“My mom says fire
is scary. I had bad dreams.”
Jerry smiled and leaned forward on the folding chair
toward the kids sitting on the big rug in front of him. Mick sat beside him on
another chair, looking like someone had thrown him into a swamp full of
alligators. He’d said something about kids making him nervous on the drive
over, and he hadn’t been kidding.
Jerry nodded. “Your mom is right. Fire can be real scary.
But remember, it’s good too. How else would you get hot dogs and s’mores?”
All the kids laughed and echoed him. “Yeah, s’mores.”
“Now you guys did really good yesterday when you exited
Jerry smiled at the little girl with cocoa skin. “It
means when you marched out the door just like in your fire drill.”
“And because of that, Firefighter Cassidy and I have been
authorized, uh, I mean we’ve been told, we can give each one of you an Honorary
“Can I have two?”
Jerry laughed. “But first, tell me all the stuff you know
about how to handle fire.”
The kids stared at him.
For the first time, Mick moved. He leaned forward and
said real soft, “Matches.”
One little boy nodded authoritatively. “Ohhh, yeah. Never
play with matches.”
“Don’t touch matches.”
Jerry looked at Mick and gave him a wink.
The guy looked down at his hands. Jeez, he’s weird.
He looked back at the kids. “And what else can you tell
me about fire?”
The children all looked right at Mick. His ears turned
pink, but he got into the game. “Fireworks,” he whispered.
One little black-haired boy rolled back on the carpet. “Fireworks
Jerry laughed. “Right, but where do they belong?”
Once again, all eyes turned to Mick. He held up his hand
beside his mouth. “In the city fireworks display.”
One redheaded boy threw his hand in the air. “Ciddy
Jerry nodded. “Right! Never, ever pick up fireworks or
buy them at the store. They can hurt you, and they’re not allowed in Laguna
Beach. You know where that is, right?”
“Okay, good. Now Firefighter Cassidy and I will hand out
your badges. Remember, fire is good most of the time, but you have to use it
right. Never play with it—and do your fire drills regularly. Ready for your
He took the plastic badges from a box and handed some to
Mick. As the kids flocked around him, the big guy smiled and looked kind of
A little Hispanic girl grabbed Jerry around the legs.
“Thank you, Fireman.”
He knelt down. “Thank you. What’s your name?”
“You enjoy your new badge, okay? Show it to your mommy
“I only have a daddy.”
Jerry’s breath caught. “Well, I’ll bet you love him very
She nodded. “Yes. He makes me sandwiches, and we’re in it
Jeez, should he laugh or cry?
“Do you have a little girl, Fireman?”
He smoothed her inky hair. “No, but I wouldn’t mind
having a little girl just like you someday.”
“I hope you find her.”
Heat pressed behind his eyes. “Oh, I hope so too.” No crying, man. He hugged Antonia’s tiny
frame. “Thank you for letting us come to your class today.”
Big wide eyes. She nodded. “Thank you for coming.”
He smiled. When he looked up, Mick was staring at him.