Are we next?
The worst part are the people staring at me from the side, those spectators who came all the way from the other side of town to gawk, as if watching our lives go up in smoke is a better show than the fireworks the city puts on each 4th of July.
Even some of us gawk, standing on the rooftops across the street, watching one factory after another ignite, like bright red dominos slowly tumbling in our direction, each of us wearing the same panicked expression that asks: “Are we next?”
I don’t want to be one of those down on the sidewalk wrapped in blankets, still dripping from where the firehouses caught them in their escape from the flames.
There goes the paint factory, the wall paper factory, the tenement with the bakery at its bottom, hundreds of hoses mounting a defense against the advancing red steps, screaming children dying under the sound of the sirens when their feet stumble, those who drip red by get no blankets to keep them warm, flames washing over their charred remains and later – much too late – the fire hoses, while some jerk takes a snap shot to take back to safe homes on the other side of town.
I have seen these pictures before in the newspapers, the remains uncovered from the smoldering ruins, the scarred bodies, the loose teeth, the bits of cloth and leather than once contained a life.
I am thinking of the grandchildren they will never see and of the flames dancing over our heads, searching us out, looking to which of us they might take next, fire trucks tucked into to dark recesses, sending up gushing arches that the flames ignore, flash pictures trying to capture the captivating awe only our eyes can catch, shaded only by the dread we might soon be dead or stranded on the sidewalk wrapped in blankets, dripping, dripping, dripping, as the flames advance.