Fire In The Sky

DATELINE: July 4th, 2018

The rooftop terrace of 856 Kalamath Street, Denver, CO

At 9pm, the sky lit up. As if on cue, across the city blooms of red and green and blue and white popped to life, bursting out of seed heads that sent up smoke trails across a dry-scumbled horizon line. From the big displays at Mile High Stadium and Coor’s Field, to the backyard Independence Day family cookouts, millions of dollars was literally going up in flames.

We were on the roof. One of the true bonuses of our clean white space at Kalamath Street is the roof terrace. Lady Red* has been up there most mornings, mindfully greeting the sunrise. Now, though, it offered us the best view of the conflagration around us.

And it was everywhere. We kept spinning around, giddy as kids as another burst of ordnance cooked off behind or to the side of us. We were not alone. The roofs around us were packed with revelers. One enterprising group had a projector and speaker system set up. They were taking requests, but really no-one could top the bounce and holler of Katy Perry’s ‘Fireworks’.

The air was thick with the heady scent of marijuana and spent gunpowder.

At 9:45 sirens blared and a line of fire trucks zoomed past, all lights blazing. Inevitable, sure, and I raised my bottle to the Denver Fire Department. A tough season for them, with little rain (the deluge that kept us for one more beer at Renegade on Monday night must have been a blessing) and the whole state one spark away from going off like… well, like a firework. In the south of Colorado, one single wildfire has been going without pause since the first of June, and at last estimate was 37% contained. I wondered, just for a moment, about the notion of freedom. You can celebrate Independence Day as you please. That does not free you from the consequences of your actions if a rocket you set off triggers a fire that takes heavy manpower and resources to quiet.

I nodded to myself at my sagacity, then whooped and took another swig from my bottle of Colorado Nation lager as a particularly big starburst bloomed overhead.

Our artificial fire paled against the real deal. Over from the west, a giant storm front rolled in, stately and deadly as an aircraft carrier. Miles high, purple and black (the colour of the Colorado Rockies baseball team, appropriately) and full of lightning. Sheets of electric flame rippled through it, whiting out the dirty scrubs of cloud to momentary negative. From time to time, forks of lightning would flash up, precisely drawn, sharp and deadly as arrow points. I refused to pull out a camera. Why be behind a screen when all this was there to be marveled at?

One last bolt lanced across the sky, white and pure as daylight, and the thunderhead cruised away, unaware or at least unmoved by the scurrying ants below.

*I promise, I’ll introduce the band soon.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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