"Baxter Street Command to Rescue 1."
"Rescue 1, go ahead."
"I need a count."
"One adult, five children in Rescue 1, six adults and five more kids outside."
The kids outside were teenagers, too cool to hang out with the firemen. Hmmph. Their loss. We were in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Providence, or anywhere.
They sat in the back of Rescue 1, five girls, ages five to eleven. Three sisters, a cousin and a neighbor. The boss was with us, a woman of about thirty-five, keeping the girls in line. They listened to her, for the most part, but as the incident dragged on, and the shyness disappeared things got more interesting. I often wonder if people here notice how white my skin is, or if they just accept me into their neighborhood and don't give it a second thought. I think the adults are more aware of racial differences, and if the kids are, they certainly don't show it.
"If you could do it again, what is the one thing you would take with you?" I asked.
"You don't have a puppy."
"You got them on, girl."
"I told you to eat before all this!"
"You have your phone."
"We have a winner! I said. The girls went on, asking questions, touching things, touching each other, giggling, squirming and asking more questions."
"How come we had to leave."
"Because your street has a gas leak."
"How's a street leak gas?"
"When can we go back?"
"When the gas stops leaking."
"When's that going to be?"
"When they fix it."
"What's it do."
"Starts your heart in case it stops."
The Canteen Truck arrived on scene. http://www.providencecanteen.com/
"I'll be right back." Just in the nick of time, the questions were getting pretty darn tough.
The folks at the Canteen gave me a box of assorted cookies and crackers, and made six cups of hot chocolate for the refugees. I was about to become an instant Superhero.
"Anybody spills the hot chocolate is going out in the street."
The kids went bananas. You would have thought I brought them the Willie Wonka Chocolate Factory. I sat back in the Captain's chair, and watched the party. They laughed, and carried on, and shared the cookies with each other, some crackers here, some Oreo's there, a little peanut butter for you, some cheese for the little one.
If I could take one thing with me after twenty years of mayhem, it would be that very moment.