I had just passed out on my dad's couch. I'd been at work all day. I was tired.
After I raided the fridge for something to eat, I decided to crash.
I had just dozed off when my dad comes crashing through the front door, coughing, and high-tailing it to the laundry room.
What in the world?
"Dad?" I holler after him.
I can hear him coughing from the other end of the house.
I push myself up into a sitting position. My eyesight still a little blury from sleep. "Dad, are you okay?"
Puuuussssssssssssssshh. His radio squawks to life.
The dispatcher's voice fills the silence. It's Station 1's district. Not Station 2.
That means he's not going anywhere.
When my dad reemerges from the laundry room, he had changed his clothes, but his face was blotchy and black.
I wrinkle my nose. "You smell awful. Have you looked at your face?"
He swipes his hand across his face and then examines it. And then he just shakes his head.
As he collapses into his worn, leather chair, he sighs. "Long day."
I raise my eyebrows. "You look worse than just a long day."
My dad is a farmer and a first-responder firefighter.
He swipes his forearm across his forehead and coughs. "I got a call while I was working on the brooders in number three chicken house."
He doesn't say anything else.
I prod. "And?"
Sighing again he says, "And it was a house fire off Plainview. So I dropped what I was doing and decided to just head over there, since I was only two minutes away, instead of heading to the station to grab my gear. The dispatcher said that whoever called 911 told 'em there was someone still inside."
He stops again and clicks on the television. The Weather Channel. He keeps his eyes glued to the screen but mutes the volume.
"And when I get to the address, I see a man standing on the front porch talking on a cell phone."
With his eyes still glued to the television, "I went up to the man and asked him if anyone had called 911. And he said yeah, but that there was no need for me to be there. That there was nothing I could do."
I looked confused, I'm sure. "So why did he call 911 to begin with?"
He looks over at me. "He wasn't the one who called 911."
"Okay... So who was?" This was turning into a weird story.
Shrugging his shoulders, "Nobody knows as of yet. But I asked the man if there was anyone inside. And he said his daughter was. So I pushed past the man to get to the front door, but he blocked me. I told him I needed to get inside but he said the door was locked."
He stops again.
Am I gonna have to siphon it out of him?
"And I pushed him out of the way and the door wasn't locked, so I shoved my way in. Only I had to crawl on my hands and knees. The smoke was too thick to see anything. I felt my way down a hallway. I shouted and shouted, but no one answered back. By this time, I hear Donny hollering for me."
Donny is a first-responder and my dad's best friend.
"When I turned around I could see Donny crawling towards me down the hall. I tried turning the knob to the first door in the hall, but it was locked. Me and Donny decide to kick the door in. And when we did, we found the man's daughter."
His eyes are back on the rolling forecast on the tube.
"And what, you guys got her out?"
He coughs again. "No, she was lying on a bed, engulfed in flames and I didn't have any of my gear on. She was dead by the time me and Donny got there anyways."
I'm completely shocked. "So that man just let his daughter burn alive? He didn't even try to get her out or put out the flames?!"
"He was high, Mandie." He looks over at me.
"Yes, that house was meth lab."
My mouth falls open. "You just went into a burning meth lab that could have exploded at any moment, without any gear on!?"
"Dad, please tell me you won't go into anymore burning meth labs..."
He looks at me and smiles. "What if you were the one trapped inside a burning meth lab?"
"Okay, but that's the one exception."