© 1999-2007 Vincent Truman-Mulvihill/Razor
THE THIN PINK LINE
a novel idea by Vincent Truman
© 2001 Vincent Truman-Mulvihill/Razor
All rights reserved.
Precocious little Doom Lamour had burnt her tenth ant on the lawn of the fire station when she heard the familiar sound of her father's truck race up, skid, flip over and land again right-side up. She looked up, wiping her blonde locks from her eyes, and felt a sudden feeling of dread. Glancing behind her at the firehouse engulfed in flame, with coal-black smoke streaming out of the windows, she had the realization that she just might be grounded for this.
Hugo, Sgt. Elcamino and an older gentleman with a trenchcoat scrambled over the hood of Hugo's truck, fire extinguishers tucked under their arms. "Doom!" called out Hugo, in a stern voice, jabbing a finger in her direction, "now do not take my truck! And get back out of the way!"
"Oh, Daddy," she gamely protested, taking her magnifying glass and flame thrower to another ant hill more removed from the firehouse.
The three men raced to the mouth of the belching beast of a firehouse and began discharging their extinguishers wildly into it. At different moments, one of the three would stagger back, gasping for air. Then, buoyed by the adrenaline and need to put out the fire, they would stomp back into position and continue fighting the fire.
"It's not working," coughed Sgt. Elcamino, tears streaming out of his irritated eyes. "If only we had a way to fight fire with fire!"
There was a pregnant pause as all three men looked at each other, then directed a slow, unified gaze at Doom, who was obliviously torturing more insects. Hugo shot a look back at Elcamino and LePoofe which said, in essence, this may be more dangerous than fighting a fire.
"Doom, er, honey," choked Hugo, stepping away from the blaze. "We need a little favor." He motioned behind him casually. "We can't seem to put this fire out, sweetheart." He looked back at Elcamino.
"So," continued Sgt. Elcamino, wiping his brow, "we want you to start a counterblaze to take the life out of this fire."
Pierre joined in. "Can you do it, sweetie?"
Doom surveyed the three adults before her. She seemed to identify with her mother for the first time, whose job it was to engage such pathetically needy people. Casually, she put a finger in her mouth, wet it, and held it aloft. "Breeze is out of the north at fifteen miles per hour." She paused for dramatic effect. "This might just work, Daddy. I need you to pull out as many trees as you can and line them up on the east side of the building. Sgt. Elcamino, I need lighter fluid and a torch, stat. And the gentleman with the hand in his pocket... you have to evacuate people from the surrounding homes. OK, people, let's move!"
* * * * *
Lance drove to the nearest bridge he believed would hold his weight, which turned out to be the Route .3 Bridge in the middle of Schickenbeek County, the state's foremost manufacturer of rubber products that people find on the floor and can't recognize. He tasted excitement in his saliva. Lance had always wanted to be more... more... he couldn't think of the word. But then maybe he didn't have to. The word "more" just about summed it up. From the middle of the two-lane box girder bridge, Lance looked over the horizon, the dark blue sky, the dark clouds emanating from town, the trees bisected by one of the wider sections of the Phukaduk River. An unusually warm breeze broke through the January chill and encouraged Lance's spirit.
"This is it!"
With child-like glee, he strapped himself into the white harness and square-knotted the bungee chord to the metal railing of the bridge. As Lance gingerly hoisted himself up onto the railing to jump, a small object caught his eye on the bridge's walkway where he was just standing. It was red, with one bulbous end and another, more pointy end. Lance got down to investigate. He picked it up, feeling the texture. It was rubber, he concluded, but what the hell was it?
He would stand there several minutes trying to figure it out.
* * * * *
The second fire, set by Doom, Hugo, Sgt. Elcamino and Pierre, had been blown by an unseaonably warm westerly breeze away from the firehouse and had taken refuge in five adjacent houses.
Hugo began to panic. "It isn't working," he cried, his eyebrow as out of control as the fire. Doom sulked away and sat in her father's truck, thinking, ok, now she was gonna be grounded.
"This is a disaster! The whole town could go!" Pierre exclaimed, to both yet neither of them. "What are we going to do?"
"Well," suggested Sgt. Elcamino, "if I were you, Pierre, I'd get those missing person posters up fast."
Hugo muttered to himself. "Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn." He paused. "Sell!"
Sgt. Elcamino observed this and looked at Pierre's ashen face. "It's okay. I think this is Personality Number Seven - the self-conscious stockbroker with Turrette's Syndrome."
Pierre grabbed Sgt. Elcamino's shoulder. "But what about my daughter?"
Sgt. Elcamino thought about this. "Oh, I don't know if he does impressions or not. Hey Hugo, can you do Pierre's daughter? She floats in mid-air."
Hugo flashed them a look, then tore up a bunch of imaginary orders. "The market's closed, buddy. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn. Damn."
A rare and sudden thought sparked to life in Sgt. Elcamino's mind. "Of course! The dam! Come on!"
Dragging Hugo with them, Pierre and Sgt. Elcamino rushed over the hood of Hugo's truck and drove off, Sgt. Elcamino at the wheel. During the five-minute ride to the outskirts of town where the dam was located, Hugo continued to blather on about investments, shares and stocks almost incoherently, swearing all the while. Elcamino turned to Doom. "Is this Personality Number Seven?"
"Fourteen." Doom sounded confident but less than interested.
"Are you sure?" challenged Elcamino. "Sounds like Seven to me."
Doom shook her head. "Seven is the New York stock broker. This is the Turret's stock broker."
"What's the difference?"
"The New York stock broker swears more."
* * * * *
Chet Phukaduk loved the front desk at the Phukaduk Dam. Phukaduk, whose great-grandparents had founded the town as a religious sanctuary but for some reason never got any visitors at the mission they built - hence its eventual sale to the Church of Immediate Concern - operated the dam and the water reclamation plant nearby. Although several in the community thought Chet had undervalued himself and his potential contribution to society, the fact was he was happy. Years ago, he had considered running for mayor, but found that the sewage he now dealt with at the plan was infinitely more palatable to that found at City Hall. Chet spent his days trimming his beard, practicing on an old drum set he kept handy and listening to water constantly rush by. It was a peaceful life, even though he had the urge to pee every five minutes. He was just thinking about urinating again when he looked up to see Sgt. Elcamino, a man in a trenchcoat and a small girl rush into his small, cramped office.
"Is this the dam office?" asked Pierre, breathlessly.
"What do you mean by that?" asked Chet.
Doom eyed the drum set in the corner. She considered playing a quick rim shot, but then disregarded the idea a moment later.
"By the authority vested in me..." began Sgt. Elcamino.
Perhaps sensing the dangerous vibe that his visitors brought him, or perhaps simply a way to accelorate the storyline, Chet blurted out, "What do you want me to do? Shut off the dam?"
"...er, yes!" said Elcamino. "How did you know?"
"Call it an inspired guess," replied Chet, leaning over and flicking the on/off switch marked 'DAM'.
* * * * *
From his upside-downward descent, which seemed to grow exponetially faster every half second, Lance thought he was hallucinating. The icy blue water was approaching fast. Lance could see almost directly below him an object that looked like a person in a boat. No. No boat. Was it a mermaid? Dancing on the surface of the water? Whatever it was, it was getting close very quickly. Shit, he thought.
Lance and Ismarelda bonked heads with the force and sound of bowling balls at war. She flipped and grabbed onto the bungee cord involuntarily as Lance proceeded to tumble until he disappeared under the surface of the river with a violent crack. Shit, she thought.
A second later, Lance plunged back out of the water and tangled himself around Ismarelda's legs. They slammed heads again (see bowling ball analogy above), the momentum springing them both up, up, up.... nearly to the railing of the bridge. Lance and Ismarelda dizzily looked at each other, each one expecting the other to grab for the railing. At a moment where they seemed suspended in space, Lance said, "Don't I know you?"
Before Ismarelda could vocalize how pissed she was that he hadn't grabbed the railing, the moment was gone and the two of them plummeted back into the icy river. This time, though, the cord had lost its bounce, and isntead stretched as the two tangled people were caught in and under the rapid current.
* * * * *
Hugo, having left the others at the dam, wandered the streets of the inferno formerly known as Phukaduk, sneering at the people running by. He was now firmly embedded in Personality Number Seventeen - the disgruntled frame store employee. "Oh what now? You want a simple metal frame? Do you know how crappy that looks? It's okay if you want to look like a cheap asshole. You should have matting for that, you know. OK, you know what? Shut up! Fuckin' piece o' crap!"
Just then, a manhole cover a few feet away burst open, sending a geyser of Old Faithful-strength river water into the air. The water, with no dam to go through, had backed up and infiltrated the city's sewers, finding release at each and every manhole, not unlike a gay sex addict. The cover flipped like a dime until it came down - with considerably more force than a dime - on Hugo' skull, sending him reeling and tumbling to the ground. He hit someone's front yard hard, sliding a number of feet due to the sudden saturation of the grass.
Brought to by the water falling on him, Hugo sat up, shaking his head. "Doom? Bob?"
* * * * *
As a result of the dam being switched off, the river and its brisk current suddenly began to dissipate. Now Lance and Ismarelda dangled over the dropping river like two people dangling over a dropping river. Soaked through to the skin, Lance and Ismarelda finally took a good look at each other.
"Freak?" asked Lance, remembering her old nickname. "Is that you?"
"Lance? Lance Lamour?" Ismarelda gasped.
"You saved me," she said, tightening her arms around Lance, "you saved my life!"
And then they found each other's souls in each other's eyes and looked deeply into them. Ismarelda smiled and closed her eyes, allowing her head to fall back. She sighed. Lance, sensing once again all of his feelings for Ismarelda, said, "You are just as beautiful as I remember - even more so. I always wanted to tell you how beautiful and captivating I thought you were. Ismarelda, you are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! If there ever was a thing as love at first sight, it was when I first saw you. But I never told you - perhaps I was scared. I don't know - but I've missed you so much. I want to tell you everything. I... love you, Ismarelda. I always have. I love you. Ismarelda? Ismarelda??"
She, unfortunately, had passed out.
* * * * *
In the following weeks, everything changed. Hugo's lapses into one of his fifty-seven other personalities seemed to stop after the manhole cover incident. Doom herself became bored with starting fires, and instead thought heavily about a future as in accounts payable. Her brother Also potty-trained himself one Saturday afternoon, which was a Godsend, although he stunk up any bathroom he used to the point that the mayor, who always caught wind of it, applied for additional Federal funding. Sgt. Elcamino was promoted to Captain, and rejected his dream of being Robert Blake in favor of dreaming of becoming another celebrity whose wife died under unusual circumstances, William Shatner. Pierre LePoofe brought in several contractors from his mob family to rebuild the town, and found purpose again.
Ismarelda LePoofe quit her job in Beafrayde and returned to Phukaduk for good. She and Lance almost immediately began dating, and he was able to tell her everything he felt. Ismarelda, too, had feelings for Lance. It took her a while to realize it - his nickname, as far as she was concerned, was "Some Guy I Used To Know" - but once she did, she found herself as in love as he.
Eventually, she even moved in to the mission. This was not a great surprise - after the disasterous fire and while awaiting the rebuilding effort, half of the population of Phukaduk had moved into the mission. And because Lance was able to make a decent living as curator for his new "hotel", he was able to quit his factory job and spend all of his time with Ismarelda.
On a beautiful night in June, Lance and Ismarelda took a walk (and a float) through the woods behind the mission. At one point, in a clearing under a tapestry of stars, Lance stopped. Ismarelda looked at him quizzingly as he dropped to one knee. "Ismarelda, fate brought us back together after all these years. I would hate to miss a single moment with you. So, Ismarelda, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
Ismarelda smiled and leaned over a bit, cupping her hand to her ear. "What, honey? I can't hear you all the way down there."
Lance stood up. "I said, you wanna get married?"
Ismarelda smiled wide, then turned a little red. Then she began to float down - slowly - inch by inch, all the while looking deep into Lance's star-reflected eyes. A minute later, for the first time, they were face-to-face.
"Izzy," said Lance breathlessly, revealing a wide smile of his own. "You're on the ground, Izzy."
"Yes," she replied, "you may marry me."
A few Sundays later, Lance and Ismarelda were married in the gutted remains of the Church of Immediate Concern. The townfolk cheered enthusiastically as they exited the church, both of them firmly on the ground. Ismarelda, with tears of joy streaming from her striking blue eyes, waved and blew kisses. Lance, wearing his father's tuxedo, beamed and waved as well. Best man Hugo signaled the crowd, and everyone threw bird seed in lieu of rice.
As the seed fell about them, Lance and Ismarelda looked at each other. Fate smiled. Suddenly, Ismarelda felt something wet hit her in the face. Lance felt it too, and they both looked up at the cloudless sky. It was a perfect day - no sign of rain.
Pierre LePoofe stepped forward, putting his hands back in his trenchcoat hurriedly. "Sorry!"
END OF CHAPTER THREE
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