A searing heat settles over the valley in which Pine Street nestles. For days, folks do not go outdoors in the afternoons unless they have to. The lucky ones dash from air-conditioned home to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office or grocery store. The not-so-lucky use damp handkerchiefs and broad-brimmed hats to protect them in their work or errands.
Allison and Emil have been outside every evening, as late as they can manage to see, making sure their respective gardens are soaked with water, soil absorbing it thirstily, enough to get through the next day. They haven’t seen much of each other, such has been their focus on nourishing their little landscapes through this heat event, as the newscasters call it.
David and Kassandra take Penny on walks at six in the morning, cherishing the cooler air and birdsong accompanying them, cherishing the sensation of holding hands, the silent communion of skin on skin that humans need to survive.
At least there have been no fires, yet, the denizens of the valley murmur to one another, voices low so as to avoid tempting fate.
As if mother nature was listening, as if she could be fooled.
It happens the week August arrives: a fire east of town followed the next day by a fire southwest of town. Two plumes of smoke rising high and mingling in the air, the valley’s notorious winds driving them together.
Drawn, as always, to the front porch of Allison’s old house, the friends find themselves gathering to watch the smoke rise and listen to the Chinook helicopters transporting enormous buckets of water across the sky.
Each of them, in their own way, whispers silent prayers and pleas, to the higher powers they recognize: keep us safe, keep our friends and families safe, keep the animals safe, the creatures of our beautiful planet.
And help us become better stewards of our land.