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Fireman Lifting Up Car Hood

I woke up to the words “Call 911. Somebody, please!”

These words, I’ve awoken to before, kids being kids, they joke about most everything in their little world just a stone’s throw from outside my window, so I wasn’t exactly leaping into action. Then one of the kids called out the full apartment address and I knew they were serious. Flung back the covers, still groggy, straight out of a vivid dream to fumble my way over to the window. Pulled the blinds up calling out, “Do you need help?” to the girl down below. Her reply, “Call 911, there’s a car on fire!”

Briefly looked out to where my red car is normally parked in full view of the window. On rare occasion, there are no such spots left in view. Such as the night before. Glanced over to where I did find a spot to park … hidden behind the overhang of the roof … from which a steady billowing stream of dark smoke was pouring upward into the sky. Was pulling on some pants and reaching for a top all the while thinking “What if it’s my car … no, it can’t be my car … somebody would come to the door and” – KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK! Thought I must still be dreaming. The knock came at the door just as I thought it. From outside I heard the words “They’re on the way!” No longer needing to call for help, I opened the door to a teenage-ish boy. He began, “Do you own the red car out there parked along the road?” “Uh, yes, why?” I asked, already knowing the answer. “It’s on fire, there was a guy and he was under the hood working on it, he had a can of gasoline and then there were flames and he took off in the car he came in. Cars kept driving by and no one seemed to be stopping or looking, so we thought we should call 911.” As the sirens of the approaching fire truck, dispensed from the station just down the way, wailed on, I followed him down the stairs.

HAD NEVER SEEN THIS PARTICULAR CAR, MINE’S THE ONLY RED ONE IN THE SLEW OF VEHICLES OFTEN PARKED OUT THERE.Had never seen this particular car, mine’s the only red one in the slew of vehicles often parked out there.

Walking across the lawn, I could see peripherally that there were several handfuls of kids standing around. I didn’t allow myself to look up, in hopes of delaying the inevitable, until I’d nearly reached the edge of the grass where the sidewalk began and my car sat just a few feet away. At last, I looked up. And started to laugh. There, a red car parked. Behind mine! Praise God and hallelujah, it wasn’t my car afterall! Had never seen this particular car, mine’s the only red one in the slew of vehicles often parked out there. Looked around then, hoping the owner of the torched vehicle wasn’t nearby feeling put upon by my flagrant display of relief in the form of said laughter accompanied by a gigantic smile across my face.

Thing was, all the evidence seemed to point to the fact that, yes, indeed, my car was the one ablaze. Yet I clung to the hope and possibility that, no, somehow it would not be my car, and I refused to let anger and the worry and inconvenience of no wheels wash over me until I saw with my own eyes. Basically, I was confronted with the old adage “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck” only to be rewarded with the truth. Really, it could be just a dragon doing a duck impersonation. Meaning, things are not always as bleak as they may appear, there’s always room for hope. A lesson I thankfully learned long ago, though it’s always, always nice to have the occasional reminder, even if in the form of such hoopla. And it just goes to show that not all such adages are what they’re quacked up to be …


In looking around, I was happy to spy yet another obviously just awoken person standing a few feet away in varying degrees of dress: No shirt, puffy winter jacket, jeans, belt dangling down unbuckled, no socks, shoelaces dragging on the ground. Tucked under one arm, he carried the fire extinguisher provided with each apartment. The firefighters had set up shop, one aiming the water hose at the sea of flames filling the entire front end of the car engine compartment, flare-ups frequently curling out up and over the hood causing the small crowd to rear back slightly. As the flames diminished, two others attempted to pry open the hood with crowbars, after which I snapped a few discreet camera shots.

In discussing possible theories concerning the rationale behind what had occurred, the crowd consensus was that the guy had been purposely sabotaging the car in an attempt to have it deemed “totaled” so as to receive an insurance settlement. The inclusion of daylight and witnesses though, not so bright. Most car fires rarely blow up in action movie fashion. All the same, I was thrilled to find I didn’t take on my own bright idea by trying to save my car in the moments before the fire truck pulled up, and in so doing possibly have sparked fumes, the pit of flames and/or the puddles of gasoline along the blacktop. Getting blown up doesn’t mesh well with my summer plans. Turns out, I didn’t leave completely unscathed. A girl nearby, asked if the other red car was mine. From where she stood, she could see the back end had begun to melt. Visions of dripping pools of metal and red paint came to mind, possibly an indiscernible license plate to boot. Alas, no, simply a melty red bumper. I’ll take it! It has a curvaceous ripply wave to the passenger’s side now with the markings of receded paint blisters. Kinda like Two-Face from Batman. Lastly, once I arrived home, I caught my reflection in the mirror only to detect that my fly had been down the entire time, exposing indigo blue undies which stood out quite nicely against the cream colored pants.

So, this latest fiasco was a week ago from this past Monday, allowing just enough recovery time for me to look forward once again to flames galore in the form of a grill and backed by the dark night sky. Independence Day!

Painting by Marina Petro


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