Maya del Mar's Daykeeper Journal: Astrology, Consciousness and Transformation


Out of the Fire 3

by Susan Pomeroy

[This is a piece of pure fiction begun in August, long before the fires that ravaged Southern California last autumn. Although Daykeeper hasn't featured fiction before, given our global and environmental concerns, it seems appropriate to run this piece now. The story is written in installments, which we'll publish regularly.]

The afternoon was a kaleidescope of anxiety, hurried and furtive communications, half-laid plans filled with contingencies. I didn't know how Joshua was going to join us; I just had to trust that he would. I wasn't sure exactly how we would get out of town; I just had to do my best. And Josh had said to tell no one... but there was no way I'd leave Katia's best friend Marie, or her mom, who was my closest friend Raymie.

That part turned out to be easy. When I pulled up in her driveway in the van, she ran out and jumped in. "Hurry, go north and turn left on Arbuckle. I can hear them coming up the other side of the block," panted Raymie.

That's the thing about a close friend. She knew exactly what we were doing. And I knew exactly who "they" were. No long explanations required.

Raymie sat up front we me. The kids sat on the floor in back, in between the seats, with old blankets at the ready to pull over themselves if we were stopped. Raymie and I decided that we'd say that we were going to pick up her mother, who lived ten miles out of town and was ill (so ill that she's passed away two years ago). And Raymie, who'd been divorced for years and was no stranger to men's desires, would flash her cleavage and use all her wiles to distract if necessary.

It wasn't. Three hours and many circuitous detours later, we were bumping up a dirt road thickly shaded with pines. We drove deeper and deeper into the afternoon's shadow. For the first time in months, the air felt cool and smelled piney and almost fresh, almost clean, with only a faint hint of smoke. "Pull off the road here, under the trees," said Raymie. The engine stopped. The kids were quiet. A tiny breeze rustled through the trees.

Pine Canyon

"OK," I said. "Here's the situation. We're waiting for Josh to join us. He said, tonight. Don't ask me exactly how or when, because I don't know. Meanwhile, we can't let ourselves be found and evacuated. That means staying quiet, staying low. I think we should scout around a little bit, but carefully, quietly, and on foot. About a mile up the road is the old girl scout camp, Camp Aretipa—remember it Katia, and Marie?—and I think we should walk up there while it's still light and see if it looks like anyone is living there. We also need to see if there's water in the stream, maybe at the old swimming hole. That's where your Dad said to meet him, anyway. But he'll find us, wherever we are up here."

The kids were solemn and quiet—for all of three minutes before Raymie and I had to shush them.

"Raymie, take Ben. I'll go with the girls."

Ben started to protest, but stopped at my look. I could see that he worked it out for himself: it was safer to split up, and safer to have an adult in each group.

The camp looked abandoned from the road, but there was a fairly new padlock on the rusty old gate which made me reluctant to investigate further. There was a foot or so of water in the swimming hole, and it tricked down in quiet rill from further up the canyon. This was good. Were we going to camp here? Live here? I couldn't imagine. I didn't even want to think about it. We sat in the van munching carrot sticks and potato chips as it got dark, then tried to stretch out. The girls took the back seats, Ben curled up on the floor, and Raymie and I tilted the front seats back as far as they would go, which was not far enough. It was one of the longest nights of my life: cold, uncomfortable, nerve-wracking. And no Josh. If something happened to him, what would I do, me and Raymie, out here with three kids and no equipment, no food? What if someone else were staying at the camp, what if they didn't want to share, and turned us in? What if the sheriffs came up here to enforce the evacuation? By six a.m. I had slept little and felt crazed with anxiety.

I pulled the collar of my jacket higher and tried to turn over. That's when I heard something banging hard on the window of the van, right by my left ear.

To be continued...