Saturday, May 8, 2010

The No-Handed Fireman

Before I start this weeks Tale, I have two things.

First, I want to remind everyone that while I can tell my own stories all day long, I started this thing to relate other people's stuff. And I've managed to drum up new stories every week for a while now, but it sure would be great to get more. So check out The Big Idea (the first post at this site), and tell me a story. Don't worry if you don't think you're a good writer - that part is up to me. Just tell me what happened. It doesn't have to be funny, either. It can be sad, exciting, or inspirational. Everyone has a story. Let me hear yours.

Second, this story contains a little bit of profanity. I considered editing it out, but once you read it, I think you'll agree that a clean version just wouldn't be the same. If you're sensitive to strong language, you may want to take a pass this week.

So without further ado, I present The No-Handed Fireman.


As anyone watches Lost must surely know by now, disabled people can do all sorts of things, like hunt wild boar or turn into clouds of smoke. But in real life, it can be difficult sometimes to persuade people that you're capable when you're at a disadvantage.

Take John, for instance. He worked in the Queensland Emergency Services, and he was born with no hands. His arms just sort of tapered down to nubs. For you or me, this might seem like the kind of thing that precludes you from a wide variety of employment opportunities, but John not only got by, he was a successful firefighter and emergency responder. If your house was on fire, you might think it would be nice if the guy who showed up with the fireaxe had hands, but John was just as good at saving you as any fireman with a full complement of body parts.

One night after a training exercise, John was on his way home with his buddy Bill. Bill was driving his pickup truck, but it was specially modified just for him. Years before, Bill had lost his right arm in a motorcycle accident, and so his truck was tricked out to let a one-armed man run the gear shift. Neither John nor Bill really gave much thought to the fact that both were technically disabled. They were fit, well-trained and competent, and they had saved lives where lesser men would have been hard-pressed to keep from urinating in their Dockers.

As they drove home, the car in front of them swerved to avoid a dog in the road, and slammed head-on into an oncoming vehicle. The smaller car spun, hood crumpled, glass flying, and came to a stop against the curb.

Bill showed once again that he could manage just fine with one arm. He threw the truck into a lower gear, slammed on the brakes, and before most of us could have finished checking to see if we were still alive, John and Bill had jumped out of the pickup and were running to help.

The driver of the smaller car was dazed and bloody, his door smashed permanently closed, chunks of safety glass clinging to his clothes and hair. He was struggling in vain to push the door open, and by the time John and Bill got up to him, he was attempting to crawl through the shattered window.

"Hey," called John,"Can we help?"

The man, still panting from shock and exertion, stopped to stare at the two rescue workers. He looked slowly at Bill's empty sleeve, then at John's nubs, and finally raised his gaze to look John dead in the face and say:

"What exactly could you two fucking do?"

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