I looked at Stormy.
“Go get the pump can and a carryall.” Stormy hurried away as I turned my attention back to the man.
“Hey mister… I’m sorry I never got your name. What is your name?”
“Ronald, Ronald Jackson.”
“Well Mr. Jackson, can I ask you a question?” The screams now were combined with rough coughing and gagging as the fire began to grow. I edged closer.
“You stay put son.”
“Okay Mr. Jackson I’m staying. But doesn’t the devil live in hell?”
He raised his eyebrows.
“No he be living in my damn fireplace right now.” He held the poker up like a batter.
“Okay, but I would think the devil is used to fire and smoke by now wouldn’t you? I don’t think it would make him cough and scream like that, I think he’d like it.”
Mr. Jackson lowered the poker just a bit. Then we heard it.
“Please Uncle, Hep me.”
“Mr. Jackson do you have a nephew that lives here with you?” I asked as Stormy ran back in with the pump can and carryall.
“Yes I do.”
“Well the devil just called you uncle.”
Mr. Jackson dropped the poker and turned to the fire.
“Ronnie is that you up my chimney?”
“Hep me uncle I’m burning.”
Mr. Jackson tried to paw at the fire I pulled him back as Stormy and Tommy (the Driver of engine 8) quickly threw out the carryall in front of the fireplace.
Mr. Jackson struggled with me trying to break free from my grasp and help his nephew.
“Put the damn fire out my Ronnie’s burning up in there.” He was a handful.
“Mr. Jackson we have to pull the fire out of the fireplace, if we squirt water on it now it will make steam go up the chimney and burn your nephew worse. Just relax and let us help him.”
He continued to fight me as Stormy, Tommy and captain Tubby pulled the burning lumber out on to the carryall by hand. As soon as the firebox was almost empty they pulled the carryall away a few feet and Stormy sprayed it with water.
Ronnie’s screams faded into pleas for help. The fire went out quickly.
“If I let go of you Mr. Jackson you promise to stay out the way and let us help Ronnie?” He began to cry and sagged in my arms now.
“I killed Ronnie.”
“You didn’t kill anyone. Listen he’s still alive, hear him?”
Mr. Jackson collapsed, sobbing; I set him down in a chair.
Captain Tubby was now leaned over looking up the chimney with his flashlight as I go to him.
“Well Cap, what do we have?” I asked. Without looking away from the chimney he answered me.
“We got some scorched Nikes and now way out from this end.” Captain Tubby righted himself.
“We need to go to the roof. This fella is gonna have to come out the way he went in.”
“Should we call animal control Cap?”
He gave me a WTF look.
“For the reindeer, we’re gonna need someone to take care of the reindeer.”
“Get your ass on the roof TimO. Animal control? Funny.”
Stormy, Tommy and I dragged the smoldering carryall outside just in time to see Captain Tubby have a chat with the cops, he got real close to them.
“Either one of you assholes actually look in the fireplace?” They seemed dumbfounded at the question.
“No? I could tell by the stupid looks on your faces. Call your sergeant I’ll need to speak with him after we pull the real person out of the chimney that you didn’t look for while you were laughing at the poor old drunk starting the fire that probably burned the guy.” Tubby stomped away leaving the two cops frightened and still.
Captain Tubby was old school he let a lot of stuff slide that in the long run wasn’t important. But he didn’t suffer fools well, and those cops would find out the hard way when we were done and Tubby had spoken to their supervisor.
Two big eyes blinked at me from halfway down the chimney.
“Let me guess, you are Ronnie.”
“Yes sir I’m Ronnie.”
“You okay Ronnie, you burned or hurt?”
“I’m really hot sir, but I don’t think I’m burned. I’m just stuck really bad, when I slipped I kinda fell and now I’m stuck.”
“I know this is gonna sound stupid but why are you in the chimney?”
“Well sir, I was drinking with my uncle down at the bar and I wanted to go home and he wanted to stay. So I walked home and when I got here I remembered I didn’t have a key. So then it came to me, if Santa can do it maybe I could too.”
Tubby huff and puffed his way up next to me.
“F**ing cops smoking and joking. What if he’d got that fire going before we got here? I’m gonna have some ass. What do we got here TimO?”
“Well Cap, Ronnie here got locked out and tried the Santa routine to get in.”
“Can we pull him out?” the Cap was now peering down at Ronnie.
“Can you move kid?” Tubby asked.
“No sir, I’m stuck real good.”
Tubby straightened himself and slipped a little almost going down in the snow on the roof.
“We can’t pull him out and this roof is gonna get one of us killed.” Tubby thought awhile looking the whole situation over.
“Just take it apart TimO, you guys get some ropes and tie off, make sure you are secure and then just take it apart brick by brick. I’ll call truck 8 over here to help.”
The Truckies arrived at the same time as Chief Rip and the PD sergeant.
This was decidedly Truckie work, those guys can tear anything apart. The Truckies went to work and in minutes, and I mean minutes they had that chimney not only disassembled but neatly stacked on the roof and Ronnie was a free and unhurt man.
I think about that call every Christmas can’t help myself.