Do you ever dream of being a hero? Tommy Trafficone did. Every day. And then he got his chance.

Enjoy a lighthearted story.

Jam the Axle

Bob Gillen

Tommy Trafficone was born to serve. From his earliest moments, he saw family, friends, others like him, protecting the public. With pride.

Young Tommy grew restless, itching to be called into service. Tommy’s dream came true when someone plucked him up, wrapped silver reflective tape around his neck. This is it, he thought.

Stacks of cones joined Tommy in a truck. The buzz was, an assignment on a local street being repaved. Tommy was set out in a line with other cones. A long line guiding traffic through the construction zone. Tommy stood for days in the blazing summer sun, dust settling on him as construction equipment stripped the old asphalt off the street’s surface. 

Then a day of rain. Fresh again. Feeling proud. Heavy dump trucks rolled in with steaming hot asphalt. As the asphalt was layered onto the street’s surface, a construction compressor rolled rover it, passing up and down the street.

Tommy watched as a young yellow retriever ran out from a nearby house. The dog sniffed around a bit, looked up and down the street, Stay away, Tommy said to himself. as the dog ran out onto the hot asphalt. The dog’s paws got sticky. It could not lift its feet after a few minutes. 

The dog’s owner, a boy of about eight, spotted the dog’s dilemma. He tried waving to the construction workers. Everyone was focused on the street ahead where fresh aphalt was being spread. No one heard the boy or realized the dog’s predicament.

The compressor reversed to pass over the asphalt once again. The operator was looking at the edges of the roadway, ensuring he did not hit the curbing with his roller. Tommy saw that the dog was stuck. The compressor drew closer. The dog was in danger, directly in the path of the roller. Tommy watched from his position along the roadside. 

“I need to save him,” Tommy told himself. He wiggled and nudged toward the dog. One of the other traffic cones pushed him ahead. “Jam the axle,” he said.

Tommy did tiny hops across the hot asphalt, nearing the roller. The driver was still preoccupied watching the curb. Tommy heard the dog whimper.

With an enormous effort, he leaped out alongside the roller. Tommy heaved himself up, jamming himself between the roller axle and the vehicle frame.

Crushing pain! Squealing noise! The compressor jolted to a stop. The operator turned to see Tommy stuck in the roller. Then looked ahead to see the dog frozen in fright in the asphalt. He yelled. The crew ran to rescue the dog. They wiped his paws with oily rags, then used a solvent to rinse off the tarry substance. They told the boy to soak his dog’s paws in cool water for a while. The boy squeezed his dog in a huge hug. 

One of the crew yanked Tommy off the roller, tossed him to the side of the street. A crew supervisor yelled, keep that compressor moving. The roller moved off right away, the operator fearful of compressing the street too much if the roller stayed parked in one spot.

Before the boy took his dog into the house, he waved to one of the paving crew. He pointed to Tommy, mangled in the grass. “The cone saved my dog.” The crew picked up Tommy, wiped him with rags, and set him down on the sidewalk. He was blackened with scrapes, several gouges along his side. The boy ran to his garage, rummaged around, grabbed a strip of blue fabric from his kite, and tied it around Tommy’s neck. “He’s my hero.”

One of the paving crew set Tommy back in his position along the street. He stood  with pride, his blue ribbon fluttering in the breeze, as the other cones whispered, “Welcome to service.”