Every morning before breakfast I walk-run around the lake. There are seven hills and the course is two miles. After I pass my house once I switch directions and do it again. It’s amazing what you miss if you only walk in one direction. I was walking with my daughter one morning when I commented on a house we were passing.
“They’ve almost finished tearing that house down,” I said.
“That one.” I pointed to the charred remains of a burnt bungalow.
She gasped in surprise. “I never noticed that before.”
It turns out that if you walk in the opposite direction and you’re not looking for it you just might miss it. But anyone who lived here the night it burned down last February wouldn’t overlook it.
That night we turned off the lights and peered out the picture window, across the ice. There was a lot of smoke and then it exploded becoming engulfed in flames that shot fifty feet into the black sky. Our fascination was soon consumed by an utter horror that the firemen had no hope of saving it. Was everybody okay?
Usually we watch houses rise up and mark the progress. Last week, when the outer walls of this house came down I peered into the owner’s bedroom closet. All their smoked filled clothes were exposed to the street but still neatly hanging on a rod and their shoes were lined up on racks like they were waiting for their owners to return. I felt like I was looking at something very private.
Today with my daughter, only the fireplace remained. It stood tall with a few wood beams clinging to the blackened stone. It resembled an ancient ruin left behind by a civilization that owned a lot of stuff they didn’t need.
“Did anyone die?”
“Just the parrot.”
If you lose everything in a fire, what’s the first thing you would buy when you started over? And what would you decide to do without this time around?