The light I saw flickering in my wife’s eyes as we sat at the little table we use for dinners that don’t involve watching reruns and the radiant golds that shimmered behind her, framing the face I love best after my own, may have sprung from my devotion or may have been reflected flames from the house fire down the street, but the smell of smoke was no metaphor. Fire filled every window and the heat we felt from the sidewalk was peeling the faux stone façade from the front of the home, one of the finest on the street pre-catastrophe and for the time being standing on an exquisite lot. Where are the fire trucks?, we asked our neighbors, the charming young couple whose home would soon be a smoldering blight on the avenue. We didn’t call them, he replied. She looked at him and smiled without showing her teeth, as if they shared a secret joke. She hooked her arm around his waist; he pulled her shoulders close and together they gazed at the inferno. Were you home when it happened?, my wife was asking at the same time I asked, How did it start? She showed us a book of matches and smiled. Other couples, worried about sparks, wondered what was keeping the fire company. We’re alive and healthy and we have each other, she said. Still, I said. She wouldn’t let me take anything, he told me. I knew it!, she shouted. I knew your stupid stuff would come between us! Several cell phones sprang to life and frantically called 911. We casually strolled home in silence, deeply breathing the soft air spiced with others’ misfortune. Our fingers touched by accident, then interlaced like cards from two stacks in the hands of an expert dealer.

Copyright © January 10, 2009 David Hodges
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