I went into the kitchen this morning to put the kettle on. While I was there I looked out the kitchen window and noted that everything was normal: birds were singing, trees were producing sap/leaves, the clothesline was turning clockwise in a gentle, almost wistful, manner. Most importantly, none of the houses within my purview appeared to be on fire. I left the kettle to do its thing and went back to whatever it was I was doing. (Staring blankly at the loungeroom wall, if I recall correctly.)
I returned to the kitchen a few minutes later and made a cup of coffee. Glancing out the kitchen window I couldn't help noticing that there was an enormous column of thick brown smoke billowing from a house around the corner. "Shit!" says I, and various thoughts scurried through my (thus-far-uncaffienated) mind, eg. Shit! That house is on fire! Surely somebody else has noticed! I mean, shit! The house is on fire! Should I call 000? What if somebody else has already done that! But what if everybody else in the neighbourhood has a job and I'm the only pathetic person home at this hour to notice the fire and therefore the only person who can call 000? Or, what if I'm the only person at home except for the people in the house which is on fire? What then? What if they die? Should I call 000 or should I run around the corner and make certain that the house is on fire (although it clearly is), and if so whether there is anybody inside, whom I will then presumably have to rescue and maybe I'll have to appear on the news for having effected said rescue in which case I will really regret having put on this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt when I got up this morning, but anyway it's the right thing to do, I'm not a hero, I'm just doing what any Aussie would do...
While my brain was faffing around my body had taken control and I was off, dashing down the street and around the corner where I was confronted by an incredible amount of smoke. I had expected at least a few other people to be milling around in the street, mobiles to their ears, but it was deserted. The smoke continued to billow from the rear of the house, although I couldn't see any flames. I decided to get a closer look, so I ran down the driveway, through the side gate, and moved hesitantly into the backyard. The smoke was so thick that I expected the back half of the house to be engulfed in flame and I quickly calculated my course of action: first, call the fire brigade; second, try to find out if anybody is inside and if so attempt to rescue them; third, go home and change into that nice lilac shirt I bought for my brother's wedding, just in case the camera crews turn up.
Obviously I didn't actually want the house to be on fire, but I have to say I was a little disappointed when I got into the backyard proper and saw that the house was undamaged. Then I realised that there was a man standing in the centre of the yard with a garden hose in his hand and a cigarette dangling from his lip. At his feet was a heap of semi-wet leaves that he had evidently set on fire for some reason and was now trying to extinguish.
"Ya right?" he said, flicking cigarette ash into the leaf-pile, which was of course the source of all the smoke.
"Yeah," I said. "I live around the corner. I thought your house was on fire!"
"Nah. Just the leaves. I'm burnin' them."
He seemed disinclined to continue with this witty banter, so I slunk off home, muttering to myself. By the time I got back my coffee was cold so I called the local council and dobbed in the leaf man for burning off. I hope they put him away for life.