jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.

4.17.2006



I am running through a blizzard at night. I am carrying the baby, the house is on fire behind me. I am nine years old.


There is a blizzard approaching. And when my father ends his evening class, the battery in his car is dead. The university is deep in inner-city Chicago, it is closing down for the storm, there is no way for him to get home. My sister and I are 11 and nine, we are well-behaved, responsible, and the baby is asleep, if she leaves now she might beat the storm, and so my mother makes the journey to pick him up.

We are happy because we can watch television, which is forbidden. On the commercial breaks I go into the kitchen to wash the dishes. Just because we are unsupervised and a little naughty does not mean we are not dutiful. One break, I notice a bright glow from the oven, where my mother has left my father’s dinner to stay warm. I open the door to a wave of heat, flames starting from the wrapped plate. Slam the door closed, tell my sister, who tells me I must be mistaken.

On the next break I enter the kitchen again, and now there is smoke coming out of the oven, a conflagration. My sister pays attention this time and she is good. She grabs the fire extinguisher, pulls the pin, and starts spraying the fire. Yells at me to get the baby and get out.

I do. Get the baby, run to the garage, where I am waiting barefoot, coatless, for a sign that all is safe. That sign does not come. The wind moans, blows snow under the garage doors. I can’t go back into the house to help my sister, can't put the baby down on the seeping snow and the cold concrete.

And so, I am running through a blizzard at night. I am carrying the baby, and the house is on fire behind me.

6 Comments:

Blogger dagger aleph said...

Wow.

That is all.

8:30 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

(everyone was ok. the kitchen wasn't even all that damaged)

Dagger, I am sure you have stories just as compelling or cinematic...

10:06 PM  
Blogger Dr. S said...

I honestly thought that this was a surreal nightmare until your comment just now. What a story, and how nightmarishly narrated.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Dr. S said...

Nightmarishly narrated in a good way, I mean.

10:31 PM  
Blogger ttractor said...

Thanks Dr S. I don't know how people do fiction! I think I am far too literal minded, or my imagination just doesn't work that way. I think maybe I have a facility for framing things so that they become visible.

(Besides, I think most people's dreams are only really interesting to themselves. I hate to say it.)

10:24 AM  
Blogger Dr. S said...

These stories remind me, yet again, that whatever serenity I have is probably 98% luck of the draw.

1:38 PM  

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