Thanksgiving morning. I’m in a Carolinian cabin filled with Scottish tartans and pipes and a fireplace and two stuffed ducks. Dozens of squirrel-sized chairs are placed lovingly on all the available empty spaces: on dressers, on the china cabinet, on the bedside table. If people disappeared and this house were left to the elements, the squirrels of the woods would civilize themselves so they could sit obediently on the small chairs and celebrate squirrel-Thanksgiving.
The roads to get here are so twisty they made Seth vomit sixteen times, in four sets of four, because he likes symmetry. A cop pulled us over when Seth stuck his head out the side of the car to vomit on a precarious winding cliffside drive. She said she didn’t want him to get decapitated. We told her he couldn’t help it, he needed to, well you know, she said whatever and drove off.
That was last night, it’s Thanksgiving morning now, well afternoon, and his stomach has settled, and food preparations are underway. But I’m on the phone and stressed out. My friend can’t find my cat. My cat needs to take her hyperthyroid pill so she doesn’t vomit everywhere, which she also likes to do in sets of four. But my friend who’s watching her can’t find her. I ask her to look under the couch, but no. I tell her to waft treats under the kitchen sink, where the cat sometimes crawls into a hole in the side of the wall or maybe goes to Narnia, who can say, but no. I’m pacing past the squirrel-sized chairs, pulling at my hair, wondering if this was the time the cat finally snuck out the door while we weren’t looking.
Then I glance out the window and see smoke. It’s billowing. This is no fireplace smoke, this is smoke with a vengeance, smoke that will keep building. I say ‘gotta go’ and rush over to look.
The power line outside our highlands home is in flames. A tree has broken where it stood. Its trunk is on the power line. The line is on fire and now spitting fireballs. Two fireballs crack into the air. Then our power goes out.
Nothing bad happens. Time stops, the fire stops. The transformer shuts down the power line. We call 911, it takes the power guys an hour to reach us, but they arrive, and they know what to do. They wrap a rope around the fallen trunk, hold it in place, and chainsaw the rest of it bit by bit. They have thick white mustaches. They have pulleys and cranes and a little white box where they can float themselves up to the top. They pull the tree off the branch and navigate with the adeptness of the most popular kid at the arcade.
They replace the power line with no problem. Our lights come on, the oven turns on, our clocks turn back on, time starts again. My friend finds the cat. It’s Thanksgiving day and the powerline men should be home watching football and eating cheese whiz, but they are here, saving the day for us, the outsiders who cheer every time the powerline men saw off a new chunk of wood, we who have never seen a downed power line in our lives, who giggle at squirrel-sized chairs, and if nothing else, we are grateful.