And in his hands, something on fire.
I looked closer. It was a big double handful of leaves. Then he threw the burning leaves on the ground. I yelled, "Your too old to be doing that!" and ran over to the leaves while the kids continued up the sidewalk. The ground was carpeted with dry maple leaves and they were starting to burn too. The fire was maybe a foot high and a couple of feet across. I thought, "I hope I won't be sorry for doing this," and started stamping on the burning leaves. Luckily, the fire began to die back instead of licking up my black nylon running pants. I have a feeling black nylon running pants and fire are not a good combination.
After putting out the fire, I ran a block to the Tri-Met bus and asked the driver to call the police. Because I could tell that most of those kids were having fun. They liked the fire and they liked me yelling at them.
Then I turned around and started to run home. On my way back past where the fire had been I saw that it was still smoldering, so I gave it some more stamps. The kids were a couple of blocks ahead of me, and I started thinking about slowing down. I didn't want to meet them face to face again.
Then I saw them hustle faster up the block. And a tower of smoke.
They had lit some more leaves on fire and thrown them into a storm drain choked with dry leaves. Smoke was pouring out. I thought of running to one of the houses, but no one seemed to be home. Instead I waved at the passing cars, pointing at the column of smoke and putting my hand to my head, miming a cell phone. A woman stopped and let me use her cell phone. I stood by the fire until the firetruck came. And they wanted me to talk to the police and the arson investigator.
The cop left to try to find them, but couldn't. After everyone was done talking to me, I got a ride home in the fire truck. I got to wear the headphones and sit in a jump seat facing backward. It was pretty cool.
I'm sure they will be calling me for my ceremony down at City Hall soon.
Actually, thinking back on it, part of me is still scared. Things could easily have gone the other way. Maybe when you're 17, you don't think that far ahead.