry it up,” he said, smacking the jamb. “It’s a car accident involving a mother and child.”
I finished and raced to redress then headed out to the car again. I leaned on our family’s vehicle, waiting for the report.
“One sedan is on its side between an SUV and a telephone pole,” Jim said. “Some firefighters are already on-scene.” He tapped the trunk of our car again. This time I hopped up without assistance.
“Was this a real job you responded to?”
My eyes widened. “What happened to the mother and child?”
Jim took a deep breath. “The mother was unconscious, but the baby was okay–a few minor scrapes, but otherwise okay.”
My heart tingled at the thought of him comforting a baby while lights and sirens whirred around them.
I glanced at the azure sky, listening to city sounds off in the distance. “This was a good idea. It helps keep things in perspective.”
Jim scooped me up and carried me to the front door. “Want to watch a movie?”
“But I was looking forward to our next run.”
“Oh, we’re not stopping,” he said, laughing. “We haven’t even gotten to a fire yet.”
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