“This Coastal Breeze”

this coastal breeze smells

of nearly rain’s siren’s song

fuel-oil heaters on*


  • (When I was but a lad of two-dozen I was a volunteer firefighter in Lake Mary, the more popular and possibly famous town tied to Sanford in so many ways: in those days of effective apartheid when Sanford tied itself to other muchly-White large communities like DeLand and Winter Park in fire station Mutual Aid pacts which forbade said signatories from dispatching units to non-signatory communities – like Goldsboro and Midway, two almost completely Black towns bordering – and gaining sustenance and giving profit in return – from Sanford, Lake Mary was the only effective counter to cold-season fires brought on by unsafe oil- and kerosene-fueled heaters in the too-often near-shanty abodes in the rural community of Midway and the slightly more affluent but nonetheless fuel-oil heaters which unless properly maintained and more importantly drapes- and curtains-free surrounds could be counted on for Late November and December housefires.  I hear the fire sirens scream and wail still as a slight burst of chill weather prompts the year’s first heater fires.  The advent of space heaters – sometimes improperly positioned near sheets, blankets and other fabrics subject to ignition adds to the danger.  There are object lessons abounding for the usually warm environs throughout the coastal South = and since most of us have not wool sweaters, shirts and trousers and most of our homes have less insulation than those up North and, especially here in Central Florida, with large bodies of wind-affected water on at least two sides, the high humidity and brisk Northern breezes and winds have people race to do most anything to stay warm, the danger is real.  I have a ready supply of Winterwear, and grew up in a home with an extra inch of insulation between wallboards and interior wall studs, and am by nature a preverse creature loving both Summer’s stifling wet heat and Winter’s teeth-chattering infrequent but sharp freezes and all in-between, and have stood holding the fog-nozzle on full bore between two wooden shacks, one in full flame and the other crinkling and blistering and about to combust, I fear that shrill sound, so unlike the warble of a Police cruiser’s as one more family – or more – put out into the night with but what was on their backs.  Please, people, tend to your heat sources and watch and discipline the pets and small people who know not fire’s fatal charms.)

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