Small Talk

I guess I've probably never really been much for small talk. But now there are special difficulties.

The other day I was down in the unburned lands, and somebody asked, cheerily, "so, are you going to watch the Super Bowl?"

Well, the fire cooked all of AT&T up here, and AT&T service is still not back, who knows when it will be back, not even AT&T knows when it will be back, it's been gone since the power went about 10:00 a.m. on the morning of the fire, when I was talking with Heather, there across town, she where I knew the fire was, and I was fretting about whether she was going to try to bring out all the horses in Paradise, but then we were cut off, cut off for 100,000 years, but let's see if we can get out of the fire, right, my television comes through AT&T, I have (had) the Uverse thing, powering through tubes my computer, television, phone, and though I finally learned how to use this iPhone as a personal hotspot, thereby bringing tubes back to these computers, so I could work again for the lawyers, except when I'm in the fire, which is every minute of every day, and all in all the night, and although I've been told I could use that same hotspot to power the TV, there is no way I am doing that, because although Crispin the fire angel keeps telling me to leave off worrying about the bill for the "plan," and although I am pretty ignorant of said "plans," having never before had one, this is my first cellphone, I am at least dimly aware that if I start running televisions off this hotspot, I will soon read about Crispin in the bankruptcy filings, and I won't have that, and anyway I think the Super Bowl is on broadcast televsion, and I don't watch that, and haven't since the last millennium, when, before I could mute it, a commercial came on where they were using Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" to sell detergent, and I said, that's it, I'm done, and I have never touched broadcast or cable or satellite television again, all my television comes (came) through Roku tubes, where there are no ads, and I think maybe this is genetic, because once my brother was so outraged by something on his television he picked it up and heaved it in his truck and drove out and threw it in a rice bog and then he went up into the mountains and slept for a week in the snow, to purify himself.

But I didn't want to tell him all that. So I went for what I guess is these days my version of small talk.

"He found his dog in the bathtub," I said.

"What?" he asked warily.

"He found his dog in the bathtub. When came the fire, he was at work, in Chico, and he tried to get back up here, but the fire came so fast, so many people tried to go back, they couldn't, a few did, there are so many stories, one man and his wife, she was frail, ill, they seeing the fire together about eight in the morning decided maybe it wasn't so bad, and so he drove off to work, but after just a little bit on the road he decided he'd made a mistake the fire was indeed bad and so he turned around and headed back home to get his wife but then they wouldn't let him drive back up police everywhere forcing people out not allowing them in and he abandoned his car to walk back but then after a time he was overcome smoke fire and had to turn round again away from the town away from his house away from his wife and she burned his wife she burned she burned and she died and how would you like to be that man how would how could you be how—and he'd left the house open and so he was hoping the dogs would find a place of shelter or maybe his house wouldn't burn I mean the whole town couldn't burn that's what we all thought but then the whole town did burn and so many animals died in the fire and so many are still missing from their people they're all so cut off from one another still and after the fire he knew his house had burned but nobody could come up here not for weeks and weeks could they come up here they weren't alowed the freaking National Guard was deployed to keep them out keep them out he didn't know about his dogs nobody knew about anything nobody knows and when the town did open again it took him awhile to come up some people are like that some came right away but some are reluctant and all of it's okay everything is permitted the fire people after the fire and when he did come up his house was burned, and he found his dog in the bathtub, fire has a hard time with porcelain and in the rubble there'll sometimes be a bathtub a sink a stove an exercise bicycle maybe and you can see that all over town except you shouldn't see it because it isn't your place to see it unless it's your place that burned because it's sad and it's final and it's private it's like going into the morgue and rolling out the drawers and looking at the dead people and no one should do that, and he found his dog in the bathtub, because she went there to shelter from the flames, smart dog, good dog, flames taking it all taking all of the house taking all of the town so to the bathtub she went smart dog good dog waiting dog waiting last refuge last breath end in—and you'd think maybe the animals would run off and some of them did but they come to trust us and the center of the trust is the home and so it's natural for them to retreat there we protect them protect them in the home and that's why when my cat bolted wouldn't go into the carrier hid deep under the couch and wouldn't come out, wouldn't come out, wouldn't come out, I wouldn't leave, wouldn't leave, wouldn't leave, wouldn't leave him to burn under there thinking I'd come for him I not coming he burning burning alone burning and burning and I decided I'd rather die in a fire than live with that but I didn't die in the fire instead I live in the fire I live in it all the time I can't ever get out except when I'm asleep but I don't sleep so that's not very often and at least I don't get the fire in my sleep I've been spared that a lot of people get the fire in their dreams they can't find their child in the fire they're old and infirm and can't get away from the fire they're stuck in stopped-dead traffic in the cars and the fire is coming they're driving through flames and the fire is coming they're on the second floor of the house and the fire is coming up the stairs they're running as fast as they can and the fire is coming and then they're running burning like the bear running burning, and he found his dog in the bathtub, and she said she remembered the hopelessness of his tears, a different him, so many hims, so many tears, and I said hopelessness tears are rough, hopelessness springs tears, like a fountain, like a geyser, high so high, all the way into space, into all the spaces that ever were or will be, and once I read the chemical composition of human tears is the same as that of the oceans and I decided the oceans are formed of all the human tears ever shed traveled back in some sort of time loop to form the oceans from which life on this planet sprang including eventually the people whose tears actually made those oceans and I don't know if that's hopeful or not what do you think never mind, and he found his dog in the bathtub, and her name was Chevy, and now he has a new dog, a puppy, and he named her Chevelle, and maybe that's kind of hopeful what do you think I mean you have to have hope don't you there has to be hope you have to go on and it's easier with hope isn't it what do you think never mind I don't know I don't know anything there is nothing that I know I've never really known anything but now for sure I know NOTHING. But I do know this. He found his dog in the bathtub."

He just looked at me.

I don't think that was the answer he was expecting. There in the small talk.

I felt bad.

So I said:

"Go Niners!"

I think maybe that's what you're supposed to say.

34 users have voted.


Pricknick's picture

Despair and hope all in one.
Thank you for your story.
Best of luck to you and yours.

13 users have voted.

Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

CS in AZ's picture

It’s so good to see your name on a new essay hecate, but this small talk of yours leaves me in tears. I too am one who worries and weeps for the animals that are left alone and lose their lives alone in a wildfire.

That man’s story and finding his dog in the bathtub is my own nightmare come to life. My heart breaks for him and his precious dog, and for every other person and all the animals that were killed, and all those still lost.

When we lived in southern Cali for a few years, and saw what those monster fires really are, I couldn’t stay. They used to do exactly what you describe, order an area evacuated and if you were not home but your pets were, you were not allowed to go rescue them. You were forced by police to abandon them to the fire, come what may. After seeing this a few times, I understood the risk of being forced to leave them.

I was terrified of that happening to our 3 dogs. And I realized I would probably end up arrested if that scenario happened. I would be utterly out of my mind and do something stupid like scream at and try to attack the police standing between me and my dogs.

I could not imagine how I’d cope with the anguish. If I were home and could not get them out with me, I’d stay too.

We left California to return to the Arizona desert. Low risk of wildfires where we live now. I’m basically risk averse and I never stopped worrying this would happen.

Every big disaster I think about the human cost and also the animals, often left trapped, and I’m so sad that life on this planet is so often excruciatingly painful. Nature is not kind to us life forms, trying to survive here. People complain a lot about how terrible humans are, even that we deserve to suffer because we’re such a bunch of dumb monkeys that can’t get our shit together. I just silently disagree with that... we don’t deserve this pain. Neither do the animals.

Thank you for writing hecate. I’m glad you have access to the tubes again, and glad you stopped in here.

Sending love your way.

21 users have voted.

Something said "DO NOT LOOK AWAY".

17 users have voted.
QMS's picture

reading, along with your thoughts. Sometimes the cops and guards are wrong.

9 users have voted.

Listen to your higher mind.

It is very powerful. Have you thought about getting it published?

8 users have voted.
Granma's picture

6 users have voted.
Eagles92's picture

My heart also breaks for you, and this poor man's unfathomable loss of his two true companions in such a horrifyingly grisly way, and for everyone suffering in the iron grip of PTSD.

We cannot understand. But we can listen to your version of small talk whenever you wish to share it. I know you know how therapeutic writing is. I'm glad you're venturing back in, and sharing the poignancy of your experience with us.

We will not forget.


(Edit: double photo post)

2 users have voted.
gulfgal98's picture

Just tears.

3 users have voted.

"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~Dr. Cornel West

"There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare." Sun Tzu

"Propaganda is one hell of a drug." Abby Martin

"Politicians are cowards." Mike Gravel