August 19, 2008

Sirens in the Night

At one of my homes it is so quiet the sounds of a distant train will travel slowly down a hill, wander across the water, drift up my lawn and sidle through my bedroom window.  Mournful.  Pleasant.  Sometimes with a soft wail under a light northern wind.  Forgotten.

Here, as I work late into the southern california night, crafting my words, absorbing the yellow light from a distant streetlamp and just now sensing the cool drift of the desert’s evening air through the open window, the on again, off again sound of the traffic below me is suddenly pierced with the scream of the sirens.  Police perhaps?  No, fire engine and then the ambulance.  Red light floundering violently off the bottom of the branches and stucco overhang.  Light and sound fading slowly.  Painfully.

In Vegas, my apartment was in a poor neighborhood.  Off the street, way at the back.  Hot and heavy the summer air.  Cold and sweet the winter wind.  Window never closed.  No matter.  The sirens there were almost always police.  Fire trucks and ambulances more cautious in their approach.  The unmistakable crack crack sound of pistol fire.  The eerie sound of the wailing voice.  The harsh reality of the fierce angry one.  Once, sometimes twice a week.  For a year.  Not forgotten.  Sirens in the night.


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