Testing the Alarm System

Testing the Alarm System   —by Jinny Batterson

Wisps of smoke color our East Coast sky
As across our media screens dance
Sheets of flame from West Coast wildfires.

In Miami Beach, tourists get wet feet
Nearly every high tide. In Alaska, melting
Permafrost leaves larger and larger sinkholes.

From time to time, our mid-Atlantic region
Gets buffeted by hurricanes. Summers veer
Between drench and drought. Just now, neither.

I set out on an early morning walk to outpace
The heat and humidity that will settle all too soon,
Once the sun is well up and shade recedes.

Already, morning traffic is picking up along
The commuter artery where my walk begins.
I stay to the shady edge of the sidewalk.

My immediate goal is an off-road greenway;
Its entrance takes off just shy of a big new
Apartment complex.  Almost there–relief!

When I’d first started this walking loop several
Years ago, there were no apartments, only acres of
Second-growth woodland with a greenway in the middle.

I’d watched with dismay as the woods to the path’s left were reduced
To a mere comb-over, the rest cleared, gouged, then built over,
Paved or mulched, adorned with small shrubs and spindly saplings.

Just as I turn onto the path, a racket like the quacking
Of the Aflac duck, but amplified to ear-splitting intensity,
Erupts from somewhere within the apartment complex.

Three short blasts, short silence, three more, on and on.
No place to hide from the noise. No sirens, though.
No evidence of smoke or flame.  What gives?

Wandering the parking lot in search of an answer,
I eventually find a fellow in a hard hat getting
Out of a pickup.  “Is there an emergency?” 

“No, ma’am. They’re just testing out the alarm
System to make sure it works, before the next
Phase of the complex is opened for occupancy.” 

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