Finally we turn up De Luz to make the winding 5-mile drive to
our place. There is not a single fire truck to be seen, but
just beyond the apartment buildings that mark the end of town,
the hills fade into a blue slate haze. We're following a red
pickup truck. "What do you want to do?" Soc asks, bringing me
into his decision. I picture our dogs faces at the bedroom window,
and know Soc is doing the same. "Get home," I say, "Hurry."
We make the first turn. My mind flashes on the signs on the
Oklahoma turnpike, "Do Not Drive Into Smoke" they warn. We used
to joke "Do not drive into tractor-trailers" "Do not drive into
cows". The red truck has slowed to a crawl. Slowly, we drive
into smoke. The red truck stops. "Don't Stop!" Soc says to the
windshield. He is grim and very calm. The wind moves the smoke
and we see why the red truck is hesitating. The trees on the
right of the road have turned into candles. Fire is burning
clumps of grass on the slope. The house there, that raises miniature
horses, is on fire. "Go around!" I hear my own voice. In the
side mirror I see the red pickup truck trying to make a U turn.
Fire is everywhere - above us in the trees, on the slope, coming
up the valley. "Hurry hurry hurry, make it to the creek" I say.
"I'm doing the best I can," Soc says gently. His focus is amazing.
I realize that if anyone can get us through this, he can.
The car window is too hot to touch. I suddenly remember that
I lost the gas cap to the truck last week. This is not the time
to tell Soc. "What are you saying?" he asks. our-father-who-art-in-heaven-hallowed-be-thy-name...
I realize I am praying out loud. And suddenly we're out of it.
The sky is impossibly blue. The sycamores in Sandia Creek are
bending in the wind. Three or four cars are parked and a small
crowd of people is looking at the fire. Later that night Soc
& I will go back up to town and the sycamores will be charcoal
stumps - glowing like an apocalyptic Disneyland ride.