So, How About That Napa Earthquake, Bay Area?

Hey, folks. Sorry if I’ve gone a little silent the last couple of days. It’s just that there was some stuff going down behind the scenes…like being right next to the epicenter of the biggest Bay Area earthquake in 25 years. Not going into any specifics on the location, but I’m roughly fifteen minutes out of ground zero. So when things started shaking, it felt like someone was ramming a big rig into the house. As I was asleep, I didn’t have time to run for a door frame; all I could do was duck and cover under the blankets and protect my head with some pillows. Not very fun. Lots of shelves fell, as well as about a fifty books in my immediate library. For all you bookworms out there, a book avalanche isn’t as fun as it sounds. One light fixture – a glass antique that’s been in use for at least 70 years – collapsed and shattered. Only a few things on the wall fell, though at least one closet is going to have to be completely rearranged. We were temporarily barricaded out of our back pantry because so much stuff had fallen inside. Then there’s the upstairs office/storage room:

Earthquake Office Cleanup

And no, it doesn’t normally look like that.

However, that’s the worst of it. There’s only some slight buckling on our back deck. For a while, I was afraid the house would collapse; this place is a century old, after all. We were very, very fortunate to have our electricity and water still running, as well as no signs of any leakage. I made sure to keep the lights on and the place open in case the neighbors needed help, but thankfully only half the block lost power and no one was badly injured. At least one neighbor will have to get his chimney rebuilt, though. A couple of the buildings around here aren’t safe, and there have been several flybys from the news helicopters. It’s okay, things could’ve gone much worse. We’ve just got to get things cleaned up and back to normal.

How about you? Have you been affected by the earthquake?

Walking Home In The Dark: Part 2

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/weekly-writing-challenge-cliffhanger/

So there I am, standing at the bottom of the hill in the dark. I can’t be more than 200 feet away from the cars, but the drivers haven’t noticed me yet. Good. That’s very good. The cruddy streetlamp is a mixed blessing; as long as I stay out of its dull glow, I should be able to stay hidden. But I can’t stay out here forever. It’s too cold. There’s no way to get in besides the front, either. I have to head into the light…What about a distraction? Maybe I can call the house and have someone turn on the porch lights. The dealers might take it as a sign that someone’s coming out and leave. It’s worth a shot, right? I quietly take out my phone and begin dialing…

Only to discover that the battery is dead. Damn it.

Okay, so much for Plan B. I don’t have any weapons aside from my fists, feet, and teeth. Confrontation is out. What could possibly go wrong if I just walk up there? It’s a small-time neighborhood drug deal, so it’s not like they’re going to shoot me right out front. It’d be too loud and messy. They’d have to dispose the body, the bullet casings…unless they simply abduct me at gunpoint, take me to a warehouse somewhere and do things more methodically. Or maybe they just don’t care and have no qualms about leaving a body count. I’m not afraid of death – I’ve faced it enough before – but there are worse things. What about living through torture and mutilation? The human body is capable of surviving phenomenal punishment…

I’m over-thinking this.

Fine, then. Let’s just keep this nice and simple. I start walking up the hill at a steady pace. I face forward, but keep the dealers in my sight. Fifty feet. Thirty. Ten. I’m crossing in front of the driveway, and I spare a glance at the truck. A crusty blue Dodge, a few dents in the fender. Can’t make out the plate. The stench of cigarette smoke. As I pass the passenger side door, both men stop talking and look directly at me. I don’t even skip a beat; I turn my back to them and wearily trudge up the steps to house’s front walk. I’m moving on autopliot. I’ve done this hundreds of times, after all. I live here, unlike these people. I get inside the house and slam the door shut, then promptly turn on every light I can reach. A few seconds later, the truck rumbles to life and vanishes into the darkness.

And then I start breathing again.

A Fire In Five Minutes

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about being bold. As in, stepping in and helping someone in danger. I have a few experiences like that, but the one that sticks out the most (and is the least graphic) is when I fought a fire in my neighborhood. It was a few years winters ago, but I can recall it clearly. I was playing Street Fighter III when my uncle came barreling through the room.

“THERE’S A FIRE NEXT DOOR!”

As he ran for the phone to call the fire department, I dropped the controller and made a beeline for my shoes. I needed to get out there, and fast. I couldn’t see the fire directly from where I was standing, but I could already smell the smoke. It was close. There wasn’t time to look. Okay, I thought. it’s the weekend. Someone has to be home! I bolted for the nearest house and desperately rang the doorbell. I pounded on the door, yelling for help. A few heart-pounds later, an older man answered the door.

“What’s wrong?!”

“The house is on fire! Over there! Help!

My neighbor grabbed his extinguisher and sprinted across the street. I didn’t join him just yet; I knew we would need more people. So I went around to more houses, banging on doors, begging for help. Luckily, a few neighbors were actually home. We all met in front of the fire – it was still limited to a single room facing a back alley – and let the extinguishers loose. I’m not sure how effective it was – none of us had any fire fighting training – but it was certainly better than just standing there and watching the place burn down. Given the proximity of other buildings and trees, the fire would’ve spread across the neighborhood within minutes. I noticed a side door was open, so I ducked inside to make sure there wasn’t anyone trapped. There was nothing but searing heat and smoke. When I heard the sirens, I ran back out onto the corner and waved the fire trucks in the direction of the blaze. I returned to the front lines and kept my extinguisher going until the water started flying.

As the professionals shunted me aside, I focused more on keeping people organized. As a precaution, my power and gas were turned off. I guided the workers to the breakers, answered their questions, and paid close attention to everything they told me. The temperature was just below freezing, so the house was going to get cold really fast. I didn’t want my family shivering and huddling in blankets as night fell. So I kind of hounded the workers and made sure that everything was getting done as quickly and accurately as possible. I’m sure they thought I was annoying. Just as we were lighting candles – very carefully – the lights came back on. Everyone was too shaky to cook anything, so we all opened a can of beans fell back on the microwave. The stench of smoke and burnt wood choked the neighborhood air for days, but that was fine. The house and people next door were safe, and so were we.

The time between me putting down the controller and the fire department arriving was less than five minutes. But in that tiny stretch of time, I moved and thought faster than I’d ever done before. I didn’t even realize until an hour later that I had been standing in subfreezing temperatures in only shorts and a t-shirt. I had been too focused to even notice. Adrenaline can do funny things to you. I don’t know how much I helped, but I did everything I could. And considering that the house is still standing, I guess it was enough.