Monday, July 4, 2011

No Fracking Way - Part 15. Maryanne Wells.

This is Part 15 of a serial story. 

When it rains, it pours. That's how the saying goes. Apropos and ironic.

The quickest road to the university goes back my parents' subdivision. It's a straight shot through the city, from one county into the other. Yes, our city is in two different counties. And when you're driving down this road, you can be in one county and stare into another.

I stared into the next county and saw smoke...lots of it.

Quickly, I grabbed the cellphone and hit the quick button for my Dad. “It's Maryanne. How close is the smoke to the house?”

“Hi, sweetie. What smoke?” my Dad asked.

“I'm on the main drag, headed to the university, and I'm looking at a wall of smoke.”

There was a long pause. “You think there's a wildfire near the house,” Dad said slowly.

“Yes. Where are you?”

“I'm out of town. Maryanne, your mom's car is in the shop. She's home alone without a way to get out.”

“Maybe the wildfire isn't that close,” I said hesitantly.

“And if it is?”

I made up my mind in an instant. “I'll drive over to the house and check it out.”

“You won't get in trouble with your boss?”

“I'm out on a case. Anyway, this is about family.”

I could feel Dad's relief over the phone. “Thank you, sweetie. Call your Mom and tell her you're coming.”

“Okay.” Hang up on one parent, and call the other. I was trying to focus on driving carefully while talking on the phone, but I did speed up. There were two colors of smoke coiling up from the ground, white and black. So at least two different things were being consumed in the fire. In my mind's eye, one of the things being consumed was my parents' house.

An anagram for “consumed by fire” is “obscene dim fury.” And me doing anagrams in my head is not a good sign. Clearly, I was about to freak out.

I pulled over and called my mother with my foot firmly pressed against the brake pedal.

“I can't talk!” my mother yelled into the phone. “There's a fire!”

“Mom, it's me! Don't hang up.”

“Maryanne, your father isn't here and I don't have a car.”

“I'm coming.” I hung up the phone, pulled out into traffic and floored it.

There was a barrier set up outside the subdivision. I brought the car to a stop and rolled down the window. An officer stepped over and leaned down.

“Road's closed, ma'am. We're evacuating,” he said.

I tried to look receptive. “Okay. Good to know. My mother's in there, and I'm trying to get her out. How long does she have to pack?”

“Twenty minutes.”

I stared at him. “Twenty minutes. Are you kidding me? It takes her that long to order dinner. There's no way she'll be packed and out of the house in that amount of time.”

The officer stepped back and pointed behind him.

Smoke was rising in the scrub field across the road. As I watched, a plane flew over the field and dropped a load of fire retardant. The red powder fell, half rain and half cloud, in a thick line. But it didn't seem to halt the fire. I could hear the building roar of the fire and smell the charred ashes of plants that would never green again.

“I'll get her out,” I said.

He waved me in.

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