I was ten maybe the girl-next-door was about eight. I remember the smoke circling our house. The flames escape me. Just that afternoon I pleaded with mom to let me play in the back with our neighbor. Her mother brought her baby sister outside. She sat her next to us – we’d bake mud pies and pretending to have houses of our own.
The sun seemed to be in a hurry, the street lights pressed in the fabric of our summer dresses. Mommy called me to return. I climbed back through a cubby-hole that led from my backyard to my friend. The sirens blared just as night had settled down.
In the beginning, the smell of smoke had been faint but the fall out was too severe. Mommy stood in her robe praying and yelling for me to get back in bed.
When the newspaper arrived in the morning, I wanted to read it. My youthful mind, disturbed. My friend, taken to the hospital for 3rd-degree burns. Her baby sister died due to smoke inhalation. I remember my neighbor’s mother always smoked. Why would she burn the house down? Why didn’t I stay?
I counted each address on Cherry Street. I counted the two street lights over. My friend was placed in foster care. I was brave enough to go – I had to see for myself.
I crawled through the cubby-hole that led from my yard to her home. It was all rubbish. The pieces that were left told one story – it would be mine alone to tell. I tried to pretend that she’d come home and wrap my mind around the year of 1992.
I can see the mud pies. The little baby in her swaddled pamper. I see the street lights turning on and the rusty hole that led from my yard to hers.
(true story from my childhood in San Antonio T.X. Photo image pixabay.com)