johnzo.comBioStoriesPhotosThe Comfort GuideGreeterBlog
The Golden Age of Fire Escapes
The Fire Marshall took office with a mask, a slideshow, and some compelling statistics.
"One hundred fifty-eight incinerated at the Double Diamond in New York." Click-click. Above and behind him, a screen showed the ashen remains. "Over two hundred dead at the Royale in Chicago, most by suffocation." Click-click. "Eight hundred at an arena in Eau Claire, including both teams and the organist." Click-click. A singed hockey stick flickered black on the forehead of his mask. "All dead, for the want of suitable egress.
The audience for his inaugural address numbered two. One was a reporter from the City Lantern. The other was her boyfriend, who'd tagged along with his camera.
"Sir, your mask—does it symbolize anything?" the reporter asked.
"Not as such." The mask was a gray plaster oval with slits for eyes, nose, and mouth.
"Does it cover a burn on your face?"
"No. Certainly not."
"Do you ever take it off?"
"It's my rule not to." He shook his head. "Never mind the mask. You just write this: the new Fire Marshall plans to see no that man burns before his time, and also to put old Guy Featherstone on the bread line."
Captain Guy Featherstone, who'd been clicking the slides, murmured an amen. Featherstone had dressed for the occasion in his wide-brimmed Engine 18 leather helmet, long rubberized coat, and thick boots. He made the cavernous Public Safety briefing room smell of wet smoke.
The reporter wouldn't let the question fall. "But the mask—"
"Please—I've promised the Deputy Mayor that I won't make a circus out of this office. If I'm never in your paper again, then I'll have done my job. Any more questions?"
"No pictures," Guy growled at the reporter's boyfriend, who was setting up for a shot.