James ran ahead of his brother, until his father’s voice yelled for him to slow down. He did, but still bounced on his feet as he waited for them to catch up. His brother was just as excited, but James had been the one able to slip out from under their father’s hand on their shoulders.
Their dad had been talking about this for weeks. It had seemed like forever to the nine and ten year olds, and they’d started to think maybe it wasn’t actually going to happen. Then, there’d been the car ride here. They’d done good, though. Nearly five hours, and their father had only threatened to turn the car around twice. They were pretty sure he’d been serious the second time and had found games to play instead of pestering him.
Now, he stopped both of them before they reached the doors. “Now, Boys,” he told them, crouching down to their level, “there are a lot of old things in there. Things you look at and don’t touch. Do you understand?” They both bobbed their heads. “No running, stay with me. You start acting like heathens, and we will just go home. Okay?” Their heads bobbed again. James just wanted to get inside.
Their father got back to his feet and strode to the door, pulling it open for them. They walked slowly into the building, but it was nearly impossible for the boys to maintain that composure. By the time they’d reached the doors of the gift shop, not even a dozen steps into the building, they were bouncing again. James heard his father sigh behind them, but he just asked, “What do you want to see first?”
“Trucks!” they both cried at the same time. Then, they grinned at each other. They weren’t twins, but they’d been born within a year of each other, and had been practically attached at the hip since they were both walking.
As they headed for the truck exhibit, they passed one featuring a representation of a house on fire. Small wax figures carried hoses toward the house. One was climbing a ladder toward the top of the house. Another was in the act of running into the house. James just stopped and stared at it. It took them a minute, but his father and brother came back once they realized he wasn’t following any longer.
“Wow,” his brother said from beside him.
James just continued to stare for a couple more minutes. Then, he felt his father’s hand land softly on his shoulder, squeezing slightly. “That’s what you do, isn’t it, Dad?”
His father pointed at the men carrying the hose toward the fire. “That is,” he said. “Your uncle Zach used to be on the ladder crew,” he said, his voice catching as he pointed to the man climbing toward the roof.
Uncle Zach had died shortly after James was born. His younger brother had been named for him. “I want to do that,” James said quietly.
“So do I,” Zachary said, more excitement in his voice.
He felt his dad’s hand tighten more on his shoulder. Then, it relaxed. “You may change your minds, boys. You can.” James almost thought he heard more in his dad’s voice behind those words. Then, he was steering them away from the display. “Come on, boys. You wanted to see the fire trucks.”
But, James couldn’t help glancing back once at the display as they moved away. He didn’t think he was going to change his mind. He wanted to help people like his dad did. Why would he change his mind about that?