Pizzazz means: An attractive combination of vitality and glamour.
Here’s what I came up with …
The Smokejumper’s Miracle
He’d fallen a thousand feet through moody skies, having jumped from a short C-23 Sherpa plane. A tug on his ripcord sent his red parachute billowing above him. Dustin knew he’d completed the safest part of his job as he dropped through the smoky air. Below, the pine forest had the appearance of a horror movie. Thick smoke and flames lashed the air, pouring from the canopy in several locations. A stray cigarette was thought to have started the blaze. Winds had spread and distributed the inferno over many miles of the forest.
Dustin proudly called himself a smokejumper – a flying firefighter. With a hundred pounds of gear strapped to him, he leapt into the danger zone to combat blazes in unreachable places. Today’s mission was to head the fire off before it hit a power station.
Dustin scanned the sky and smiled as he picked out his six teammates descending in a long line.
Then he was in the trees. He yanked his cord, aiming for a clearing, kicked off a tree branch and rolled to a safe landing. Hauling his shoot off, he shoved it in his pack.
The heat was tremendous already and he wasn’t near the flames. Helmet on his sweating head, he took up his axe and GPS unit and set off.
On his chest, his radio crackled to life. “Dustin, you good?”
“Affirmative, Clive. On route to position now.”
“Roger that, good luck.”
“Thanks, just get some beers in the fridge will, yer.” Dustin ducked some low branches and increased his pace.
“Consider it done. Clive out.”
The radio went silent. Dustin saw deer, squirrels and birds all crossing his path, each desperate to escape the coming inferno. Even as he watched, a tree to the East burst into flames. Its dry wood erupting with terrifying speed.
Holding his nerve, Dustin jogged through billowing clouds of smoke and ash, following the fire line north. He was almost at his section of the firebreak. He was to cut down trees and pull bushes to create a long wide clearing. Then by back burning, he and the team hoped to extinguish the advancing fire by eliminating its fuel.
Dustin leapt a fallen tree, his chainsaw clunking over it. Landing with a crack of twigs, his head snapped east. Something pink moved there. The sky was boiling red with fire – that wasn’t it. A cabin in the trees, a girl sitting on the doorstep – Flames feet away.
“Oh, shit! Clive, I got kids out here!”
“Kids? Damn it, man. Tell ‘em to get out of there and start fire-breaking – there’s no time.”
“Will do.” Dustin banked left, he wasn’t leaving the kids to die. He dashed through a line of trees into the cabin’s clearing. Water butt right of the door– that’ll be handy. The girl was gone, the door open. Skirting a fire pit, Dustin ran straight inside. There looking terrified were two boys and the girl, none older than ten.
“Have you seen our daddy?” asked the girl.
“Sorry, where’d he go? What’re your names?” Dustin glanced around the cabin and did not like what he saw.
“Daddy went to see if we could get out. He didn’t come back. I’m Brad, he’s Mikey and she’s Sarah.” replied the eldest boy.
“Okay, don’t worry. We’ll find him.” Dustin relayed the information to base his eyes on the large propane tank and the box of shotgun shells. This place was like a giant frag grenade.
“Please help us,” Sarah said tearfully.
“I will. We —” Dustin watched the back of the cabin ignite. Flames ripped through the log wall and the children screamed. “Everybody outside now!” Dustin scooped up Mikey the youngest and dashed to the door.
“The trees are burning!” yelled Brad pointing.
“I see them,” Dustin gulped. The trees all around the clearing were now ablaze. He and the kids were trapped. “Clive, I need a water drop at my position. We’re stuck in a ring of flame with a cabin full of explosives on fire.” Dustin radioed.
No response came back.
“Flamin’ hell!” Dustin burst into action. He grabbed covers from the bed seconds before they were incinerated. He doused them in water from a butt outside and rejoined the kids.
“What are you doing?” Sarah asked.
“Whatever I can. Put this around you and huddle by the fire pit.” Dustin pulled on his breathing mask and shot into the cabin. Full of smoke and flames it was a choking inferno now. Unseen things popped, crackled and hissed as the fire destroyed them. He sent the ammo box sliding toward the door and swiftly disconnected the propane tank. Shouldering it, he burst out of the smoke and dumped the propane in the water butt. The shotgun shells followed it. The water might stop them detonating – he hoped.
“The fire’s getting closer!” Mikey screamed pointing at a Douglas fur fully ablaze.
“I see it, pal.” Dustin found himself gritting his teeth as he turned a circle, taking in the hundred-foot high walls of flames all around him. ‘We need a bloody miracle to get out of this.’
A flash of light came from the cabin. Dustin ran at the kids and shoved them to the ground. An earth-shaking bang sent flames and smoke crackling into the sky. Debris cascaded to earth all around the four. There was another noise from high above too, one that brought hope.
“Kids, you okay?” Dustin shook the remains of the door frame and wood splinters from his back and stood up.
“Yeah, what the hell was that?” Sarah pulled Mikey’s wet blanket around him again.
“I missed something explosive inside, I reckon.” Dustin glanced at the cabin’s remains, boiling with fire. The propane tank and shells were no longer in the butt. It was gone.
Something cracked close at hand.
“MOVE!” Dustin grabbed Mikey and pushed the others away. The fir tree fell, slamming to earth with a roar of flames right where they’d been standing.
“That was —”
Lightning flashed across the angry sky with stunning pizzazz of blue, red and white light.
“— to close!” Brad finished as thunder rumbled and crackled above them.
“No kidding! Come on you, beauty – rain!” Dustin glanced aloft, then at the propane tank. Flames were creeping upon it now. Better still raindrops were fizzing onto the hot metal. Within seconds the storm began a tumultuous downpour upon the forest. Dustin beamed in relief, laughed, as it washed the soot from his face and extinguished some of the fires.
“It’s raining like a gift from heaven,” Sarah said.
“It sure is. Let’s get out of here.” Dustin urged as forks of lightning split the sky above the smoking trees. He led the way to safety and put the kids in the hands of paramedics sometime later. Without taking a breath, he plunged back into the forest to ensure the powerplant was saved and the fires would be extinguished.
He and the team would have to fight for a few more days but the majestic rumbling storm would surely help them as much as it had saved Dustin and the kids. Their father would be found, alive, a day later. In the weeks which followed, Dustin wearing his fine and glamourous dress-suit, stood full of a different type of pizzazz. He was awarded a hero’s medal for saving Sarah, Mikey and Brad – his new best friends.
Thanks for reading my friends. As always there are more stories to be enjoyed (I hope) in the Short Stories tab.
Have a great day!