I was a beaten man!
There was nothing left! No wife! No children! No job!
The only clothes I owned covered my body.
The black ashes that were once my house had an acrid, gagging odor, mixed with the smells of fire-fighting liquids, dampness, and death.
How does one describe a body bereft of feelings, a body with all its tears shed, a hollow core of nothingness covered with flesh? Nothing there! Nothing I could or would ever be able to find.
That was my truth!
Standing there in a starless night of misty rain and appropriate bleakness, looking for the last time at the sum of my existence, there in those black, damp clumps of earth and bones, there with the only pieces of love I had ever known, there in that eerie graveyard of ashes.
We had a silly argument after the boys were put to bed. I made a petulant escape into the night of bar rooms and feigned grievance … my starring role in a ‘D-Movie’.
I heard the sounds of fire engines through my whiskey haze and gave it little thought.
Fire engines rushed to others’ houses, not mine.
Finally, the Bacchus glow came, went, and I recognized the inanity of my actions.
That rapidly fading glow took me home where I would do my habitual ‘I’m sorry, sweetheart’! Repentence was an eager surge within me as I sped onward for home. It was then, the car finishing its sharp turn, when I saw the halo of red and white flashing lights ahead. My body began to quake as the first pang of alarm came to rest inside my imbued brain.
It was my home from which those wind-driven flames came … soon to be, at my arrival, the charred ruins of my only prized possessions.
I stumbled from the car, stunned, inconsolable, watching my neighbors holding hands, praying, tears flowing down their cheeks, already knowing what I was about to find out.
My wife, my kids, were consumed by the fire … a fire caused by my forgetting to turn off the barbeque.
I fell to my knees, grasped my head with both hands, heaving, roaring my grief in loud sobs, piercing the smoke-filled skies above. The concept of Time had no reality for me as I gasped and breathed in particles of ash.
People talked to me, uttered their pity and sorrow, tried humbly to comfort me. Their voices were lost in my sobbing growls. The movement of fire engines, firemen, my neighbors going back to their homes were on the periphery of my awareness. I shook my head in negation to acts of kindness, of pleas to help me.
Then, I was alone with my mind and its torturous playback of my fatuous acts in life, alone with the agony which now possessed my soul.
For three days and nights, I stayed awake, unseen, not wanting to be seen, in the wooded area behind the damp ashes where once stood my home. I was soon bereft of any meaningful thought, on the brink of madness.
At 11:00 PM that third night I heard off in the distance the freight train whistle.
I walked the quarter mile to the trestle and watched for the light that would announce its coming. I listened for the roar from the rails.
Like a thief in the night I left the bush behind which I hid and stepped onto the trestle. The train’s beacon of light came onward toward me, and the faint whistle registered somewhere in a tunnel of my mind.
The train was but a hundred yards away when I raised my arms to the heavens and cried, “Oh, God, please forgive me!”
Flash Fiction by Billy Ray Chitwood – January 7, 2918 (Rev)
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