Book excerpt: ‘Fully Involved,’ a novel by Lindy Bell
Inspired by the true-life story of firefighter occupational cancer and the people it hurts
“Fully Involved” by Lindy Bell was inspired by a firefighter who died in the line of duty after exposure to cancer-causing agents. The following excerpt from is from Chapter 43, which takes place the shift after Andy’s first cancer treatment. Andy has decided not to tell his fellow firefighters of his diagnosis, but they realize something is seriously wrong, as does his wife, Katie. They team up to support Andy but decide not to tell Bentley with whom Andy has had a running battle of wills since fire academy days.
Andy clung to the mop handle Bentley had thrust into his hand to steady himself as Bentley’s wrath rolled over him. If he felt better, he’d give Bentley his best smirk, but it wasn’t in him — not right now. Bentley let Andy know, in no uncertain terms, that the responsibility for the clean-up was his and his alone. Bentley had slammed the door behind him as he left.
Feeling weak, Andy slumped, using the mop handle as a support, to ease over and sit on the engine’s bumper. A few minutes later, he heard the door from the living quarters quietly open. He stood and started pushing the mop around half-heartedly in case Bentley was returning. Instead of Bentley, Jernigan’s head appeared around the corner of the engine, followed by Hedrick’s and Hart’s.
“Garrett?” Jernigan asked. “You, okay?”
“I’m fine. You guys aren’t supposed to be in here. I don’t want to get you into any more trouble than I already have,” Andy said as he pushed the mop shakily around.
“We can take care of ourselves,” Hart replied as he handed a mop to Hedrick who nodded and began to mop.
“Well, if it’s a party, where’s Canfield?” Andy asked.
“We’re not as dumb as we look,” Jernigan said. “We’ve got a plan. He’s keeping Bentley occupied.”
“Guys, really. Please,” Andy said, turning to face them. “It was my dumb idea. I’ve got this.”
Jernigan stopped in front of Andy as Hedrick and Hart stepped up beside him.
“Garrett, we know there’s something going on with you. It’s been discussed, and we’ve got your back. Bentley is in the dark. Now, you can either stay here and shut up, or you can go inside and risk Bentley’s wrath, and ours, if you blow this. Up to you.”
Katie rang the doorbell at the guest entrance. Canfield answered with, “Katie Garrett! Come in!”
Katie barely had time to collect her thoughts before Canfield popped the bay door open and announced, “Garrett, you got a visitor.”
“Katie,” Andy said as he moved toward her with effort. “I wasn’t expecting you, but what a great surprise. The guys and I were just finishing up a little cleaning —”
“Garrett, as we were saying, we’ve got this. Visit with your wife. Katie,” Hart said by way of greeting as he took the mop from Andy.
Jernigan and Hart resumed mopping, giving Andy and Katie plenty of space.
Andy sank heavily into one of the chairs the crew usually set outside when the weather was nice as Katie sat in the one beside him. She placed her hand protectively on his arm. “Tough day?”
“Yeah. It’s been tough,” he said, closing his eyes. “Don’t worry. It’s just the first day after the first treatment.”
“I shouldn’t have pushed you to come in today,” Katie said, shaking her head.
“No, no - you were right. This is my fault.”
“What’s your fault?” Katie asked, glancing around. Everything looked normal except the few water puddles Jernigan and Hart were mopping up
Andy raised his head and said, “Well, I might have threatened Bentley this afternoon. These clowns are taking care of my punishment.”
“Threatened? You threatened Bentley?” Katie asked, incredulous, her voice rising.
Andy held up an index finger, stopping her. “I only threatened him with a wet towel, and . . . well, let’s just say he didn’t take it well. These guys have turned nurse maid and won’t let me do anything,” Andy said, raising his voice so Jernigan and Hart were sure to hear. They both waved him off.
“Andy, exactly what is it between you and Bentley?”
“I can’t believe I’ve never told you the story,” Andy said, shaking his head. “I am rather famous for it in the ranks.”
Katie smiled. “Well, let’s hear it then.”
“It happened during the physical agility test the last week of the fire academy,” Andy began.
Unnoticed by Andy and Katie, Jernigan and Hart had stopped mopping and moved closer.
“The dummies used in training are like life size rag dolls — only heavy — so they’re as much like a real person as possible. Bentley ran to the top of the dummy, getting ready to drag it, and placed his hands under it’s arms and lifted. The dummy didn’t budge, but Bentley sure did. His momentum carried him backward, and since he’d forgotten to let go, the dummy landed on top of him. You could hear the air whoosh out of Bentley’s lungs as he hit the pavement flat on his back. The dummy landed squarely on top of him. It was absolute perfection!”
“Bentley lay stunned for a few seconds and then tried to get up, but he couldn’t. The weight of the dummy from the car batteries we’d put in it held him down. No one could help him because we were all doubled over laughing.” Andy had to stop talking he was laughing so hard, as were Jernigan and Hart.
“I thought it was worth it at the time but, here we are today,” Andy said, catching his breath, “I still get the blame whether deserved or not.”
“I have to admit, though,” he said, looking between Jernigan and Hart with a grin, “most of it is warranted. Anyway, I’ve got to keep him on his toes. Guys, missed a spot.” Andy pointed to a small spot of water. Andy looked back to Katie and grinned, “Gotta keep everyone on their toes.” Pushing himself slowly to his feet, he held his hand out to help Katie up.
Andy’s hand was cold and trembling as she took it, and she looked at him with concern as they crossed the bay.
When they reached her car, Andy pulled Katie close, clinging to her as she put her arms around him.
When she finally pulled out of the lot, she watched him in the rear-view mirror as he turned wearily to go inside. She took a deep breath and tried not to cry.
Day Agency Publishing
© 2021 by Lindy Bell