Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Fire and Fury, Abby Cohen


Janet watched the fire across the street not with dismay, but with shock and fear. This couldn’t possibly be happening in her neighborhood.  Not her hip up-to date suburb with its mix of people of every color, sexual preference, and political stripe. Somehow, miraculously while everywhere else in the state, the country, the whole planet seemed engaged in screaming at each other, their little microcosm had agreed to get along, cooperate, help each other out now and again. 

Everyone she knew outside her area scratched their heads and said it couldn’t last. This present day horror show would invade her utopian Never Neverland, and she would be wise to mentally prepare for it. She had laughed and shaken her head. They were all wrong. This community of good will could be maintained and even exported to those around them. All they had to do was keep at it.
Not that it was perfect. People’s marriages broke up, kids got into trouble, somebody got fired and went broke before getting a new job. It was a great place, but not actually Shangri-La. Even then, for the most part, folks would lend a hand and help each other through bad times.

And now, some stupid boys who might or might not learn the error of their ways down the road, had lit a match. It had been coming for a while. Some rabble-rousing demagogue wannabe on the edge of the city had surrounded himself with a bunch of malleable young men and taught them hate and skull shaving; a free tattoo to the boy who could answer a quiz on mein kampf and the protocols of zion. Or however he worked. 

They had bought mailing lists of the towns around them and begun to target the people they found suitable to hate. Graduating from exploding mailboxes and bags of burning excrement to stones with horrible messages thrown through windows. And now this. They may have simply meant to burn a cross on the lawn of her neighbors. But this symbol of a man who may or may not have ever lived, who had probably simply been a fighter for equal rights for his people before being executed turned into this misbegotten emblem of hatred and bigotry had touched off a fire in the bushes in front of the house and then the house itself. 

The firemen had come quickly and were fighting hard but the house was done from what she could see. They had gotten it under control now, and it looked like the houses on either side were out of danger. She was sure the family had insurance. Professionals like her and her husband, with two foster kids and a nephew adopted after the parents had died, this blended family with as many colors as Joseph’s coat had been the one that always made the papers when someone wanted to write a story about her wonderful little world. The Washington-Garcia family might as well have put a sign on their backs saying, "attack here." 

What was she thinking? She never had cynical thoughts like that. And now she did. Her world had changed. She watched as all the neighbors stood outside, watching the fire, and each other, and wondered what would happen now. Reality had invaded her paradise of lovingkindness. Would the neighbors continue to care for one another in the same way? Would everyone bond together even more closely?

Perhaps not. Some people might say, I told you so. I told you all the (fill in the blank here) people    were all alike. They hate us. We have to hate them back. You can’t trust any of them. She was filled with fury at the mere possiblilty. She took a deep breath. And said NO. Not here. We can rebuild this house, this life, this world. It doesn’t end like this. I won’t let it. Janet crossed the street and set her hands on the shoulder of each of the younger children and said to their parents, 
"You’ll stay with us tonight and as long as you need to."

Around her began the murmurs as everyone else chimed in with offers to help. Frank Bingham whose ancestors came over before the Mayflower, held Mrs. Feinbaum who was trembling like the proverbial leaf. They began to plan what would happen next. The man who said the center cannot hold was wrong. It wasn’t over. It was only the beginning.

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