Another West Side Fire
Biff Swerney had always been a serious, solemn man, in terms of personality.
“You’ve been sober far too long, partner,” Mort Blake, would proclaim on occasion, “you gotta learn how to ease off every now and then, Biff. Blow off some steam, man…”
The commentaries were mostly met with a blank stare of some duration. Sometimes accompanied with a resigned sigh, a brief gust of outgoing breath meaning such observations went un-heeded. Almost unheard.
“Hey, Morton… remember that time, over on Seventy-Ninth Street? A three-story brownstone had gone up. God, it was one helluva blaze.”
“You mean, the one over on the West side… by the Park?”
“That’s the one.”
“Man… I do remember that brownstone. It was a monster, Biff!” Turning his head as his driver-partner clenched the over-sized steering wheel, Morton grimly recalled, “we lost Eddie Flagello that day, in that fuckin’ building! What the hell made you think of that freakin’ deal, man?”
“That was really a shit day, Mort!” Staring intently at the road before them, Biff cautiously sped down Central Park West. Almost involuntarily, he lifted his wrist and unwittingly glanced at his watch. The one his team members chipped in and gave him for his fifteen-year anniversary with the department.
“Wait a minute, Biff… that was the time you and Eddie ran into a Goddamn furnace and up to the third story. Youse had heard someone yelling up there!”
“That’s right, Mort. Me and Eddie ran in and, it was only me came out…”
“Yeah,” Mort’s mouth hung slightly agape, “carryin’ the unconscious old man across your back. You saved that fuckin’ guy’s life that day, Biff.”
“And lost Eddie’s…”
“Hold it partner,” the friend’s voice shifted, “there’s no way that staircase caving-in was your fault, Biff. Eddie knew what he was doin’. C’mon, partner, give us a break here, will ya!”
“Mort, remember the old man, lying there on the pavement… we were waiting for the paramedics to get to him?”
“Yeah, Biff… you were leanin’ over him, when he came to. The sonofabitch hauled off and punched you right in the mouth. After savin’ his friggin life, too! That was a pretty crazy day, man,” Mort looked ahead with a thousand yard stare, “yeah, that was some crazy fuckin’ fire that time, Biff!”
“Crazy, Morton. Abso-fuckin-lutely!”
As they approached the Hook and Ladder truck, plus three cop cars parked on 73rd Street, the team on Biff’s vehicle dismounted and began preparing their assault against the fire and smoke of yet another West Side brownstone. Humongous billows of thick black clouds rolled out of the door and broken windows at the front of the building.
Biff was fully attired in his fire-fighting gear–long, protective coat, high boots, official helmet and face mask w/oxygen tank strapped to his back. Before he could be stopped, in a fast continuous drive, Biff plowed through the front entrance, axe in hand and, disappeared into the inferno.
“Biff!” Morton yelled, “Biff! Wait for the hoses. Biff!”
It was too late. Biff was lost inside the burning uptown residence. He had become at one with the fire… never to be seen alive again.