You had nowhere else to go. There were other hotels, dozens nearby, but none any different, or better, than where you ended up. That night, after long cold hours on the streets - the hotel didn't admit inmates until 6 p.m. - you slept fitfully, though just well enough that you never smelled the smoke. You should have smelled it clearly, with the tops of the cribs covered only with chicken wire, but the day's cold exhaustion laid you low. You had paid your sixty cents, and were intent on sleeping as well as you could, even though your lanky frame meant you had to draw up your long legs to fit the six-foot bed. The fire was the only warmth you had felt in months, and as you slept, your body must have told your mind that the warmth was good, so good, and you shouldn't stir or else the warmth would be lost. Whenever you stirred in the mornings, and were forced to rise, you had to go back outdoors into the cold, so that night your body told your mind that it would keep still for as long as it could. Your mind agreed, savoring the vicarious thrill of the fire's warmth. By the time your mind realized your lungs had filled with smoke, it was already too late. The other men may have been trampled, or coughed to death on the icy sidewalk, but not you. You never rose, never left your thin mattress, and stayed warm, for the first time that winter, right up to the end.
Inspired by the tragic fire at Chicago's Barton Hotel, in 1955: http://www.connectingthewindycity.com/2017/02/february-12-1955-barton-hotel-fire.html?m=1
Posted by: Pete at Apr 7, 2017 11:40:20 AM