I picked up when the phone rang. I don’t usually. I let it go to message. But this time I had a premonition. “I think it’s important,” I yelled. My husband continued to bang on something in the garage.
“Tyler, we have to evacuate. The police have given us five minutes.”
Tyler stomped in, “We’re not going anywhere.”
“But the police—”
“Where would we go, Tessa? The only road down is blocked. Bumper to bumper. Even the fire break is clogged. You wanna sit in the car all night?”
“Better than burning to death like…” I started to shake.
Tyler put his arms around me, “Okay, start packing the car. I’ll keep the fire watch.”
I could see smoke billowing on the far side of the hills. It hadn’t reached us yet, but it was moving fast. We weren’t prepared. We had no plan. What to put in first? I stood there beside the big suitcase I’d dragged in from the garage. It was dirty. We hadn’t traveled anywhere in quite a while. I wiped it down with a tissue as tears blurred my vision. We could burn to death like my parents who never left their home. They wouldn’t. Just like Tyler. They’d lived there so long they’d rather die than leave. And they did.
Tyler came up behind me. “You haven’t started.”
“No, I…I just can’t seem to…to…
“Get hold of yourself, Tessa. If that fire leaps over the hills, we’ll be stuck.”
Suddenly, flames streaked the sky. A heavy layer of smoke obscured the hillsides, the canyons, the houses that once were there. An acrid odor seeped through locked windows and doors choking us, burning our eyes. There was a knock on the door. I knew who it was. It was too late to pack.
Elaine Barnard's collection of stories, "The Emperor of Nuts: Intersections Across Cultures was published by New Meridian Arts and noted as a unique book on the Snowflakes in a Blizzard website. She won first place in Strands international flash fiction competition and was featured on their webinar. Her work has been included in numerous literary journals. She has been nominated for the Pushcart prize and Best Small Fiction. She was a finalist for Best of the Net. Elaine received her MFA from the University of California and her BA from the University of Washington.