Petrus slid down the pole, his uniform half-done, but that could be fixed on the way to the fire. He stopped at the bottom and looked around. ‘Hau! Where’s the fire engine?!’
Mwazi looked up disconsolately. ‘Stolen.’
‘What do you mean stolen? It’s our only fire engine!’
Mwazi shrugged. ‘Sorry bra, but they stole it. Probably they’re going to put a canopy on it and turn it into a taxi.’
‘But what about the fittings?!’ he shouted.
‘Sell them for scrap metal, said Mwazi morosely.
Petrus looked around in panic. ‘But there’s a fire!’ he shouted. Mwazi said nothing, looking down at a spot on the floor. Petrus was a man of action, though.
‘Mwazi, get some buckets and fill them with water!’
Mwazi looked up. ‘Whaa…?’
‘Fill up some buckets, quick!’ He ran outside and stopped a taxi, which was, fortunately, empty. ‘Wait here!’ He ran back inside, where Mwazi had managed to fill two buckets with water. ‘Get the other guys, and fill up some more buckets.’
Mwazi sadly shook his head. ‘They went home when they saw the fire engine was gone.’
‘Whaa-a-at!? All of them?’
Mwazi nodded. ‘All of them.’
The taxi driver came in. ‘Hurry up magents, I’m lose money waiting for you to warrah warrah.’
Petrus said to him. ‘Grab a bucket over there and fill it with water. There’s a fire in town and somebody stole our fire engine!’
‘You going to pay me extra for this?’
‘The Department is,’ said Petrus.
‘Eh eh!’ said the taxi driver. ‘They take too long, and maybe I never get my money from those skorros.’
‘Okay, okay! I will pay you.’ He shook his head. ‘You, yoh, yoh! Somebody’s house is burning and you can only worry about money!’
Eventually, with fourteen buckets crammed into the taxi, they were off, the taxi driver flashing his lights, hazards on and hooter going. They had to slow down, as the water was sloshing onto the floor of the taxi and, eventually they arrived, to find the house burned to the ground, embers glowing brightly in the breeze.
The family and neighbours were standing around the house, blackened and disconsolate. Petrus and Mwazi jumped out of the taxi and emptied the buckets onto the embers, steam and smoke hissing into the clear night sky, the embers rising up to meet with the twinkling stars, or so it seemed.
‘What the blarrie hell took you so long?!’ screamed a man, apparently the owner.
‘Sorry, sir, somebody stole our fire engine.’
‘You mean you only have only one fire engine?!’ The man looked as if his eyes would pop out of his head.
‘Yes, sir. The old ones were so old we couldn’t even get a trade-in, unless we gave them all our old fire engines.’ His shoulders sagged. ‘Sorry, sir.’
The man waved his hand dismissively. ‘Aah, it’s not your fault.’
‘No sir, ‘said Petrus.
The taxi driver approached him. ‘Where’s my money?’
Petrus pointed to the home owner. ‘Ask him: it’s his house, and his fire.’