by Louise Yeiser
California fires continue to rage, the headlines howled, while the rest of us continue to age. We press against the walls and watch from the last row, unable to embrace this game of hot potato, of our lives burning away, any more than we can snag the wind that swishes by the trees outside, gliding across our backyards littered with leaves that flamed to fall. Smoke and ash stuck their tongues through Peter's windows, aimed for the soul of his mountain perch that craned its neck over the ocean, and left their pieces of wet polyurethane gravel glued to its walls and ceilings, paint and poison, a finish of melted charcoal filled with sharp eggshells that pulls life into itself and, wrapping it in suffocation, feeds off it. Sawdust syrup soiled the air in Peter's den, in his bedroom, in his living room, squeezing his breath to a pale sliver before slicing it with lava flake deposits that drifted into his pool like hot fudge grit with no whipped cream, no red cherry, and no sparsely sprinkled, crunchy nuts. He dove in and swam to a safe shore with solid earth and palm-tree piers, and stood, dripping exhausted and hopeful, limp-wrapped in a spongy, moss blanket that someone threw over his shoulders, and held a steaming cup of hot coffee or maybe a swirling glass of velvet brandy that would burn his mouth before spreading cool sighs down his throat. Soothed dry, sweeping his opera glasses back and forth across the bitter-cloud stage, he would stand for ages, wanting to know when he would be able to return.
Louise Yeiser, whose full catalog is here, is a creative non-fiction student at the University of Pittsburgh. Her friend Peter has returned home in time for the holidays.