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Recounting his 17 years as a fireman in his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, the author of Joe explores what it means to be a friend, a husband, a father, a firefighter, a man. As he interweaves scenes as diverse as raising children, battling deadly blazes and making order out of destructive chaos, Brown ponders the realities and choices that have made him the person he is.
each other. We have to trust each other not to run. The instructor makes us stand there, steady, until he sees that we are holding the fire at bay, and then he points to me. I drop to my knees and go forward, and I crawl between his spread boots. The parking lot is brighter now than day. There is a valve right in front of the instructor’s boots, and I lie on the wet black bright asphalt and reach out with my gloved hand, the killing fire right above me, the terrible heat right over my neck. I
she starts slinging me around like a rag doll. She seems stronger than me and I’m embarrassed. She finally slings me into a chair and oh how the boys do howl. I’m having a sinking spell. I don’t feel very good and we’re still a long way from home. It’s later still and we’re drunker still, riding back up through the Delta, and the lights are on outside the prison camps, and they look smoky, and scary, and our driver gets on the car’s PA system, which is hooked into the fire department radio, and
rises about a week later, pale and cold across the lake. Captain Louie’s wife gets up, comes to the fire, yawns, puts coffee on for us. A blessed soul if there ever was one. She gives us a cup and we’re glad to have it. When daylight comes, Hillbilly hands me a knife and I slice into the meat and remove a small piece and chew it. That piece is good, done. But then I slice deeper and it’s raw, soured, and we look at each other. The whole pig has ruined. We should have used charcoal instead of
A late model New Yorker is thirty yards off the right-hand side of the highway, the driver’s door almost up against a tree, the result of a head-on collision. The other car is beside the road, broken glass scattered, but either there are no victims to be extricated or they have already been taken to the hospital by another ambulance. Everybody knows what to do. Canvas has to be laid out, lights set up, blocks, chains, the gasoline engine unit that furnishes the hydraulic power for the Hurst
it. The main purpose is to prevent the firefighter from breathing smoke. We were already a little winded by the time we got to the top floor. As soon as we stepped into the hall, we were enveloped in heavy black smoke. It was bad enough to put the masks on. An initial search revealed nothing but more smoke and nearly zero visibility. Things were much worse than they appeared from outside, certainly. I got worried when I saw that it was impossible to see my partners’ flashlight beams if they were