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Baptism Fire

(Sep 1st, 2015 at 08:00:25 PM)
Aluminum cans clanged in the backseat
as I re-entered the driveway.  Across the street
a family had been celebrating a baptism
but their once busy bounce-house was now without children
who were all watching the adults carry buckets
to a neighbor's house.

We almost didn't notice the thin cloud of fresh smoke
crawling along the roof.  We stared.  "Someone
should call the fire department."
"Yeah," I said.

I didn't think we could possibly be the first ones;
the parents, now doubling back for fresh water,
must surely have had someone call.
"Please hold for the fire department."

Within minutes ten, twenty, thirty people were there.
They forced open the door, tore a hole in the roof,
and poured water down onto the fire.  No one was home.
Someone contacted the wife, in the hospital
visiting her husband.  I wonder how they broke the news.

I bet they consider themselves blessed.
She is probably there right now, next to him, holding his hand.
She could be in a bed next to him, or another room over,
panicking about their insurance claims.

Do you think they knew about the baptism?
Maybe they RSVP'd before the husband got sick
and the wife left a card in the morning with a check.
Maybe she forwent the check, considering.

When she got home, was water draining
from the attic into the walls, into the floor;
Was it dripping down and soaking into their headboard?
Would she still sleep on their mattress if it, alone, were dry?
Maybe she'd feel that they, too, had been baptized.

The party eventually continued.  The children
found their way back to the bounce-house
and the parents sat and talked, with one eye
on the plastic-patched roof next-door.

I, at a wedding shower, also looked on.
Watched as rain clouds wandered in
and hoped the old couple would be spared.
I hoped that whatever blessing they received
might save them from further damage.

But I've never believed in blessings
And I knew the water would result in more rot than salvation;
the rain would only cause more rotting, more damnation.
And the baptism: just water on a child's head.