How To React In an Emergency

We were just sitting around the living room, staring into computer screens and absently eating from aluminum take-out boxes — in short: minding our own business — when the cat brushed his tail into a candle and promptly burst into flames.

“Jack’s on fire!” Jurvis shouted.

I sat on the couch, a forkful of drunken noodles frozen in front of my mouth, watching as our blazing kitty ran towards the windows. We’re always yelling at him when he jumps on the table, and he knows that the windows, with their long gauze curtains, are a proper sanctuary. He’s allowed in the windowsills.

Well, now the curtains are on fire, I thought. The flames are crawling upwards and licking the ceiling. The entire apartment is burning down, and you haven’t even registered it yet. What will you save? Laptop? Camera? Striped socks? What will it be like to lose everything? To escape tragedy? Will you need the emergency ladder, stashed under the bed? Do you even know exactly where that is?

“I got him,” Jurvis was saying, face smooshed against the windowsill with the cat smothered in his arms. Jack — never one to be tackled, patted down, or generally prohibited from movement — mewed plaintively in his grasp, and the entire room reeked of smoke and scorched fur.

“Oh,” I said. “Hey, uh, good.”

But part of me still thought I was standing outside right then, covered in charcoal smudges and gazing upwards.

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