They were dancing when the winds picked up, carrying ash and char from the hills. The gusts sifted through their hair, fluttered their shirts, and knocked them back with a howl before chasing them into the house.
They collapsed onto the sagging kitchen floor in a whirl of laughter. They caught their breaths as the radio issued stern warnings and strict advice—emergency broadcasts of the wildfires and evacuation routes. Their eyes met and they laughed just as the music returned, and they stood, still flushed, not as much from the weather but from the wild rush of love crashing through their bodies.
A smoky fog extinguished the sun. The fires ate their fill before the sky turned inward and the rains pummeled the leaky roof. They huddled at the window sill like children, as flecks of water found their arms. They were back to dancing when the flooding started, and still when the mudslides came, heavy, unyielding, causing the power to flicker then fail.
The dancing, the candlelit poverty, the sandbags lining the streets. It was the perfect setting for a marriage proposal.
With the pregnancy news, their parents issued stern warnings and strict advice. The young couple exchanged smirks, the phone tucked the phone between their necks as they giggled. Because they had no idea.
The weather broke. The streets cleared. They got married and bought a house and danced in every room. The baby arrived, healthy and full, with eyes that stole their breaths and stalled their hearts. But the song changed abruptly. It was as though the record skipped and derailed the groove of time. And just that simple, the world became dangerous.
They worked to get ahead. They planned and they met deadlines. They fought. They made up. They filled the kitchen with shiny appliances. They tested the smoke alarms. Batteries. Flashlights. Candles. The dusty radio, the dog-eared novels, the cheesy love letters and curled photos were reduced to a storage box.
Summers passed. Seasons turned. Neighbors changed. They saved for the child’s education, family vacations, even their own retirement. They purchased life insurance. New locks to halt the deluge of disasters trying to break into their home. But it came. A ding on the phone, monitors at gas stations, the scrolling politics, scandals, hunger, violence, wildfires…mudslides. Yet the boy smiled. And what a smile it was, only they couldn’t figure out where they’d seen that smile before.
He was smiling now. His new car was packed with new groceries, dorm room furnishings, and all of his invincible youth. They issued stern warnings and strict advice as the boy backed out, gripping each other as a final gust of reality hit them straight on. In the kitchen, they sulked, they marveled, they laughed when they realized where they’d seen that smile.
She found the emergency candles. He dug out the radio. They dimmed the lights and tuned in to a station that had been lost in time.
And they danced.