right here, write now
2011 Writer’s Competition Fiction Winner
2011 First Place Fiction Winner
by Gavin & Nathan Seim, Ephrata
Sixth Floor, 2AM.
He was seventy-five and she was seventy-two. They had fallen asleep last night in the king-sized bed of their sixth floor condominium.
He woke to the smell of smoke. She to the sharp intake of his breath as he came awake.
“Something’s burning,” he said, still groggy. He rose, pulled on his robe and went into the living room. She saw him walk to the door, touch the knob and recoil. Rising from the bed she pulled on her own robe and followed him out, then went to the window and looked outside.
He walked back to the nightstand and took the towel from it. Returning to the living room, he wrapped it over the knob and cracked the door to peek out. Flames and a billow of smoke clawed into the oxygen-filled room and he snapped the door shut. Belatedly, their smoke alarm began wailing.
Through the smoke outside she saw the dark sky alight and flames spewing from the floors below. She could feel the heat through their closed window and she stepped back.
He walked to her side. She turned to look at him, hazel eyes questioning.
“We can’t get out that way. Hall’s on fire.” She could hear the hint of fear in his voice.
“I’ll check the phone” she said, walking to the kitchen and lifting the receiver. She looked at him and shook her head.
He groaned, then took a chair from the kitchen table. “Why didn’t the building alarms go off?” He wondered aloud, as he pulled the wailing alarm from its place on the ceiling. It fell silent as he removed the battery. Stepping down, he placed it on the table.
Walking over to her, he took her hands firm in his own. “There’s nothing we can do but wait and pray.” They wrapped their arms around each other and swayed gently back and forth as the song of sirens, fire and machines raged outside.
“They’ll probably come in time.” He whispered in her ear.
She laughed softly. “You don’t sound very convinced.”
“I can’t lie after all these years. You’d know. It could be our time.”
She ran her hand slowly down his back. “I’m not sure I care.”
He laughed gently. “I’m not either.”
She wondered how their children would cope if help came to late. She nearly said something to him, but stopped. Their children were all grown, with children of their own. She smiled to herself. The time was long past when they were lost without their mother.
“I love you.” He whispered in her ear.
“I know. I love you, too.”
He went and took their iPod off the nightstand in the bedroom. He set it to repeat and docked it into the speaker on the end table. She felt a thrill go through her as an old-time rock and roll tune began to thump from the speakers. She knew the song before the voice of Elvis rang out. “Lord Almighty, I feel my temperature rising…”
More than thirty years ago, on their anniversary, she remembered the first time they had danced to this song. They had been so young.
They tossed their robes into the corner. He extended his hand and she took it. He warmed up with the basic step, then spun her quickly under one arm, let go and caught her other hand.
She had never been able to get interested in what they called “Old Fogey Dancing.” They were old, but they didn’t have to move like it. As they finished the movement, he pulled her close and she looked into his eyes. Smoke had begun to seep into the room as the flames raged outside their front door, but the heat was building from more than just the fire outside.
He began the next move and when she realized what he was doing she cocked an eyebrow at him. He nodded confidently and both his hands dropped to the level of her hips. She locked her hands behind his neck, then leapt towards him and he took her weight, swinging her past his right hip, then back and across his left. On the third swing she parted her legs as to wrap around his waist. Using the momentum from their movement, she pushed back as he lifted her upwards until she was vertical, head down, above him. He held her there for an instant, then brought her down, still in time with the music, and spun her under one arm.
The flames that had seared away their door had begun licking up the walls as smoke poured into the house. She wrapped her arms around him as Elvis sang “And your kisses lift me higher, like the sweet song of a choir…” they kissed, both feeling as in love as they had on that day. They were not so old after all.
As the sun started to rise, a group of firemen sat around the station kitchen, talking about the couple they had found in unconscious embrace on their living room floor. They had managed to quell the flames enough for two of them to reach the balcony and break into the living room.
“By rights, They should be dead.” Said one of the men. “That room had been full of smoke for way too long, but they were both awake when we put them in the ambulance.”
“That doesn’t make sense.” said one of the others.
“Tell me about it.” said the first. “And just before the ambulance left, Gill asked the lady how they breathed in there.”
“What did she say?” Asked another.
“She smiled at him and said —— she wasn’t sure they had.”