Near 500 words: The firefighters

Marya watched the four women coming out of the fire station. They were sister firefighters. She admired them so much. All she did was be a flower girl, selling her lilies and roses. One of the women, Margarita, looked over and saw Marya. She pointed her out to the other three, Rosa, Angelica and Ingrid. Ingrid was the one that ran across the street.

“How much for your roses?” she said to Marya.

Marya told her. As she was about to leave, Marya asked, “How did you become a firefighter?”

“We trained. Do you wish to become a firefighter?”

“Yes.”

Ingrid called her three companions over. “She wants to be a firefighter.”

Rosa felt her arm. “She would have to put on some weight.”

“And strengthen her muscles,” Margarita said.

“Maybe we should help her,” Angelica said. She was the one who always came up with the solutions. She had been a math whiz in school.

“So you want to be a firefighter?” Angelica asked.

“More than anything.”

The four stepped away from Marya and went into a huddle. Finally they broke the huddle. The four looked Marya up and down. Then Ingrid spoke for the group, “We will help you become one of the Sisters if you like.”

“I like.”

“You will have to work hard,” Rosa put in.

“And it will take time,” Margarita said.

“Maybe two years,” Angelica added.

“You will help me?” Marya said, tears in her eyes.

“We will help you,” Ingrid said.

“Thank you,” Marya said, overcome by joy.

“Then it is a deal,” Angelica affirmed. Each of the four women hugged their sister.

“Meet us here tomorrow and we will begin,” Ingird said.

“And no flowers,” Margarita said.

“Now we have to go,’ Ingrid told her.

Marya watched as the four sisters walked happily away.

The next morning Marya stood in the place where she met the four sisters. They did not show. And she waited the next day. They were still not there. After a week, Marya decided that it had not been a joke the four were pulling on her. They were serious.

She walked over to the firestation. In the station house she saw a tall dark man. He was polishing the fire engine.

“Excuse me, sir,” she said.

The man turned to her and asked, “Yes?”

She told the man about the sisters and their offer.

The man held back, then choked out the words. “The afternoon after you saw the sisters they died in a fire. It was terrible. We lost seven. The sisters were four of them. They were the bravest of the brave.” Tears were in his eyes.

Marya started crying. Not only had she lost her future, she had lost her friends.

“My name is Felipe. They were my friends,” he managed to get out. “Come with me.”

He took her into the fire station. He showed her the wall of honor. A picture of the four in their gear hung on the wall. Their names were embossed in a sign below.

Marya and Felipe stood arm in arm, holding each other up. Their grief poured out. Finally they turned away.

As Marya walked out of the station house, Felipe called to her, “So you want to be a firefighter?”

“Yes. More than anything. Now.”

“Come with me,” Pedro said.

Hamlet Interlude 2: Gertrude

The course of true love never did run smooth. (A Midsummer Night’s Dream Act 1 Scene 1.)

Act 1 Interlude.Of all the characters in “Hamlet”, it is Gertrude we feel we have to defend. We know that Gertrude was no Juliet. She was no Rosalind or Viola. She was no Kate. She was definitely no Lady Macbeth.

Of the over 4000 lines, Gertrude had only 155. That was not many lines compared to the beaucoup lines Claudius and Hamlet get. Even Laertes had more to say than she did, and he was off in Paris doing whatever. Yet, like her son, we make her carry a heavy load. As big as Claudius and Ophelia. Almost as big as Hamlet. We make her out to be a schemer. We make her out to be a co-conspirator. We make her out to be a slut. She was none of them.

Since she is not around to speak up for herself, she ends up getting the blame for a crime she may not have committed. One thing is for sure. Gertrude was a survivor. She lived in an age when a woman needed a husband. Especially if that woman was a royal. Women were the property of their fathers, their brothers, their husbands, their kings, even their sons. Perhaps she was an Eleanor of Aquitaine who knew how to make the best of a situation.

Back in Gertie’s Ham Senior days, it was possible she was feeling unloved by Hubby.  He was out of town a lot. She was feeling unbeautiful too. She was losing that figure that made her the belle of the ball when she was younger.

There was a good chance she had a bit of Guinevere in her. Claudius, the king’s younger brother, showed up and he was her Lancelot. Started wooing her with candy and flowers. She had never paid much attention to him before. After all, he was five years younger than she was. When he left the court for parts unknown, he was a scrawny kid with no grace at all.

Then he returned. He was all shiny and new in that knightly outfit of his, his long brown hair cascading over his shoulders, those dark eyes speaking of his admiration for her. (Don’t you just love that word “cascading”?) Claudius danced the light fantastic with her and made it feel like walking on air. Unlike Ham Senior, who was such a klutz. Every second or third step he made ended up on her footsies.

Every time Claudius walked into a room, her heart went pitter-pat faster and faster. She started having dreams about the happiness she would feel if Claudius were her husband and king instead of Ham Senior. If there was a guy in the room who could get a girl’s chastity belt unzipped, it was Claude.

Then she came up with a plan. Or did she? We shall never know. Shakespeare wasn’t talking.

We do know that Lady Macbeth had no children. She could only be ambitious for herself and her husband. Maybe Gertie was ambitious for her son. Maybe that was why she married Claudius. She didn’t want him to marry someone else. That someone else might produce an heir to the throne and replace her son. Seems to me that this was her plan, her way to make sure Junior got the throne when Claudius died.

One other thing. There were only two women, Gertrude and Ophelia, in the castle. Which left few dating options. So I guess that was why Gertrude was Obvious Choice Numero Uno for Claudius.

He could have gone with Ophelia. Polonius would have liked that. But Gertrude had already made it clear that she was the one for him. She had the Queen job down, she knew how to dress well and stink pretty, and Claudius was taking no chances. He wanted the King job. He wanted it bad. Gertrude was just the person that would secure that throne for him.

Besides his heart belonged to Gertrude back in his Lancelot days. Now that he was Arthur, she was his Gwen.