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Stories 1 Spring 2022



The Little-Known Hero

      by Tom Sheehan

Harold Skeller was meek as a poor excuse, left the same echo or shadow to beprecise, with not another edge for measure or adjustment; Harold sitting or standing in place was his way of life, and so thin that in life it sometimes made no shadow of itself, provided none for itself, like an unworthy absence. Both parents wondered where he came from, and where he was going, what place in the world would accept him, creating those fears long before they'd leave him and this old earth, the warts of worry that clutch at minds.

No pictures or photos hung on his bedroom walls, no teams clustered inframes, no trophies on display, no gear of any association or description at hand in a corner of that room, his parents at length settling for his anonymity, life as barren as a distant view of a mountain top there for one moment and gone in a whisk.           

The one awakening incident in his early teenage life was the sight of afireman emerging through smoke and flames abounding about him with a baby in his arms, like death in action, the mother having been in hysterics moments earlier, her screams rising above flames, heat and smoke, roughing up a crowd of witnesses standing by, every one of them helpless in their massed distress.

Harold Skeller, nearby and near-charred, decided then and there he wanted to
be a fireman, no matter the cost, no matter what it would take on his part, as though he could call it forth from wherever.

Life for once, along with dreams, had direction, a path of resolution, theodd but demanding dreams coming along the way. The total impact was undeniable, a corner of a life careened in its course, jammed through slight intersections, shone sun-bright, just as healthy as dawn itself. 

He applied to countless fire-fighting organizations, flunking any interestonce an interview was conducted, though it revealed a deep interest on his part, the findings resulting in complete disinterest, here was a volunteer who might never fulfill the least of promises: "Go home, kid, and find where you can offer some promise in a dangerous career, which doesn't appear to be fighting fires that might swallow you up!"

Such results, such damnable threats, did not scare him off, but added to his
resolve, his dream to be a hero, even if in disguise. Each denial, piled atop a list of likely denials, seemed to affix his dreams, drove him on.

Before he realized it, he was 24 years old and never a bite of interestcoming his way. His parents succumbed to the host of denials, tried to steer him elsewhere, suggesting any field that might do the trick for him, promise for promise, dream for dream.


"Harold," his mother often said, "firefighting is not in the cards for you,so you can try to be a teacher or a laboratory worker or a technician with some position requiring common demands in its specialty, but not danger like a runaway horse heading anywhere but a need to get something done. Be a..." and the onslaught would continue directly at him, face to face, as it did from his father, realizing the hopeless situation for what it was, just a pile of trouble that was going nowhere but to failure, regardless of what was said, what dream was steady in its need.

"I haven't done too badly, Harold, with my meager talents, but I marriedyour mother, own this house which one day will be yours. At least that need will be on tap for always, we'll see to that. You'll not have worries there, not a one. You'll be a home owner. That's significant these days." He felt like he had mud in his mouth, nothing sounded plausible, carried any weight, showed the road for what it was.

Came the day a casual interviewer accepted the unlikely creature and thatnight an intruder broke into the house, forcing Harold to cower in his room until he heard his mother scream. He bolted from his sanctuary, burst down the stairway and knocked the dark figure into absolute unconscious state until he woke up as a policeman was cuffing him.

"What happened?" said the intruder, shaking his head, lights flashing on top
of him, an alarm bell still ringing in his ears.

The policeman pointed at Harold and revealed the sudden mystery to him and a
news reporter on a night's mission of seeking odd stories to tell his readers, "Stories Out of Darkness" he called them, highlighting night's advents in the steep darkness surrounding everybody.

Harold made the headlines, "Local Youngster Knocks Long-time Thief for aLoop. (4-time loser loses round 5 to kid hero; Harold Skeller out-stars experienced looter at his game, knocks thief to Bejeebers and back.)"

His place in life had come around, and one interviewer, short on his review,called him back for a new review and a sure placement as a firefighter. But he wasn't fast enough, as a local police chief had personally visited Harold and offered him a place in the police academy.

To our recollection, all of 30 years later, Detective Lieutenant HaroldSkeller has made more headlines than his whole local police force, a dynamo at his work, a constant hum atop thieves, kidnappers, killers, and has prevented many young men from entering the wrong career in their lives, which all agree is the most important and steadiest target of his aims, as he often says, "Catch 'em young, and send 'em straight."


Bio : Sheehan, in his 94th year, has published 57 books, latest being from Pocol Press, The Townsman and The Horsemen Cometh and Other Stories, Alone, with the Good Graces, and Jock Poems and Reflections for Proper Bostonians and Small Victories for the Soul VII, and The Grand Royal Stand-off at Darby's Creek and Other stories. He has multiple works in Rosebud, Literally Stories, Linnet's Wings, Serving House Journal, Frontier Tales, Copperfield Review, Green Silk Journal, Literary Orphans.

He recently won first prize for his book of poetry, The Saugus Book and won an Ageless Press short story contest. He served in Korea 1950-52, graduated from Boston College in 1956, and retired from Raytheon Company in 1991.