With the enthusiasm of a child forced to clean his room, Lance placed the basket full of goodies prepared by his wife in their old Ford.
"Do you really want to go to the park? I feel guilty about my colleagues." said Lance.
"I'm sure they'll do without you for a day, so you can go on a relaxing picnic with your wife." Beth replied and sat down in the driver's seat.
"But it’s the wildfire season. Temperatures can reach 104 degrees and the probability of fires increases by ... ”
"They will manage without you, Lance. Firefighters also need free days, otherwise they risk being strangled by their wives.
Lance muttered something incorrigible.
"Please bring the two chairs, the table and the beach umbrella until I set the itinerary and look for some music," Beth said.
"Okay. I'll get my Swiss Army knife as well."
"Why do you insist on taking that thing everywhere we go?” his wife said.
"You never know when we may need it".
"At least it has a corkscrew."
He came out a few minutes later with two folding chairs in one hand, a folding table in the other, and a large beach umbrella under his arm. He lifted the trunk with his foot and carefully placed the items. His wife looked at him admiringly in the rearview mirror.
He sat down in the passenger seat, swaying the car lightly under his weight. His lips were pursed and posed a worried look.
Beth leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and took him in her arms, which brought a smile to his face.
"What a beautiful shirt you chose!" she said. "Reminds me of our Bahamas trip"
Lance nodded absently.
"Come on, darling!" said Beth. "It’ll be fine. Paul agreed to take your place today and you know he's a more than capable firefighter. We’ll go for a picnic for a few hours, we’ll cool our feet in the lake, we’ll get some fresh air and tomorrow you will return to killing fires. Now, will you try to leave the job at home? ”
"Okay, I'll try," Lance said, and smiled.
"Awesome!" she said and put the car in reverse and pressed play on a playlist that began with Taylor Swift - Shake it off. She backed the car out of the driveway while singing.
"But I'd like to call to see that everything is ..."
But Beth, without stopping to sing, increased the volume to a deafening level, implying to Lance that calling the station was not an option.
Google Maps displayed twenty-three minutes to the lake. Being Saturday, the two were spared from the infernal weekday traffic. Beth danced in her chair and kept the rhythm of the songs by tapping the wheel, and Lance stared blankly out the window and occasionally took out his phone.
"We have to get gas," Beth said.
"Mhm." Lance nodded into the phone.
She lit a cigarette, took a deep puff and blew the smoke out the window. Lance, without looking up from the phone, subtly opened the window on his side. His wife glanced at him.
"It's a gas station ten minutes from here," she tried to draw his attention again.
"Mhm," Lance repeated.
After a few minutes, Beth parked at the gas station and got out of the car. He keeps typing on his phone like a teenager.
"I'll be right back, Lance. I'm going to slay a dragon to save the princess from the castle "
“Mhm. Wait, what? ”
Beth slammed the car door and entered the gas station.
Lance returned to his messages.
"Please check the truck. I told the captain that sometimes I hear some weird noises when I put it in reverse, but there was never any time for that. " Lance sent the message.
"We'll check. The atmosphere is pretty calm. We also had time to plan next month's charity event." said Paul.
"We need to talk to Captain Steven about the budget for that event ..." But Lance couldn't finish writing because Paul had sent an alarming message.
"Sorry, Lance, but I have to leave you now."
"What happened? Alarm?"
"Not really. Your wife just texted me that if I still reply again to your messages, she'll hit me with a fire extinguisher. Have a fun picnic! Bye!"
Lance sighed and put his phone in his pocket. Beth returned from the gas station with a sly smile and carrying two sodas and two lollipops.
"Here you go, firefighter!" and she handed him a soda and a lollipop.
After a while, they arrived at the picnic area. It was a large lawn with a few scattered trees, a terrace area and a lake with ducks. A breeze made the mid-day sun more bearable.
Beth got out of the car and stretched, making sounds of satisfaction.
"What a wonderful day for a picnic! Lance, I'm going to the terrace to buy some cold beers for you and some sodas for me. Please look for a nice area by the lake to lay out things. ”
Lance managed to relax a little and even smiled.
"Sure, Beth." he said.
He opened the trunk and with tact and strategy managed to grab the basket, the chairs, the table and the umbrella all at once to the amazement of a child watching him from the terrace. Without seeming to make any effort, he moved gently by the lake and arranged everything for his wife's arrival.
"I've always admired your ability to be a human crane," said Beth, who returned with a bag of cold drinks.
Lance laughed and pulled a beer out of the bag.
"Professional defect, if I may call it that," he replied. "Speaking of which, I should check at the headquarters if ..."
Beth became gloomy. It seemed that the battle with her husband's job was a losing one. Lance immediately noticed this.
"Actually, no. I'm not going to check anything.” Lance said. "Today I will not think about work at all and I will give you my full attention."
With a wide smile on her face, Beth jumped into her husband's arms and kissed him passionately.
"Now let's relax!" she said.
For the next few hours, the two drank, played frisbee and made some vacation plans. Lance didn't mention anything about his work. They cooled their feet in the lake and fed the ducks that had gathered near them, while they, in turn, ate Beth's apple pie.
"It's an absolutely delicious pie," Lance said with his mouth full.
"I am not surprised that you like it. I have the recipe from your mother. "
When they had finished eating, Lance stood up and shook the crumbs.
"I'm going to the bathroom"
"There’s one near the terrace. I’ll come with you to buy some more beers. You evaporated them all, already” she laughed.
Beth bought some more drinks and went back to the umbrella to put them out of the sun.
Suddenly, the serenity of the park was interrupted by a long car horn.
"How obnoxious are some people with their horns," she said.
It grew louder every second, and Beth heard people shouting. She stood up and looked at where the noise was coming from. Her heart almost stopped when she saw an SUV crashing through the park fence and speeding towards her.
"Be careful! Get out of the way!” shouted the people from the terrace.
The car was approaching rapidly and showed no signs of slowing down. Beth jumped out of the way, and the car went through their things and plunged into the lake, causing panic among the ducks.
After a minute, Beth stood up and yelled with a trembling voice.
She put her fists to her mouth and tears began to run down her cheeks. She was petrified and watched the car fill with water.
"Beth!" cried Lance, running at full speed toward his wife. "Are you hurt?"
"I’m ok, Lance," Beth cried. "I think the driver fainted behind the wheel. He's going to drown! ”
Without hesitating, Lance took off his shirt and plunged into the lake.
"Be careful, Lance!" Beth shouted.
The car was almost submerged which made the rescue mission even harder. Lance took a deep breath and went underwater. The driver of the car fainted and his head rested on the steering wheel. The firefighter tried to open the door, but it was locked. He punched the window, but it didn't have enough force to break it. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out the Swiss Army knife and slammed the window with it.
On the surface, Beth was holding her breath, and the crowd had gathered close by. With each passing second, she became more and more worried.
Each blow to the window caused a growing crack, but Lance was also becoming out of breath. Eventually, the window broke and Lance picked up the driver. He resurfaced, holding the victim with one hand, swimming with the other and the knife between his teeth. He was greeted with cheers and the relieved yell of his wife.
Several people rushed to help bring the man ashore. Seeing that the victim was not breathing and had no pulse, Lance gave him chest compressions, playing in his head Bee Gees - Stayin’ Alive. After a few minutes, the driver regained his pulse and began to breathe slightly. He was on the right track. The firefighter fell beside the man, panting.
"He's breathing!" Beth cheered, accompanied by the rest of the people. She kneeled next to her husband and gave him an embrace. “I’ll never nag you about that knife ever again!”
Shortly afterwards, the police and the ambulance arrived along with the firefighters with a crane. Lance and Beth were sitting on the grass, drinking. The paramedics rushed the victim to the hospital, the policemen talked to the witnesses and the firefighters took care of the car.
"Looks like trouble follows you wherever you go, man" Paul said.
"So it seems. What did the paramedics say? ”
"He has not regained consciousness yet, but he is in good hands. He breathes and has a pulse. They managed to get hold of his family and they will be waiting for him at the hospital.”
Lance rejoiced that no one was hurt, and Beth kissed him on the cheek.
"Beth, go ahead to the car, please. I need to talk to the captain, "Lance said.
“Ok, hero!” Beth said and walked to the parking lot.
She sat down in the driver's seat and sighed. She was happy that it all ended well, but she didn't know when she would be able to separate Lance from work again.
After a few minutes, he came to the car. He put his drenched pants into the trunk and hopped in the passenger seat, laughing at himself.
"I’m gonna wet the seat with my butt. So where do you want to go tomorrow?" said Lance.
Beth gave him a surprised look.
"Aren’t you going to work?"
"I talked to the captain and he allowed me to take the next week off. I think we both need that. "
Beth shouted and almost choked Lance with her embrace.
"When we get home, I'm looking for plane tickets!" she said and started the car and a new playlist.