The dogs and the door bell both went off at four AM. It was an early Friday morning, the week before Easter. I threw on some shorts and stumbled to the door where the policeman told me to get out of the house. I was in danger. The house behind us was on fire. Then he ran off to the next house on the block.
I went back and found Lucy and Jonesy’s leashes and took them out to sit with me on the curb across the street. Thank goodness, Ann was in Dallas. Watching the flames, I wondered how I had slept through all the excitement. It looked like the fire department had been there for a while. I could see firemen on top of the neighbor’s house squirting water on the flames. There was a good breeze out of the south, so all of the smoke and cinders were not coming our way. The flames went up. The flames went down. After a while, I realized the firemen weren’t just hosing the burning house. They were also spraying my house and the neighbor’s houses to keep the fire from spreading.
After an hour I decided it was safe to take the dogs back inside. That, and I was tired of messing with them. Instead of sitting I thought I would walk around the alley and see if there was anything I could do. I didn’t know these neighbors. I only knew there were children there, because we could hear them laughing and playing in the pool or on the play set that stood up over the fence. I also knew they had dogs because their dogs, like our dogs, liked to talk dog talk to anybody or anything that went up the alley, especially other dogs.
On the way I passed our next door neighbors who had been sitting outside with their dog. I hadn’t gone over before because two dogs were enough. I asked Michael what he knew about the fire and the family that lived there. He said he had heard a loud explosion like a gas line had ruptured. As for the family, he said it was an older couple raising four grandchildren and they had four dogs that had been trapped in the garage but had somehow escaped. Michael knew the man, but not very well. Everyone was safe.
Going around to see if I could help, it was obvious that the police and fire department had the scene so blocked off, no one could get close. There was no sign of the family. I went back and sat on the curb with Michael and Katie for another hour before going inside our house.
I didn’t go back to sleep.
The next day I went over to see if anyone was there. Only firemen securing the premises with warning tape and screwing the gates shut. The house was gone. About all that was left was a brick shell and some studs.
Since that day I’ve kind of kept my eye on the house to see what would happen. I never saw anybody.
There was a strange thing, though, that told me someone had been there in the last few weeks. The front door had survived the fire and somebody had placed a wreath on it. I wish I had a picture of that wreath because the house has been demolished this last week. All that’s left is one pile of debris, the pool, the play set, the pergola and the foundation. There’s also the cinder block fence topped by cement and metal figures who have been watching the bulldozers, front-end loaders and dumpsters come and go all week.
Back to the wreath. That tells me a lot about the family. They’re saying, “You can take my house, but you can’t take my home.” I don’t have any idea where they are living now, but I’ll bet there’s a wreath on the door.
God created a strong race of human beings. Sometimes we slip off and find ourselves as humans doing, but when we are humans being, we are at out best. God bless this family, wherever they are.