Fire at the Grange's

by Josette

The smell filled my nose. It was overwhelming, and overpowering. It slipped in through my nose and down my throat. When I coughed my mouth filled with the smell too. Someone screaming jolted me awake. Then Matthew in his crib began to cry, and my eyes popped open instantly. I looked over at the door, just in time to see Javon’s red superman cape, attached to his pyjamas, disappear into the hallway. The smoke was so thick, but not so much that I couldn’t see that Javon, Darnell, Lydia and Raquel had already jumped up out of their beds, and were now fleeing for their lives. I coughed once, and choked, as I realized my eyes were beginning to burn and I could barely breathe.

Matthew began to scream even louder in his crib. I jumped up to my feet and stopped. Shoofly was wrapped around my legs. Shoofly was around when Mommy and Damian were fighting. Grandma Bennet said, Shoofly was a gift she had made for me the day I was born. Shoofly was the only thing in the world that actually belonged to me. Shoofly was better than any friend I could ever have, and better than any comfort I could even imagine. In fact, Shoofly was better than Grandma Bennet’s chocolate chip, peanut butter cookies. I stepped free from Shoofly and picked the blanket up into my arms.

For a moment, I snuggled Shoofly against my face. But, the moment I uncovered my face, the smoke was there, and now a thin picture through the smoke, came; Matthew. Reaching and screaming for me, he choked, cried and rubbed at his eyes. I felt torn staring at Shoofly in my hands, and my baby brother across the room. Then I dropped my blanket, and raced towards Matthew. I yanked him from his crib, and tucked him under my arm. He was heavy, but he clung to me, aware of the fact that I was the only one able to save him. As I raced down the hall, I saw my other brothers and sisters racing towards me.

“The back stairs.” Darnell screamed. The front ones are burned.”

They all raced towards me, and I had to jump out of the way as not to be trampled. Ironically, they moved in order of age and place in our family. Darnell, the oldest at nine was first, then Lydia and Raquel, twins at 7, then Javon at 6. I filed into the back of the line at age 5, pitching forward as Matthew reached his arms around me and flung his arms momentarily in my eyes.

As we clamoured down the back stairs, I felt a tug behind me. A tug, to this day I have never forgotten. Mom, came up behind me, her white nightgown brushing past my arm. I was brushed aside like a rag doll. I grabbed for Matthew as he was almost shoved from my arms. She brushed past every one of them. She screamed, frantic, and scared. The smoke had not entirely reached this side of the house yet, so it was clear who it was and that she was heading for the backdoor. I became convinced in that quick instant that she was going to stop at the bottom of the stairs to help us all down. But, she continued. Her white nightgown floating in her wake, as she threw open the backdoor, and screamed “fire, fire, fire,” into the night.

A few minutes later as we stood across the street waiting for the fire truck, I looked around at us all, The five of us and Matthew stood side by side. I held Matthew loosely in my arms, aware of the sweat on his brow. But, now sleeping peacefully. Neighbours milled around to watch our small, but only house we had ever owned, and would ever own go up in flames. I thought of Shoofly, my favourite blanket, for a brief moment. Then banished the thoughts from my not yet mature mind. I wanted to forget that I had ever considered choosing my blanket over my baby brother. But, boy would it do some good now, while we all stood barefoot on the sidewalk, shivering as we clung to each other.

My family stood quietly, awestruck, and quiet. My mother stood in the middle of the street, screaming and crying. Swearing and acting, pretending and hysterical. My brothers and sisters stood together, evaluating the events. Our lives undeniably changed, the nature of our relationships inscribed on our memories. That inscription would corrupt our lives forever, it was a picture of our mother as she really was; deplorable.

Fire at the Grange's by Josette

© Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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