On any weekend night on Rusty Hinge Road, it’s not unusual to hear voices out on the street. Less rare, but not uncommon, is to hear a loud “pop.” Sometimes it turns out to be a gunshot. So, since I am a nurse and a concerned citizen, I will go to the window, draw up the shade, and take a look out on the street, in case a wounded citizen needs first aid, or 911 needs a call.

These exact noises, heard on the street as November turned to December, drew me to the window, and flashing police lights, spied down the street, drew me downstairs, and out onto the porch.

“Get back inside!” a voice shouted. Not knowing the source, but sensing the severity, I went inside at once. Moments later, I saw police lights and then an opaque white cloud wafting toward our house, blocking out all I could view through the window pane.

Then a fist hammered at the door, rattling the timbers: “Bang! Bang! Bang!”

A voice commanded: “Get on your shoes and a jacket, grab your keys and get out of this house at once!”

Was it a sniper? Nerve gas? Gas leak? Jeepers!

Out we flew, Melissa “Oh my Godding!,” and as we flew, we could see that the house next door had burst into flames. Firetrucks appeared as if dropped from the sky and firefighters were scrambling everywhere.

We stood as close as we could and waited to see the hoses quench the flames, but they didn’t. Everything happened in slow motion. We realized we had been evacuated by a terrified cop who feared our house might be the next to go. This overwhelming realization was tempered by the fact that there were two cars parked in back of their house and it was not clear if all had escaped. We knew from the amount of flame and smoke that quickly permeated all porous objects in our house, no one, if still inside the neighbor’s house, could be alive.

None of these horrifying facts appeared to daunt the firefighters. They slowly and methodically began tearing the windows out with their hooks and entering the house wearing oxygen tanks. Four of them tumbled through a staircase, the paper reported the next day.

Finally, the hoses put out the flames, finally, we learned that the neighbors had escaped were OK, and had called the alarm. Ultimately, we went back to bed, to be lulled to sleep by the hum of the diesel engines and awakened at dawn by a crew of carpenters, sent out by the insurance company to nail plywood over the blackened holes that, just yesterday, had been doors and windows.

And thus, the landscape is changed, for now.

But hope springs eternal and rebuilding has already begun.

“Poof!”

ben.guerrero@sbcglobal.net