The year was 1994. Or maybe it was 1987. I forget, and frankly, so does everyone in the town I used to live in before I was exiled here. You see, about two decades ago–again, time really flies by when you have no way to measure time–I got a job as the Fire Chief of Anytown, USA. There’s a story behind the town’s name, but I’ll get to that later. How I became fire chief and how I got kicked out of Anytown are much more important. At least that’s what the house where I’m living in/with tells me.
Anyway, about two decades ago I moved to the town subsequently-known-as-Anytown. I had no connections, no money, and no friends there. Nothing. I just happened to pass by it on my cross-country travels as a door-to-door knife salesman. I stopped in to make my usual rounds, and before I knew it, became the Fire Chief.
How did I become the Fire Chief, you ask? Good question. Simply put, I was in the right place at the right time. Quite literally. See, as I entered the-town-that-was-soon-to-be-named-Anytown there was a mob of people rushing down the street towards me. I was a pretty decent salesman, if I do say so myself, but I’d never been greeted like that before in any of my visits. I figured they were just crazy about their knives. The knives I was selling were pretty nice ones, after all. They had handles on them and everything.
One man seemed particularly eager to get his hands on a new set of knives. Either that, or he was just much, much faster than the rest of the townspeople because he was a good 20 feet in front of them. If I had known better I’d thought he was running from the townspeople instead of towards me. Maybe he stole all their knives and they wanted them back. Or maybe they were playing knife-tag and he didn’t have one of his own. Either way, when he got close to me I pulled out my best selling knife to showcase–it’s a multi-use scythe–and he ran straight into it. Oops. Tag, you’re it?
The townspeople stopped dead in their tracks (so did the guy who just ran into my knife, but he was just dead altogether). Either I’d ruined their game of knife tag or that was the best damn knife demonstration they’d ever seen. To my surprise they started cheering and clapping, and suddenly I was being carried back into the town on the shoulders of the townspeople like a returned war hero (with a kill under my belt to boot, mind you).
When the celebrations died down and the townspeople grew tired of carrying me–knives can be surprisingly heavy, especially when they’re carried by an obese man like me–they plopped me down outside the Fire Station and crowned me the new Fire Chief. I told them I didn’t know anything about fires, and that the word “chief” might be mildly racist. But they insisted and said I became the new Fire Chief the minute I slayed their hated former Fire Chief.
I didn’t quite get why they hated the old guy. He seemed nice enough to me. Not the best at avoiding running into knives, but still, seemed pretty decent. I asked the townspeople if his lack of knife dodging was why they hated him. They said in hindsight that wasn’t a good quality to have in a Fire Chief, what with the fire axes and all, but why they really hated him had nothing to do with that. They told me they were running him out of town due to incompetence. He had been Fire Chief of what was then a city for around two decades–again, time being hard to measure for reasons I’ll explain later–and had done a pretty bang up job until the day before I visited. Since he’d taken over as chief they hadn’t had a single fire. Not a one. All he did was rescue cats from trees and ride up and down the fire pole. (How he got up the pole I never figured out, but again, I remind you I was grossly unqualified for this type of work).
The old chief was the toast of the town. Women wanted him and men wanted to be like him. Cats got “stuck” in trees just for his attention. Even the animal eating trees let their prey hide unmolested to get close to the chief. Then the Great Fire of Some Year happened. Half the city burned to the ground. Burned to a crisp. Like toast. The townspeople were understandably angry and turned their ire on the Fire Chief. How did this fire start? Why couldn’t he put it out? Did anyone digitalize anything in the Hall of Records? That was one of the first buildings to go, and now they hadn’t a clue where, when, and sometimes why they were living.
Fast forward about twenty years later and I was the new toast of the town. Fire Chief extraordinaire. Not a single fire since my promotion. Clearly I was doing something right. Or at least wasn’t doing anything wrong. Unlike that wretched old Fire Chief. What was his name anyway? They really should have made copies of things in the Hall of Records. You’d think people would remember that kind of basic information, but smoke inhalation does not do a body good.
Either way, after a vote they settled on a new name for the town: Anytown. Somewheresville came in a close second, with Knifington right behind that (my personal favorite). But Anytown it was. And I had successfully protected Anytown for twenty years, give or take a decade. That was until the Second Great Fire of Some Other Year.
As usual, I was in the Fire House playing catch with Spot the Firedog and trying to figure out how the hell to slide up the fire pole when a loud, fire alarm-like noise went off.
“What the hell is that?” I said to Myself.
“I think it’s the fire alarm” said Spot the Firedog.
“I wasn’t asking you, Spot, I was asking Myself!” I shot back.
I should probably clarify here that after the fire and destruction of the Hall of Records people had to choose new names. They weren’t terribly creative. Or even well chosen. We had at least a dozen (Your Name Here) living in town. I felt bad for the mailman
“Sorry, Chief” Spot said.
“Yup, that’s definitely the fire alarm. Looks like good ‘ol Anytown has another fire on its hands” Myself responded.
That settled it for me. Spot’s judgment I didn’t trust. There was something about him that just didn’t sit well with me. Myself, on the other hand, I liked. He sort of reminded me of myself.
I told Spot and Myself to alert the townspeople while I went to extinguish the fire. It was a brave and noble idea to take on the inferno on my own, but not a terribly bright one. When I got there I realized I had no idea how to fight a fire. The only fights I’d been in were knife fights, and the fire seemed to be immune stabbing. I thought back to grade school when they taught us what to do in case of emergencies, so I went through every solution I could imagine. I made myself as large as I could and made a bunch of loud noises. Nothing. I stopped, dropped, and rolled in every combination imaginable. Still nothing. I even tried ignoring it to see if it would go away. Definitely nothing. As a last resort I tried to fight fire with fire but just severely burned my hand.
(part 2 here)