The thing about the firemen was – and there were very many of them by this point, you understand – I knew exactly why they were there, which made it bad enough, obviously, unacceptable, but still I went on with my day. I bit my tongue. Figuratively, I’m saying this. I hardly ever truly bite my tongue, if you have to know, or just rarely.
Then more firetrucks. I could see them through my mini-blinds which are the things across my windows. The firetrucks were red only more like the red from when I was a kid, not like the kind of red that exists now. There were red firetrucks and then there was the black car and also the men in the suits and ties, who I knew to be arson investigators because I know a government worker when I see a government worker, always.
This was too much.
In my blue pajamas, I ran outside, across to my neighbor’s yard where there were still embers burning. I yelled at the arson investigator – the one who was bald and with a scar – yelled at him, “Okay! Okay! I know what this is. You don’t have to investigate this because I had nothing to do with it!”
Both the arson investigators went blank. They crossed their arms because they are trained to do this, this blankness, I read about it one time in a magazine. One said, “Good morning!” He said, “I’m Bob. And you are…?”
My blood was boiling. I said, “YOU KNOW WHO I AM!!! I know what this is! You people hate me. I had nothing to do with this fire and the neighborhood is exactly the same without this house as before.”
Then I turned and I ran back to my house. I am a very busy man, you know.
The next morning was a perfectly ordinary morning for me because I had nothing to feel guilty about. I was sitting, in my chair, where I always am, and I listened to a song called “Firestarter,” which has a very good beat, by a group called The Prodigy and then there was a knock at my door.
It was Bob. Bob said, “Hi again, Mister Hamid” – I told you he knew who I was – “I’m noticing you have some external speakers blasting a song called ‘Firestarter’ directly at your neighbor’s burned-out house…”
I expected as much. I said, “So this is how it’s going to be? I’m a criminal for playing a song with a good beat?! Lots of people play this song. Why don’t you go investigate them?”
The truth is I was really going now. Ranting and all of that. Bob stood back because he didn’t know what else to do, probably. “Ask anyone about me,” I said. “Everyone says, ‘That Harry, the best thing about him is that he never starts fires!’ In high school, you can look it up, everybody knows, they voted me ‘Least Likely to Ever Start a Fire’.”
I slammed the door. The boom from my door always brings a sense of finality. Bob, knowing the jig was up on his scheme now, yes, I imagined him standing out there with his scarred, bald head hanging down. Tomorrow I would get him to sign a piece of paper saying I was one hundred percent innocent of any fires and that would be that.
But when tomorrow happened, I got another knock. I was playing a song called “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by this person called Billy Joel, just to remind everyone, sort of, you know. But then I got the knock and there was Bob and the other arson investigator and there were policemen as well.
As they dragged me out and away, I said, “What about the people who didn’t buy my house? The other people who put in bids? What about them?” and I said, “I know who you are! You’re not Bob – you’re Mister Ogon!”
I said, “This isn’t even about any fire! This was all a plot to arrest me!” and “If I had burned down that house, I wouldn’t have gotten caught!”
They put me inside their car. It would have been humiliating except for I knew I had done nothing wrong. But the handcuffs must have been extraordinarily enormous, the biggest ever maybe, because my hands kept slipping out.