The Fire

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A "backwards" poem that is based upon true ideas; the hatrid flames that changed my life forever.

Submitted: March 11, 2008

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Submitted: March 11, 2008

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The Fire
The haunting smell of my past wafted to my nose through the open car window.  A tear leaked from the corner of my eye and I didn’t bother wiping it away.  I let it run down my cheek and fall silently into my lap. 

 

16 years before that, my grandma pushed open the front door and my mom followed behind her. They both wore sober, sad expressions and carried big, black garbage bags, which they placed on the newspaper-laden dining room table.  When their ashy fingers finally fumbled open the bulging sacks, a thick, hazy smell filled the air.  It smelled of a barbeque left in the rain, sour milk, or a campfire the next morning.  I was sitting in the front bay window, and neither of them had seemed to acknowledge me, which was just as well.  My mom began unloading one of the bags: my old dolly, dressed in the clothes my grandmother had made when I was small.  He face was half melted and mutated, and one of her eyes had dripped out onto her blackened face.  And the picture that once was on my nightstand, of my father’s big warm arms wrapped around me.  The frame it was in was black and the glass was bumpy and distorted.  There was a small clean spot over our hearts. 

Before that, I sat on the window-seat in the front window, my body tense and weary, tears dried to my skin.  I watched the rain drip lazily down the window, and followed the raindrops with my finger.  I wondered if the house wouldn’t have burned if it had been raining last night. 

 

Before that, I awoke next to my mother in the dull guest room of my grandma’s cramped house.  I felt as if I hadn’t slept at all.  My mom’s slow, even breathing continued uninterrupted as I rose and padded down the hallway into the kitchen.  The microwave read 5:57am. In the distance, the sun was peeking over the ragged hills, awakening like it did every day, as if nothing had ever happened.  It seemed odd to me that my entire life had been changed and everything was different, yet everything was the same.  Slowly, I walked over to the sliding glass door and slid it open, trying to be as quiet as possible.  I sat in the cold plastic patio chairs, hugging my knees and tugging the hem of my grandfather’s long t-shirt down as the early-morning air settled around me like flour onto the floor.  I cried then, for the first time since it had happened.  I sobbed and shook and felt as if the world were coming to a harsh end.  Images flashed through my head like a strobe light; the doll, the picture, the enormous flames lazily licking the house like an ice cream cone.  Arson, the fireman had said. 

 

Before that, I lay awake, huddled alone in a miniscule bundle beneath the blankets.  The house was still and quiet, except for my grandpa’s raucous snores and the ticking of the clock beside my head, in time with my heartbeat.  I felt as if I should cry, but nothing came. My heart was coated in a thick, hardened shell.

Before that, my grandma’s strong, lined hands gripped my shoulders and her comforting voice whispered in my ear, You’re going to my house with Grampa and I’ll be there later with your mom.  We have to talk to the firemen.  I barely heard her, but my mind formed no protest, and I succumbed to her and allowed her to lead me away like a puppet. 

 

Before that, I was standing at the curb in front of the house.  My eyes were glued to the sight of my home, or what once was.  Not far away, my mom was frantically dialing 9-11, and a few minutes later, what seemed like eternity, a harsh siren split the evening calm and three large, red fire trucks zoomed around the corner onto our usually quiet road.  Several firemen climbed from the back of the trucks, and rushed straight to the burning house, but two stayed behind.  One was a tall, burly man and the other was a woman with a serious look on her face.  The man approached my mother, and attempted to calm her, and the lady came to me.  She asked if I was ok.  I was not.  She asked me other things too, but I couldn’t hear her.  I couldn’t hear anything but my mind screaming and panicking.

Before that, I was sitting numbly in the passenger’s seat of the black Hyundai. My mom had flung herself out of the car, hysterically shaking her fists at the skies. Her face was red and glistening with tears like the white caps of the ocean. She pulled out her cell phone and dialed 9-11. I could vaguely hear the beeps of the buttons…nine one one… My senses had gone dry and my thoughts were spinning in wild circles. 

Before that, I was in the car with my mom. We had just eaten at the Olive Garden as our Wednesday night tradition. As we rounded the corner onto our street, the air became hazy, filled with thick, black smoke. Enormous flames were shooting into the air where the pointed rooftop of our house usually peeked through the willow trees. Dread pulsed through my veins like an invincible poison. I knew it was real.


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