A Life Saved

Contributor: Krysha Thayer

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The smell of booze and sex had settled on him long before he decided to call it a night and stumble next door and up the stairs to his second floor flat. Living next door to a bar had certainly changed his life for the better since moving to this small town and he enjoyed the nightly visits from women. The bar owner, only a few years older than he was, even allowed him the use of his office occasionally so he didn’t have to bring them upstairs and have them spend the night. Tonight had been a good one, as Ladies’ Nights always are, and he had stayed until the place closed.
He didn’t even bother with a shower, he just pushed the cat out of her favorite spot on the bed and cursed her when she hissed at him. He never liked her anyway. He had let someone stay with him and when they left, they left the cat behind. “You know, it’s been six months. I don’t think they’re coming back for your scrawny ass. I should sell you for booze money.” He laughed at his own joke but stopped when he realized that maybe she was so scrawny because he didn’t feed her enough and maybe he could go to jail for that. He fell into an alcohol-induced sleep almost as soon as he fell into the bed.
The smell of smoke woke him up as daylight was just starting to show through the curtains. He walked down the short hall but the flames were already coming up the stairwell so he ran back to his room and closed the door behind him to shut out the heat and smoke. He searched for his cell on the nightstand but it wasn’t there. “Shit!” He fumbled through his pants pockets and found it, quickly calling 911 as he got into an old pair of sneakers.
“911, where is your emergency?” Her voice was deep and throaty. She was a smoker.
“32 Second Street. I’m on the second floor.” He grabbed a jacket off the chair in the corner, then got dizzy so he sat down. “I must still be a little drunk,” he said, to no one in particular.
“Is that your emergency, Sir?” She sounded like she was smiling.
“No. My apartment building, it’s on fire. I can’t get down from here.” He was starting to get a little more nervous now. The alcohol was wearing off. He coughed as the room began to fill with thick smoke.
“Is there anyone in the building with you, Sir?”
He needed a minute to think. “No... No, I don’t think so. The apartment below me is empty.” At least it was the last time he talked to his landlord. When was that? Two weeks ago?
“Where is the room you’re in? Give me directions from the outside of the building.” Her voice was staying calm, focused on the objective. He needed that right now, he was starting to panic a little. What if he died in this tiny little town in the middle of nowhere?
“If you’re looking at the building from the outside, I’m in the room on the right. Light blue curtains in the window.” He got up from his chair and paced the room as his eyes started to water. He followed the operator’s instructions: test the door for heat, look for smoke underneath it, put a cloth in front of his face. It wasn’t long before there were flashing lights in front of his apartment.
Jets of water beat against the house, breaking through the windows that hadn’t already been broken by the heat of the flames. They extended the ladder on a fire truck toward his window and a firefighter climbed up it carefully.
Even though he was watching the firefighter, he was still startled by the knock on the window. He opened it and the firefighter climbed into the room. “You’re sure there’s no one here with you?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” The name on his gear said Owens. “Oh, wait! My cat! I can’t leave my cat!” He began his search under the bed, and then went to the closet, but couldn’t find her.
“Sir,” the firefighter took him by the shoulder, “I’ll find your cat. What’s its name?”
He had to think for a minute. The smoke was starting to get thicker in the room. He started coughing. “Jasmine. Her name’s Jasmine.” It came out more like a cough than actual words. The firefighter walked him to the window and helped him onto the ladder until he was walking down it himself. At the bottom, there was another firefighter to help him off of it. “Owens is going to find my cat, right?”
“He will, if it’s the last thing he does.” This firefighter’s name was Fullmer.
He didn’t even remember he had a cat until thirty seconds ago and here Owens was risking his life to save hers. He kicked the pavement hard with the toe of his sneaker. Then Owens emerged from the window, the calico cat curled in his arm. Another firefighter wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, but then the bar caught the flames of the apartment fire and the alcohol went up in a bright flash as Owens was descending the ladder and someone pushed him back behind a truck so he couldn’t see Owens or Jasmine.
He peeked around the corner and held his breath until Owens started descending the ladder again with his cat. He ran over to meet him at the ladder and took Jasmine. “Come with me. Let’s get you guys some oxygen.”
Back at the ambulance, they sat on the bumper with oxygen masks on and he held a small animal mask to Jasmine. The firefighter’s face was covered in soot while the top of his head was clean, accentuating his balding, graying head.
“Thank you for saving my cat.” His voice was shaky.
“Not a problem, kid.”

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Krysha Thayer lives in Vermont with her husband, Quay, and their dog, Kasey. She will graduate from Southern New Hampshire University's English/Creative Writing program (with a concentration in Fiction) in May of 2015. Krysha enjoys writing short fiction as well as longer and is currently working on several projects of varying length.
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