The fire crews have left and the smell of smoke from Tuesday’s early morning fire has drifted mostly away. Yellow tape surrounds what remains of the Heirloom Antique Center and Furniture Hospital and Mainly Vintage clothing store in White River Junction.
The owners of the fancifully named businesses have salvaged what they could and lined it up outside the structure. The investigators who picked through the rubble in search of a cause have repaired to their offices to finish their reports.
Soon, most likely, the bulldozer will come to scrape the ground clean. But for now, what remains is this — the geometries of ruin.
The charred rafters of what used to be a roof reach like a ragged steeple into summer's first sky. A spotlight dangles, round and useless, from an electrical wire. Mountain ranges of debris rise in jagged peaks from the soil outside.
Inside the building, a maze of rooms filled with flammable furniture and antique clothing — the cottons and resins and woods — burned fiercely and kept firefighters and their hoses outside in the thin light Tuesday morning. Today, the rich light of afternoon pours inside to show a blackened landscape.
Your eye looks for familiar objects. There, on the porch, a few cane chairs and wooden tables rest unscathed. Here, against a fence, lean two sleds with steel runners that once carried children down snowy hills. There, in a plastic crate, lies the stitched leather sole of someone's boot.
I remember that morning, more than four decades ago, when I delivered the morning paper to the front doorstep of my junior high classmate and her family. I remember glancing through the window beside the door, seeing the empty living room of a house where, in the pre-dawn hour, everyone was apparently asleep.
Not an hour later, her house was ablaze, fire trucks swarming outside. Later, I learned that Karen and had been trapped upstairs and perished. Delivering papers the next morning, I looked at that once-peaceful home and saw its charred rafters, its hollowed windows, its geometries of ruin.
I think about how, in an instant, everything can change.