It was hot in Los Altos that weekend, the last blast of summer before fall.
We watched the fire on TV, Tom and I,
Tom on the white futon, me on the brown couch.
On the 6 o'clock news, on the 10 o'clock news, on the 11 o'clock news,
on the special bulletins in between. The same video clips over and over:
flames licking at a white car's rear tires;
a woman holding a gray cat in her arms, crying;
an aerial view of fiery patches outlining the contours of black hills.

Sunday we drove up into the Santa Cruz mountains, Tom at the wheel, me with my bare feet on the dash, trailing my hand out the window, catching the cooler air with my fingers. A distant whiff of smoke, like a small trash fire a way down the road, was the only reminder that something was wrong.

"I tell you what," he said. "It's those fuckin' eucalyptus trees.
They're what makes the fire so hot. So hard to put out.
I hate those fuckin' eucalyptus trees."

We ate burritos on the back patio of a cafe in Boulder Creek.
Tinny mariachi music drifted out the screen door.
Tom drank one beer, then another. The last cool, green place left on earth,
this cafe in Boulder Creek. I sat with my legs straight out along the bench,
looking into the sun. The TV had burned fire images onto my retinas.


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