He'd cowboys on his pajamas, barefooted he munched dry cereal colored like some crayons, three round colors, hmm hmm hmm, a little more drawing with green lower on the page, the cartoon just loud enough of the wolf chasing the bird, not much other light, two, three more round cereals, a little blue scratch scratch for sky, Smokey the Bear, he'd slowly color --- looking up at the tan canyons and green cacti the color he imagined already like tulips, like little wolf ears all around their small white house, TV only grey, black like Smokey's eyes, white, pale, he'd known the colors the bear needed brown and already the outline of the scolding bear was black, black strokes marked fur dimensions, opening the heavy drapes behind the couch, small hands tugging the lines, there, more light the sky very blue ,big white clouds on the wind, condensation near the lower line of the large window, the outside brightening up, the TV now reflecting, harder to see as the small girl wearing underpants and a pale yellow sweater buttoned like a cape, the color of his pajamas, walked the hallway, faintly you saw her on the small glass screen, why is that so loud you're supposed to have milk on that and she got a large slippery glass bottle of milk pouring it from two hands toward the cereal bowl on the floor in front of the TV the milk splashing up over the bowl splotching the coloring book pages, Smokeys plotched, stained, milk seeping on to the rug, she returned down the hallway and you heard her behind the bathroom door, while he got the cereal box down again from where he left it, again using the telephone chair, standing on the the tubular bar, reaching up over the stove, then outside the screen door half opened he reached for the newspaper, saw it said Saturday, he knew what it meant, meaning right now, today, and unfolding it there was a picture of Mimi Eisenhower, the queen, he guessed, he moved back in, the screen door slapped behind him carrying the newspaper half running, his other arm deep within the cereal box, past the wet coloring book, the half dozen soggy cereals already fading color, the TV showed Dinah Shore, singing through a huge smile, down the hallway, you heard the small girl brushing her teeth, rapidly, almost like a toy train gaining steam, he opened the door on his left where the woman slept like a dark haired statue, morning light still muted through the eastern window, the same as the window covered by a tan shade and curtains white with tiny red hearts on the north window, he grabbed a handful of the cereal beads, after he put the newspaper on the pillow, back in his room he climbed the ladder to the top bed and put on the stringed cowboy hat from the peg on the wall, he poured a mound of cereal, dividing it by color when outside the sirens started as though far away way up the street blocks away up the hill louder all at once, the boy went to his own window wide open and saw a man in swim trunks who'd been pounding nails on his garage roof across the street, across the cornered street behind the pink house on top of the garage, running east toward the other yards, the neighbor vaulted the white picket fence behind the boy's house and you saw how he gashed his leg, then there were more sirens you'd hear them speeding toward you then right on you and then the whole world was filled with sirens, the woman, startled awake, putting on a white terry cloth robe, now the little girl began bawling, crying, and the boy, leaving his pajama top on pulling on blue shorts without shoes he ran to the front door and was unbolting the locks, put your tennis shoes on, must be Wroblewski's house on fire, the grass was wet, dewy, a teenager tugged behind a pure black German Shepherd, ran eastward, on the sidewalk, the dog aggressively barking, as a huge hook and ladder truck slowly drove up the street while neighbors in sandals and slippers ran toward the other fire truck already arching water on the house one, two, three, four houses away, nearly identical houses, where the hill started where a black squad car with a single red roof light was parked on the lawn, people moved cars off the street, out of the way, and then back to their porches their lawns, pointing, an almost naked old man wearing black rimmed glasses and billowy underwear jumped around his yard yelling please please my wife and grandson are in there, as the boy turned his hat around running toward the smoke with the hat over his face, you heard the big picture window explode just as the boy got across the street to where his friend and his friend's family stood on the porch, that one guy went in there, there's a baby in there, where's your shoes, they gaped as smoke blacker than clouds on Good Friday poured out of the small wooden home's windows, at the front door the green paint already blistered a fireman as tall as the door chopped with an ax, and was blown back off the concrete stoop, as though yanked taunt by invisible wires he fell just as a fireman wearing an oxygen mask dove past him into the house beneath the wall of smoke crawling, disappeared , Ray, Ray went in there, but soon they saw Ray, sooted, covered in an army blanket around his shoulders, haunched and coughing the boy knew it was the neighbor who'd run at the exploding house, as an ambulance guy in white clothes tried to get him to lay down next to the fireman who rolled on his side as a policeman kept trying to drag him away from the house afire while another kept forcing an oxygen mask on his face, holding the firefighter's helmet, yet another ambulance drove into the boy's friend's driveway, two more medical people jumped out, leaving the doors open, just as you began to hear pounding, axing on the roof of the burning house, a fireman in a heavy black rain coat, a light on his helmet whoop-whoop-whoop-whoop then a huge gush of water like an exploding fountain sprang skyward, the fireman fell flat on the slanted roof, sliding down, beneath all that water, while the neighbor in swim trunks and the firefighter were dragged and walked and laid out on the lawn nextdoor, that's oxygen they're giving them, and smoke all over everything, their eyes stinging teary from the wisps of pungent smoke, no other unmistakable smell like burning wet wood, the house engulfed in flames, burning down, everyone holding their hands cupped over their mouths, the boy's friend's mother now running past the ambulance in the driveway carrying two glasses of water filled to the brim, the water glasses glinting the sunlight, as she raced holding the water head-height, her arms a big U, as though not to spill any, out there across the street, the children started out with her and the boy got close enough to see that the fireman had stopped moving and that he only had one boot on, the boy saw that the fireman's sock was half off, and an ambulance guy was pressing on his chest, but then a cop steered him back, no no you can't go over there, go home go home, Ray's over there what happened to Ray, then he glanced at the side window of the house afire and first saw the blonde head of the boy, the child outstretched on the arms of the fireman, placing the child with two other firemen reaching up toward the shattered window, one of whom already was covering the boy with a water-soaked blanket, you could see that the little boy's eyes were closed, that he slept like an angel ...

Views: 61

Comment by J.P. Hart on May 11, 2019 at 10:36pm

Fact based fiction. Sadly it was one warm Saturday. . .

House Afire was first presented on the Other Site (on a winter's day) 2009. . .

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 12, 2019 at 5:09am

How about some paragraph breaks.  It makes it easier for the rest of us to read.

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 12, 2019 at 5:14am

The image of people running with glasses of water to put out a house fire seems surreal, but my father did that when a neighbor called to say that our car was on fire in the carport.  He pushed it out of the carport to keep from burning the house down, and let the car burn.

He later rewired the car, made makeshift seats, and we used it as a second vehicle for a couple of years. It was a straight shot from the dash with wires hanging out to the trunk lid of the turtle back chevy.

Comment by koshersalaami on May 12, 2019 at 5:32am

This is good work. Not cryptic, just observational, very period, child’s eye view well represented amid adult descriptions. 

Comment by J.P. Hart on May 13, 2019 at 1:07am

Rodney the story is one sentence. I appreciate your comments.

No doubt enjambment would seize the day, in particular with the ubiquitous use of handheld devices nowadays. True that most write to be read...and though I enjoyed your anecdote of a glass of water or two on the car blaze, it's my belief that my neighborhood lady in House Afire attempted to reach out to the first responders with good cool water. I well recollect droves of incredible heat shimmering/wafting with merciless insociance. Unless the panicked, traumatic moment was imagined. Later that day my father, who'd left just after sunrise for his Saturday work, breathlessly found us after he'd parked a block over...he ran to us as fast as he could...thinking the house afire was ours...he went out to the garden and wept awhile so we didn't see him crying.

koshersalaami thank you. No doubt smoke alarms are imperative...

Comment by Maui Surfer on May 13, 2019 at 8:03pm

Yaaaas Yaaas Yaaaaaaaaaasssss !

Comment by Rodney Roe on May 14, 2019 at 3:49am

My.eye problem makes it hard to read long paragraphs, let alone long sentences, that wrap like that one did. It is my problem, not yours.

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