When the Fire Broke
Eva Talmadge

And when the fire broke, we were happy -- when we lost the block, and the rain filled the barn, and the houses were holes -- we were happy. We had our brother's old surfboard and Cleo had a wooden canoe. We were happy, floating down the river of hosewater and rain. We named our surfboard the Granma and surveyed the damage. The trees were ripped limb from limb, and their leaves poured over the rooftops. Air the color of ale.
On the next block away from us was an oleander bush the wind whipped around, spinning it over itself like the curls of our hair. We touched their petals and broke open their stems, and tasted the poisonous milk.
The wind pulled up the power lines and lit up the block. We hid under the mattress, in the bathtub, wrapped up in sheets -- we were happy -- the wind sounded like a train the whole night. Then the fire came up to warm us. We ran into the street.
We watched the house burn, and water rise up. Cleo wiped her face with a napkin made out of her hair -- the sun coming up -- and dried our clothes on a branch she'd pulled from the yard. Her house had blown over and we could see everything that had been in her room. Pink fluff gone gray in the waste, and pictures of us. The water turned dark, mixed with ash, and we drank the air. She floated over like soap, and tied her canoe to the surfboard -- we were happy -- and we paddled home with our hands cupped, on down the road.