Fire(escape) (A to Z Challenge)

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Welcome to the sixth of twenty six stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building

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Two rusted metal stairways clung to the outside of the building, ivy like, wending their way past the apartments. Birds were the main residents of these structures, now, where before, in the days before air conditioners, you’d find the inside of the building spilling out during the cool days of Spring, a bit in the Fall, but always full blast during the Summer.

They were an escape from the fiery heat of the apartments, where the fans only stirred around the hot stagnant air. Whatever breeze there was passed by the interiors, but on the fire escapes, you’d catch every air draft that drifted your way. You’d sup it, embrace the fleeting coolness, and find the perspiration quickly return to run rivulets down your back, or between the swells of breasts.

Some would take a journey up to the roof, to sunbathe undisturbed, as there was nothing higher that would threaten the private space. Others would take this same journey at night,  to just sit under the stars,  to sleep, to hold congress, to dream.  John caught his oldest sister up there with her boyfriend one night, both of them more undressed then dressed. He learned the art of blackmail there and then.

Mrs. Delafino created her own private garden outside of her window. Her husband built a series of raised flower beds for her, in his mind rivaling the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, creating a terrace on the metal slats. When the flowers bloomed, everyone in the building would compliment her on the choices made that season, and it was often remarked that Mrs. Delafino’s garden far surpassed anything the local florist carried. That was a shame, for that florist lived in the same building, just in the other wing, and he heard those same remarks.

For him, the saddest part was that he agreed with his neighbors.

During the Winter months-and there were real Winters then, not the snarly mishaps of the last decade-the fire escapes became landscapes of ice and snow. Drifts would sometimes partially block out windows, and you’d find tenants digging their way out, escaping the warmth inside to beat back the wintery mix. You’d find kids opening the windows to make snowballs, most of them thrown to the street, trying to hit the cars passing by; some would bring forbidden snowballs inside to terrorize siblings. John did that to his middle sister. After she stopped shrieking from the cold down her shirt she just walloped him, sending him sliding along the waxed hallway floor between their bedrooms.

The explosion that rocked the building, that sent Mrs. Beatty to her demise, that sent flames shooting up to the fifth floor, also took out that wing’s fire escape. The twisted metal held no means for safety, causing the entire structure to be too rickety to even think of trying. A few did, but they rushed inside quickly and ran for the opposite side and it’s interior stairwell.

There was escape, but not in the way the architect intended.

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28 responses »

  1. A wonderfully descriptive bit of writing, jam packed into such a short post – hat’s off to you, Stuart! I can almost smell food cooking, wafting on the breeze, and see all the stages of life – human and architectural – in this, with all the ups and downs, the colors and the drabs, the joys and the summer doldrums. Well done.

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  2. I’ve lived in apartment buildings practically all my life, and the authenticity of these stories sends me reeling each time. The apartment structures themselves indeed meld into the lifestyle. How in the heck did this building come to be destroyed? I guess I must continue to read! :p

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  3. I love the descriptions of the the fire escape. You really made it its own character!

    And great pictures to go with the story.

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  4. The fire escape outside my bedroom window at my parents apt. still holds the memories of teenage hangout and sometimes escape from the prisonof “grounding”. I appreciate all the different purposes and memories you brought to your apt.’s world. I mourn the demise of poor, timid, Mrs. Beatty.

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  5. It’s cool that the fire escapes were an outside extension of the building. We lived in the city when I was around 3 or 4, and I always wanted to climb around on the fire escapes. We moved to the country before I got the chance 🙂 I like that you covered all of the seasons, as well as the different age groups and how they utilized the structures!

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