She stands up in the garden where she’s been working and looks into the distance. Beyond the hills a giant cloud reached high into the atmosphere.
Thunder clouds appear almost every afternoon in summer, but this mass of cloud looked different somehow. A tinge of pink and a bit of dark brown colored the edges. The frantic tone in Toby’s voice broke her concentration.
“Eve! Evie!” Toby’s face was flushed and his eyes were wide with obvious panic.
“That was Ken. On the phone. He says a wildfire has started in the Jefferson and looks like it’s coming this way.” Toby paused as he took in the cloud Eve had been staring at.
“So, that’s smoke?” Eve asked, somewhat surprised.
“Yes,” Toby says. He took in a deep breath and then looked all around the horizon, his eyes darting this way and that.
“It’s so white. You sure? How close is it?” Eve demanded.
Toby shook his head. “Could be this side of the park, could be over to Branchesburg. Who knows. Can’t tell from here.”
“Ken didn’t say?” she asked. Toby shook his head.
“Looks more like a thunderhead. Like those head-for-the-basement type clouds I remember from home. Not seen one like that before around here. You sure?”
“That’s smoke, Evie… Jesus, that’s a lot of smoke.”
They continued to stand in the garden staring at the cloud, both lost in dreadful thoughts of the last time a wildfire broke out.
That fire was not close to them, but the devastating effects were felt by everyone in the county. Their church asked members to put up firefighters coming in from all over the state. Eve and Toby agreed, but then got a call from a guy at Toby’s work looking for a place where his sister’s family, the first victims of that fire, could bunk for a few days as the Red Cross shelter was already full. That experience, with strangers in the house, was awkward and chaotic, but it’s what you do in times like these. Staring at the growing cloud, Eve wondered if Toby’s co-worker will return the favor this time, should the need arise.
“Come on,” Toby said quietly. “Let’s get inside and see what’s up. Makes some calls.”
“You go ahead,” Eve replied. “I’ll stay here. I want to keep an eye out.”