When Kids Play with Fire by IBTISSAM CAHBOUNI

MOROCCO — On one Sunday morning, my father left very early to play his sport. My mother left the house too because she was enrolled in a training program. On her way, she used to take my little brother, who was then 9 years old, to a Sunday school. I woke up to my sister’s loud voice asking me what I was cooking and forgot in the oven. I was very shocked because I thought my sister was the one cooking in the kitchen and burnt what she was cooking. The smell was very bad.

I replied, “what? Are you serious? I’ve just woken up! You’re the one who has been cooking and now you are trying to put the blame on me since you missed everything up!”

I was 14 years old back then and my sister was 16. I did not get along very well with my sister so we were blaming each other for every little mistake we made. That is why I said what I said, her blaming me was something very predictable and normal.

She answered me back, “you’re kidding me right? If none of us were cooking, then where does this bad smell come from?”

I replied, “did you check up on Ilyasse? (Ilyasse is my younger brother, he was 7 years old back then) maybe he was playing with fire!”

We went to the kitchen to see if someone was there. We checked the gas, the oven and the heater but found nothing abnormal. After that, we ran downstairs to see if my little brother was still sleeping. My brother was sleeping innocently and had no idea about what was going on in the house. We woke him up and to tried to figure out the reason of the bad smell. But things started to get even worse. The house started to get darker; I could see my sister’s face getting all black.

She said, “We need to calm down! Try to think of something!”

We heard the sound of something boiling in the garage.

She added while she was addressing me, “You’re braver than I, can you go to the garage and see what is going on! Try to open the doors so that the smoke can come out!”

I stood, still surprised by her request. It is true that I was brave, but the thought of going downstairs where the smoke came from was not very pleasing or encouraging. I had nothing to do but to accept since she was older so her words were more persuasive than mine.

The closer I got to the garage, the darker it became. I could not see anything and couldn’t find the doors. It was as if I was going down to nowhere. I started running out of breath and realized that if I continued even more, I would not be able to breathe and would eventually die. So I ran upstairs and tried to catch my breath. My sister asked me whether I was able to figure out what was going on, but I told her that it was very dark and I couldn’t see anything. I told her that all I could say was that the car must have been on fire, since the smoke was similar to that of a car explosion.

We were terrified, but we managed to open all the windows and ran to the balcony. We started yelling hoping that someone would hear us and come to rescue us. I tried to call my father but realized he usually leaves his phone at home. My mother was not answering her phone either as she had her phone on silent mode.

It was very hard to ask for the neighbors’ help. But, one man was passing by so we asked him if he could break the garage doors. Sunday was a holiday so all stores in our neighborhood were closed. Firemen were not of great help since they take too long to arrive to an incident’s. Luckily, my father showed up at the last minute and opened the doors. My father managed to ask for help before it was too late.

When they were investigating, they found that my 9 year old brother, Rida, was playing with fire while he was waiting for my mother. When he got scared, he tried to hide a paper he was playing with in a box full of books. The box was very close to the car wheels. This caused fire and the dark smoke.

All that my father thought of after that was to make sure not to scare my mother and wisely inform her without having that strong of an effect on her. He knew that something bad could happen to her if she knew that her 3 children were home alone while there was fire in the house. He called her after that and said he wanted to meet her. I don’t know what or how he told her, but when she saw us, she hugged us very warmly.

In the afternoon, my sister and I started laughing about our black faces, especially when neighbors came over to help us out, cleaning up the mess. The incident turned into an occasion where family and neighbors gathered to help. It is true that it was very difficult, but with the existence of great people to make things easier on you, you forget the hard times and always remember the nice gestures they have done for you.


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