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SIRENS Haley Schvaneveldt

The trucks behind the townhouses across from ours had their sirens off, but their rotating red lights signaled chaos. The silence felt false, like the moment in a movie after an explosion when you momentarily wonder if your television sound is broken. I waited for the whining sound of a siren to confirm a nearby danger, but all I heard was the muted scream of frogs, triggered not by fire or explosion, but by recent rainfall. My roommate Rachael Ann drew my attention to the glossy red trucks visible between the houses across our communal backyard. We were lingering after dinner at the dining room table, I with my face pressed against the sliding glass door. I like feeling the two temperatures at once, the cold of the glass contrasting with the warmth of the room. Through this door we can see into the identical glass back doors of identical houses. Between the houses there are gaps where you can see the houses beyond them and the road where tail lights whip dangerously around the blind curves that snake through the neighborhood. Rachael Ann, always upright and watchful, never misses anything. “Good golly, Haley,” she exclaimed. Standing up slowly, she crammed her hands into the back pockets of her jeans, and gestured with her shoulder for me to look out the window. “There’s three firetrucks up there.” I turned my face so that my forehead and nose squashed against the glass. Sure enough, red trucks filled the gaps between the townhouses, and a thin, wispy column of smoke was barely visible against an equally gray sky. Very often, Rachael Ann says things out loud that I’m only thinking. That’s how we became roommates. I hoped we could live together, but she said it into being. Then, she asked, “Want to walk towards it? Get a better view?” “Yes!” I exclaimed, almost before she finished the question. When I was five, my next-door neighbor decided to burn some trash on his Washington winter dry lawn and his whole yard caught flame. The fire spread to his house, and while I was told that our home was not in danger, my parents took my sister and me across the street to sit under the overhang of the elementary school as a precaution and as an educational opportunity to watch the firemen work. I don’t remember that house or that street except for that view from the school parking lot. I remember the concrete wall against my bony back and the neighbor’s yard being solid black as if it had been colored with a crayon. I remember wanting to know about the fire. There was nothing particularly tragic about it. I knew that the firemen caught it in time, that there was minimal property damage, and that no one was hurt. But I wanted to know something my parents couldn’t tell me. I wanted to know how it felt. I wanted to walk towards it, to get close enough to feel the way its warmth on my skin contrasted with the cold air around me. I felt that same pull as Rachael Ann put on the boots that she kept by the door as if she had been expecting this to happen. I grabbed the blanket from around the back of my chair and wrapped it around my shoulders, stepping outside barefoot. The ground was cold and damp. I walked a step behind Rachael Ann to a tree halfway between our house and the fire where we had both the lumbar support of the curved trunk and a view between the firetrucks into an empty, blackened doorway. I didn’t know what was beyond

Profile for Ivy Leaves Journal of Literature & Art

Ivy Leaves Journal of Literature & Art — Vol 93  

The Ivy Leaves Journal of Literature & Art is an annual student publication at Anderson University in Anderson, SC. The journal has served a...

Ivy Leaves Journal of Literature & Art — Vol 93  

The Ivy Leaves Journal of Literature & Art is an annual student publication at Anderson University in Anderson, SC. The journal has served a...

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