fire in the night

copyright 2011/all rights reserved


a novel by



Kori screamed and scrambled over the console into the back seat, squishing in with her brothers.  ZiZi yelped and Kori screamed again.  She was wide-eyed with terror, yet put a protective arm around Gil.

“What the hell!” Avery said, staring in amazement.  Several dogs began barking.  The neighbor’s car alarm, activated by the blast, began its cycle of warning.  Porch lights flooded the darkness.  A small blaze started on the porch, its flames licking delicately at the tattered Venetian blinds partially emerging from the broken windows.

 “Our porch is on fire.” Avery said, fumbling through Kori’s purse for the cell phone.  “We gotta call the fire department.”  He found the phone and pushed the “on” button.  Kori shook her head and grabbed the phone.

“No.  We gotta call Mom and Dad,” she said.  Her hands were shaking.

“Mom and Dad are in Philly.  We gotta call the fire department.  Otherwise it’s going to be more screwed up.” Avery grabbed the phone out of Kori’s hand.  She put her hand on top of his and there they sat, locked together in a game of push me, pull you.

“Avery.  We gotta call Mom and Dad!” Kori yanked the phone from Avery’s hand.  He pulled it back before she had a chance to dial the first number.

Aunt Stella’s garage lights flicked on and the Tirabis watched as Aunt Stella’s stout frame, adorned in robe and slippers, lumbered across the front lawn at full throttle.

“Mmmmmm, cookies,” Gil mused.

Aunt Stella’s pudgy, round face peered in through the back window where the kids huddled together like war orphans.  She opened the door, pushed the driver’s seat forward, and thrust a hand inside.  Kori grabbed it and Aunt Stella yanked them out one by one.

 “Are you alright?  What are you doing in the car?  Thank God you weren’t inside!”  Aunt Stella looked at Gil who still had tissues sticking out of his ears.  “What happened?” she yipped.  “Did an experiment go bad or something?”

All three of them started talking at once which instigated a round of ZiZi’s agitated barking.  Aunt Stella waved her hands in the air, the international symbol for enough already, and gathered them together like a head coach at halftime.

 “Alright.  It’ll be okay.  Let’s go inside,” she said.  “I already called the fire department.”

As if on cue, a fire truck screamed down the road.  Everyone turned to watch as the massive vehicle docked on the Tirabi lawn.  A second truck could be heard off in the distance, sirens blaring.

Aunt Stella sighed.  Four firemen alighted from the truck and began assembling the hoses, their yellow emergency vests glinting in the fire light.

 “Mom and Dad are in Philly,” Kori continued, her voice cracking from the strain.

“I know.  Your mother called me this morning.”

Aunt Stella placed a large arm around Kori’s shoulder and held fast to Gil’s wrist with her other hand.  Flames licked the front of the house.  The double-wide porch swing, made of wood, canvass and macrame, crackled and spat and danced in the darkness, spitting bits of light in wide arcs over the railing.  The fire chief shouted several commands and the fireman trained their hoses on the light.

“Come.  They’ll soon have it under control.  Robbie will know where to go.”  She steered Gil and Kori in the direction of the house without releasing them.  “Let’s try and call your parents.”  Kori shot Avery a look and wrinkled her nose at him.

They walked across the lawn, ZiZi bringing up the rear.  Aunt Stella pushed a reluctant Gil into the house.

Avery stood alone on the front stoop, mesmerized.  Flames darted about the porch leaving a crackling trail of blazed, scorched wood.  The macrame seat on the porch swing – Avery’s favorite reading chair – looked like a million writhing snakes.  Avery grimaced as the acrid smell of burning memories reached his nostrils.  He stood immobilized, clutching Kori’s cell phone, anguish pouring from him like water from a hose.

Aunt Stella popped out and grabbed Avery by the arm.  “C’mon, baby, there’s nothing to be done right now.  And I don’t want you having nightmares.”

Avery swiped at his eyes and followed Aunt Stella inside.

to be continued. . .

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