Dare(2)By: Allie Juliette Mousseau
I have to admit, my uncle is fucking awesome for a guy almost as old as my dad. He owns a mixed martial arts gym and training center in Minnesota—where he and my dad are from. His house is a place for fucked up kids to go, who, now like me, can’t get their shit together.
“What are you going to tell people when they ask where I am?” My tone tells them that I’ve surrendered as I stare down blankly at my black Chucks and Van Halen t-shirt.
“Boarding school in Vancouver that specializes in kids readying themselves for professional athletics.” My dad forces a grin. He thinks he’s crafty.
I’ll admit it. He is.
“I’m sorry for my foul language, Mom.”
“I understand, baby. I love you so much.” She suffocates me in her version of a goodbye hug.
I hug her back, then my dad walks me out to the driveway where my uncle Cade is waiting for me in his black, classic ’74 Camaro.
“I’m scared, Dad,” I confess before I get into that car to leave the only home I know. “What if I’m so lost, I can’t find myself ever again?”
He puts an arm around my shoulders and moves in close. “Don’t let the fear defeat you, Josh. We all fall apart, and we all lose ourselves in this life. You’ve got to dare to push through the fear. You’ve got to dare to find the broken pieces and put yourself back together. And when you can’t find all the pieces, you have to dare to be stronger, so new ones can grow in their place. That’s when you’ll find your true self and be whole again.”
I watch as the bright orange and yellow flames consume the house. It’s mesmerizing really, the way fire destroys. Each lick of flame devours whatever’s in its path. The guys and I are working to keep the fiery hell contained. The house is old and situated close to a tent camp, one of the temporary residences for the nine thousand oil rig workers here in Williston, North Dakota who are working to get a piece of the fortune that can be made from the oil boom. Don’t blame them really—Walmart’s starting salary’s at seventeen bucks an hour while rig workers are pocketing triple digits per hour—but they’re all packed in here like fucking sardines. If one of those makeshift huts catches, they’ll all catch, and wouldn’t you fucking know it, the wind is picking up.
The downstairs windows blow out, sending shards of glass onto the porch. Lace curtains flutter out of the sill, as they’re ravaged by the fire. The chief yells instructions to the men working the hoses, when something at the upstairs window catches my eye.
The guy who got out of the house right before we arrived is standing about twenty feet away from me, choking his ass off. He told us he’d been the only one inside.
“Are you sure no one else was in the house with you?” I shout over the chaos.
“No, man,” he coughs out, but he looks to the ground like he has something to hide.
And there it is again. A shadow of a small child passes by the window; there is no mistaking it.
“YOU LEFT A KID IN THERE?!” I yell at him.
Asshole buckles to the ground in a coughing fit with tears streaming from his eyes and nods.
I hate assholes!
I run full-out to the house, or what’s left of it, and take the porch steps two at a time.
“NORTH!” the chief yells.
“KID!” I shout as I point up to the window.
I kick open the door and push myself inside. To the right of me is what used to be the living room, sofa and coffee table now near unrecognizable. To my left are the stairs to the second floor, or what’s left of them.
The staircase collapses under my weight when I’m about halfway up. As I feel it give way, I push off, reaching for the landing above me. My gloved hands catch, but don’t find enough purchase. The railing on the wall saves me from a nasty fall, and I pull myself up the rest of the way.
Finding young kids in fires sucks, and that shadow was small. Kids are usually so afraid, they hide. The air is almost gone in here, and I’m praying the kid is close to the floor. Usually they hide under a bed or in a closet.
I take a deep breath before I pull down my oxygen mask. “HEY, LITTLE BUDDY!” I shout out. “WHERE ARE YOU?”
No one responds. “I’M A FIREMAN. I’M HERE TO HELP YOU!”
A weak and faint, “Over here,” reaches my ears.
It’s coming from my right—down the hall. There are three rooms on that side. Time is of the essence if we’re both going to make it out of here alive. I’ve thrown my lot in with this kid—if he dies, I die, ’cause I’m not leaving without him.