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The Leaky Roof
There is a hole in the roof above my head. I am underneath my blanket but it is thin and I can see right through the fabric, the hole in the roof is getting larger.
Then the rain rolls in; a sheet of the darkest clouds just beyond the blackness of the night, the thin blanket won’t really make a difference. At first, the rain falls in big, fat drops that make sloshing noises on my floorboards, I am drenched within the minute.
Then the rain turns icy, painful shards of hardened water pelt my limp form, which is still hidden by my desperate shroud. Finally, the rain turns to snow.
The roof is almost completely disappeared and the space between my bedroom and the beginning of the night sky is no longer amplified by just a hole in the roof, but by an endless gap where the roof once was. I am a cold, wet, shivering mass beneath a snowy sky.
I smell smoke.
My senses give in to realization, awakening me from this bizarre dream. Once I am fully awake and have come to terms with the idea that there is still a roof over my head, my mind finally grasps the sensation of smoke and heat. My house is on fire.
It is a small house; one story with no basement, old. My room is situated in the very back of the lot, and on clear nights when the moon is full, you can watch its light envelop the darkness from my bedroom window. My house should not be on fire. I love my house; it has never given me any serious trouble. The flooring is sound, the insulation is average, and the property tax is perfect for my unstable income.
My house cannot be on fire.
In my head, this is still a part of my dream. I will do nothing and ignore the problem, which isn’t one really because I am dreaming, and eventually I will awake to the soft sounds of a winter’s night.
Even though I am dreaming, my mind is racing still. I am debating with myself, a part of me says that if in fact this fire was real; my smoke detector would’ve gone off and awoken me. But the other part of me is caught in a fuming rage because of the simple fact that I haven’t yet replaced my smoke detector. If in fact this fire is real; I would have no warning until the blaze engulfed my bed.
Finally, I snap out of my self-induced mock dream, really this time, I am awake. For the second time now I have reached the realization that my house is on fire.
But alas, I cannot react until I’ve worked this predicament through a bit more.
It is ironic that I would have a dream about rain falling on me through a hole in my stable roof on the night that my house catches fire. This idea amuses me for a second. Until I remember that I have a cat.
Jasper is a brown tabby that I acquired a few years back when my sister’s sl** of a shorthair had kittens. For reasons unknown, I allowed myself to be bribed into taking one of the skanky cat’s spawn. Thank God that Jasper is nothing like his mother; he is well-to-do, and has a distinctive personality.
It is the thought of Jasper that finally accelerates my tired body from the comforts of my bed. I would be a terrible person for letting my cherished bastard-cat be consumed by a raging house fire.
This idea encourages me a bit more; if my cat is in danger that must mean that I myself could also be subjected to harm. Then it hits me harder; my house is on fire!
I am out of bed, finally. I cross the room in haste, which doesn’t require much energy because of the room’s small composure; I don’t remember opening the door.
I am standing in the hall that is off the entrance to my room, Jasper is nowhere to be seen, and at the end of the hall is a ceiling-high wall of flame that looks to be on the move. In that moment, I am angry at myself. I have spent the last ten minutes lying in bed trying to convince myself that my house isn’t on fire, when in actuality…
The layout of my house prohibits Jasper’s survival, assuming that the fire began in the kitchen (which is logical and realistic) and that Jasper was not with me in my room, he had no options for escape. This dampens the excitement of the situation, I am sad now.
I might be imagining it, but I feel as if I can hear sirens in the far-off distance. When I was young, whenever my grandfather heard sirens he would jokingly say “They’re coming for you bud.” This time, the sirens are meant for me.
I am petrified. Paralyzed, like a deer in the headlights. In front of me is a wall of flame, behind me is my bedroom and the adjacent bathroom. Behind me is escape; in front of me is death. Why am I still standing still?
I am stuck like this for a moment or two, when suddenly I feel something brush against my legs. It is Jasper! I realize then that he must’ve been curled up in my bathtub, his second favorite sleeping spot besides the kitchen sink. My cat is fascinated with water. I roll my eyes at the thought. But he is alive.
Now is the time for action. I scoop up Jasper and walk backwards through the hall, towards my room. I walk backwards so I can keep an eye on the fire; to make sure it doesn’t jump suddenly. It isn’t like I could stop it if it was to attack, but I would see it, it wouldn’t be a surprise. I was never one for surprises.
Now that I know my cat is safe, I can feel less guilty about trying to save my own life. There are no windows in the bathroom, however, there is on in my bedroom. When I first bought the house, it never occurred to me that the window was perfectly positioned for escape. I never once imagined that I would want to escape my perfectly-suited home. To me, the window was only good for air circulation in the summertime, and watching the moon.
The fire has progressed more than I have, when I look over my shoulder I can see it hovering in the doorway. It occurs to me that a hole in my roof with rain pouring in wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all at this moment.
My cat is meowing. He is encouraging me to get a move on, open the window, save our lives. For some reason I am stalling.
The window is in front of me, the latch is simple, certain death is in my doorway, yet I am caught.
In two weeks I will turn fifty years old. Over the hill, a senior citizen, insurance benefits, retirement, an old man.
I live alone, in a small, rundown house, with my cat.
My family is gone. My sister lives an hour away. She has her own family. She has children.
I never had children. I never had a wife.
I used to love a woman. But she didn’t love me quite as much. In the end, it didn’t play out like I used to imagine. She left me, we remained on good terms. She moved far away. I haven’t heard from her in twenty years. I wonder if she’s still alive. I wonder if she’s happy.
I am at the age where a new job is hard to come by. I used to be a good employee; I worked as a music teacher at a public junior high school. Then the economy crashed and they had to make budget cuts. I haven’t made a steady income in five years.
I’m forty-nine years old. My house is up in flames. My cat is my dependent. I’m lonely.
I think about the dream I was having earlier. I was so cold. But my room is warm now; the flames are making me warm.
The air behind the window is chilly, it is winter, and there is snow on the ground. If I were to stay in my room, I would be warm at least.
I undo the latch on the window. I push the frame open, tip Jasper out of my arms, into the snow. He lands on his feet. Cats always do. He looks cold. I don’t look at him for long because I don’t want to see how he is looking at me. The sirens are getting closer. I shut the window and redo the latch.
Every description I’ve ever encountered of hell involves fire, lots of fire. But this isn’t so bad. The air is warm, not hot, just warm.
I pull up the blankets on my bed; I curl up in a ball. The fire is all around me. Soon, I will have another chance to dream.