The Philosopher and Poet Fail to Put Out the Fire

They stand in the dark watching the cars and carport barn burn. Far below to the left, fire trucks switch up the mountain, all red flash and horn blast and echoey siren. They’ll get here too late, the poet is thinking—the eucalypti above the carport will go, then the hillside and cliff and who knows how many homes. Good God, the philosopher thinks: it happens so fast. Inside the structure, where both cars (the philosopher’s Nissan, the poet’s old Volvo) are swallowed in orange, paint cans and tubs of thinner explode, howling, paint jets flaring straight up. They might have saved the philosopher’s car—the poet’s poorly wired dash is to blame—but suckled as they were on action-adventure, the ubiquitous four-wheel warheads, well, why get too close?

Look at it go, the philosopher says, flames doing their dance in his glasses.

I’m looking, the poet responds.

A burning board falls from the roof, hits the burning hood of the Volvo. Fire tr…