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  • My wife, trembling, waits by the car while I approach our house’s burnt-out shell. Police tape twirls, cat’s cradle-like, from shrubs and fencing. Inside, wielding a flashlight, I scan ceilings and walls that bulge like old, diseased bones. Ash and debris eddy everywhere.

    “Well?” my wife murmurs, tearful. But I’ve returned empty-handed. We drive back down the canyon, the alarms of abandoned vehicles wailing as we pass.

    In our motel I turn on the radio: thousands rescued, one hundred dead or injured. Then my wife, gasping, points out the window: the mountain appears aflame again.

    But it’s only the sunrise.

    Photo (c) by Madison Woods (
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