Standing in her room now, there is no hint of smoke.
There’s nothing at all that indicates that it was once 900 degrees up in there, with flames lapping at her wooden castle and her Dr. Seuss books and her tiny sweaters and shoes.
In the days after the fire, when I had finally got up the nerve to venture up the stairs of the crispy house, to peck around like an old lost hen, I remember real vividly the moment I turned the corner from the bathroom and stood in awe at the sight. Fire does what it wants to do. It rolls along it’s chosen path according to something we have no contact with, some sort of ghoulish ghost standing there on the other side of the wall from what reality allows us to see, pointing at stuff, grimacing his evil grimace/picking his teeth with a toothpick, slowly bossing the scorch around.
“Eat that doll”, he says.
“And these tiny socks.”
Then, maybe he just gets bored with it all.
“Put the whole damn thing in your mouth!” he screams. And the fire just does what it’s told.
The walls are super pink now though. They’re all soft girly pink. They’re so smooth and cool too, so perfectly inviting if you bother to slide a whole side of your face along it when no one else is around. You can stand there and close your eyes and move slowly down the wall, feeling the bristle of your beard hissing off the two coats as you close your eyes and breath in the still fresh paint smell, the sweet smell of newness.
Yeah, that was me a few days ago.
But now is now. Monica is helping Violet set up her ‘Reading Corner’ again. In the temporary house, we’d thrown a whole bunch of heart-shaped pillows on top of a shaggy purple rug that looks a lot like the rug you might have in your study if you were like a kid’s show trophy hunter and you finally bagged your Barney. Violet is all stoned on joy when I carry a box into the room. I’m caked in dried sweat and my scent is vinegar onion. I”m exhausted from all the moving but I’ve found my way into her room to lay down a box of ten trillion puzzle pieces and a stuffed Mickey Mouse, and there they are: my wife and my daughter.
So strange, to walk into that room again, the exact same way I walked into it once and found nothing but black velvet cobras dancing up out of the invisible ground, and to see these two laughing at a joke I must’ve just missed.
Both of them are smiling at each other, giggling up a storm.
“Look Daddy! I got a ‘Weading Cawnuh!,” Violet cried out when she noticed me.
I stand at the foot of this mountain of pillows for a sec and then just Nestea Plunge down on my big ass, the swarm of pillows catching me easy.
“Ahhhhhhhhhh, this is so cozy, kiddo!,” I say. “Can I read my books here too, please?!!”
“Okay, Daddy,you can go in the ‘Reading Corner!” she answers.
I looked up at the ceiling above me there. The wide white snowy field flipped upside down by some decent giant and stuck fast to the sky to protect my daughter from the coming rain and sleet, from the bird crap that tomorrow’s birds are gonna be dropping down off of their swift monorails of travel, from the hot twinkling chips and spark that will soon come falling off the falling stars deep in the night.
I find my breath as she cackles and shrieks some more at the things her mom is saying to her, the two of them over by the far pink wall, but not very far at all.
A plump three foot red Target heart holding my head off the ground, I close my eyes for just a long good moment.
You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.
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