Featured Story: “Pithos,” a Short Story by Mark Gardner

by Jason Varrone

Genre: Thriller

Type of Story: Short Story

Summary: Danny Peterson is the youngest elected Fire Commissioner in her city’s history. Her first actions result in disaster changing her world forever.

Danny Peterson knew she wanted to be a firefighter at a very young age. Her parents were not firefighters, nor was anyone in her extended family. She didn’t live in a neighborhood where hero firefighters lived and there was no tragedy in her past that compelled her to want to fight fires. She had no reason by society’s standards to want to be a firefighter. Societal norms reflected what society thought it wanted, but it couldn’t possibly factor in any number of factors that resulted in Danny Peterson wanting to fight fires.

The desire to was planted at an early age when Danny watched a multi-part documentary on a public broadcasting station about the trials and tribulations of firefighters. In the documentary, many firefighters candidly revealed the tremendous lack of funding to keep these unsung heroes safe. From aging equipment to poor facilities, firefighting was a dangerous occupation, but undeservedly so. So at age seven, Danny knew her life goal was to fight fires and ensure no hero had to perish due to a lack of technology or funding. While many little girls her age were worrying if their outfits matched their shoes, Danny worried about the trials a tribulations of firefighters. Danny consumed books and trade magazines focusing on firefighters and firefighting technology. She begged her parents to take her to firefighting museums.

When her interests in firefighting lore lasted five or six years, her parents started actively encouraging her interests. Not that they hadn’t in the past, but she was just a little girl – and little girls were just not interested in being firefighters, that was the exclusive domain of little boys. So when she never outgrew her interests in fire fighting she started making frequent trips to visit the local volunteer fire department. She was their unofficial mascot, she convinced her parents to organize bake sales and junk drives to raise money for the fire department. At age thirteen, her school mates were worrying about what boys liked what girls, Danny worried if she would be accepted to a junior firefighting academy. The academy seemed to be used by the local magistrate to encourage trouble-makers or otherwise delinquent youths to do something useful with their lives. A lot of delinquent youths chose the academy to avoid juvenile detention or even stints in jail. Danny chose it to hone her passion into a useful skill set.

Danny excelled at the academy, her life moved progressively toward college with degrees and multiple certifications in the art of firefighting – Danny firmly believed firefighting was not a science, but an art. When she decided to run for the elected position of Fire Commissioner, at the age of twenty-two, there was quite the debate. The old argument of gender roles was brought up. She had the backing of any firefighter that had ever met her, the old-timers from that first volunteer fire department were her most vocal supporters – having known her most of her life. The politicos did not like her at all. She fervently and loudly advocated more funding and training for the improvement and education of firefighting. She was always interested in new technologies – technologies that usually were expensive, and often did not pan out. These politicians feared her election, as she definitely had the support of the firefighters, as well as the general population.

Danny’s win over the incumbent and a field of other potential nominees was historical by itself. This was a city that could never seem to get any policy or person elected or ratified, so it seemed not much ever got done. Danny’s popularity was so strong she won not only the majority of the public vote, but she had a landslide victory that was considered by many of her supporters a unanimous victory. At age twenty-two she was a public official and had powerful sway over the voting public. This power was feared by the politicos, many claiming it would be her downfall.

Available at: Amazon

Author Site: Website

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