Neighbors Help Fight Fire
1. Drive home to get changed for beginner yoga. Imagine self limber and able to use only one block instead of two during forward bend. (Two blocks is basically the equivalent of dropping your hands to waist level while slouching.) As you round corner into your wooded neighborhood, notice figures scrambling around on construction site on hillside above road. Notice the flames licking at their feet. Notice the tiny garden hose with which they are combating flames.
2. Feel pre-yoga calm pop like an eardrum.
3. Drive car quickly to house. Park car. Stand, indecisively, outside car, wondering whether to get dressed and go to yoga anyway. If house burns, at least you’ll be wearing your yoga outfit, which is quite roomy and comfortable and does not to call too much attention to your body, which is not flexible. See dog staring at you from inside the car. Let him out. Continue weighing options.
4. Step onto road to look over at site of fire. See that it has grown to engulf most of hillside on the one way street leading into neighborhood. White smoke is surging into air, obscuring view of sky. Think that if you’re going to go to yoga, you better go now, because pretty soon the road will be blocked. Notice dog noticing fire and then sending reproachful glances your way. Wonder if he knows you’re thinking of going to yoga and leaving him alone to deal with the fire only five doors down.
5. Take a look at cedar sided and roofed house. Take a look at trees surrounding house and dense undergrowth. Tinder-like grasses. Sticks and other kindling piled here and there. Get hit with the sudden awareness that house is about to catch on fire.
6. Turn in a circle five times.
7. Run up stairs. Unspool garden hose. Begin frantically watering garden.
8. Remember episodes of Rescue Me. Stop watering garden and start imaging what it would be like to have visions of Jesus and Mary. Wonder if Dennis Leary is in recovery. See dog staring at you with evident concern. Think of the parts in Rescue Me where they actually fight fires. Inspired by that example, start watering some of the kindling around house.
9. Wonder why the stupid nozzle’s most powerful setting is “shower”.
10. “Shower” a gentle sprinkle of water on bottom quarter of cedar siding of writing studio because that is as far as you can get the limp stream to reach. Think of troublesome work in progress and the hundreds of index cards surrounding your work space. Abandon studio.
11. See that smoke had gotten thicker. It now looks like a forest fire is raging at end of neighborhood. Decide to call fire department.
12. (Ring. Ring.)
E. “Fire, police or ambulance?”
E: “Which one?”
S: “Maybe all? No. I mean, Fire.”
E: “Long Lake?”
E: “We’ve got it.”
S: “Oh. Well thanks.”
13: Hang up. Glad to have done duty, but feeling slightly let down and like you might be the kind of person who clogs up phone lines during an emergency.
14. Grab hose. Drop hose.
15. Decide to run into street.
16. Decide to change first.
17. Spend three minutes deciding what to wear in the event of a forest fire.
18. Choose the skirt you got in Jackson, Wyoming. It’s actually a skort, but you figure you can wear it as pajamas when you move into the Castaway Motel because your house burned down.
19. Run into street.
20. See neighbor on motorcycle turning out of his driveway.
21. Scream at him incoherently.
22. See him glance at smoke then drive away from the fire as fast as his motorcycle will go. Conclude that he’s afraid of fire. (Later find out he just misunderstood what you said and thought he had to alert other end of street.
23. Run down hill toward fire. See that it has engulfed hillside completely.
24. See girl watering area around house near fire. See fire heading toward her. Well, it’s not exactly racing, but it will get there eventually.
25. Run up to her and tell her not to get burned. Run away.
26. Turn in four circles in street. Gnaw knuckle.
27. Start babbling at strangers about how you’re missing yoga and were hoping today you’d only need one block and where are the fire trucks. And also, WHERE IS DENNIS LEARY WHEN YOU NEED HIM??
28. See fire truck arrive. Note that in real life, firemen don’t appear to be delusional or drunk, at least not while on the job. None appear to be hallucinating dead relatives or religious figures.
29. Note that in real life fireman seem kind of chill. They talk to each other about what to do and how to do it. They don’t turn in circles or run into street or get weepy at the appearance of flames. Feel a little uncomfortable at how calm they seem. When another neighbor says she wishes they’d go a little faster, tell her with more confidence than you feel that they’re “probably strategizing.” Realize it’s time to do something about being such a pompous ass sometimes. Wonder if beginner yoga will help with this, too?
30. See news cameras and reporters arrive. Decide the skort was a poor choice.
31. Notice fire licking near a tree far below were the firemen have moved to begin training their powerful streams of water. A lone fireman is wandering around in the shrubs. He seems lost. Debate with neighbor whether to mention to him that there’s a fire lower down that is about to get into a tree.
N: (Tinkling cubes of ice in tall glass) “Do you think we should mention those flames?”
S: “Um, yes?” Turns in small circle.
N: (To fireman, scrabbling around on the hillside like an ant trying do some task only an ant would understand. Only the fireman is more handsome and dressed all in yellow.) “Excuse me, do they know there’s a bit of fire over here?” (Drinks deep from tall glass. Visibly relaxes.)
F: “They can see it.”
S: (Jumping, unwanted, into conversation. Shrilly:) “Yeah! And it’s going in the tree! It’s going in the tree!”
F: “They can see it. By the way, what street is this?”
S: “Oh my god! It’s our street. Where are you trying to go???”
F: (Points to other firemen, now perched on street above, trying to keep fire from reaching the house directly above.) “There.”
S: “Oh my god! But what about these flames down here.” (Now spinning in circles while speaking to fireman.)
N: (Looks again at flames, with a calm almost as implacable as that of the firemen.) “You know, I wish there was another fire truck down here.” (Takes another soothing, refreshing drink.)
S: (Screeching now.) “YES! YES! THAT’S WHAT WE NEED! WHY DON’T WE HAVE ANOTHER FIRE TRUCK!?”
(As if on cue, another fire truck pulls up. More relaxed firemen disembark. Put out fire that has been menacing tree.)
N: (Leans casually against different tree.) “Good. Now that’s what I like to see.”
By now at least a dozen neighbors are milling around. Fire is out. Firemen are drenching area as a precaution.
32. Return home to find all your doors open and all your clothes on the floor and dog staring at you like you just tried to give him away to the local dog fighting syndicate. Apologize to dog.
33. Just out of interest, go into intact writing studio and try forward bend. Discover that you now need three blocks instead of just two.