Life Choices

by Lizabeth S. Tucker

Two men were standing by the lake, fishing poles lightly held. One, wearing a slightly too small straw cowboy hat over his light brown hair, was listening to soft sounds of the breeze in the trees. The other man, his dark hair tousled, sighed deeply. He turned his head to his friend, pulling his shades down on his nose and peering over the top.

"Do you ever think of the future, Roy?"

"The future? In what way?"

"I don't know. Like, how long will you be a firefighter, what will you do if...if anything happened to you and you couldn't do the job any more."

"Johnny, what brought this on?"

"I've been...I don't know...thinking about me, about us, about where I want to be in 10 years."

"Johnny?"

John Gage shrugged. "Okay, it was something Michelle said the other night. Right before we finished out last shift."

"Michelle? She's the nurse from pediatrics, right?" Roy asked.

Johnny nodded. "Yeah. You know we've been dating for a while now and I wanted to say goodbye before this trip. So she just suddenly asked what I would do if I got hurt and couldn't do the job any longer. Did I want to 'play' at fireman forever?"

"That's a little, I don't know, harsh, isn't it?"

"I thought so." Johnny reeled his line in and strolled to where the Rover was parked in the shade, putting the rod in the back. "But, then I got to thinking, what do I want to do with my life?"

Roy followed his friend, sitting on the vehicle's back bumper. "And what did you decide?"

Johnny's crooked grin appeared. "I want exactly what I have, a job I love, people I can trust to work with, and a chance to help people when they most need it."

Roy smiled in answer. "Sounds good to me."

"Wanna beer?"

"Yeah, that sounds great."

They sipped at their beers for a while, munching out of Johnny's bag of chips.

"So, where do you want to be in 10 years?" Johnny asked.

"Well, I don't know. I want to take the engineer's exam again. You know that."

"What about being a captain?"

"A captain?" Roy blew air out between his pursed lips. "I...I've never thought that far ahead."

"So think."

"I don't know, Johnny. Maybe."

"Because you'd make a great captain, partner."

"Really?"

"Yeah, you would. Nah, you will."

"What about you? Engineer? Captain?"

Johnny snorted. "Can't you just see the brass if I took the captain's exam and passed?"

Roy grinned, his blue eyes sparkling. "You'd be a hell of a captain, Junior."

"Yeah, right."

"I mean it. You've got the knowledge, the instincts, you can talk to anyone about anything, you have a great touch with the victims. Why wouldn't you make a great captain?"

Johnny blushed at the compliments, knowing that Roy didn't give them lightly. "Th-thanks, Roy."

"You're welcome."

To change the subject and recover his composure, Johnny nudged Roy with his shoulder. "Feel like some chili?"

"Think Blaine might be hungry?"

"I think Blaine was born hungry!" Johnny said in reference to the Santa Rosa County Sheriff, a man that had become a good friend after a most memorable fishing trip some time earlier.

Roy slapped his partner on the back. "Sounds good. You know what I always say..."

"Chili today, hot tamale!" the men chorused.

(January 2005)