Copyright 2016 by E.C. McMullen Jr.
I don’t believe in magic, so what happened to us after the fire I can only chalk up to a reality I’ve never experienced, that can be rationally explained by science beyond my understanding.
The night before the fire our little house was rumbled by thunderstorms – lightening storms to be accurate I guess. It was all more electric than rain. Living in a farm house about 3o miles from our nearest neighbor and around 100 from the nearest town, we thought it was safest to stay indoors and not attempt driving to a safer place.
The next day we awoke to smoke.
Our fields of sorghum were ablaze and everywhere we looked, we were surrounded by fire.
Thinking fast I ran to the tractor to hitch the furrow while Connie got to the water pump and turned it to full pressure.
The fire closed the circle around us, but at a safe distance I followed the ring, digging a shallow furrow of dry moat around our house. Connie tossed the water hose into the furrow. Then, all we could do was wait as the water slowly filled the moat.
Firebug embers floated overhead.
“We should have watered down the house,” Connie said.
“I know,” I answered. “One thing at a time.”
The heat created a smoke typhoon, making us choke, so we went back inside. Whatever was going to happen now was out of our hands.
We opened our door and the cat ran out.
I should correct myself. At that time in our lives, “a” cat ran out, as we didn’t own a cat.
She ran out of our house, tail in the air like a question, and toward the fire. Not knowing what was going on, but instinctive to me as a man born and raised on a farm, I immediately ran after it to bring her back to the relative safety of the house. You gotta save the livestock.
She ran through a still dry part of the moat and right to the fire’s edge. Where she approached – and this is what knocked me for a loop so hard I could only stop dead and stand there, jaw agape – the fire retreated.
She slowed to a walk and instead of running toward one part of it, she walked along the ring. The fire backed away, the circle began widening. She walked the large ring around our house and the fire not only retreated, it shrank. That part makes sense to me. It already consumed the fuel of our fields behind it. It had nowhere else to go.
In an hour the fire was out. In two hours the smoke stopped. In the distance, we could make out the rest of the fireline still burning as it moved in the opposite direction away from us. The circle widened as far as the eye could see. We became an oasis.
The cat that had saved us, now our cat, sat on her haunches near one side of the burnt rim. And there she stays to this day.
She never moves away from that rim, even when it rains. And when it does rain, there’s no more lightning.
Year after year our circle grows as the crops on our land extend a little further out into the char, and they grow well. That’s good because, for whatever reason, neither Connie or me can step past the circle of plant life and into the burnt area. It’s not like we bump against a wall. More like we try to move out of the circle of life and our bodies just won’t obey. Hopefully in time, the ring of plant will extend enough that the burnt circle isn’t there any more. Connie and I would love to see our friends and family again.
In the meantime, at least we’re alive.
Electricity works, but not the phones, the Internet, no communication at all. I’m glad we have so many books.
Another weird thing is our kitchen. All of our food in the cupboard never runs out. Not the flour, the rice, the coffee, nothing. It’s always full.
As for the cat, she never seems to eat. If I go out to her, she appreciates a kindly pet on the head or scratching her back a bit. She purrs, but remains at her post. She stays there at the edge of the circle, staring at the charred rim as if defying whatever is on the burnt side to confront her.
One more thing I should write down here is, we never named her. To us she’s The Cat. The Cat who came into our lives at just the right moment. Considering the circumstances, we feel we belong to her as much as she belongs to us.
Fact of the matter is, she’s the one who chose to come into our lives and she’ll be the one who chooses when to leave.
Story by E.C. McMullen Jr.
Art: Unknown. Artist Unknown. If you can prove you are the artist, please contact me and I’ll credit you.
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