Fifteen Chapters in Four Days
Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ever since the fire broke out I've been breaking rules, even laws, daily. Speeding, talking on the cell phone in the car, sneaking through the evacuation lines to grab something left at the house... I do like adventure, so I'm not surprised that it has been quite easy for me to be so unlawful...

I may have crossed the line while driving to LA at 80 miles an hour. Knowing this stretch of road often hosts lurking highway patrolmen I concocted my story, Chapter by chapter. I don't remember much of the drive; I was completely exhausted, but I do remember my story. It's likely I have my priorities completely mixed up. What do you think--how did the story end?

Hello Highway Patrolman, sir. Yes, I realize I was speeding. Yes, I'm wearing an eye patch. No, I don't want to show you my driver's license. Not yet. Can I tell you a story, please? It's one you don't want to miss. Dramatic, exciting, full of daring deeds and sad and sappy moments. I'll make it short.

Chapter One
It was Tuesday and a fire broke out above our house in Santa Barbara.

Chapter Two
The fire was getting too close. On Wednesday I tried to pack but cleaned instead. It was ridiculous-the fire wouldn't care if my counters were wiped down. I even lined up the bikes and trikes and scooters outside.

Chapter Three
I admired the smoke and the fire flare ups. They really were beautiful in an odd and ominous sort of way. I took pictures. The phone rang off the hook.

Chapter Four
I finally finished stuffing things into bags and we had snow peas and chicken for dinner. We took some to the neighbors across the street. They still have our pan.

Chapter Five
The sheriff knocked on our door and told us to leave.

Chapter Six
We evacuated. I left the mink coat.

Chapter Seven
We went to Carla's. She has a lovely house with lots of breakable things. We have a three year-old.

Chapter Eight
Mona brought us date bars and Francesca made us spaghetti. We watched the news. We didn't sleep.

Chapter Nine
We were gypsies. Schools closed. I took the kids to the library, to swim at a friend's and out for smoothies. The foothills erupted in flames. We breathed a lot of smoke. I pretended, on behalf of the kids, that life was normal. They didn't buy it. Not even the three year-old.

Chapter Ten
A large chunk of ash landed in my eye Thursday night. I spent the night at the ER. It was my birthday.

Chapter Eleven
My cell phone died.

Chapter Twelve
I got the eye patch-that was cool. Do you like it?

Chapter Thirteen
Still my birthday, a never-ending birthday. I snuck back into our neighborhood, into our house, and got Madeleine's Ferrari bag.

Chapter Fourteen
We packed the car and evacuated again. In fact, we are evacuating right now. You are part of my evacuating, sir. I am speeding down the highway. I haven't slept since Tuesday. My eye is a mess. I smell like smoke. I want to get to my parent's. It is still my birthday. My cell phone is lying here lifeless. I have been working on this story in my head, that is the truth, but this story is the truth, and that is the truth, sir.

Chapter Fifteen
So, what do you say, Mr. Highway Patrolman? You look like a brave sort of fellow. The kind of fellow who saved my neighborhood last night. The kind of man who stood on the San Roque bridge in front of a raging fire and aimed his fire hose and knocked those flames into a smoky watery puff.

Can I start the car and be on my way?