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The Hawk's Nest

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Where's the fire?

I sat down a couple days ago to write this column. I formatted the page, choose a font size I could read without glasses, something I never used to have to do, then sat back with my keyboard on my lap and got to work.

I tend to write in fits and starts so it wasn’t long and I had a fit that required a walk in the woods. Inspiration, you know.

While out, starting the barbecue for dinner seemed like a good idea; I could write later.

It was a Sunday so a walk with my wife while the barbi heated seemed to take precedence over working; I still had a couple days before this deadline.

After a good trek and feeling responsible, we headed back. When we got to the house we could hear sirens in the distance. It happens occasionally, since the highway is only about a mile and a half away.

After a bit we realized they didn’t seem to be going away. In fact, they seemed to be getting closer. I looked at the barbecue to see if all was well; no problem, so I tried to look through the woods at our road. Sure enough, in the much-filtered view through the trees, I saw flashing lights.

Nikki, our dog, started to bark as the first fire truck came into view. I turned around and looked at our house. It wasn’t on fire. The truck turned into our drive and another appeared on the road. I started running toward the red, flashing source of a very loud siren playing a duet with another… no wait, it’s a trio… and an ambulance. Needless to say, these trucks look like monsters on our little road and Nikki had never seen, or heard, anything like it.

Sometimes we call our mellow, mixed breed the Darvon Dog, but at that moment she was freaking out, hair on end, fangs showing and not responding to anything except those loud, luminescent lorries on our lawn.

When I reached the first one I asked the driver where he needed to be. He was headed to our neighbor, so I gave quick directions. "Turn around, go to the corner, take a right."

It seemed easy enough, all but the first part that is, turning around. Three big rigs and a box van with lights in a narrow drive all pointing the wrong direction wasn’t easy at all, much less easy enough.

Talking over the roar of motors, sirens and dogs barking (a dog from down the road had joined Nikki), I wondered if all the sound was necessary since the only vehicles in their way were their own. Finally, one by one, they shut off the warning noises but not the flashing lights, which were still upsetting our now hyper dog. It looked nearly impossible to break up a fire truck clusterf**k in the forest, but these guys and gals were quite determined; they were going to a fire, and with only minor red paint marks on the trees, were off in the right direction.

Nikki wanted congratulations for running them off.

We walked through the woods to the source of the commotion where our (naturally) distraught neighbor was being comforted by her son. The fire did minimal damage and they all are fine.

In defense of the emergency responders, our roads are not marked well and they didn’t know they were going the wrong way until they saw our street numbers. To avoid this in the future, our little community here is going to do some better road marking.

I would suggest anyone living off the county roads take a look and see if it would be easy and quick to find your place. Yeah, I know, "Duh," but we hadn’t, either.

So that was Sunday. When dinner was over it was easy to put off writing for another day. On Monday I started on this column again. Just as I sat down the light over my desk flickered as I watched the computer monitor go black along with the light bulb. The music and ceiling fan stopped and the place was silent and dim.

After dancing a bit because I had an excuse for not working I started feeling responsible again. "There must be some way to write without electricity," I thought. "People used to do it all the time." When I can, I write outside on the laptop so I pulled it out. The battery was dead. I thought I remembered, stored somewhere deep in a shed someplace, my old ‘60s area Royal manual typewriter. I went looking. Under one boot (who knows where the other one is), next to a broken ski, resting on an old lawn mower body was the machine that I typed on in high school.

Boy, they’re heavy, but I did get it onto a bench for a quick check. I had forgotten how hard you need to push on those unpowered keys to get them to work. Then I discovered the chipmunk nest inside. A swift eviction and some shaking and it looked ready to get back to work. Without the chipmunks the typing was easier but still, I wasn’t sure I had enough stamina to pound out a thousand words or so. But I started.

After about an hour of trying to adjust the font so it was big enough to read, I remembered I can’t do that. USING ALL CAPS WOULD REALLY MAKE TRISH MAD SO I DIDN’T DO THAT, EITHER. I started again.

All of a sudden I heard a loud bell. "Oh my God, don’t tell me the fire trucks are back again. Wait, that’s right. That means I need to push the carriage back." It didn’t move. A piece of something old and brittle was dislodged from a track and things seem to be ready to go. I started again.

By this time the cat, TC, was sitting on the dining room table next to the old contraption that once wrote about Homer, Hemingway and history. She was, no doubt, smelling the recently removed chipmunks and, while probing, found the key levers carrying the letters, snapping up and down, to the semi-usable ribbon. A quick grab and the typewriter hit her paw, which hooked the tape and she was off the table, tape still attached to a claw.

I said something (kind, I’m sure) to her as I gave up the project until there was power. I also started wondering how I would get a hard copy to Trish since I know everything about her except her mailing address. Okay, there are a few things I don’t know, and probably shouldn’t.

When the lights flickered to life and the fans started spinning I put the old Royal back in the shed with the boot, ski and other important stuff.

Now, what were all those starts about anyway? I don’t have a clue. But as long as there’s no fire, I’m going to make deadline anyway.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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