Middle of the night. Two forty-five, AM.

A hand on my shoulder, shaking me awake.

My husband. He says, "There’s a fire, get out,

I’ll get the boys!" One terse sentence.

I am up, down and out in ten seconds. Less, I think.

Out the door, turn and wait for my sons and my husband.

No one is coming! Then, Mike, my younger son

comes stumbling through the haze of smoke.

He said he had faltered on the steps and willed his legs to move

because he knew he’d die there if he didn’t.

I touch him. I kiss him. He is here, he is safe!

Thank you God!

We wait. I send him across the street to pull the fire alarm.

Our town took them away!

Whose idea was that??!

We wait. I call out my husband’s name.

Still nothing.

Back into the house. Stumble back out. Too much smoke!

I call. I yell. I scream their names.

"Bill! Chris! Chris!! Chris!!"

No response.

They told me later that my voice was louder than the sirens.

I scream, my voice raw, panicked, terrified.

I breathe deeply and go back into the house.

I can’t see! I can’t breathe. The smoke is yellow. Acrid.

It rolls toward me like a living creature, evil and horrible.

It forces me back out into the cold air.

Wait! I hear my husband’s voice.

"Come into the back yard."

"What is he doing in the back yard?" I ask my son.

I run. It is November. I have on a light nightgown, no shoes.

I don’t feel the cuts on my feet or the cold.

Get to the backyard! Get there!

Oh! They are in the window. Oh, thank God!

Thank you, God!

He tells me that there is a ladder by the fence.

I am a superwoman! I lift the ladder; put it up against the house.

No! I cannot figure out how to extend it!

I am helpless. But, wait! Mike has sent a policeman,

who raises the ladder and pulls my son down and into my arms.

My husband comes down the ladder and I hug him too.

He wanted to stay and save the cats.

Three cats, one, Gremlin, nine years old; one, Mischief, six months old;

one, Danforth, 6 weeks old.

They are dead.

The fireman tells us we cannot go back in.

The house is lost. The cats are lost.

We are alive.

We are safe.

We survive.

I learn, first-hand, of the kindness of strangers.

We are enveloped in loving compassion and generosity.

Everything we own, someone gave to us.

We are humbled.

We are thankful.

We are loved.

We are alive.



© Ellie Maziekien


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