Blue Roses – Pedro Torres

The bricks fell like rain. The plume of smoke was visible from the next town over at this point. By the end of the day it would cover the sky. The local government, not knowing how to respond, advised everyone to turn their AC units off, and to not go outside. I worked in the industrial side of town, a mile from where it happened. The air tasted bitter and tinny. By the time I got out of work, the sky was a dark gray. A storm that would never come was brewing. At work they talked about how with chemical fires like this, you can’t really put it out with water, or regular flame retardants. You basically just have to let it burn. Rose told me that we needed to talk when I got out of work today. I knew what that meant. I drove a bit slower, doing my best to prolong the inevitable. The voices on the radio chattered about the possible effects of sustained exposure to the smoke. Infertility, bronchitis, lung, skin, and brain cancer, brain bleeding, birth defects in unborn children. I thought about why Rose would be doing this. Just last week we were planning on moving in together. I definitely was a bit overbearing. I hate that I can get like that when I like someone. I decided to stop and get her flowers. She hated the color red, so I thought it would be clever to get her blue roses. Blue roses for the Rose who hates red. It was more clever in my head. Ten people died in the explosion. The man on the radio, the fireman, said that. He sounded scared, but everyone sounds scared when stuff like this happens. It was barely 4 and the sky was dark as night. The parking lot of the CVS was in a frenzy. You would have thought the world was ending. I was lucky, in the madness, no one had even thought to ransack the florist. I got a dozen blue roses for the price of a half dozen. Nobody was in the self checkout line to check that I changed the stickers. I overheard a family clad in gas masks talk about their plans. I drove up the hill, to Rose’s house. Her mother let me in. She looked nervous too. On the TV you could see the fire burning with an intense ferocity. The firemen, and police officers just stood around it, watching the plant burn. Rose gave it to me gently, which I appreciated. She sometimes had a habit of being too blunt, too honest. I think it was the flowers that tempered her reaction. Even if they had wilted and died the moment the outside air hit them. By the time I left her house, it really was night time. Before driving down the hill, and going home, I stood outside her house. From up here you could see the orange glow of the fire humming amidst the darkness of the Midwestern plains, as news helicopters buzzed around it like moths. I stood there and watched it burn, as my nose, and my ears, began to bleed.