I WAS 10 OR 11 THE FIRST TIME I SAW A FIRE

Georgetown Library Fire

Georgetown Library Fire in 2007

When I passed the Georgetown library yesterday, I remembered the awful night when it burned. Fire

a A sad, broken-toothed, skull with awful, empty eye sockets where windows should be

 glows red and orange and looks beautiful till it’s over. Then it leaves a sad, broken-toothed, skull with awful, empty eye sockets where windows should be.

My house in Potomac was partially destroyed by a fire 20 years ago. Even after it was repaired and was, “as good as new,” I couldn’t forget the smell, the feeling of vulnerability. I sold it soon after.

I was 10 or 11 the first time I saw a fire. Mr. Cunningham’s shotgun house burned down. It was the one just across the ditch from Delilah’s house.  As I saw the them, the houses on our street fit into two categorizes, poor houses and not-so-poor houses.

”]One of the shotgun houses still standing on Petain St. [2011]The main difference was grass. Poor houses had no grass on the yards, not even a weed or dandelion — just gray, dusty dirt.

Most of the poor houses were on the other side of the ditch, which was really a shallow run-off from a creek that ran from somewhere up in Chickasaw, crossed Haig and Petain Streets, and stopped a few streets past Aunt Pauline’s house.

We lived on the not-so-poor end. We had not just grass, but St. Augustine grass. Daddy had planted it, sprig by sprig. Mr. Cunningham’s house was on the poor side.

Until the fire nobody knew how many dogs lived with Mr. Cunningham in the two-room, tar-papered

house. There were almost always a half dozen lazing around in the shade under the porch or flopped on the steps or sleeping with Mr. Cunningham on the old mattress that lay on the iron bed on the porch. Delilah and I tried to count as many different ones as we could when we walked past to school – I counted nine. She said she counted seventeen, but I don’t think so.

We’d never had a fire on Petain Street before so the whole street came out. We stood closer to that house than we had ever been before. Firemen went in and out of the burnt house. First they brought out Mr. Cunningham, wrapped in a gray blanket and put him in an ambulance that roared away. Than they brought out bundles – two and three at a time and stacked them in the yard Everyone said it was a terrible sight. Mr. Wilson said there ought to be a law against keeping dogs like that.

A fire is a bad thing to happen no matter where it is.

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