"Fire!" cried Mrs. Prothero, and she beat the dinner-gong.
And we ran down the garden, with the snowballs in our arms, toward
the house; and smoke, indeed, was pouring out of the dining-room, and
the gong was bombilating, and Mrs. Prothero was announcing ruin like a
town crier in Pompeii. This was better than all the cats in Wales
standing on the wall in a row. We bounded into the house, laden with
snowballs, and stopped at the open door of the smoke-filled room.
Something was burning all right; perhaps it was Mr. Prothero, who
always slept there after midday dinner with a newspaper over his face.
But he was standing in the middle of the room, saying, "A fine
Christmas!" and smacking at the smoke with a slipper.
"Call the fire brigade," cried Mrs. Prothero as she beat the gong.
"They won’t be here," said Mr. Prothero, "it’s Christmas."
There was no fire to be seen, only clouds of smoke and Mr.
Prothero standing in the middle of them, waving his slipper as though
he were conducting.
"Do something," he said.
And we threw all our snowballs into the smoke – I think we missed
Mr. Prothero – and ran out of the house to the telephone box.
"Let’s call the police as well," Jim said.
"And the ambulance."
"And Ernie Jenkins, he likes fires."
But we only called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine
came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and
Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody
could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off
the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim’s Aunt, Miss
Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very
quietly, to hear what she would say to them. She said the right thing,
always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets,
standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she
said, "Would you like anything to read?"
By Dylan Thomas
Truman Capote reads "A Christmas Memory"