Paper dolls

Tomorrow the town burns down. And I’m no more ready for it now than I was the first time.

All week up here: remembrances, memorials, commemorations, tributes, groundbreakings, displays. But none of them really touches the fire. How could they?

At the Optimo, trapped for hours. Finally, so desperate, unloading bottles from the Pepsi truck, setting them out as firebreak. When the fire comes, maybe it will explode the bottles—the Pepsi will douse the fire! Women there considering how best to kill their children. Before the fire takes them.

The bear is running, running with all that he has, but he doesn’t have enough. He is coming out of the fire, but the fire is coming with him, the bear is on fire, the bear is running, the bear is burning, the bear is fire.

The dog is in the house. His man in Chico. The fire is in the house, and the dog—good dog, smart dog—retreats to the bathtub; there, he ends. Months on, the people in the bar in the drink in the sports in the TV. But that is not what the man sees. He sees but his dog. In the bathtub.

A woman recalls: “Today I passed the burned car on Skyway just up from Wagstaff. I couldn’t help but think about whomever had to climb out of that passenger door and leave it open as they fled the flames. I cried the rest of the way home.”

A trio of people, who’d been homeless in Paradise, wondering if they have a claim. “I didn’t really lose anything,” says one. “Just my backpack with my clothes. And my dog.” I mention this to my fire compañera—old Paradise, family here 150 years—and her response is instantaneous: “Of course they have a claim. They lost the community. That’s what we all lost.”

So maybe who touches it best is a guy who’s never been here. Except in heart, in soul. SF radio talk-show host. People calling in to carp about the power shut-offs. But he’s of another way. “I get it,” he says. “But it’s a small price to pay. Because we’re a community. We’re all paper dolls, standing in an oven, spraying water on each other.”

Yes. It’s going to take something, from everybody, so that nobody has to be here. Again.

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