I’d try the Townsman archives downstairs. There’s a research assistant there now, just tell him you’re with Mr. Gottwald’s class.
Thank you, Mrs. Gottwald!
It’s cloudy outside and the library basement looks like the bottom of a tomb. But Alice get back tomorrow and I don’t want to meet her empty-handed. Besides, it’s for school.
The only light here is struggling through the far windows. Sharon White and Marilyn Andrews are using both microfiche machines, and the assistant looks like he’s happily retired from lumberjacking. I tap his shoulder.
After fifteen minutes, I go to the payphone and call the front desk. Marilyn bolts to the stairs. Final Reports aren’t due for two weeks, and she’ll have plenty of time to finish when she realizes her house isn’t on fire.
The assistant comes back.
Magos? Like the hill? he says.
Like the Avenue.
He rubs his jellyface around. Let me see.
He crosses the room and opens a drawer from an endless card catalog. It smells like black metal and paper.
Magos… Magos… He almost puts a ‘h’ on the end of it. Magosh, Magosh. Magosh Restaurant? I shake my head. Magosh Club?
I’m sorry, sir, I think it’s a person’s name.
Interesting, he breathes deeply. He kneads his face again. Well, if that’s true, you might want to come back with lunch.
You mean…? I thought everything was indexed.
We have sixty five years of town papers here, young lady, and every three months we photograph twelve more issues. We can’t track every word.
I look over the waves of brass handles, each with its own neatly typed letters. Rain starts shouldering onto the windows. I smile. No one has ever looked for Magos before. Whoever he is, he doesn’t charge at just anybody.
I turn and start to plan my big return when I make out Marilyn’s lanky purple-sweatered arm pointing at us. Damn it.
Yes, Mrs. Gottwald, very ashamed. I’ll expect my mother to give me an appropriate punishment.
Something’s not right when I cross Seaward Street. The clouds are just… gone. And the house is beaming like some carnation-yellow dream. I can’t put my finger on it. Then I get to the swings. Oh.
My house is on fire.
The smoke is pouring out the basement door, so I run into the street, to the front lawn. I start crying and throwing my hands in the air. A curtain of soot is forming in the sky, and I run up and down the driveway. I bend down and catch my breath, look up to watch my room burn, and there are people on the roof! I start shouting. They don’t notice, so I wave and point behind them.
Then it hits me: the Deeds can call the fire department. I bang forever under their awning. Finally, Norma opens the door.
Can I help you?
A male voice rises over her shoulder.
One of the neighbor kids, she shouts back.
Norma! My h—my house is on fire!
She looks sharply down the hill. There’s something soft and funny-sounding behind me.
I don’t believe it is, dear.
I turn around. The sky is dark as a stone. Rain is collecting the driveway.
I’m… I’m sorry. I step into the water.
No one on the roof. The basement dry and humming. Mom looking all the way down soon at me as I step to the kitchen table.