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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Endurance (03/22/04)

TITLE: With The Endurance of Love
By Susie Jones


As the shrill sound of the telephone penetrated Steve’s unconsciousness, he automatically reached for the phone at the head of the bed. Not finding it, realization dawned on him. He wasn’t in his bed, but across town at a boarding house where he had moved after Heather kicked him out last week, she couldn’t live with him any longer, she was too afraid for him, she had said.

Pushing back the covers he got out of bed, stumbled across the hardwood floors and located the phone.

“Yea” Steve answered groggily
“Steve, this is Edward. Man, we got problems out here.”

“What? When I left things were better. What now?”

“The wind not only shifted on us, but picked up speed too. Looks like we’re in the middle of purgatory out here. I called the water planes in, and I’ve got fifteen men from Cross County coming, but I don’t even think that’ll help. Things jumping the lines faster than we can plow ‘em. What do I do now boss?”

“Hold tight, I’ll be out there as quick as I can. Give me 10 minutes alright? Edward, which way did you say the wind shifted?”

“I didn’t but it’s blowing from the east.”

Steve cradled the receiver back onto the phone as he ran a hand through his hair, while calculating the time left before the fire would reach the suburbs of Chesterville. There wasn’t a lot left.

Steve put on the same smoky clothes he had worn for the past twenty six hours, only fifteen minutes earlier removed, when he had finally surrendered to his exhaustion, retreating from the forest.

Steve could see the black smoke billowing towards the clouds as he drove towards Edward and his crew. The highway patrolman blocking the road leading towards the fire waived Steve around the barricade.

Parking his truck a safe distance away from the fire, Steve ran over to where Edward was shouting orders to crew members. A map of the area, spread across the hood of Edward’s truck, outlined where they needed to plow fire lines next. Shaking their heads in understanding, the crew ran to begin.

Men were scattered everywhere with soot blackened fire flaps, slapping at the flames inching towards them. Others manned the water pumps shooting arches of water towards the life threatening flames. All were unrecognizable, covered in dirt and soot; they resembled demons from hell, dancing against the backdrop of the red sea before them.
The roaring whoosh of the flames drowned out the engine noise of the planes, as they dropped water bombs in strategic areas. Wetting down the dry brush as well as drowning out the fire as they flew overhead.

Steve, checking on the fires progress, calculated that less than fives miles separated his and Heather’s home in Chesterville from the flames. Worried, he told Edward to continue as best he could without him, explaining that he had to see to his family’s safety.

Steve hoped that Heather and the kids had been watching the news reports, and got word of the evacuation. Heather could be so stubborn about things, like this last ultimatum she had given him. ‘Give up the forestry or leave’.

Ever since one of the crew had been seriously burned in a fire last year, she had done nothing but insist that Steve find other employment, not understanding that forestry work was in his blood to stay. Hating the destruction fires caused he found a challenge in putting a stop to them.

Steve listened to his forestry radio as he made his way towards Heather. The fire was still heading towards their subdivision.

He pulled into his driveway, screeching to a halt. Heather ran from the house to him with arms outstretched, screaming, “Steve, I couldn’t get the car started and the twins are frightened! Get us out of here!”

Steve held Heather in his arms for only a moment; he had to get them out of there and fast. Sparks were already landing on the lawn.

As they drove away, the forestry tower transmitted on the radio, “good new boys, the wind has shifted back to the west.”

“Why is that good daddy?”

Steve explained to his daughter that since the fire had already burned in that direction, it couldn’t do much more damage; also the fire fighters would be able to plow any additional lines needed.

“But you can’t trust a wind shift honey; it can instantly change, blowing in another direction in the blink of an eye.”

Heather stared out the truck window at the fire wrought destruction. If it had not been for Steve’s love, they would more than likely still be there at the house to frightened to get away. All jobs were dangerous to some degree she supposed, at least Steve wasn’t out there on the tractors and plows since his promotion. She was sure that with the endurance of love and understanding, she could conquer any fears about his job.
Reaching around their daughters, across the back of the seat, Heather touched Steve’s shoulder. He turned to look into her eyes as she spoke,” I love you, no matter what you do for a living. Please don’t ever let me push you away again.”

Member Comments
Member Date
Zaavan Shammah03/29/04
Very powerful and beautifully written!!!
If only people would try understanding before running away. Good story.
Dori Knight03/30/04
well written. a great story with a well made point that goes deeper than meets the eye. thanks!
Dave Wagner03/31/04
Good effort. To anyone that actually does this type of work for a living, though, they might chuckle a bit at your naiveté. A bit too much Hollywood, and not enough real-life. Reminds me of the movie Twister, which my wife loved. She knew nothing of storm chasing, though, like I did, and it was glaringly obvious that the writers of that screenplay did no research into storm-chasing whatsoever, and what is involved in that field. Your piece is much closer to reality than that turd-of-a-movie was, but still, there are some real stretches in your piece.

>>...only fifteen minutes earlier removed,<<

That one is a biggie. No way on earth a guy would be that indispensable...24+ hours on, 15 minutes off? The guy he left couldn't make a decision without him? Or any of the other dozens of captains and marshals that would hold decision-making authority? I mean, there aren't that many options in a situation like you presented - it's pretty straight-forward, it's just hard work. I mean, for starters, you'd think they would have sent a couple sheriffs over to evacuate his emotionally-fragile (ex)girlfriend and her neighbors.

In any case, there were several other examples (instantly-shifting wind directions and such), but I don't want to make this any longer. Don't get me wrong, it took skill and courage to attempt a piece like this, and your writing style is sound. I guess I'm just not your target audience.

Good effort.
Susie Jones03/31/04
Dave thank you for expressing your thought on my story. I appreciate the feedback, although due to you making it sound as if I had not done any research on this piece, I think you should know that for one, this is a fictional piece with which I'm certain you are aware liberties may be taken. Second, my father was a forester in rural SC. My research was done at the knees of some of the most dedicated fire flap carriers who ever lived. I can remember many nights that my dad would be home after hours of being on the fire when within minutes of his return the phone would ring and off again he would have to go. Although there my have been evacuators sent to residential neighborhoods, don't you think if your family was in danger and you could make the opportunity that YOU would see to thier safty?? You see, here in the south, family comes first...we take care of our own if there is any way possible. Also, winds do change direction within minutes...the reversal or slightest change of winds is critical to the digging of fire lines (trenches).
Dave Wagner03/31/04
I didn't say you did no research - it's obvious you have a passing knowledge of the topic, but perhaps you might have made the era of the account a bit more clear...it sounds like it is supposed to be the present.

I'm very familiar with the war that the rangers fight against wildfires, having read much, survived the recent San Diego wildfires, having acquaintances actually in the field, and knowing families that lost houses, especially recently (my mom lost trees in her yard, but her house still stands, thankfully). For a solid week, all we listened to on the local radio stations was info on the fires, how they were progressing, their behavior, and the ways they were being fought.

Two days in, there was a major wind-direction change, but not instantly, or even swiftly. It didn't swing back and forth on a moments notice, like you portray...I mean, for a fire to race five miles in a matter of minutes, the winds would have to be 70+ mph, and it would need to burn uphill the whole way...besides, following the logic in the end of your piece, if the fire had shifted so suddenly (prompting the call to Steve), then it would have reversed into pre-burned areas, which you say is good news, not cause for panic.

All I'm saying is that for the casual reader, you piece is great. For someone that is familiar with the topic, the "creative liberties" kind of hamper the piece.

I don't doubt your father's heroism and skills, etc. so please don't think I am questioning that. "Family first" is not a mindset exclusive to the south - even out here on the extreme left coast, we tend to love our families.
Christine Rhee03/31/04
Great job!! I could hear the dialogue...and I could feel the same feeling of imminent threat that we felt just over a year ago when the Sydney bushfires could have blown the fires our way.
Also, a good example of how, through his act of love and protection, a husband helped his wife work through her fears so that she could support him. It takes 2, doesn't it??
Beautiful story!!
Donna Anderson04/01/04
:) sometimes these comments are as interesting as the stories themselves! This one was exciting AND heartWARMING! (sorry, couldn't resist tee hee)
Mary C Legg04/02/04
not the entire world lives in San Diego and fires are dependent on their localities and topography regarding their ability to spread--what happens in SanDiego has little to do with elsewhere in the world.

William McNeese04/03/04
I loved your article.Jesus often related his messages or seromons in parables or story form.Relagating spiritual truths to events in our everyday lives, so bibical principles would be easier to grasp apply to our everyday lives. Thanks for and inspiring story. Billy McNeese agape_won
Kenny Paul Clarkson04/04/04

Well, I was taken by the last line, "Please don't let me push you away again."

Makes me wonder how many times we push loved ones away — without realizing we are doing it — merely by neglect.

Thanks for this fine article.