Prescribed Burn



“Prescribed Burn

Fire cleanses, they say.

      That’s what you tell yourself as you sit outside in your lawn chair and despite the fact the fire department had told you to evacuate twenty minutes ago. “Take what’s in your hands and on your back and go,” they’d said. You look down at the periwinkle coffee cup in one hand and the Newberry News in the other. “Fuck you,” you answer because you know nothing less will do.

They tell you they have other people to get out and you tell them, “Then you better get moving.”

“We can’t guarantee your safety,” they say and you say, “Can you guarantee it if I leave? Will you put that in writing?”

That’s something you’d like to take to the bank.

They leave you looking at the sky to the southwest, yell out their windows that you’re a fool and to get moving. You’d been watching that black sky, thinking it was quite the storm moving your way and you look again down at what’s in your hands.


Well, ok, so you know that isn’t exactly true, not all of it, though you are a fiction writer and when you write about the fire later, you take license and do what you wish you’d done at the time. “Fuck you” would have been a better response, but since it isn’t just you to consider, you tear into the camp and grab your cell phone, your blessed computer, your purse, round up your dog and handicapped child and hit the road for Newberry. Due to the fact that this fire will not be under control for two weeks, that it will soon be four miles wide and eighteen miles long, nothing short of a conflagration on its way north to Lake Superior, you will come to regret that action.

Almost immediately.”

Two years ago about this time, we were holed up in a hotel room wondering if everything we had was gone. My parable about circumstances:

A parable: Once there was a man who won the lottery. All his friends told him how lucky he was. A month later, an unsavory acquaintance of his shot him in his home and left him for dead because he’d heard the man had large sums of money in his house, which he didn’t. His friends told him how unlucky he was. As he was recovering in the hospital, which took several weeks due to surgery from gunshot wounds he suffered during the attack and from which they said he should never have survived, his house exploded and burned to the ground in the middle of the night due to a gas leak. His friends all told him how lucky he was he wasn’t there. The man is discharged from the hospital, rents an apartment until his house can be rebuilt, but the insurance money falls short of what he needs to rebuild, the lottery money gone on his medical bills since he hadn’t had time to obtain insurance he could now afford. The new apartment is small and dank smelling and depressing, but outside his window, on the first day he moves in, he sees a dark-haired, feisty-looking woman with strong, white, even teeth planting purple petunias, and when she smiles he feels a warm glow start in his throat and go down all the way to his toes, a loving woman with relaxed optimism about her, soon to be the love of his life…



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