The dream came suddenly, like the fire itself. I found myself in a doctor’s office, a waiting room. A buzzing filled the air, sharp and high. It came again, followed by the words, “We are buzzing you in now.” Once more, and the words, “We are annoyingly buzzing you in now.”
I awoke to darkness. The buzzing continued, confused my thoughts. I shook my head, fumbled to put my glasses on and reached to turn on the lamp.
I thought for a moment that the glasses were broken. My vision was obscured by a haze, by a fog that filled the living room of my Dad’s trailer. My lungs began to burn. I coughed. Not haze at all, but smoke; not a random buzzing, but a fire alarm.
I shot up, panicking. I reached to pull the lamp’s cord from the outlet, as if a faulty bulb could produce that much smoke.Not the lamp, I realized, that would be silly. I glanced around for fire, felt the wall for heat, but found neither.
I finally rose to my feet. Smoke hit my lungs like a shotgun blast. I gasped and coughed once more, ducked low and moved down the hall. I quickly made my way past the blaring alarm and into my Dad’s bedroom. He was sound asleep; he hadn’t heard a thing. I called his name, but he lay still. I shoved him, and he startled awake.
He took in the sound and smoke, cussed, scrambled out of bed. “Get outside!” he said.
“What about Sox?”
“Just get outside, damnit!”
My heart hammered now. My mind raced. I nodded and lowered myself, rushed down the hall and into the living room. The smoke was everywhere, nothing to see but smoke. I hacked and wheezed. My chest burned and my eyes watered. I made it to the door and pulled it open, instinctively filling my lungs with fresh air.
I stepped onto the porch. A wave of heat hit my face, as if my cheeks blushed. The fire roared to my left. Flames lapped and licked at the trailer’s side, burning and flickering and rising up from its skirting. My heart sank; my stomach knotted up.
I looked around for Sox. She sat in the yard, mesmerized as the fire consumed her dog house. I quickly realized she was still chained up. I rushed to her side, undid the chain and took her by the collar.
Dad finally made it outside. He took a look at the flames, told me to take Sox and get back. We moved onto the driveway.
“I called 911,” he said. “I hope to God they get here.”
He loaded Sox and me into his minivan and drove across the road to a vacant lot. “Watch the dog,” he said, and then he left us. I saw the rest from the van.
Neighbors came out of their trailers, gawkers and voyeurs and people who honestly wanted to help. An old man ran into our yard. He carried a fire extinguisher, one of those small ones people keep under their kitchen sinks. Dad took it from him, but he didn’t bother using it.
The sun was rising by the time the fire truck arrived. Sox and I watched the firemen spray down the trailer. They doused and smothered the flames, leaving behind only smoke and charred siding.
The damage didn’t look as bad in daylight. Surface damage, only cosmetic. The trailer had not been destroyed; our home still stood. I heaved a sigh, allowing myself to feel relief. I patted Sox. She put her head in my lap, sniffed at my shirt, and drew back for a sneeze. I lifted the shirt. It smelled like smoke.
After it was over, after the firemen had gone, after our neighbors had returned home, Dad and I left Sox in the van and walked along the trailer. We inspected the scorched siding and picked through the blackened remains of the dog house.
“An electrical fire,” he said, “swept under the whole damn trailer. I kept some of our old photos down there, but I suppose they’re gone now.”
“It’s okay, Dad. It could have been worse.”
He went silent, kicked over the melted remains of Sox’s water dish. After a time he sighed and nodded. “You’re right, son, it really could have been.”
I smiled at him. We turned back to the trailer, walked beside it and inspected the damage.
My name is Jeff Bowles, and I am currently seeking a B.A. in English at the University of Colorado Denver. I write creatively by night and spend my days preparing for a hopefully not too boring career in technical communication.
Motivation:This is a fictionalization of a fire that occurred at my Dad's home when I was a kid.