Thursday, April 22, 2004

Burning earrings

Walking home from a walk the wind was fierce. From my wrist, a plastic bag holding a quart of milk and two bananas blew nearly horizontally. Across the park I saw a gray cloud forced between the buildings along an adjacent street. Imagining the feeling of dust blowing inside my ears and nose and eyes, I dreaded having to cross the path of the gray cloud to get to my apartment on the other side. I slowed my steps, trying to convince the wind to calm down, too.

At the edge of the park, a couple stood arm in arm staring in the direction of the flighty gray cloud. I turned to see the object of their stare - a huge cement planter on the sidewalk spit flames and puffs of the gray smoke I'd thought was debris in the wind.

A poor sapling stood in the middle of the planter, in the middle of the fire. "Did someone call the fire department?" I asked the couple, still holding on to each other. "We just did," they said, still staring. At the same moment we heard the sirens.

Two huge screaming trucks zigzagged through the streets around the little park and stopped in front of the burning tree. I thought I saw each of the firemen smile as they pulled out the long hoses, tugged on heavy coats and helmets, and stood in a line waiting for the water, first a blast and then a steady stream. The fire was out in three seconds.

Why were they smiling? Is saving a little tree from its burning planter as noble as saving an old cat from its highest perch?

The next day I was up early to walk to a meeting downtown, blocks away from the burnt tree. First one meeting and then the next, I later went to the restroom and saw two different earrings hanging from my lobes.

During the meetings, why were they smiling? Is forgetting to change the other earring noble if it's because I was thinking of the burnt tree? I decided an explanation, should anyone question, would be nothing compared to burn recovery. Still, both earrings were out in three seconds.



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