Manolo, He Loves Fires

by Constance Chan

Manolo. They say he loves fires. Call him at the slightest sign of a blaze, and he’ll be there, squeaking and clumping around in his rubbery yellow suit. You could hear him singing “Seize the Day” as he wielded the thick python of a hose (“I see my vision BUUURRRN, I feel my MEM’ries fade with TIIIME”), the low, deep-sea tones swelling above the roar of smoke and cracking wood. You saw the glowing, living flames run their fingers over a house, Manolo’s huge, dark form, and his broad, black face shining with sweat. You heard the terrible growls and snaps of fire eating up the walls, piano, books, photo albums, clothes, childhood toys, sweetheart’s letters, family heirlooms— and in the midst of it all, Manolo’s fruity bass. (“SEIZE the DAYYY or DIE re-GRET-ing the TIME you LOST, it’s em-PTYY and cold, without you here”)

Manolo is a crazy man. We let him stay in the neighborhood just because we need a firefighter. Who wouldn’t think that he was crazy, singing like that at the gaping mouth of Hell?

Still, some people didn’t think he was completely crazy. Mr. Riviera said that Manolo lost his wife five years ago. Never spent time with her. Always out drinking. Manolo thought she was pretty and good, but never thought that he would see her pretty, good face staring dead into his headlights the night she was killed in a fire. (“So WHAT IF I NEVER HOOOOLD YOU, YE-AH-AH-AH, or KISS your lips a-GAIN, WO-AH-AH-AH”) Them darn old gas stoves. They go haywire and set things on fire, but this here neighborhood’s too poor to afford anything else.

I passed him as he was damping down a fire one day. (“Will YOU, take a journey to-NIGHHHT, follow me PAST the walls of DEAATH?”) His shining black face switched on, grinning, as he waved at me. “I got that fire fast,” he says. “I got that fire good.” He’s smiling, but it was the kind of paradox we call a sad smile— lemonade spiked with alcohol. I patted his yellow-shrouded arm. I wanted to say something— something to help the snarling, tangled mess of trauma, regret, and his poor, childlike penitence— but I couldn’t.

“You did a good job, Manolo,” I said, and left.

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Writers Bio

I'm a girl with a penchant for dragons, rock music, black hoodies, and Robert Frost.

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