ABSENCE OF COLOR – Chapter 3: RED (CH 1-6)
Fire Rescue Safety Officer Red Ember was a friend of Jay’s they lived in the same apartment complex. They became quick friends when they met at many emergency scenes Jay controlled pedestrian and vehicle traffic and Red extinguished the red dragon. That’s what the men at the fire house called a big blaze. The color red was a universal symbol for fire hydrants, trucks, and extinguishers. After fighting a fire when the firemen got back to the station they showered and hit the bed. Ember flopped onto a single cot and pulled a red scratchy wool fire blanket over himself to combat the firehouse’s drafts. In the morning his shift was finally over so he quickly jumped into his red SUV and drove home happy to have privacy sleeping for a while. Like cops firemen had difficulty keeping relationships because of their dangerous job and time spent sleeping at the station but at least he had Jay to keep him company on his days off. Out of habit Red checked the red fired extinguisher in his kitchen to see it was full and glanced up at his smoke alarm for the small red light indicating the batteries were still working. He glanced out the kitchen window and saw the red mercury was slowly climbing it would be a hot one today. Starved Ember patted red raw hamburger meat into shape and cooked it. While it fried he pealed a red onion chopping it into small pieces, sliced a fresh red tomato, and when the hamburger was ready squeezed ketchup on it. For dessert he had fresh strawberries and raspberries with whipped cream. Red went down the hall to Jay’s apartment and knocked on his door there was a baseball game on tonight, he held a handful of red licorice and a small bag of red cinnamon hearts, his favorite snacks. When the game was over Ember went home and fed his red tropical fish of all shapes and sizes.
Illustrated by: Jason Hendrickson
Growing up an only child Red Ember lived in a three-bedroom split level house in the north end. His mother ran a seamstress business from home sewing dance costumes, sports outfits, band uniforms, Halloween costumes, and much more. In fact she was so well-known that Red’s high school hired her to design and sew costumes/uniforms. He saw her at school measuring students for their uniforms which embarrassed him especially since his mother made sure everyone knew Red was her son and that she was so proud of him. She’d insist he came home for a home-made meals and sat doing homework with him, he felt smothered, like a momma’s boy.
To make matters even worse his father who was an interior decorator renovated the principal’s office, teachers’ lounge, and rotunda which mortified Red as his father scurried around measuring, bringing in furnishings and accessories, and adding the finishing touches. When his father was working he seemed so… what’s the word…girly. It was every kid’s nightmare to have a parent on their turf much less have both of your parents.
Red was a tall, large boy built for football, so that’s what he did play football and the girls fell all over him. He loved the male banter and chummy atmosphere he shared with his teammates. Red got good grades, was popular at school, and even had a few girlfriends over the years. But when he turned sixteen everything hit the fan when his father came out of the closet. It made Red a leper, an outcast at school he was ridiculed so much he quit the football team and his teammates that he had played with for years and considered friends ignored him. His mother was so embarrassed and couldn’t handle the whispers behind her back and dirty looks so she stopped sewing costumes for his school. On the home front it was just as bad. Both Red and his mother were angry as hell at his father for lying to them all those years even though he tried to explain to them that he attempted to suppress his urges and wanted a normal life but he admitted to having several male “encounters” over the years and that he fell in love with his latest client. It ended in a bitter divorce with his mother winning custody and his father visiting rights. A year later, his mother remarried a construction worker, a real he-man type with no question about his sexuality.
Red’s uncle, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all were firefighters which was why he joined Fire Cadets during his mid to late teenage years. He heard about the intense training they had to go through and how proud they felt fighting fires and saving lives and Red fell under the spell of the stories deciding that he was going to become a firefighter too. He went to Brandon, Manitoba to the Manitoba Emergency Services College and took the ten-week Public Fire Paramedic Program Diploma. The program encompassed courses and practical exercises in firefighting, primary paramedic care, hazardous material awareness and operations, rescue practice, vehicle extraction, surface water rescue, and physical fitness. The program was definitely the hardest physical and intellectual challenge Red had ever experienced. After earning his diploma Red returned to complete a licensing exam and was hired right away.
Illustrated by: Jason Hendrickson