It happened so long ago I am sure I will mess up some of the details. It was somewhere in the mid fifties and that was a while ago. I lived in the typical dysfunctional family. There was my father, mother, my brother and myself. We were not a huggy family. I do not remember my dad ever showing affection to my mother nor his children. I remember fights. Cursing spats usually about the lack of money. Money, money and more money. My mother always complained about its lack, and the fact that my dad was a dreamer.
My dad was a dreamer and a schemer. His dreams were always money oriented and his schemes usually ended in some kind of disaster. He worked hard but not smart. And yet he was smart. Maybe not lucky.
We lived in Brooklyn, New York in a dumbbell tenant building. They were named that because they looked like a dumbbell. Two sides with the back connected. Along the sides and back were apartments. They were at least six stories high with no elevator. They were not fancy. Ours was on the ground floor. A couple of steps up and you entered into a small foyer. Then there was the kitchen, turn left a small hallway and the living room, then a bathroom, and finally a bedroom. There was only one entrance. There were windows on the far side in all the rooms.
As I said my father worked hard. At this time he was a salesperson for a diamond ring factory that Grandpa owned. He had samples of jewelery and he would go to stores and try to get them to buy from the factory.
One day I was awaken to a giant commotion. Someone had broken into the apartment as we slept. They stole the samples. Gold and stones gone and everyone was mad. The factory covered the problem, maybe there was insurance. Either way my dad had bars installed over the windows in the bedroom. They were really ugly. He mentioned that he was going to install more on the living room when he had more money.
Time moved on. I remember a man came over a few weeks later. My dad was convinced that we needed life insurance. He had a small policy from the factory. I was to have a $10,000 policy. He made a big deal out of it. I believed it was under $10 a month. The man who sold it to us would come on the first of the month and pick up the money.
It was a few months later. I believe it was a Sat. or Sunday. Mother and my brother had gone shopping. I was in the apartment watching television on a black and white T.V. My dad was in the kitchen cooking something for breakfast. It was eggs and olives. He was inventive, I will give him that. In those days we used grease to cook with. It was kept in a jar in the refrigerator. I was in the middle of a cartoon when my dad started screaming. He had started a grease fire and it had spread. He did the one thing you are not suppose to do. He used water on it.
I ran into the kitchen and for a second saw my dad try to put out the spreading fire. He yelled at me to go to the bedroom and close the door.
I was young and did what I was told. I sat on the bed with the door closed for what seemed like a long time. Then to my horror I saw smoke coming in under the door. The smell of smoke, the whispers of curling grayness started to fill the room. I was afraid to open the door. Where was my dad?
I opened the window to the bedroom but I could not get out. The bars that would protect us from the burglar now entrapped me. The smoke was getting thicker and thicker. I was coughing and found it difficult to breath. I took a magazine, I believe it was Life, and rolled it into a funnel, stuck it out the window and put my lips around one end. I had the other end outside and tried to get fresh air. Last thing I remembered was the door being opened and a huge man in a fire suit coming through it, grabbing me, hoisting me up and a fast walk through the hall to the outside. I remember an oxygen mask, a stay in the hospital overnight and my parents and brother at my bedside.
We never talked about the incident. Then a few days ago, fifties years after this happened, a trigger reminded me of this incident. A young kid in a baby carriage shot and killed. Now that case is a mixed up tragedy for it seems the mother had just taken out a life insurance policy on the child.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Maybe yes, maybe no. I just do not know. I often wondered about it for quite awhile but then it faded away until I read that article just the other day. It gave me goose bumps. And now I am trying to get these thoughts out of my head.