Meet Michael Jacob (Jake) O’Melia
Grandview is a town of twenty-seven thousand, Northeastern coast inhabitants. There are several bustling businesses on both sides of Main Street in the downtown business district.
Of particular interest is Hermie’s General Store. When you walk through the front doors at Hermie’s, you step back in time. The floors are hardwood and vigorously creak with every step. Old wooden barrels populate the store with a mixture of tools, candy, stuffed animals and movie posters that date back to the early 60s.
The store has been in the Hermie family for six generations. Through it all, bathrooms and the electrical system are the only upgrades. There is a computer, but it is hidden from public view. An antique National Cash Register is at the only checkout counter in the store.
All of the help at Hermie’s is family or relatives of family who are dressed in polo shirts with the Hermie logo, khaki slacks/shorts and Rockport deck shoes.
The coffee is free to customers and a sharp eye will find a real bargain or two. The strip mall located on the west edge of town has had little effect on Hermie’s. Hermie’s is a landmark and attracts many tourists throughout the year. Business is booming.
Before Grandview grew, it was Hermie men who helped man the all-volunteer, municipal fire department. When the town took off and began to see rapid growth following the Nixon years in the White House, a referendum was passed for full time fire and rescue services.
And it would be the last time a Hermie would serve on the local fire department.
The Grandview Fire Department is comprised of chief of department, two (2) battalion chiefs, one (1) fire investigator, four (4) captains, four (4) lieutenants and twenty (20) firefighters. The captains, lieutenants and firefighters are covered by a labor contract.
Their response area is eighteen (18) square miles that includes a gated community, light/medium manufacturing, a strip mall, large downtown business district, hospital and resort area.
The fire department operates out of two stations; Central Fire Station, located at the north end of downtown business district and Station 2, located in the west part of town. Station 2 was built to answer growing concerns for minimum response times to the west and to preserve their ISO 3 classification.
Housed at Central Station are a ladder truck, two (2) engines and a medium/heavy rescue unit. At Station 2 are two (2) engines and a light duty rescue unit. Though the fire department tones out for medical calls, it is the hospital that operates the city’s three (3) ambulances.
Jake O’Melia has been on the Grandview Fire Department for eighteen (18) years. He made lieutenant after just five years on the department and made captain two years ago. Many feel that Jake will be chief someday, but only if he can improve his “interpersonal” skills. The rap on Jake is that he doesn’t play well with others.
Jake is old school.
He despises computers, but uses them to enter reports and only because he HAS to do them that way. He hasn’t quite figured out all of his email options.
He has a “flip” cellphone. He doesn’t spend hours on it and only his closest associates have his cellphone number. He hasn’t “bothered” to set up his voicemail. What a tech savage!
He hasn’t been completely sold on training simulators either. He still prefers a “show and tell” type of training. Teach it; show it; do it; repeat; repeat and repeat until you can’t get it wrong!
He sees the value of hydraulic rescue tools, but he also has an arsenal of hand tools that can do the same things – just in case!
His pickup truck has a CD player, but it also has a CASSETTE deck. He has a mountain of cassette tapes and you can count the number of CDs that he owns on one hand!
Jake is 6’2” tall. He is semi-firm at 220 pounds. He still has hair, but prefers to keep it high and tight. His mustache is very prominent and very bushy in a Fu Manchu sort-of-way. He is not the fastest guy in the department, but realizes the importance of daily workouts followed by a five-mile run. Jake has a simple mantra that is written with a Sharpie on a piece of cardboard and hangs on his bulletin board that says: “Discipline is working out, even when you don’t feel like it”.
Jake doesn’t believe in sugar coatings and his divorce has left him particularly bitter and vulnerable. He sort of likes being bitter-it fits his character-but he doesn’t like the feeling that Vulnerable gives him. It feels like “Dread”.
Each time he visits with his two kids-Joey, his ten-year-old son and his seven-year-old princess, Sara-his emotional scarring deepens, because, though he despises his ex-wife, Cindy with every fiber of his body, he loves his kids very much. Jake would die for his kids, if need be.
Jake’s marriage to his high school sweetheart was straight out of a Harlequin romance novel or in today’s book market; a Nicolas Sparks love story.
During the early years, Jake and Cindy were inseparable. Jake would open doors for her, pull her chair out at dinner, get her flowers whenever he felt like it, talk for hours on the phone about the most innocuous subjects and would completely implode before he would EVER fart or belch in front of her.
But as Jake became more interested in being the best firefighter that he could be and with moving up the ladder, he was neglecting his family obligations.
In his mind, the very reason that he was working so hard-his family-was causing him to lose them. Jake would take all of the overtime that he could get his hands on. Many of the classes that he took or taught were often overtime hours. Man; kids are expensive, Jake thought. Cindy wasn’t shy about spending money, either.
She and Jake had grown up in lower, middle class families and both had held part-time jobs while attending high school in order to afford the real cool stuff of the day.
But now, with a house and all of its trappings, Cindy and the kids wanted Jake home more.
He often bragged about his dad being a firefighter, because he was so proud of him. But Joey also knew that he wasn’t getting to spend a lot of time with his firefighter dad, doing neat things like playing catch or Monopoly or riding bikes together.
The more Joey got involved at his school with sports and drama, the less and less he saw of his dad. Joey loved his dad for being a firefighter, but was beginning to hate his dad for being a firefighter! It was deepening with each time that Jake would miss another of Joey’s school activities.
When Cindy finally asked for the divorce, it was more than Jake could bear.
He started drinking heavily, neglecting his healthy diet and workouts and was fighting with some of his closest friends.
No one understands what he is going through. Yeah, Jake; you’re the only one who has ever had adversity in their life.
But where it came to Joey and Sara, Jake would show uncommon compassion and patience. He did not want to see them hurt in the same way that he was hurting. As for Cindy; Jake had nothing but dark thoughts for her and could not bring himself to wanting her to be happy.
Why should SHE be happy? I’m not, thought Jake.
Cindy could disappear tomorrow and he wouldn’t miss her; but still, Jake can’t imagine her in the arms of someone else. Is his fear of losing her to another man stronger than his loathing for her? He thinks he hates her, but is it hate? Jake is having very perplexing thoughts.
For now, everything he does, he does for Joey and Sara. Nothing else and no one else matters.
Jake had trouble adapting to apartment living.
His neighbors are “whiners” and his place could not hold all of his junk. And let’s face it: moving from a two-story, four bedroom home with a large family room complete with pool table, fully stocked bar and a huge, fenced backyard and into a four room apartment would be a shock for anyone. Jake wasn’t claustrophobic, but he liked to “stretch out” when not working. He often kidded that; when he lived in his old house, he could go for days without ever seeing Cindy. He liked that!
But he liked his time at the fire station even more. He liked his men and especially running with his truck company. The guys were experienced and each could count on the other.
They had been to Hell and back many times. They have had their share of close calls.
They drink mass quantities of their favorite Guinness dark beer, while solving the World’s problems and ignoring their own.
Jake is their captain; their leader; their compass.
They wear St. Florian and curse their city leaders. If one of them has a problem, they ALL have a problem, but they are quick to fix the problem.
They don’t like change. They like tradition, history and the legacy that has been left to them.
They don’t like outsiders and they like new guys even less, because another old jake has gone and another BOY GENIUS has come in all too eager to replace them!
Zero to 30 in one day!
Jake is at his desk on Monday and while working on a stapler that keeps jamming, a voice from the doorway breaks his concentration.
“Excuse me, sir; I’m Vinnie Cappaletti. I was told to report here.”
Jake jams a staple into his thumb…
The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© is a fictional literary work. It is protected by federal copyright. The article is published under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella and is the intellectual property of Art Goodrich a.k.a. ChiefReason. It cannot be re-printed in any form.