Craig Morgan Teicher

The Burning House

        He was outside chopping wood when the blaze took hold of the house. He was standing some hundred feet away—a safe distance, far enough to escape the flames—when the fire rose from within and began consuming the wooden walls and then the roof. He had had his back to the house, busy with his work, and so he did not see or hear the first flames growing. No, by the time he turned around, it was already too late to save the house.
        Of course, his wife was still inside. She had just closed her eyes for a late morning nap—she was tired and a little bit sick—and a fire had been set in the fireplace to warm her. When the fire seized on some straw nearby, then hungrily spread from rug to curtain to chair to wall, she was thick with sleep.
        You may be wondering what he did next. Did he run into the burning house to save his wife, whom he loved as much as most husbands love most wives? Was he already too late? Perhaps, if he ran back inside, he would find his wife dead and he would die in the fire too. Did he run away? Did he drop to his knees and wail unto heaven? Is it true, as is said, that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush? Or, is it even possible that, beneath the inward cries of his dreams and fears, he was happy to be rid of his wife, finally free to choose a new life, a new name, a new fate?
        These are all very pressing questions, and there are many more that could be asked. Perhaps, someday, we shall find answers amongst the rubble.
        But you must be wondering, too, whether now, while the fire rages, we should waste our time with questions. But if we fail to ask now, when will we? For isn't one of our houses always aflame? Our questions burn endlessly too: what do we want? What should we do?