A Second Chance

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
January/February 2005

By Natania Field, Illustrated by Evan Mistur

Briiiiing! The fire alarm screeched. “Hurry Jared, this isn’t a drill!” my friend shouted. I excitedly dashed over to the supply closet and yanked on my fireproof suit. I followed my fellow volunteers into the shiny crimson truck just as the driver flipped on the earsplitting sirens. For the first time since I created the volunteer fire company in my community, I was going to actually fight a fire. I started the fire company two years ago, because of the complaints that the nearest fire department was too far away to save some homes in the community. To train the new volunteers, as well as myself, I enlisted some employees from the other fire department. We were finally ready to start fighting fires.

I leapt out of the truck anxiously and ran up to the shivering, sleepy-looking family gathered near a tree.

“Is everyone here?” I asked the woman next to me. She was holding a small baby, and she looked very anxious.

“Yes, I think so,” the woman responded nervously. “My son isn’t here, but I saw him leave the house a few minutes ago. He is probably on the other side of the house waiting for us. Please, find him!”

I dashed as quickly as I could to the other side. If the boy was somehow still in the house, it was important to get to him as fast as possible. He was nowhere to be found. I heard a loud shriek coming from above. I immediately looked up at the windows, and saw a small face on the second floor. The boy must have gone back in to find his family! I grabbed a ladder from the truck and leaned it against the wall before ascending to the window at record speed.

A Second Chance fireman putting out fire

The boy must have gone back in to find his family!

There was no fire in the boy’s bedroom, but I could hear its cackling right outside the door. The smoke was snaking under the door and filling the room like an ominous black cloud. Memories suddenly flooded back, memories that defined who I had become.

I remember waking up to the sound of my own coughing. When I opened my eyes, I understood why. My room was filled with a thick blanket of smoke that smothered my face and made me choke. I wiped the soot from my face and slid onto the floor. I had no idea where the fire was, but I knew what to do. I began to crawl out of my room.

The smoke was thicker in the hallway. That meant I was going toward the fire, but I had no choice. Blinded by the smoke, I felt around the floor until my hand closed around the top step. I turned around and carefully descended backwards. By the time I reached the bottom, my head was spinning and my heart was doing a drum roll. I knew I did not have much time before I fainted.

Now I knew where the fire was. I could hear its evil cackling as it swallowed up the only place I had ever called home. It ate through the carpet and devoured the coffee table. Tears began to cut little rivers in the soot on my face. They were tears of hatred toward the hungry fire, tears of fear and sadness. I desperately wriggled toward the door, but every inch seemed like a mile. I had only been awake for about ten minutes, but it felt like I had been stuck here for eternity I screamed for help, knowing I would never survive on my own. The fire nipped warningly at my right hand. I yelped in pain, and I hoped someone heard me. I was able to stay conscious just long enough to see my sister. She was covered in soot, coughing and wheezing from the smoke. I remember the way she looked at me. Her face showed sheer panic. Her eyes were wild with fear. It was not fear for herself; it was fear for my safety. She knew the firefighters would not get there soon enough, so she took matters into her own hands. I was unconscious by then, but I know that she managed to save my life, giving me a second chance to live.

A sudden snapping noise, like the crack of a baseball bat hitting the ball, jerked me back to the present. I realized that the fire was slowly creeping its way into the room. It was my turn to be a hero like my sister. I saw the boy, crumpled in a corner, sobbing as if the voracious fire was devouring the floor in front of him. I ran over to him and grabbed him around the waist. Within seconds, we were carefully climbing out the open window and slowly descending the ladder to the boy’s relieved family. My foot touched the grass and I gently placed the exhausted boy in his mother’s arms.

As the entire family was rushed to the hospital to be examined, I climbed wearily into the truck. The boy was uninjured, except for a small, mild burn on his right hand that he had probably gotten trying to leave his room. I thought of the small burn scar on my right hand and how it helped me realize what I needed to do with my second chance. The little boy’s scar would do the same for him.

A Second Chance Natania Field

Natania Field, 13
Haverford, Pennsylvania

A Second Chance Evan Mistur

Evan Mistur, 13
Troy, New York

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