1 – Hearth

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She was choking down tears. She tried to keep her composure for her kids, who were mortified and standing with their neighbor across the street. “Ma’am, we don’t know why anyone would do this,” Commander informed her. He was right, there was no profit in burning down homes. If there was, our government would probably have capitalised upon it already.

“We- we can’t afford to get a new home! Our family has lived here for three generations…” The woman stuttered on every word.  She had to take at least two breaths in between to just keep herself from bawling.

Her neighbor was taking the kids into her house. It was probably dinner time. This woman is lucky to have such caring neighbors. Hell, if this girl could afford a house outside of the slums, she could probably live quite happily again if she’d give her kids away.

She had two kids. One was nine years old, and the other was only four. The four year old was lucky. He would hardly remember any of this.

Commander had been listening to the woman’s story, and had been trying to collect evidence for her case. He must have gotten tired of hearing her talk in circles, because he barked a, well, command at me. “Officer Fifteen, I have an arson case to investigate, come talk to this woman.” My reply was “Yessir.”

The woman looked furious. However, she was still on the verge of tears. I needed to talk her down, otherwise those two kids might end up without a parent. Perhaps no parents, as I haven’t seen any father around. Considering the area they lived in, he was probably at work.

“Miss, I know this must be rough for you and your family. Despite that, I need you to try and keep your composure. I’m here to try and inform you of your best choices regarding budget.” I spoke in a frank manner, but the woman still seemed calmer hearing my words. Probably because I was actually going to help, while Commander just collected details for his investigation.

“Now, do you have anyone else in the home providing income?” I inquired. She nodded, “My husband. He owns some farmland out east.” I was right that she had a husband. I was a bit more surprised that he actually owned more land than just what was here. They could easily afford a greater home than what they had. Odd that they stayed.

“If your husband owns farmland, there should be no difficulty finding another home, even with the prices of real estate in our city.” I was stunned she was even bothered by losing her home.

“It wasn’t- the money that mattered. It was the personal value. I had lived in that home all my life. I grew up there. Now- now my childhood is ash.” Hers eyes began to glisten with tears once more.

I see now. She bought into the “American Dream.” Poor girl.

“Okay. Now your memories are shattered. That doesn’t matter. What matters is keeping yourself and your family off of the streets. There is one house for sale a couple blocks away. It’s a bit pricier, but there is an extra bedroom and the same number of bathrooms. It’s a very good deal for you.” She nodded the whole time I spoke. I doubted she was really listening.

“Thank you for your advice. I’ll be going now.” She walked to her neighbors house. What an idiot. She really thinks this country was going to fulfill her dreams. Go to Europe if you want quaint and satisfying. Here in Capitalism Central, you’re doomed to either poverty or incredible wealth. She was part of a very small amount of people with livable budgets. That, or she makes more and just wants to seem humble. Either way, she’s stupid.

I made my way to Commander. “Commander, I talked with the woman. She has no financial issues, she’s just a dreamer.” Commander clicked his tongue. “There’s no place for dreamers in today’s society.”

I nodded.

“Now Officer, I want you to look at the ashes spread out before you. Notice anything?” I obliged, and stared out at the burnt landscape before me. I didn’t notice anything important. It was all just ash and a few disabled pieces of structure.

“I don’t see anything out of the ordinary, Commander. It’s more thoroughly burned than usual, but that just about sums it up.”

Commander nodded. “A regular arson simply lights a fire in one spot, and then leaves. That leaves more of the original building standing. This fire was lit in multiple spots, and so less of the house stayed intact. These weren’t just some fire happy assholes; they were intentionally trying to destroy.”

I nodded. This was the third building reported being completely burned down. We started to think that these weren’t just isolated cases. Most of the time I didn’t care. I only investigated occasionally, when there were no victims to talk to. This intrigued me, however. We had never seen a serial criminal around here before. I wanted to see where this would lead to. It was the only unpredictable thing to happen in twenty years.

“I’m getting sick of this arsonist destroying perfectly good property for no apparent reason,” Commander droned, “When we catch this guy, I might try to shoot him personally.” Commander kept talking, but I walked away. He was a dreamer, too. Except he dreamed of glory on the police force rather than of a consistent way of life

Everyone around me was an utter idiot. All of them dreamed of something ridiculous that they couldn’t have. It was utter insanity and stupidity. Everyone just needs to learn to take what they have and then take a little more. This country was founded on the idea of being rich, and yet no one follows that philosophy. Everyone who does just wants to fight and take more. I don’t fathom any of it.

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Author: Kay Walker

I write short stories, and post them to my site justmynarratives.com

3 thoughts on “1 – Hearth”

  1. Paragraph 5 is awkward. Now knowing these are police not military, really need to beef up how bad it is that the police have that much strength, power, corruption in the community. Maybe a little bit more detail here on the BIG differences between here and Europe. (Wherever “here” is. Assuming USA. Again time and location to help frame up the story)


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