When creating character, consistency is vital. It's always best to check dialogue so that a character's speech is clearly identifiable. The same applies to mannerisms, dress, actions - so that a reader can quickly identify when something's amiss.
The writing prompt for our writers this week was to show someone acting or speaking out of character. Stewart Adams chose a work setting.
We were in the truck, covered in soot and ash, the smell of smoke permeating everything. The driver was unusually silent. He was normally the first one to crack a joke, enquire about our next meal or give a ready grin as someone heckled him.
Not today though. It had been a nasty job. We’d responded to a 000 call and arrived outside the small terrace house, the usual crowd of gawkers standing around as smoke billowed out of the front door. The boss was immediately on the radio calling for more resources while I and my offsider suited up to head inside.
The driver had gone around the back of the truck, to get the hose ready for us while we donned our airsets. As we got them on and headed around the back he was confronted with his own problem. A mother with burns blistering her arm as she cradled a girl aged no more than six. The driver hesitated.
‘We’ll take care of our own hose. Try to get some water on her,’ my offsider said.
‘Boss!’ I called, ‘We’ve got a mother and daughter here, heavy burns.’
‘Ambos are five minutes away,’ he said, moving off to try and talk to the other occupants.
I grabbed entry tools and I and the offsider were ready at roughly the same time. We went in together.
‘Possibly two people inside,’ the boss said as we went in.
The house was so heavily smoke-logged we had to find our way by touch. I could feel the heat, but beneath the layers of protective clothing it was more like an abstract distraction. Being a small space meant we could easily locate the fire.
Towels left on top of a heater, we would find out later. Yet half of the contents of the living room had caught on fire. Like many of the poorer places in the area, the occupants were hoarders and a mangled pile of burning mess was littered through the living room.
My offsider immediately got water on the flames, stopping them before they could spread any further, while I checked the two rooms. With the doors closed, the rooms weren’t smoke-logged and I could find my way through them without any problem, quickly clearing the place.
By the time I got back, my offsider had the fire out. Like most fires, they were relatively simple to put out once you got things in motion.
We came outside.
‘Everyone’s reported safe. The two other occupants left hours ago,’ the boss said.
‘The girl?’ I asked, pulling off the air mask, my sweat pooling in it. I checked my air. Less than a hundred bar. We had been in there for at least twenty minutes but it had felt like seconds.
‘Taken to hospital. Burns to sixty per cent of her body.’
‘Children pull through more often than not,’ the boss said.
I didn’t know if that was true or not, but it was what I needed to hear. Once we had cleaned up the fire and the fire investigators had arrived to check it out, we left.
‘Everyone alright?’ the boss asked.
‘No. My lunch will be stone cold by now,’ my offsider said.
‘I had meatballs. Almost had them come up but good now,’ I said.
The boss smiled and looked at the driver, now sombre. He was shocked and silent for once.
‘She was the same age as my daughter,’ the driver whispered.
Text Stewart Adams;
Photos Unsplash & Wiki.
This series of blogs is made possible through assistance from the Council of the City of Sydney.