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  Charles Lennox

The Night the Sirens Sounded

We huddled together in the dark and cold den with bed comforters draped over our shoulders and folded blankets resting in our laps. An unplugged radio without batteries sat silent on the coffee table. Our cell phones searched for a signal but found none. Mostly, we sat there, quiet like the house. The power out and the lights and TV off and water everywhere, collected in pots, plastic bottles, tall and short glasses, mother's favorite vase save the tall stem roses. Father muttered to himself with nails pressed between his lips as he boarded up the windows. There was only the one flashlight. Candles were lit everywhere, flames shuddering whenever one of us stood or spoke a word. We kept our hands pressed to our ears but still heard the sirens blaring in from that outer dark, with the lost voices screaming for a helping hand but finding none. When night invaded we moved to the kitchen and ate fruit out of cans. Then we played this game where we listed people we knew and the youngest of us prophesied their present condition. Dead, dead, burning alive. We slept on one another like dogs, and in the morning unlocked the front door and peered outside. The sun was brighter than we remembered, and the neighborhood street calm and clean and empty. A faint breeze touched our heads. Two crows walked the neighbor's lawn, stopped, cocked their tiny heads to the side, then walked on. The sky was cloudless and blue. The day so beautiful.




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