C.W.Holeman III

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"You're in America now," I said. "Our idea of diplomacy is showing up with a gun in one hand and a sandwich in the other and asking which you'd prefer."

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An Hour Without Power

An Hour Without Power
By C.W.Holeman III
Copyright July 18, 2009

You wouldn't think much could go wrong in an hour without electricity. But you'd be wrong.

The air conditioning was the first thing to go.

It was the middle of July, just after sunset and hot as oven. I groaned and rolled out of bed. After I'd tried the circuit breakers a few times, I finally realized through my gritty-eyed haze that none of the neighbors lights were on.

I smacked my forehead and stumbled around looking for my cell. The battery was dead. Of course. I suppressed a curse and shambled over to Raul's apartment. He came to the door after I'd banged on it for a while.

"What'd ya want?" he asked me in his thick Mexican accent.

"Your power out?"

"Yeah. So? What'd you think I am, an electrician? I got to get back to my game, amigo. That radio won't crank it's self."

As I left I could hear the crackle of a radio in the background. Someone just got a home run. "Lucky," I thought.

I went back home and collapsed on the couch. It wasn't long before I realized just how stuffy it was in there. "What a pain in the neck." I dragged myself back out of bed and opened both of my windows.

I was almost back to a sweaty sleep when the mosquitoes started buzzing around my head. "*&#^$!" This time I let loose.

I spent enough time outdoors to keep a can of Bug-Off around. Problem was, now it was totally dark. It took me a good five minutes to dig through my dirty dishes and find my matches (I was pretty sure the batteries in my flashlight were dead, so I didn't even bother looking for it). Several burnt fingers later and still without my Bug-Off, I decided I needed a candle.

I knew that Jasmine on the floor above mine was some sort of religious nut job. She was all into that new age garbage. But I remembered a conversation we'd had a few weeks back. It turns out that you need crystals and candles to 'become one with the universe' or whatever it was she was trying to do.

Crystals I had no use for, but right now I could sure do with a few candles.

I went upstairs smacking the little buzzards off of me the whole way. I was going to get eaten alive at this rate.

Jasmine ansered her door in a real haze. "Hello, Earthling."

"Yeah, hey. Do you have any extra candles I could borrow?"

"Candles, what lovely things. Do come in." It was at this point that I realized that she was high on something. Great.

Her whole place was shut up tighter than a two year old's mouth when it's threatened with mashed peas. And the atmosphere was was thick enough to cut with a knife. She shut the door behind me and went wandering off to a room in the back. I really hoped that the haze moving around the room was incense. The last thing I needed was to join her on a trip to lala land.

She came back out a bit later holding the strangest looking candle I have ever seen in my life. It looked like a bunch of old black tree roots twisted around each other with flecks of rubies and emeralds embedded all over.

"Now, I will allow you to borrow this candle, but you must swear to be very very careful with her. She doesn't like strangers at all, so you must be very nice to her. OK?"

"Uhh, OK." I'd known that Jasmine was a bit off ever since I met her, but I didn't realize until just then that she was certifiable, nut then, maybe it was just her trip.

"You must swear!"

I really didn't want to spend the next few hours being eaten alive by mosquitoes. "Fine. I swear not to hurt the candle. Well, except for, you know, burning it."

"And to be nice to her?" Jasmine demanded.

"Yeah. That too."

Jasmine had to give the thing a hug and say goodbye to it before she'd let me go.

But eventually I got back to my place. Of course by now I had to root around to find the matches again, so I tossed Annabell (I think that's what Jasmine called it) in the sink, got a match and lit it up.

It had some sort of double wick and lit up my whole place really nicely.

I tossed stuff around until I found my Bug-Off, sprayed the whole front room (ignoring the "For Personal Application Only" label) and lay back down.

I fell asleep to the symphony of the overpass a block away.

* * * * * * * * *

When I woke up I noticed three things in rapid succession. First, it was awfully bright, so it must be morning, therefore I had to get up. Second, it was awfully hot, so it must already be afternoon, therefore I was already late for work. And third, there were flames all around me, so I must be on fire, therefore I'd better panic.

Let me tell you, numbers one and two are like a walk in the park compared to number three.

At this point I was wide awake. I scrambled out of bed, saw that the whole kitchen was ablaze along with the rest of the place, so there was no way I was going to get to the sink or the bathroom. I ran outside slapping the bits of flame off my shirt and pants. I banged on Raul's door screaming "Fire!" all the while.

By the time the fire department arrived, the whole building was engulfed in flames.

Luckily no one was hurt, and the tenants all stood outside watching their homes (shabby as they might be) burn to the ground. I gave my story to the police when they asked me for it. I was in the middle of telling it when I saw Jasmine wondering through the crowd. When she saw me, she gave me a funny look.

A look that seemed to ask, "Were you rude to Annabell?"