Thursday, May 16, 2002


So, there I was sitting peacefully at coffee yesterday morning, discussing the affairs of the day with my friends, when suddenly we all heard the noon whistle a little early (for my out-of-town readers: this is an old mill town, and the big loud fire alarm still goes off every day at noon to tell us all we may go to lunch. Usually it goes off when we're already at lunch, but that's another story).

Amidst speculations about what would happen if there was a fire at noon, would anyone show up, etc., one of my snarkier friends leaned over and said "Ah, don't worry; it's just Kate's house burning down!"

Ha. Ha. Ha-ha, I believe I said to him.

Cut to about an hour later, I return to my office, and there sitting patiently on the sofa, are my own dear personal mom and dad, mom looking chagrined, my dad bearing a shit-eating grin.

"So, Kate, are you ready to move again?" my father asks.

"This isn't very funny, honey," my mom whispers, slightly swatting him.

"...?" says I.

"Did you hear the fire sirens this morning?"


"Well, yes! What was it?"

"That was for your house."

Cut to me sitting heavily on the floor, all color drained from my cheeks, all breath escaped from my body. Everything begins happening in slow motion, blurred, soundless. I'm thinking of my 100+ year old poetry books, all of my journals, drafts for novels...library books already overdue...

Dimly, from 1000 feet underwater, I hear my mother saying something to the effect of "Ha, ha ha, how does it feel?"

My father lets me off the hook: "I ran over your gas meter is all. It's all fixed and your pilot lights are lit and everything."

Apparently they had been to my little house on the river to set up the fenceposts for a dog pen, as this time tomorrow I shall have a four-legged duck herder for a roommate. Since said duck herder is a grown border collie, my father decided I need an extra tall fence, and so the posts are correspondingly lofty - he had to stand up in the back of his pickup to pound them in.

And in moving the truck to put up the last fencepost, he nudged the gas meter a bit.

Apparently every single member of the Saratoga Volunteer Fire Department, of which my dad is a former president among other things, showed up for the call. I imagine it's going to be a while before he lives this down, poor man.

But of course, my family is going to be ragging on me for years for falling for the old "for whom the bell tolls" gag, too.

As I say so often in these and other pages, no day is a dull day.