Debt (The Fire)

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“The wind done change!”

I turned from staring at Billy’s backside to see what he was talking about and sure ‘nough the wind had changed. The dark smoke filling the afternoon sky was drifting off toward us. From where I stood on the dirt road where Olde Pete drove off.  I could see that the smoke had changed with the rising north wind. In the sky, instead of just thick black smoke, there was shooting sparks of a wild fire. The wind had caught the flames and they were licking up the woods like a cat with milk.  “Good Lawd Olde Pete, Good Lawd!”

I was about to turn and run to the house, but suddenly something caught my eye. I turned back  to see a dust cloud heading down the road  and coming my way. I knew it was Olde Pete. He was speeding, probably to get away from the fire he started.  “Help me Syreet,” Billy yelled, drawing me from that dust cloud.  He was dragging the olde mare from the barn. “Get them chickens!”

I rushed around trying to gather up the chickens and had a few in my arms when Olde Pete drove in the yard. “Get them animals rounded up and put away, gurl,” he yelled, jumping from the truck. He ran to the barn barking orders at me and Billy. “Get that mule Billy; we got to get everything out the barn!”

I was doing my best to get those chickens put away in the chicken coop but they were running around like they known something was wrong. All the animals were acting fearful and I was scared too. There was no getting around the danger in the air.  I could smell the black smoke now; it was like a thick molasses that was making it hard to breath. I felt the grit of burned wood, like rain. The ash flakes fell down on me, Bill, the animals, and everything in sight. It covered the farm in white dust. The fire was here, it was just about to knock on our front door.

 I had all the chickens in the coop and had a squealing pig in my arms when I saw Olde Pete jump back in the truck. “I’m going to get help. Keep those animals as far away from the barn as you can,” he yelled at me.  “Billy! If ‘ven you see that fire coming close, you start throwing water on it boy, you hear!” Billy was pulling some equipment from the barn with the help of the mule. He turned to yell back. “ Ye’sir!” “I ain’t gon’ lose my farm over this.” Olde Pete started the truck and was gone.

 I stared off at the fast moving fire that was eating up the woods like it was nothing and was still hungry as it made it way toward the barn. There weren’t nothing goin’ stop it either, shown ‘ough not two kids. I started at the orange and yellow flames and felt the heat, and I wanted to pee my pants.

*

I ain’t never seemed so many people in one place before. Everyone was at Olde Pete’s farm helping out. That fire was out of control, it ate up most near the whole forest. Strong men were hauling water from the well, and passing it down the long line of people where Olde Pete and another man throw the buckets on the fire that was nearing the barn.

It was amazing to see the lights and steam rising as the water hit the flames. Papa had even come, but we didn’t have time to talk, just nodded. I don’t know what I would say to him anyway.  I was still mad at Papa.

Billy stood between two large men in the line; I could see that he was trying his best not to spill his load. They were helping him as best they could, when Billy let them. He was trying to prove he was a man and wanted to do his share.

 The woman folk came too. They wanted see the fire and were standing near the road talking among themselves. I didn’t know most of them, excepting Mrs. White and Mary Washington. But I wasn’t gon’ say nothing to them thou. Mama had said they ‘run they mouths off,’ whatever that means.

Copyright © 2013 Glynis Rankin

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