“Blazing Tumbleweed” By: Diane Valentine

Glancing out the kitchen window, you see a ball of fire rolling through the yard. There were wild fire warnings out for several days. Your worst fear has come true. Sticking your cell phone in your pocket, you grab your keys and scoop up the kitten, Boots. There is no time to waste. You put Boots in the crate and on the front seat of the packed truck.

As you back out the driveway, you blast the horn, an SOS, hoping to alert your neighbors. Driving as fast as you can, you grip the steering wheel hard. Winding down the mountain road, you think of nothing except making it to safety. You come around the bend and there is a wall of smoke. You can hardly breathe and your eyes water with tears running down your cheeks. Is there a vehicle ahead? Where are the flames? You drive blind except for an occasional white line in the center of the road.

Finally, the road flattens and you see a firefighter with a flashlight. You slow down and stop. He asks your name and address.

“I saw a fireball in the back yard. I blasted my horn when I left, but I don’t know if anyone heard me,” you tell him. You cough, trying to clear your lungs.

“I’ll radio the men in that area. Just follow the road. The fire’s been contained for the next ten miles. There’s a Red Cross station there.” He motions you on as he brings a radio to his mouth.

Your adrenalin starts wearing off, but you still have miles to go. No time to break down, that happens later. The kitten complains loudly.

“Take it easy, sweetie. We’ll be there soon,” you croon as much to Boots, and yourself. At the Red Cross station you get out for some water. You give Boots some water too. You need to call your husband. You find some place private and punch in his number. You need to hold onto your emotions, you still have to get back in the truck and drive to the meeting place.

When he answers, you say, “I’m safe at the Red Cross station. There was a tumbleweed on fire in the yard. Boots and I are safe.”

There’s a catch in his voice. “I’ll meet you at the motel. I’ll call and make sure we can get a room. Drive carefully, I love you.”

“I will and I love you too.” You push your emotions down. Not now, you tell yourself.

As you go back to the truck your neighbor’s car pulls up. She gets out before her husband stops the car.

She flings her arms around you. “Thanks for blasting your horn. While we were leaving I called the rest of the neighbors. Most were gone, but Mr. Johnson said he wouldn’t leave. Told me I was getting upset over nothing.” Her tears dampen your shoulder.

You talk for a few minutes. “I have to go. I’m meeting my husband at our designated spot.”

You drive to meet your husband, and listen to a CD to keep your mind off what has happened. Boots is curled up in her crate.

As you pull into the parking lot you see your husband pacing. You park in the nearest space. He comes running and opens the door, you barely get the seat belt off before he pulls you out of the truck.

Your legs give and you collapse into him. Sobbing, you say, “Thank God for sending the blazing tumbleweed.”

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