Apr 26, 2007

The fire

In the morning, the rain collected smoke and ashes into puddles.

Two neighbors who had never spoken before talked about the fire. I hope nobody was hurt, one said. I hope nobody started it, one said. These old buildings. The other one said, there were no fire walls.

In the night, the apartment building sat on the top of the hill and the fire came out of the top of the building. The fire trucks' flashing lights set the shadows of the blinds blinking on and off against the rental-white walls. On/off, on/off, on/off,

Neighbors gathered on the edge of the parking lot to talk to each other about the fire and speed-dialed cell phones to talk about the fire. The fire came out on the porch, appearing on the balcony like a celebrity stepping forth for the crowd, and the fire ate up the roof in one orange swallow.

The fire fighters turned their hoses to the balcony. They arched their water into the holes in the roof. They pressed their backs against the conifer trees and ran their streams at the old building. The smoke blacked the planes out of the sky. The smoke seeped to the ends of the building, curling calmly out of the edges under the eaves.

Through the fire: the sound of 100 fire alarms screaming like a flock of birds.