Safe was what everyone was not feeling. The columnist, having milked the dog story dry, sniffed a page one byline if a connection could be made, or plausibly implied, between the trees and the canines.
Maurice answered the phone, and talked to the columnist long enough to say he had nothing against anyone or their dog and nothing against Christmas and otherwise no comment. That night he heard his name mentioned on the TV. He wasn’t sure if he was called “embattled” or “embittered.” Both applied somewhat. Eight death threats popped up in his email within an hour after the broadcast. The phone rang and rang. He didn’t pick up.
That night there were copycat fires in other parts of town. One of the fires ignited an apartment building. Sirens snaked through every neighborhood, well into dawn. In Dogpatch, the electricity was off. Alarms failed to ring. Microwaves didn’t microwave. Computers sat dumb. Everyone’s pattern of life was disrupted, except possibly Maurice who slept until 9, earplugs in.
By noon the Director of Public Works had issued an order to pick up all trees immediately. Trucks were dispatched to scour the city.
The “fire-eaters” had gotten a taste and craved more. Bigger fires raged that night. The next day the National Guard was summoned.
In Dogpatch, in an eerie peace, there was still a sense the disturbing events could draw the neighbors together, while uncertainty and suspicion grew more exacerbated. A group of 3 or more gathering on the sidewalk gave off a whiff of conspiracy. Even the dog owners stopped lingering to chat. With the possible exception of Dwight the psycho, most would have sworn that they, like Maurice, had nothing against anyone. Like him, they kept to their houses, waiting for the squall to blow over.
The presence of the National Guard was resented by half of the population and welcomed by the other half. There were spontaneous and planned protests. Windows were shattered and then, two nights later, 3 Guardsmen were wounded by gunfire which they had initiated. The governor withdrew the Guard. The party of Lincoln sank its teeth into the red meat issue, this degenerate display of San Francisco values. Politicians suggested, in veiled but unmistakable terms, it was time to grab the guns.
With the electricity permanently disabled, only the insane had some idea of what they were fighting for, or for whom. In the final stages of the war, which didn’t last as long as the first Civil War, the guns were turned against the masters, as anyone might have foreseen, because there was ammo left and no one better to shoot.
That was 4 lives ago. I don’t know what happened to Maurice. I heard that he took in Dwight’s abandoned dog and the two of them survived the war behind the barred doors and windows of his house, Bullet barking nonstop. That sounds like a story somebody made up but if you think about it, it makes sense.
I don’t miss anyone from that time, except maybe Mr. Chu. Lying on the plush rug in his sunny living room—I’d be a fool to claim it wasn’t a good life, but it doesn’t compare to stalking overgrown gardens for a fat dove and sinking my claws in. That’s my idea of plush. Mr. Chu would rant when he found feathers on the patio, not, of course, in a way I could take seriously, but annoying, nonetheless. He meant well, I suppose.
This is the life I love, all but the fleas.
Belgazou Spring of the 7th life