The rooms had been gone through, our little apartment above the store, everything scattered. Papers from the desk, wait, were they like that before? To be fair it was hard to tell, they were always in danger of walking off the desk and forming their own entity. I joked Pops would have discovered the first carbon print based life form, anyway, I thought it was funny. I walked over, maybe they had been looking for papers. There was nothing obvious, just receipts and bills pending, payments pending. We never kept an overly complicated or possibly accurate system, but it worked all the same.
I could see through the hall door so I know they had upturned his whole bedroom. We didn’t really have much so I can’t imagine anything worth stealing, and it didn’t look like anything was missing, just everything turned upside down. I checked my room, same thing.. everything dumped on the floor, sorted through. My poor stuffed dragon on the ground looking vaguely disgruntled. I grabbed him up for a hug. “I’m sorry Stanley, some guests have no taste” I put him back up on the shelf, like if nothing else was right, at least him being on guard in my room made it a little better.
My face was throbbing, it can’t have been long since I woke up. My nose just didn’t seem as pressing as my room, as our little home, being ransacked. I looked around, I just couldn’t see the purpose to it. Maybe I had a little cash in my sundries box on the dresser, next to my picture book. My picture book that wasn’t there, though sundries had been dumped and sorted through. My picture book that wasn’t on the floor, under my pile of practical and comfortable clothes. My picture book that had most my childhood friends and classmates in it. People come in and out of my life and though I’ve always been here with Pops I’ve never felt quite grounded, stable, like people just whisp in and out like a carousel, but somehow dissappear before they come round again. I like my pictures to remind me of times where neat people came in. Where, no, not under the bed, still not on the dresser, or the drawers that were at least cleaned out for me.
Why that book? Why now? Why did Pops go and … why was I seeing smoke? Wait what? I turned my head so I could see better. Smoke, outside my window, a ghostly sort of trail. I looked around and could see a bit of a haze I hadn’t before. I ran back to our porch landing and down the stairs.
Fire. Yeah. Great. Shit. I reached to grab the front door handle to our shop. Ouch! Dammit, of course it burned. I was not thinking clearly so please forgive me that. I looked at the gathering smoke inside the shop through a kind of numb cloud. It was so dark inside, save where I could already see the the flames engulfing our supposedly fire safe chemical cabinet. The cabinet doors were open though. That caused me to blink.
Our fire extinguishers were inside of course, and the sprinklers hadn’t gone off in the shop. The alarms hadn’t gone off. The cabinet had started a good burn and I could see a deepening orange behind the smoke now. Smaller patches of fire could be seen by the old work benches, by the laundry basket next to the door.
I didn’t run up to save anything as you would think in my emotional state I would have tried. I backed up across the little lot that served as our parking and sat down facing the fire. Facing our shop, our apartment. My face didn’t hurt as much anymore, at least not as much as my heart. I had been staring numbly at our little building for a while when I heard sirens coming closer.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the fire. It had become a respectable two-story blaze. Everything in my life was slowly being eaten by this fire that just didn’t make sense. Nothing did. A gentle touch on my shoulder broke my gaze. As I turned I saw George, local FD, went to school with him, nice guy, really. Not the type of nice guy that would tell you he was nice, just the type of guy that looks at you with a heart full of sympathy when he knows you’re not ok. Though not nice enough to realize things are only ok as long as nobody brings up the topic.
“Are you ok?” Soft voice, kind, see I told you, nice guy.
I blink once “I don’t even have any marshmallows” and then it was time for the ugly cry. I really don’t need to describe it other than to commend George on his bravery in the face of a full on meltdown. There are things the body does when it needs to dump excess stress. Especially female bodies. Especially female bodies that were just fucking done with everything.
“I’m going to bring you over to the ambulance now, just hold my hand, that’s it. You’re doing fine we’ll just let you sit down right here” “Joe? Yes, Joe will be right here with you, I’m going to go check on things, they will check you over and may take you to the hospital, is that ok? Ok. You do that for me and I’ll check back with you there. ” George said some words to Joe and Joe wrapped me in a blanket and insisted on asking me questions. I managed positive and negative sounding grunts but that was about all Joe got. Twenty questions got him the basics then he left me to report and call ahead to the hospital, nonsense about observation and all that.
I fell asleep on the cot in the back of the ambulance. Asleep or just checked out. I wasn’t able to tell. Stuff just got sort of fuzzy. Hehheh touch fuzzy get dizzy. I chuckled to myself. Joe cast a worried glance back from the drivers seat, but apparently decided I should still go in. So glad he didn’t run the sirens though. Those are loud. I just wanted to close my eyes, maybe this time I’d wake up to something different.