The blog today is about a captured moment in time rather than a riff about how to capture moments in time. But that's kind of the same thing, isn't it? Enjoy.
The third hook and ladder truck just pulled up across the street. It’s parked head to head against traffic. Big men in clumsy insulating coats are spilling out of the cab, grabbing gear. All of the truck’s lights are spinning. The lights on the other vehicles are spinning, too.
The waitress behind the counter dismisses the latest fire fighting arrival with a toss of her hand. “Some guy prob’ly fell asleep, dropped his cigarette in bed is what it prob’ly is.” She splashes more coffee into a couple of mugs.
Down the row of creaky counter seats another guy, a regular, picks up where he left off before the sirens and lights arrived. The drama across the street hardly interrupts the flow of their eternal conversation. The roiling commotion outside simply gets folded into the chatter like successive breaths folded into a person’s respiratory history.
“So my brother-in-law,” he says, absently adjusting his coffee mug by the handle, “He says there’s this big waterfall down there in Vegas at one a’ ‘em huge hotels that has this fire an’ all right inside it. Says it’s really somethin'.”
“Oh yeah,” says the waitress easily, trying her best to show disinterest in both the comment and a new fire fighting machine arriving on the scene, “That’s The Mirage. Real big hotel, bigger’n you ever seen. Yep, that place’s got a whole bunch a’ amazing stuff besides that fire and waterfall bit.”
“Izat so?” asks the regular. He looks over his shoulder to see who’s letting the January wind claw at everyone through the open door. A new guy comes in wearing a weary grey wool coat and sits at the counter. He keeps his coat on.
“Oh sure,” says the waitress. “I’ve been down to Vegas lots of times- almost three times, now. I know that place like the back of my hand.”
“Anyone know ‘bout that mess out there?” asks another regular sitting at the counter, cocking his head like a pelican swallowing a fish. He doesn’t turn to look; his gaze seems to be trapped by the vent fan above the grill, as if it would cost too much energy to turn around.
“Some drug guy or something musta messed up whatever he’s cookin’,” says the waitress, as if it happens all the time. “Prob’ly started the place on fire.” She turns casually and indicates with a flick of her index finger in the general direction, “That there’s the hazardous materials vehicle that just pulled up.” She shines up each word deliberately, like a bazaar merchant producing something special from a polishing cloth. “There’s prob’ly all sorts of them drug man’afacturing chemicals over there, making a mess. Happens all the time.”
Somehow, wordlessly, the new guy in the overcoat communicates that he’d like some coffee. There are a series of minute head movements carefully exchanged between him and the waitress and she makes a steaming mug appear before him momentarily. Turning then, she drops two pieces of toast into the toaster, presumably for him, then turns again and delivers a small container filled with milk. The new guy twitches his chin in almost imperceptible acknowledgement and resumes his analysis of the empty space in front of his nose.
Down the grill line, mixing a batch of pancake batter, another waitress looks up. She’s younger than the first by two decades at least--no older than twenty-five--but already she’s collected weathered lines of experience on her face like water channels cut into sandy loam. “How they keep a fire going under a waterfall?” she asks.
The older woman looks to her small audience like a knowing aside. She shakes her head at the obviousness of the question. But the first man answers too quickly. “Ain’t you seen none a’ them fancy movies they make now? It’s all special effects an’ all. They do all them effects down there at them hotels and casinos, ‘cept they do ‘em there without the movies.”
“Besides,” jumps in the waitress, “They got all them computers ta make those tricks work, now. All that innernet and cloud computing and stuff.”
“Oh, yeah, I heard of that,” says the new guy, showing signs of life. “That innernet wide world thing in The Cloud. Yeah, I know all ‘bout that.”
“Heck, yeah, that’s what it prob’ly is,” says the older waitress. “They can do all sorts of stuff with them cloudy computers. I heard on the radio that you can put all sorts of neat stuff together with these new clouds they got now. They’re prob’ly just getting a bunch of them computers to keep the fire from, y’know, getting put out by the water. Oh, yeah, with all this new science and computer machines and stuff they can do lots of things like that -easy.”
Across the street the first of the fire trucks are beginning to pull away. The sirens are silent, the rolling lights dark, the men climbing into the remaining cabs moving unhurriedly. Light snow is beginning to fall and the rising sun is starting to leave the horizon behind.
“Look at that,” says the short order cook, coming out to the counter from a recessed door next to the grill. “Must’ve been a false alarm.”
“Yeah, prob’ly some bum or someone just wanted some attention or something, set the alarm off,” says the waitress. “All sorts of bums over there in that building. Happens must be once a week.”
“They should have just let the whole place burn,” says the regular, sipping his coffee. “Save everyone a whole lotta trouble.”