The U.S. of After Chapter 8


Clayton

All I could hear was a roar at first, then after the explosion outside I grabbed Amy by the arm and we managed to run down the stairs lickety-split.  Both of us stopped when we saw that the livin’ room had caught fire, and a gapin’ hole was in the wall where a chunk of rock had entered, blockin’ our exit.  The heat was  a blast furnace, suckin’ the breath out of me.  I looked at Amy and she had this kinda wide eyed look that silently told me I’d better do somethin’ about it… or that her house was on fire, I couldn’t figure which.

The path to the back door was clear, so we made a bee line to it, but it felt as if the thing was wedged shut.  I pulled on the brass knob with all I had and then Amy tried to do to it, but we just couldn’t get it open.  I thought that if it opened outward we could just break it down.  We went for the window and that’s when I saw the massive fire outside.  The wood and sheet metal barn out behind Amy’s property was right near destroyed and on fire.  It looked like a crew had arrived with a back hoe and dug a giant crater then doused the whole thing in gasoline and set it alight.  I turned around and put my hand on Amy’s shoulder gently, somehow the Spirit allowin’ me to be calm.

“Go get everything you need ‘cause we’re movin’ out in a hurry,” I said, my words quiverin’ gibberish in between coughin’ fits.  “We gotta get out of here and you’ll need shoes.”

She nodded, her eyes glassy with tears, and bitin’ her bottom lip, she then lit out up the stairs while I looked around for somethin’ I could fight the fire with.

No water.  Forget that.

Blankets!

I found an old quilt and started to throw it across the fire that was eatin’ up the carpet and it seemed to do the trick.  She was back down stairs pretty fast, though, breakin’ all kinds of stereotypes for me.  She gave me that “you’re a dork” look and then I thought “yeah she does think I’m a dork anyway.  Nothin’ new.”

“C’mon,” she said, and I followed her through the kitchen to another door on the side of the house.  We tried to open it and it wouldn’t budge either.  This was so weird.  The house was goin’ up in flames and we were tryin’ to get out the doors and both of them were wedged shut.  We were both chokin’ miserably on the smoke.  It clogged our nose and everythin’ got all blurry ‘cause our eyes were waterin’.  Snot was stringin’ out my nose.  We ran back to the window to the back yard, but the whole yard was up in flames.  The dry grasses, not mowed in a long time, were easy kindlin’ for the fire as it raced across the ground.  I prayed to God for guidance, and silently trusted that He would listen.

“Window!” Amy coughed, and she ran back to the kitchen, dropped the small backpack she carried and opened the only window that did not have flames lickin’ at the glass.  It was a small openin’, about three feet by two just over the sink, and I cupped my hands to help her up onto the counter and out the window but she managed just fine by herself.  However, a tree fell just outside that window and it was quickly engulfed in flames.  Things was lookin’ worse and worse for us, but then the strangest thing happened.

The kitchen door that led outside creaked open ever so gently.

We darted out the door and on down her white gravel driveway where we stood and watched as the house was slowly gobbled up by the billowin’, roarin’ flames.

“My house,” she managed to choke out, her voice cracked and feeble.

I didn’t say anythin’.  I figured it wouldn’t be polite and she didn’t really know me that well.  Anythin’ I said would be like one of them well meanin’ strangers who came to my Dad’s funeral sayin’ “everything would be ok” or “you’ll get past this” when they really didn’t know what they are talkin’ about even if they was well meanin’.

She looked at the house for a while and we watched the fire get bigger and crawl all over the walls and roof, the black smoke and flames rollin’ out of the windows as if a flame thrower was mounted inside each one.  The roof caved in, then the top story went, and then after a while it kind of fell sideways and internally on the north side.  I could feel the heat from it even though we were at least two hundred feet away. We stood on that hard gravel for a bit before movin’ to the softer, dried up grass.  I guess I kind of lost touch with time, ‘cause when I looked over at Amy she was kinda squattin’ on the ground and cryin’, holdin’ her knees and rockin’ back and forth.

I took two steps and stood right next to her, thought about crouchin’ next to her and puttin’ my arm around her slumpin’ shoulders, but didn’t.  I felt kinda awkward.  I really didn’t know what to say.  We didn’t have no place to go.  Now Amy’s house was a mess.  I finally just sat on the ground next to her and she eventually leaned over and put her head on my shoulder just because I was the only shoulder to cry on and she’d prolly had enough of all this craziness.

I think we were both prolly thinkin’ that this was pretty much the end of the world.  At least I did.  Amy didn’t say it but I bet she was thinkin’ it.  We sat quietly and watched the sun come up over the ruins of Amy’s smolderin’ house and I wondered where we’d go next.

Strangely, I started thinkin’ about Jerusalem.  I don’t know why.  Sometimes your brain does weird stuff when life throws you a bothersome curve.  The thought was soon drowned out by thinkin’ about what we were goin’ to do next, and where we’d find water.

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