Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Where to begin?

I guess I'll begin with the Check Engine light. Somehow in my mind, that's where it all started.

Our car's check engine light has been on and off for a couple weeks, and it's notoriously finicky so my usual policy is to ignore it for awhile, until it proves to me that it's serious. Which it did, last Thursday, when the Oil light also went on and I found the dipstick bone dry. I stopped for a temporary fix, which took up a whole morning on a busy day, but a permanent repair still loomed.

Enrico left town, Toby got his ear infection, and by Monday I decided I had to bite the bullet and return the car to a state of reliability. This entails a 90-minute commute each way to the mechanic and then to work, including two buses. But by 4:00 yesterday, I was on the first of the bus legs home and feeling good about getting things tidy. The car was fixed, and as always, the mechanics cleaned it to an unrecognizably shiny luster inside and out. Cousin Flora likes things tidy.

At home I found a note from the dog-walker suggesting Nelly might have another bladder infection, and after walking her myself, I reluctantly had to agree. Her last infection was exactly a year ago, when Enrico was also out of town, and in trying to make it through the night I ended up at the emergency vet at 4 am with Nelly, while Toby attempted to destroy the house back home in a fit of panic. Good times!

Fun as that was, I decided to head straight to the emergency clinic this time, in the hopes of wrapping things up by bedtime. I took Toby along figuring he could always wait in the car. I heaved a sigh as I heard Nelly throw up en route, all over my newly spotless car. But then the clinic was pretty empty and we breezed through, relatively speaking. Although they were unable to get a urine sample from Nelly - who after all had been trying to pee every 5 minutes for the past several hours - the vet took my word for it and sent us home with antibiotics.

When we got home I left some of the barfy mess in the carport to deal with later, gave Nelly her first pill, and had myself some dinner and a nice glass of wine. It was a long day, but both the car and the dog were dealt with. Life had thrown me a couple of logistical curve balls, but things were back on track.

I'd been asleep an hour when the dogs woke me up with their barking. At first it was a typical alarm bark, which I planned to ignore, and then suddenly, they amped up to a frenetic pitch I had never heard before, ever. I hopped out of bed and looked out the window. The house across the street was on fire.

This is the house across the street that was sold, and the lot is being subdivided, and whose temporary occupants were cleaned out by the police. The one with Garry the Exceptional oak. I called 911, and by the time the fire trucks arrived the house was engulfed in flames. Intimidated by the size of the blaze, I waited to step outside until I saw the fire trucks, and as I walked out onto my front porch I felt the heat of it hit my face from clear across the street. Dozens of firefighters descended on the place with hoses and chain saws and ladders.

The dogs were barking frantically inside and I realized they couldn't see me from the window, and all they knew was that I had stepped out into this hellish, terrifying maelstrom, and they couldn't find me. So I went back, leashed them up, and took them out to the front steps with me. At first they were interested and excited, but soon they just became anxious. The noise and the smells and the lights were overwhelming, disorienting. I took them back inside but it was enough to assuage their fears, to get to see for themselves where I was disappearing to.

Suffice to say we got very little sleep, because it turns out? Full-on house fires are loud, what with four fire trucks pumping, the firefighters yelling and clanking their oxygen tanks and ladders, the screaming chain saws, the roar of the fire itself, and the EXPLODING KITCHEN. The noise and the light made sleep impossible, and I was joined by a neighbor as we watched the firefighters do their jobs.

It made me sad to watch it burn, because for ten years I knew the couple who had lived in that house for 40 years, raised five kids there, and when their daughter died they raised a granddaughter there too. I know it's slated for demolition anyway, but it was somebody's home once.

I eventually got a bit of fitful sleep and awoke around 5 am as most of the fire crew packed up and left. Shortly, the forensics investigators showed up to do their thing. One of the remaining firefighters told me this is the latest in a string of arsons in the neighborhood, all at corner properties like ours. How lovely. I have a call into the community policing officer for our precinct to try to learn more.

I mainlined some coffee and took Nelly back to the regular vet - Toby in tow, again, because the dogs were just as jittery as I - to try to get the elusive urine sample (failure, again). By the time Enrico gets back I will have had two trips to the mechanic, five trips to the vet, and a sleepless night watching the neighbor's house burn.

Plus, I believe I may have appeared on Fox News in my pajamas, which is just the icing on the cake, really. Who doesn't aspire to that?

In short, I feel like I've come to the end of our own little action-packed episode of 24. I feel like I've lived several weeks' time since I stepped onto that #65 bus just 24 short hours ago.
P.S. Garry the Exceptional Oak is fine. A little singed, but handsome as ever. The firefighters were just as smitten with him as the rest of us and worked heroically to keep the flames away from him. Here's a picture of Garry, as requested:


Shelly said...

Wow, stuff happens to you!

Thanks for the picture of the tree, it is a beauty, a very nice crown shape.

mo said...