See that chimney atop my neighbor’s house? There’s a mystery associated with it.
One day in Dec. I’m sitting in my comfy chair looking out my front window when something glittery catches my eye. I look up and see what appears to be a reddish/orange flame streaming out of the extension pipe of Ann’s chimney.
Ann is a lovely, elderly woman who lives alone in that three-story edifice.
Thing is, the flame is intermittent. It seems to sync itself with the on-off cycle of a typical furnace in a Minnesota winter. Furnace on: red blaze. Furnace off: zippo.
One more factor. A spectacular pink sunset is framing the house from behind.
I call for backup.
Sharon agrees with me. Fire.
Not some trick of Mother Nature. Not harmless white exhaust seen through the rose-colored glasses of a splashy sunset. Nope, definitely fire.
I phone the fire dept and explain everything. I’m being overly cautious, hesitant. It’s only intermittent I keep saying. The sunset. . .
The dispatcher cuts me off. “We’ll be right there.”
“But. . . ”
Seven minutes later there’s five giant red trucks with hoses and ladders protruding like tentacles, overrunning my Lilliputian neighborhood. Four guys in heavy fire gear, wielding axes, march into Ann’s front entrance, while another eight of their comrades (and I) observe from the street.
In a moment of shameful weakness I secretly hope they find something . . .
Meanwhile, the crew chief questions me. Seems like he’s been down this road before. He probes my story from different angles, rubs his chin–not quite a skeptic, not quite a believer.
And of course the big candle atop Ann’s house had been extinguished five minutes before the Invasion, when we pulled her out of the place, shut off the furnace, and watched the fireworks on the horizon fade into gray.
* * *
Next week: the end of the story–and a spiritual angle to consider.