“Who called 9-1-1?”
The dishwasher waited for a response, his bald head stuck through the narrow opening in the wall normally used to pass food from the kitchen to the dining room. Before the startled diners could respond, the bald head jerked to the right, as twin stainless steel doors burst open and slammed against the wall beside him. A burly firefighter filled the opening, each meaty hand holding open a door.
“Does anyone require emergency assistance?” the fireman bellowed, his bushy mustache flipping up and out as each word passed his lips.
Everyone froze, eyes riveted on the red-helmeted fireman standing in the doorway, and the bald headed dishwasher staring through the opening in the wall. Everyone, that is, except the old man in the back booth. His back to the door, his eyes never left the newspaper gripped tightly in his shaky hands.
Two more firefighters pushed past their partner, passing under his outstretched arm. Quickly surveying the room, they trotted to the back of the coffee shop and disappeared through the door in the back wall.
“Does anyone need assistance?” the big fellow tried again.
“There doesn’t seem to be a great demand for your services at the moment, Groucho,” a voice broke in. “Why don’t you come back and try again during supper?”
The fireman frowned down on the short, gray haired waitress glaring up at him as she tried to set a tray of coffee cups on the counter his right arm was covering. Oblivious to her dilemma and offended by her insolence, he addressed her.
“This is serious business, ma’am. We have received a call for assistance at this address. I am simply doing my job.”
“And in the process, you are making it impossible for me to do mine,” she responded.
The fireman’s eyebrows rose and fell as he mulled over his next move. Rising to his full height, he gave the waitress his fiercest stare.
“Lady, do you realize that interfering with a firefighter in the performance of his sworn duty is a criminal offense?” he demanded.
“So is assault and battery,” she countered. “I’m looking at twenty-to-life if you don’t move your carcass so I can set these cups down!”
Bewildered by this bold challenge to his authority, the fireman stepped forward and allowed the doors to swing shut behind him. The waitress slipped around him and set her tray on the counter.
“About time,” she muttered.
“Is everything okay?”
All heads rotated toward the voice coming from the opposite direction as the front door closed behind yet another firefighter. This one carried his helmet in his hand and wore a white coat.
“Looks like a counterfeit, Captain,” the burly guy said, clunking in his heavy boots toward his superior. “But we’re giving it a good look-see.”
Suddenly he spun back toward the waitress. “Got a bathroom or some other area that I haven’t seen yet?”
She rolled her eyes and aimed a limp dishrag toward the back wall. “You might try that door that says restrooms on it.”
As if on cue, that door opened and the two firefighters reappeared.
“Nothing back there, boss,” one of them called out. “Whoever called in the alarm probably used that old pay phone hanging on the wall by the men’s room.”
“Thanks, Pagano. Good work,” the captain replied. “Have somebody sign your report and let’s get out of here so these folks can enjoy their lunch.”
“Bring it back here.” A hand beside the bald head waved through the opening in the wall. “I’ll sign it.”
“There’s your man,” said the captain. “See you back at the station.” With a nod to the diners, he was gone.
The three firefighters trudged in unison back to the kitchen, passing single file through the double doors.
“Sorry for the trouble, folks,” the big one called out as he made his exit.
The young couple in the front booth leaned toward each other across the table.
“I believe you owe me fifty bucks,” she whispered. “The poor old fellow didn’t even flinch!”
To download the whole book for just 99 cents (pdf), click here!
Return to blog