Franklin, the head of the fire investigation unit, and his two interns walked into what remained of the structure. “What’s the first step we should take to assay the situation and identity the source?” he asked the two men.
The men looked at one another and then back at Franklin. “Sir, I’m sorry, but did you mean to say ‘assess the situation’?” one of them asked.
“Assess, appraise, evaluate, check out, size up, investigate,” Franklin said. “When you assay a situation, you look at all the elements that created the problem in order to come up with a solution. You conduct an examination, evaluate what you see, and make a determination.”
The other intern looked at his buddy and then back at Franklin. “Of course, sir,” he said. “I’d just never heard that word ‘assay’ before.”
“Assay is a word that is most commonly used for the testing of a metal or ore to determine its ingredients and quality,” Franklin explained. “As fire investigators, our job is to identify and collect evidence relating to fires and make determinations as to their causes, and especially to assess whether or not they were deliberately set. So that includes carefully examining chemical, electrical, and structural clues.”
Franklin looked at his two interns, shook his head, and said, “So let’s start assaying, gentlemen.”
I have to admit that when I saw today’s one-word prompt, “assay,” I didn’t know what it meant. I Googled it to learn that it’s often associated with metallurgy and pharmacology to test a substance to find out what chemicals it contains. And that’s when the idea of using a fire investigator as a way to write a flash fiction story built around the word “ assay.”