In Case of Fire

A fire hydrant at night.

It stood watch over it’s corner, counting the flurry of commuters passing it by. The brick and asphalt that it sat on was coated in water mixed with oil and fuel that reflected the light from the street lamp above.

The bricks were being forced up by the roots of the tree. They were only set in sand, and were susceptible to upheaval. The bricks were spotted with pock marks and the remains of chewing gum. A few leaves were held in place by the suction of the surface moisture.

The hydrant itself had been painted and repainted over the years. It was currently a muddied green. It’s base was thick and topped by eight heavy bolts. The bolts had to be heavy to hold back the rush of water that pushed to get out.

This hydrant hadn’t been used in case of fire in decades, but wore a brooch that certified that it was in good working order per this summer’s test. It was an especially important hydrant that was ready to protect the three-story red bricked box on the corner. The old school building was one and a third centuries old. Its huge double hung windows were topped by another arched pane. They had been bricked over with newer bricks that looked pink in contrast to the deep red of the old bricks. Better bricks than broken glass.

Nobody wanted that old building, despite it’s prime location across from a swanky hotel and even swankier retail. Any new owners were subject to the heavy hand of its immediate neighbor, the U.S. Secret Service. The fire hydrant stood vigil for them, too.

In the meantime, late at night and early in the morning, big city rats would cross the same paths that pedestrians scurried over during the day. Sometimes a wayward conventioneer would steady themselves on it before they crossed the street back to their hotel. The occasional meeting between the city rat and its country cousin would be exaggerated to monstrous proportions over a coffee, cheese omelette and headache in the morning.



Fall evening with a streetlight illuminating a tree and a grey and blue sky.

November had been pleasant, so far. The leaves had been doing their job since October, turning gold and orange and bright red until they fell to the ground and transmuted to brown and tan and crunchy. 

A front came in yesterday, swapping out a sunny warm day to an afternoon that had us scrambling for Toto. There wasn’t a twister, but the clouds were dark and heavy and the wind pushed the shopping carts across the parking lot, launched the plastic grocery bags into the air and chased the people into their cars. That great idea to grab a Novemberfest at the pop up biergarten was blown away. 

Tonight the sky was blotchy with more dark, heavy clouds. Night hadn’t forced out day. The sky to the north east was still robin eggs blue. The sun was almost dropped to the west. 

I zipped my jacket up to my chin and arranged my cabled infinity scarf closer. I had warn gloves one day last week, but it was almost for show. Tonight it was for necessity. I tucked the cuffs into the sleeves of my coat to protect my wrists from the elements.

The wind went from a low moan to an angry growl and back to the moan. It lifted my hair and whipped it around in front of my eyes, trying to blind me. I should have grabbed a cap before I left.

While this town cycles through weather patterns and we can expect another set of warm days, the season has definitely flipped. Winter is coming. 

I fished my gloved fingers into my pocket. I flipped a treat into the air. The Beast captured it before the wind could change its trajectory. He wasn’t crazy about the cold either. We hustled around the corner as the blue seeped out of the sky. It was warm in the house. I had a turkey in the oven. The Boys were both home. I left the chill outside as I closed the door behind me. 

Dust to Dust

Three adorbs baby bunnies, brown, white and gray. They look very soft. And not dusty at all. Did you get that they are DUST BUNNIES? Alt text humor.

The light spills into the dining room from the middle window. It hits long and low at this time of year. It has an orange tint. And it’s moving.

The light isn’t solid, but it is full of tiny bits of dust that boil around in the stream. There isn’t actually a rhythm to the movement, but there is flow. The specks float in the sunlight. They come together and then, seemingly, repel each other. They float away to meet and then be repelled by a different, nearby dust speck.

An air current criss crosses the do-si-dos inside the beam. The draft air is cooler. Some of the dust tries to drop, but on the way down hits a hot spot and bounces back and rejoins the sun dance.

The strips of light have a terminal point at the opposite wall where another batch of dust lies. This dust is much more obvious than its hidden, moving in the light, cousins. The dust on the floor simply sits next to the wall, snuggled into a weave of dog hairs and punctuated by the crunch of some crumbs that were brushed off the table at breakfast.

A passerby disturbs the air, creating a breeze that makes the wall dust roll a little. Just a little. It mostly sits and waits to be joined by the dust that falls as the morning sun that held it up moves across the room and disappears. Some may join the dance if it’s sunny again tomorrow.

Motion, less

The Beast looks outside through the window with a bouquet and vase next to him.

What is still?

The Beast poked his head out the open window. There was no glass. There was no screen. There was only a frame for him to rest his head and stick his snout out into the world. There was no barrier between him and the outside.

He sniffed left and right without moving his big, block head. He raised his nostrils one and then the other from the tip of his scent-hound muzzle. He investigated that which was happening downwind, but, the concentration of smells rode the jetstream of air from the north. There was some mowed grass and a hint of the shampoo from the damp hair of the mom jogging by and pushing a massive three wheeled stroller. He was able to also pick out her warmed deodorant.

There was the delicious aroma of whatever was happening in the compost bin. There was some funk and some sweet and some sharp and some fire. It had rained most of the weekend and there was some leftover dampness–wet dirt, wet grass and those mushrooms that just appeared out of nowhere.

The rose bush was blooming one more time, but the sweet fresh fragrance was overshadowed by the base muskiness of the mums that were brought home to brighten the front yard. He smelled both, though.

The flies buzzed around his head and out the open window into the cool air. One or two tried to fly back into the warm house, but were caught in the heat-cold exchange and pushed back out.

The Beast’s head rested on the windowsill next to a vase of fading flowers. It was a beautiful still life, colored by the late morning sun streaming into the dining room. But this was no inanimate subject matter. There was hundreds of small movements happening, all at once.

Without Character

A nondescript elevator with two white guys from the 60s madmen era with fedoras with the doors closing.

There isn’t anything authentic about a convention center. It is the Muzak® of buildings. Taking strains of something that had a soul and stripping it of anything that makes it itself.

After lobotomizing originality, next to be removed is anything human. Voice, words, breath, a pause? All excised. Any instrument that conjures an image of fingers racing along keys, pressing a valve, strumming strings, holding a bow or grasping sticks? Also eliminated.

All you have left is a lowest common denominator tempo barely holding up the weakest strains of a strained melody. And when you hear it, the bleached skeleton picked clean of flesh and blood, you get mad. Because it used to be something.

The worst, most generic chain motel gains charm in comparison to the empty cavern of a convention center with its too high ceilings–in case someone booked a boat show and need to showcase a hundred foot yacht, or maybe a grouping of humvees, a tank and a Blackhawk on blocks for a military show of might. People love getting their pics standing near the turret of the tank. But that doesn’t make the convention center any less bland.

The colors in the convention center do not stimulate the rods and cones at the back of your eyes. Even the use of orange, when contrasted with the old wool blue gray in the carpet, doesn’t jiggle your brain. At best, you mark it as something that evokes the color orange and dully move along.

The chairs in the rooms are not camouflaged. Not really, but they could be. They almost always have a gold or silver frame. This is so you can differentiate among the individual units. I was going to say differentiate among them in the dark, but they would all fade together under light, too. The metal does not shine, though. It does not catch your eye. It is matte. Almost a silent signal.

Even the food in the convention center is without taste. Whether it’s a box lunch, purportedly with an Italian sub or a roast beef and horseradish on pretend ciabatta (it’s just the shape of ciabatta), or a sit down meal at an awards dinner, the food tastes like the food in a dream.

You know that dream. The one where you have an ice cream cone in your hand and it’s dripping a bit on the side. It’s piled with two big scoops. And your dream self puts it in your dream mouth and your real brain registers no flavor. I usually wake up then. It’s the equivalent of a nightmare, I guess. Well the food at the convention center is like that. Even the potato chips.

There are windows around the sides of the building. They are huge plates of glass, and yet there are no streams or streaks of light. It just surrounds the building and substitutes glass for walls with no real contrast. Maybe those aren’t windows. Maybe those spans are just a slightly different shade of wall.

Leaving the convention center, there is an exit with a set of stairs. These stairs are dangerous because you can’t tell the steps apart. It’s just that same Muzak® carpeting that leads you out of the Muzak®-filled elevator and out into the noise and the dark or the light of a real street. Look, there’s a pigeon strutting along the sidewalk! Something is alive.