A year had almost gone by and Toney was doing quite well. During the past few months, he was able to acquire sufficient money working at Mr. Chin, so that he was able to make renovations to the house.
Jason was now approaching eighteen; doing so in a couple weeks. He still missed his old home back on Dow Island, but at least his complaining got less and less in the ear of his parents.
Merry too had settled in nicely in the village. From time to time she stitched draperies and sold. The village women really grew to love her designs. With almost any type of material Merry got her hands on, she was able to make artistic miracles happen.
Village life was quiet. A bit quieter than what the family were used to on Dow Island, but, all in all, the few month were excellent.
About 8:00 pm on Sunday, Mr. Chin and his two daughters had already gone to bed for the night.
Toney and Merry had also turned in. Toney lay in his usual position on the bed. His back rested slightly against the wall. Merry’s head in his arms. Her ear listened to each thump of his heart. Like the swings of a pendulum, the sound sent her sailing to the world of sleep.
Jason had asked to stay out a bit later and trusting him, Toney agreed.
The breeze gently ruffled the trees outside.
As Toney lay in bed, he imagined the life he wanted for his family. A life filled with peace and unity, a life with ease, a life which will have been difficult, had he stayed on Dow Island. He knew his upbringing was not the ideal but at present, he had done all he could to bring a measure of happiness to his family and so far, he was managing to do this.
As he too began fading into sleep, he heard the howls of his dogs. His eyes widened. He knew the call of his dogs signals and knew how to listen between their calls. They did not let up.
Toney knocked his fingers gently on the window sill above his head. He was hopping not to wake his wife, who by now was fast asleep. Yet, with the howling outside, Merry did not even budge.
In the distance he heard a faint crackle, and then a slightly louder one. He found it strange, as beaming on the window ledge appeared a bright light. It was a brilliant glow, one that he could not ignore. For a moment, he thought to himself that he had left the lamp on in the kitchen, but the light was not coming from inside the house.
“Merry, Merry wake up, I smell smoke!”
“What’s that Toney, why do you need soap?” Merry groaned as she wrestled to open her scarlet shot eyes.
Toney rolled her off his arms and pulled himself to a seating position.
“Light,” he said.
“I am tired love, come back to bed,” she protested.
As she said those words, Toney brushed aside the cotton curtains and pushed his head out of the window opening. By then, he knelt on the bed next to Merry’s head. His eyes, squinting, narrowing his vision; feverishly he tried to get a fix on the location of the disturbance.
The cool air that was evident during the early evening, was converted into a great furnace of gray smoke, churning among the trees. The skies were a red and orange blanket.
The teak trees along the footpath leading to the main road, became ghostly figures, creatures seeking shelter, bending in one direction but not able to take cover.
“Fire, fire Merry, something is not right out in the trees!” Toney shouted.
“What? Where is Jason, Toney?” Merry, fully coming to her senses.
“I’m not sure Merry, I am sure he is alright though,” Toney jumped over her and grabbed his jeans from the corner of the room where it hung on a nail driven in the wall.
She threw a shirt at Toney as he ran out of the bedroom towards the kitchen. As he moved passed Jason’s bedroom, he looked in but his son was absent. Merry ran after him but stopped short at the kitchen table, her heart racing. Her fingers and toes, cold. Toney forced opened the front door, breaking the handle in his haste. In the confusion, he did not realize his shoes lay tucked neatly beside the kitchen sink; jumped down the flight of steps and into the night.
Hurriedly, he moved through the track leading from his house, to the main road. The air, chocking. His toes, like claws propelling himself through the air, they seem to barely touch the earth. His arms flapped clumsily as he tried to gain his balance. He stumbled out of the track and onto the stone road. He then stopped in horror.
On the western side, just before the street took a sharp turn, he saw the terrifying flames. He thought to himself, something must have ignited in Peter’s bar, and the presents of alcohol, fuel for the flames.
He made his way down the street, racing once more.
A sole man, running as fast as his legs could carry him.
But nearing the flames, he beheld he is not alone. About fifty or sixty meters away, the street, filled with residence, buckets in hand. But as they threw water on the raging beast, this only served to infuriate the creature further. The damage was already done, the structure, gutted.
Toney moved closer to assist, however, as he came about forty feet of the commotion, he made a grimmer discovery. For it was not Peter’s bar being consumed, but Mr. Chin’s grocery, the place of his employment.
Toney ran to the side of the structure. A chain of residence about ninety or maybe one hundred strong, snaked their way to the river; which passed a little less than quarter mile off the main road.
Mr. Chin’s house was almost attached to the grocery, with just about five feet separating the two. Toney joined the line and started passing buckets of water.
After about five minutes into his arrival though, efforts turned from, trying to save the grocery, which by now was lost, to saving the closest structure. As the beast of fury showed signs of ending on the skeleton of the grocery store, the famished dragon turned its head to the house of Mr. Chin.
Thick smoke engulfed the house, attempting to blind all who will venture to predict which section of the house to guard.
A faint cough could be heard, emanating from within the belly of the dwelling, it is Mr. Chin, but he is all alone. His two daughters Clara and Ping are missing. As he struggled to burst through the front door of the house, he heard a voice shout at him.
“Move away from the door, Chin!” Sharp and commanding the voice.
No sooner had Mr. Chin dropped to the floor, a loud smashing sound came. It was Jameson, chopping into the cedar door relentlessly. It was as if he had rehearsed these movements over and over in his mind, waiting for this night to test the agility of the ax.
Copyright © 2017 David Alexian
All rights reserved.