Monday, September 19, 2011
The Story of Burt - Part 2
See Part One here
By the end of the year, their brother Denis was born. A beautiful sunny child, beloved by all but never more so than by Mr. Benoit who became a man besotted. The child was given his own bedroom beside his parents and his wardrobe put the rest of theirs to shame. Burt remembered no jealousy about this. If Mr. Benoit was happy, and happy he surely was, the lavish gifts bestowed on their half-brother was a small price to pay. Burt's load was suddenly lightened. Mr. Benoit threw him the odd book to read, the extra break in the day and instructed his mother to cut down and resew some of his own pants to fit the lad as he approached his twelfth year.
Denis had just turned three when Burt awoke to smoke and flames screeching across the dark night sky ourside his bedroom window. It was moonless that night, Burt recalled. He awoke his two brothers who shared his room and they grabbed a few of their meagre possessions and then got his sister who was cowering, frightened, in a corner of her own bedroom, and he led them all to safety down the back stairs and across the courtyard to the stables so they could release the few animals and chickens Mr. Benoit kept there.
Burt told them to stay with him, he didn't want to lose sight of them as the hotel was being devoured so fast by the flames and the heat was so intense. They went around to the front of the hotel and across the street where a small crowd was gathering and the geriatric old fire truck had arrived with a great clanging of its bell and the firemen were ineffectually leaking water onto the inferno through the hose.
Mr. Benoit came staggering out of the front door, half carrying their mother who looked to have fainted. Alarmed, the children gathered around her, Mr. Benoit pushed them aside.
“You have Denis? He asked Burt, looking to the rest of the children, “Where is Denis?' his voice rose into a scream that Burt would remember all of his days.
“Denis?” and he dropped their mother to the ground, and began to race back into the building until he was stopped by the four volunteer firemen who had to pin him to the ground.
At that moment, on the upper floor, Burt saw his little brother in silhouette against a hall window, his thumb in his mouth, but only for a few seconds, for the flames were greedily snatching at him from behind until he vanished in the horrible sound of the building disintegrating in a roar of collapsing floors and ceilings. A sight spared Denis' father who was still face down in the driveway, screaming his son's name.
After that, it was all over. Mr. Benoit could not look at the surviving children and ordered his wife to put them into care for he would not have them around him to remind him of how they survived while his son died.
To be continued