Getting fired was a little bit like teaching a cat to play fetch: I tossed item after object across the room, and in return received disregard and then at best, confusion. Did I deserve it? No. Nobody deserves anything. The worst part of that day was that there was nothing on TV.

Huge drops of rain, rain much, much bigger than your average run-of-the-mill raindrop pulverized absolutely everything with nerves sprinting, hobbling, waddling, or strolling up or down the street; admittedly a somewhat miniscule street junctioning two much larger, more populated avenues, but it’s still my lane just the same. It’s provided a home for my home, being where my apartment building is. End result: the perfect vantage point, the living room’s uniquely circular window looming eleven floors above la roux.

Ringing. It usually indicates, depending on urgency, the arrival of something. The arrival can range from a guest at one’s front door to a phone call made to their person, but the desperately shrill noise attacking mine and every other tenant’s sensibilities was, in fact, a command to evacuate. If it did happen, I’d never be able to escape the irony of my building burning down in a downpour.

Cardboard boxes robbed of their appeal lay flat, soaking, and trampled in front of the door/entrance to my apartment. I empathized with their condition. I wondered how many, like myself, had been stared in the face by, and subsequently ignored, warnings to avoid using the elevators in case of fire posted outside of the advent bay on every floor. The building was so old. The elevators, too; I’m surprised we had them still. I certainly wasn’t going to walk to my death as long as I didn’t have to.

In a matter of ten or so—or a little more, or less—minutes, a freshly-dispatched fire truck shows up, sirens blaring. A team of fluorescent-clad, helmet-wearing, equipment-bearing firefighters dismount from the giant vehicle and gather in a huddle at its side. Tactical discussion, I’d imagine. The man who appeared to be their leader approaches ours, a temperamental landlord who grows portlier by the rent payment.

“What seems to be the problem here?”

“Well, the fire alarm’s going off; you tell me!”

“Right,” said the fireman, “ss soon as I can.”

He headed back over to his men for a quick briefing, and once that was over with, proceeded back toward the building.

“Do you need the passcode to get inside?” asked the landlord.

“Nope. As long as it hasn’t changed since I moved out.”

The landlord hadn’t recognized his ex-tenant in his work regalia, but before he could apologize, the firefighter had punched in the door code and strolled boldly into the apartment complex.

More minutes passed, and heavier still raindrops bombarded the stranded citizens before he emerged brandishing a smoke alarm, amputated from whichever wall it had called a residence.

“Who lives in 1101?” he loudly inquired.

“I do.” I replied perplexed, and ever shying away.

“Your fire alarm malfunctioned. Basil Fawlty over here’s gonna have to set you up with a new one,” he said, gesturing with his thumb toward the landlord.

Merci,” I answer reflexively, as I often do, not really sure of what else to say, but I was amused by the British TV quip.

He acknowledged I’d said something with his eyebrows, his jawline, and a tilt up from his neck, made his way back over to the landlord for a discussion, and then went back to his team. The throng of tenants graduating back toward the door swelled, and soon enough, I found myself suddenly standing alone in front of the building, clinging to the broken alarm’s remains. I have no idea how I hadn’t noticed my own alarm going off. I just heard the noise and left.

I strolled over to the closest garbage can and submitted the alarm to its fate, then cursed when my face met my watch’s face. I was late for work.

***

For all installments from 30 Birds, click here.

Previous installments

  1. “Velvet” by the Bloody Eyes
  2. “Subtle” by Yukio Mishima
  3. “Geronimo Sunset!” by Jun. 27