Smoke


Independence weekend began with a plume of smoke. A wildfire that the forest service called the Beckwourth Complex.

Soon the Tamarack and the Dixie Fires followed. Each new blaze brought even more smoke into the valley.

Eventually, the haze grew so thick that he could no longer see the homes across the street. Not even his dog was willing to stay outside for any length of time, save to care for its business.

Soon a couple of days grew into a week and then nearly an entire month. The metallic hum began in that final week.

Day and night, it came and went until it never stopped. It was replaced periodically by a crying or a low guttural growl.

Unable to identify the sound, he ventured out onto his front porch to listen. He took a cup of hot coffee and his dog with him.

Together they quietly listened to the hum become a cry, become a growl. Then a new sound issued from somewhere deep within the smoke: a grinding.

The dog stepped back and settled near the front door waiting for its human to open it so they could go indoors. But that never happened.

Instead, the man stepped off the porch and into the black-brown hazy, ignoring the warning whine coming from the dog. Quickly he was enveloped by the stuff and could no longer be seen.

Panicked, the dog barked, howled, and scratched at the door until the man’s wife opened it. The dog darted inside and ran under the dining table for safety.

That was three days ago, and the dog still sits at the door whimpering for the man it will never see again.

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