Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thick columns of black smoke

It was 8.30 am and I was driving down the highway on my way to work, when I saw far away a thick column of black smoke that was visible across the Grytviken Valley.

‘Something’s burning down there’ –I said to myself-.

I know I sounded like that obnoxious popular pet phrase from Tweety's cartoons -‘I thought I saw a pussy cat’ (=‘I taught I taw a putty tat’) -, pronounced in front of a drooling open-mouthed Sylvester wanting to eat him, right before Granny or Hector the bulldog would stop him.

I was actually worried. I had the feeling that something terrible was going on, but didn’t know exactly what.

The last time I had witnessed a thick column of black smoke that could be seen for miles it was two months ago, driving down that same highway too. A plane had just crashed as it was taking off at the airport.

‘Something’s burning down there’ –I thought that time as well-.

I was not aware that almost 160 persons had just died or were just dying at that very same moment. It was the worst tragedy ever happened in the Sandwich Islands: None of the passengers aboard the plane survived.

The previous time I had seen a thick column of black smoke before the day of the plane crash, it was two years ago, as I drove back home from work. Very near my flat -in a quiet residential area- a big transformer was burning in an electrical substation. A large part of the city was affected by the power cut for almost one day. It smelled awfully smokey. Neither the traffic lights nor the lamp-posts worked. People wandered like sleepwalkers in the ghostly streets at night with the help of torch lights, while drivers managed not to get involved in a bad car crash driving through the crazy Sandwichian traffic.

The elevators wouldn’t work. I panted heavily after walking from the second basement to the third floor with one of my neighbours who used a lighter to see. I’m not used to do that. I’m one of these lazy persons who even take the elevator to go to the first floor. ‘Leave exercise to the fat’ –said to me the doctor once, when I asked him if it was a good idea to do some aerobics to keep fit-.

Believe it or not, previously I had even seen another thick column of black smoke four years ago, on a fine Monday afternoon, as I entered Dumbass Industries' premises after my lunch break.

‘Something’s burning down there’ –was again my recurrent thought, as I rushed to the main entrance-. And I was right: as the say goes, there’s no smoke without fire.

The guys from the Maintenance Department were testing the new fuel powered heating system and they were so enthusiastic about it that Big Cheese’s office burned like a Roman candle.

What was supposed to be an efficient emergency plan designed years ago to prevent situations like that one, failed completely. As it could be expected from Big Cheese, the Maintenance Manager and those who tested the heating system were fired –never better said-.

Normally, in the case of a fire at Dumbass Industries, I would feel inclined to just run away and save my ass; but unfortunately I’m among the six selected few who own a wonderful blue reflective vest, ten sizes bigger than mine. These selected few are responsible for the peaceful and safe evacuation of the staff in Building 1. They call us ‘The Smurfs’.

So when I arrived, they quickly gave me a blue vest, I joined my Smurf mates and checked that the area I was responsible for was clear.

It was easy. Everybody had left the building safe and sound twenty minutes ago, since it started smelling like something was burning. People were hanging around in the back gardens, happily talking about having a cup of coffe and celebrate that Big Cheese’s files all had gone up in smoke, while the firemen were finishing their job.

We were relocated in the chairman’s office while our area was rebuilt. Big Cheese was cranky and annoyed like a small kid. He locked himself in his office and ignored everyone and everything for one week. He started smoking again and eating compulsively huge amounts of all kinds of candy. He played furiously minesweeper and downloaded a zillion songs of Deep Purple, AC/DC and The Talking Heads from iTunes, while his pending papers piled up on my desk.

I uselessly tried to call his attention to forget about the disaster and start doing something, but he took his time. During that period, he tortured me playing David Byrne’s “Burning down the house” at full blast in his iPod’s loudspeakers until he decided it was time to wake up from lethargy.

But going back to that fourth thick column of smoke I could see from my car, –again- I repeated to myself:

‘Something’s burning down there’. That recurrent thought in my mind didn’t seem to go away, no matter what I did. Those words were already becoming a bad omen.

I got the shivers. Something was happening downtown and it looked like it was really serious. I stopped the music and switched the radio on. A woman speaking with high-pitched voice said:

“… BREAKING NEWS: A huge fire broke out this morning at Kynkybooks premises, in the center of Grytviken and threatened to spread to nearby buildings. There are no immediate reports of injuries among the staff of the publishing company, although the fire has not yet been put out. The fire cannot be contained because of the strong winds. Two loud explosions were heard before it had started, but it’s not clear yet what could cause the blaze. A police team rushed to the scene to restore order as panicky residents scampered off to the nearby streets looking for shelter. The firemen are using water from the sea to douse the flames and structures to prevent the fire from spreading. We’ll keep you informed and up to date in the next edition of the news…”

My heart started beating like a machine gun: Kynkybooks was burning! Ed’s business was burning! I immediately called him on his cell phone, but it was engaged. I left him a hundred messages as I approached the city center, but he wouldn’t answer them.

I decided to drive there. The street was blocked. I counted up to eleven fire trucks. The police had marked off a safety area with fences. The fire was ruining Ed’s prosperous publishing business. Kynkybooks modern premises were engulfed in flames. It looked like hell’s inferno.

I stopped the car and went down. I walked towards Kynkybooks premises and saw Ed standing in front of the building, hands on hips, then tearing out his hair, frantically speaking on his cell phone, shouting… when a black car with tinted windows stopped beside me. The rear window rolled down and a big hand gestured for me to come nearer. I couldn’t see who was inside.

As I approached, the hand grabbed my neck and a masculine low voice ordered:

“Into the car, Leni”.

The door to the car opened and someone from the outside pushed me in as the hand that had come out of the car window pulled firmly my arm. It was dark inside. I fell on the car seat.

When I lifted my eyes, I just saw a big human shape folded in a black cape. His rainbow coloured eyes stared at me.

- Who the hell are you?–I asked-
- That’s not important for the moment.

- I asked who the hell you are.

The car started moving and I desperately tried to open the door, but I couldn’t.

- Oh no. –I said, trying to open the door-
- Oh yes. There’s no use trying. It’s closed. We’re moving.

Who the hell was that guy??? And where the hell were we going???

"Burning down the house" (The Talking Heads).


Fernando said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fernando said...

No me puedo creer que nos cortes el post en el momento más....

Te mato, Leti.

Que tengas una buena semana. Jugáis al padel en las sandwich?

Leni Qinan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leni Qinan said...

Hola Fernan,

¿A que está emocionante la historia? Pues ya verás cuando os cuente quién me acaba de secuestrar.

Sí, en las Sandwich jugamos al padel. No tenemos más remedio. Esto es tan pequeño, que si jugamos al tenis las pelotas se caen al mar. Pero luego ganamos la Yoobie Cup (aka Davis Cup)!

Bss y que tengas un buen lunes mañana!

Leni Qinan said...


Fernando said…

I can’t believe you’re ending the post in such a thrilling moment…
I kill you, Leni.
Have a nice week. Do you play paddle in the Sandwich Islands?

Leni said...

Hi Fernan,

Isn’t it a thrilling story? Just wait and see, you won’t believe it when I tell you who’s the kidnapper.

Yes, we play paddle at the Sandwich Islands. We have no choice: This place is so small that if we played tennis, the balls would fall into the sea. But then we win the Yoobie Cup (aka Davis Cup)!

Kss, and have a nice Monday tomorrow!

sage said...

Wonderful story, like the way you keep swinging back to the phase, "Something burning.." And also how you left us wondering. As for the mention of Deep Purple, I kept thinking "Smoke on the water...."

Grass said...

Uh oh.. something wicked (?) your way comes? I really wonder what's gonna happen next.. yihee, i hope it's nothing really wicked..:D

BTW, the way you described Big Cheese made me think that he's young.. LOL He was really childish about the whole fire thing huh...

:-) Looking forward to the next installment of this post.:)

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Sage!

Thanks! Some time ago I learned a bit about fractal patterns applied to writing. You surely know more than me about it; I like to create recurrent literary resources, geometrical structures and play with words and sentences to make the reading more attractive, if possible –I hope I succeed to do this-. And of course, Deep Purple, “Smoke on the water”… isn’t it a cool song? A wonderful classic! And it fits perfectly with the story!

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Grass!

Yeah, Mr. Rainbow Eyes, the kidnapper, looks like he’s really wicked, doesn’t he? Let’s wait and see who he is and what his next move is.

Big Cheese is 49, just a little bit older than Ed. That’s a cool age for guys in my opinion: they’re still young and at the top of their capabilities/status socially and professionally.

Big Cheese is living a second teenage period now –riding a motorbike, sailing and now thinking of flying his own plane too-. He has a very nasty –almost cruel- childish side when he gets annoyed about something he can’t change or fix (throwing fits like a small kid), and he really does that kind of things quite often –to my despair!-. Sometimes I feel like a mother, having to make him come back to reality and help him behave. But he’s extremely clever –sometimes a genius- and a very fair man. He has some cons, but many pros too, and the balance of our association is always good.

I’m glad you enjoyed reading the story. The next instalment is on its way!

Take care of you+Gugu, sis. Big kiss.

max said...

Hey Leni!

I’m really sorry about Ed: to lose his business is terrible news, but to lose you is the worst thing that could happen to him, I’m sure.

The song is cool, it makes you jump. I love The talking heads. Don’t know whether they still exist or not.

Who’s that Mr Rainbow Eyes??? This story is becoming very thrilling.

Anastácio Soberbo said...

Hello, I like the blog.
It is beautiful.
Sorry not write more, but my English is bad writing.
A hug from Portugal

Anonymous said...

Leni ,"Mon clin d'oeil"

L'enfer !!
le sixième chant de l’Énéide !

Ou le voyage initiatique ?

"Ainsi traversâmes-nous, à pas lents, le sale mélange des ombres et de la pluie "

(*Même pas peur ! p'tits bisous*)

Dick said...

Wow that is something big.
I'm glad you know Texel most people don't.
Thanks for visiting.


*sitting on edge of seat waiting for next post*

great post!

Leni Qinan said...

Hello Anastácio and welcome to the blog!

Thanks a lot for your nice comment. You can comment in Portuguese if you wish –I can understand it fairly well, and I can translate your comments for the other readers, so no worries-.

Anyway, feel free to email me if there’s something you need to ask. There’s a translator button at left –it’s not as good as a personal translation, but it works!-

I will pay a visit to your website this evening. (I should be working hard instead now, hahaha).

Um gran beijo da Leni.

Leni Qinan said...

Mon cher Crabtree !

J’avais l’impression que votre intuition, toujours très logique et proche de la verité, essayerait de deviner le sens de cette présence maléfique.

Ça va être un tour de force dans le noir. Un véritable enfer.

On ne va pas arriver à l’enfer de Dante, mais mon voyage initiatique viens juste de commencer. Et oui.. j’ai un peu peur… mais, avec un peu de gouaille et sens de l’humour on peut faire de grandes choses, j’éspère.

(*mille ptits bisous*)

Leni Qinan said...


Crabtree said…

Leni, “the apple of my eye”…
The sixth chant of the Aeneid!
Or is it the initiatory trip?
“This way, with slow steps, we cross the dirty mix of shadows and rain”

(*fear not! Tiny kisses*)

Leni said…

My dear Crabtree!

I had the impression that your intuition –always logical and close to truth- would try to guess the sense of this evil presence.

It’s going to be a ‘tour de force’ in the dark. A real hell.
It won’t be like Dante’s hell, but my initiatory trip has just started. And yes.. I’m a bit afraid… but with a little cheekiness and sense of homour many things can be done, I hope.

(*a thousand tiny kisses*)

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Dick! Welcome!

It’s big indeed! As you can read from my tag… my adventures are as surrealistic as can be- :)

I know Texel very well, though I’ve never been there. But in my mind I’ve been wandering a zillion times at the dunes, at De Slufter, and under the wonderful storms of the North Sea. I was left dumbfounded by the beauty of nature there –flowers, seagulls, ducks, heavy rains, - I really loved your pictures and will be back for more. :)

Thanks a lot for visiting too!

Leni Qinan said...

Hey IV! Nice to see you back! I thought you would be busy today!

The next post is on its way –I love it when you guys keep me busy!-

PS.- Suzanne and I had a very nice chat in your blog about US holidays. What a shame That Guy is lost who-knows-where, I expected an invitation to a Thanksgiving party. ;)

(*winks at the matchmaker with a magic wand*)

Grass said...

Oh sheesh, BC reminds me of Dr. House and your his Dr. Cuddy...hehehe.. :-)

Gugu is doing well..Thank you sis..:d


Leni Qinan said...

Hi sis!

Hm... not really, Cuddy is very strict with Dr House, but there is no way to force Big Cheese to be a bit more disciplined and less chaotic, grrrr...


Can Bass 1 said...

Goodness me!

Roberto said...

Hola, my dangerous, polyglot and SPECIAL writer. What about the following sentences of the colums of black smoke? Is the answer blowing in the wind? What about you now, please? Who is the bloody kidnapper? least is he interesting? Maybe more than Ed? Tell us something just now, please. I am afraid I am a little bit gossip...

Un beso

Leni Qinan said...

(*looks at can bas 1 and whispers: "fear not... I'll be okay" and waves hello blushing softly*).

And welcome!

Leni Qinan said...

Oh sorry, can bass 1 (not bas).

Leni Qinan said...

Hola Roberto!

FYI, the answer is never blowing in the wind -I deeply disagree with Bob Dylan- and the next sentences of the columns of black smoke are already becoming passages and paragraphs in my laptop.

You will hear soon about my bloody kidnapper, dear gossip. ;)

And no, at the moment nobody could be more interesting than Ed Davies. (*sighs deep, very deep*).

Goodnight, my special friend.;)

Anonymous said...

Hola Leni!

Sabrás que entro a visitarte muy seguido aunque no deje mensaje...
(de vaga nomás=)

Pero yo soy como el sol...'que aunque no lo veamos, siempre está'!



ysfb said...

My friend was playing a concert from The Talking Heads and I was wondering what the hell they were doing. Now I'm a fan.

Leni Qinan said...

Hola Pía!

Sé que me visitas a menudo y con eso me basta. Me gusta cuando me comentan, y también me gusta tener lectores silenciosos -cada uno es muy libre, yo lo aprecio igual.

Gracias por venir otra vez.


Leni Qinan said...


Pia said…

Hi Leni!
You know I visit you very often, although I don’t comment… (I’m just lazy).
But I’m like the sun… it’s there, though we may not always see it!

Leni said…

Hi Pía! I know you visit me very often and that matters to me. I like it when you comment on my posts and I also like my silent readers, I appreciate them just the same.

Thanks for coming over again.


Leni Qinan said...

Hello YSFB!

They were good, weren’t they? This video from ‘Burning down the house’ is taken from their film ‘Stop making sense’, shot in 1984 and directed by Jonathan Demme. If you’re a fan, you’ll just love that film. They were very creative and ahead of their time, I think. ;)

Take care!

Ghost Particle said...

hi leni :) how r u?

hope all is well :)

Leni Qinan said...

Hi Ghosty!

I'm fine, thanks. A bloody weirdo has just abducted me, but I'll be okay! -next chapter coming soon and I'm alive and kicking, hahah-.

Thanks a lot for caring!

I hope you're okay too! ;))