Excitement burned in my neighborhood last night. It started with a hysterical woman running though the streets yelling, “Fire!”
I live in a small house on a small yard surrounded by other people doing the same. It’s the kind of neighborhood that makes firefighters shake their head and take bets on when they’ll be called out.
Needless to say, that woman got our attention.
My husband grabbed the phone and ran out to the porch dialing 911 on the fly. I grabbed some shoes and headed out to see what I could do. Sure enough two doors down, a neighbor’s house was on fire.
The guy’s front door eroded under an orange and red glow. Square voids of black clung to the air where the fire had already eaten its way through. The smoke, still gray, rose in the air.
This wasn’t good, but luckily the guy was in the process of moving and wasn’t home.
I woman behind me said, “We have to get Ed out.”
Ed, a retired Marine, is my next door neighbor and lives between my house and the house on fire. He’s very hard of hearing, goes to bed with the sun and with the few paltry feet between his front door and the door on fire, I knew we had to get him out.
The woman, whose face I don’t remember seeing, ran up to me. “His keys were in his front door again.”
I snatched the keys out of her hand. “I’ll get him.” I looked at the keys and had no idea which one belonged to his lock. “Which key was in the lock?”
She took the keys and shook her head. After picking one at random, she handed them back to me. “I don’t know.”
I wasn’t going to waste time trying keys. Ed had to be woken up and out of his place NOW. I ran to his door and, literally, beat open his front door. Literally. I didn’t know I had it in me. I screamed for Ed, telling him he had to get out of his house. Before I realized it, I’d barreled my way thought the door. The top swung freely, but the bottom of his door seemed stuck by something.
The woman behind me cried, “Oh God, is he behind the door?”
Maybe I’ve watched too much Law and Order, but I looked down expecting to see his feet keeping me from opening the door all the way. That’s when I saw him walking, thankfully, into his living room. After quickly telling him to get dressed and get out, I ran back to the street. I’ll never know what blocked the bottom of the door.
The woman behind me said, “That’s right, John, get the gas cans. Good boy!” I think the kid’s name was John. I don’t really remember, but the gas cans did remind me of something. Nearly all of these houses have propane tanks.
We live in the metro area, but this particular neighborhood isn’t on gas pipes for some messed up reason. We’re on tanks. Oh, shit.
I asked her where his (the burning house guy) tank was and she didn’t know. I looked around and didn’t see a tank. Maybe, I hoped, we’d get lucky and his place was all electric.
The firemen weren’t on scene yet. I felt the need to do more. Dashing back to my house, I grabbed my garden hose. Ed doesn’t have an outside spigot or doesn’t have it in a useable spot or something, so he uses mine. He bought a small garden hose to use while washing his truck. My garden hose is longer. I disconnected his garden hose and connected mine. In the low light, I could barely see to get it threaded, but I got the rusty piece of crap started and promptly sliced my thumb. Oh freaking well, right? I continued screwing on the longer hose and slicked my thumb again. Shit happens. It hurt, but I got the hose connected and started running it toward the street.
I reached the end of the hose, but it seemed too short. Thinking I the hose caught on something, I rushed back and heard water gushing. There shouldn’t be water running, I hadn’t turned on the hose.
Sure enough, I busted a pipe just above my water main. In one night, I discovered that I had the strength to beat through a door and snap a pipe without trying. I yelled for a flash light and my husband, still on the phone with 911, came running. Cold water sprayed me as I turned off the water to the house rendering my garden hose fire fighting impuissant.
The smoke started morphing from grey to black and the fire department arrived. The smoke smelled funny and very acidic. It smelled like an electrical fire and burning plastic.
I noticed the gas cans and felt they were a little too close to the fire. I moved them further away and watched the firefighters do their thing. Three fire trucks, two fire chief SUV’s and at least three people from the sheriff’s department turned out. They were prepared for this fire to spread.
As suspected, the house was empty. The firemen quickly put it out.
I believe that writer’s must witness life in order to write about it. I observed the firefighters making mental notes about how they moved and what they did. I looked at the gear and tried to write it out in my head. Lights pulsed, engines hummed and water hissed. The firemen took digital photographs and some members of the neighborhood suspected the guy set the fire. I don’t believe that. It makes no sense. He was moving out and I don’t think he had insurance.
I make a lot of jokes about the crazy rednecks in my hood, but they’re decent people. I’ve had nothing stolen or damaged. One neighbor even lent me a shovel when she noticed me struggling with a plant last year. They’re poor people and many are uneducated, but they’re good people.
But, I’m the new family on the block and who knows. I thought about the gas cans and I flagged one of the firefighters. He was a redhead with green eyes and pale skin.
I have such a weakness for redheads. Redheads are hot in a multitude of ways. I told him about the gas cans and that I didn’t know how close they were to the house. I told him that someone moved them away, I moved them father and they felt empty when I lifted them.
He appreciated the information and walked back to the truck.
He was cute and a redhead. I now had more reason to watch this fire. I returned to observation mode and caught the profile of…
Here’s the upside.
…a damn fine firefighter. Jet black hair. Bright blue eyes. Sweat glistening on his face. Redheads are hot, but black hair and blue eyes is even hotter.
A plotbunny started nibbling.
They started rolling up the hoses and a few of the people left. I stood by my car half observing and half wondering about the redhead and dark haired hunks.
There had to be a story in here. There HAD to be. I just needed to listen for it.
The redhead smiled at me and approached. “Are you guys all right?”
I nodded. “We’re fine.” I thought I’d be better if I could watch them shower, but I figured that would be asking a bit much.
“You live here?”
I nodded again. “Yep, this is my hunk of junk.”
“Aww, don’t call it that. That’s your home.”
I smiled. “You’re right.” That plotbunny nibbled like crazy, but it hadn’t bitten me—yet.
“I saw you standing here and just wanted to double check.”
I hiked an eyebrow. Nibble plotbunny. Nibble! I remembered that most arsonists watch the fires they set. It’s some kind of sexual something for them. Again, maybe I watch too much Law and Order, but I tried to see how it looked. Some chick watching a fire and kinda sorta being involved. Some chick who was observing with careful interest.
I felt I needed to explain myself. “I’m a writer. So, I’m trying to watch you guys and learn what I can. How you do things. What order you do them. How you move in your gear. Who talks to whom.” I chuckled. “I don’t want you thinking I’m some kind of arson freak.” As soon as that left my mouth, I realized it make me look more like an arson freak. Open mouth. Insert foot. Chew.
He laughed. “Just as long as you’re all right.”
“We’re just fine. You guys did a good job tonight. Took it out with a quickness.”
He flashed me another panty-melting smile and walked away.
I exhibited no signs of distress and I was the only one he approached. One of two things was going on. He either thought I was an arson freak or he was flirting with me.
The plotbunny bit.
Now, the question remains which one gets to be the firefighter? The redhead with his adorable smile or the dark haired guy with his get-ya-in-jaw good looks? And, do I want to add the twist of one of them being an arson freak?
Life is full of writable moments. We just have to let them happen. That’s right, Plotbunny, bite. Good Plotbunny.