6 Dogs Who Look Like My Family, Who Recently Died In A House Fire by @DaveDittell


  1. “It was electrical.” The words barely registered.


One day, deep inside the woods by my childhood home, me and my friends found the charred remains of a burned cabin. At the time the stash of pornographic magazines with names like “Smut,” “Men’s Weekly,” and “Backside” that we’d found seemed like the most important thing, the divine hand of God guiding us toward manhood. But standing before the smoldering remains of my own home thirty years later, it was the blackened and peeling wallpaper, the melted and re-solidified plastics of home appliances that came back to me.


“It was electrical,” the detective told me, “I’ve seen enough of these to know how those fires spread.”



  1. The first time I saw her I knew I had to meet her.


It was a party, a friend of a friend’s birthday I wasn’t even invited to. As I entered the kitchen for that one beer too many there she was, checking her phone. It wasn’t until later that I found out she’d been looking at nothing, trying to seem anything but bored and boring in front of a guy she thought cute.


What I said that night isn’t important – I can’t even remember it, though every night since I’ve forced myself to try – but one year later we were married.



  1. How do you identify a body that doesn’t even look like a body anymore? How do you identify three of them?


The hotel the insurance company provided me looked like a photo from a shittier past and smelled of stale cigarettes, a legacy of years of smoking that new carpets, new curtains, new bedding could never destroy. I used the free plastic coffee cup as an ash tray and broke down crying while watching Larry King talk about a war I couldn’t remember how we’d entered.


The next afternoon they had me come in. The medical examiner was listening to the ball game and had a half eaten tunafish sandwich on his desk. I tried to remember if I’d eaten the night before as I told them what I thought they wanted to hear.



  1. One thing they never tell you is that you’ll remember the moments you missed more than the ones you were there for.


How many times in their young lives must Kelly and Madison have fallen, looked around, and found no comfort, no succor, no father waiting to comfort and guide them. You tell yourself that they need to learn to fend for themselves, that they’ll grow up to be independent, strong, calm, that at least they’ll always have their mother there, but then they don’t grow up at all and you wonder if every single thing you did was wrong.


A man’s mind is an inescapable prison of doubts. In the end, we’ve all been sentenced to death anyway.



  1. Does it matter why I wasn’t there? Does it matter that I wasn’t there?


Work, throwing one back with the boys, traffic, part of my normal schedule, affair, dropping by the grocery store. In the end I wasn’t even there when I was there; I was half a man when the strength of a thousand men wouldn’t have been enough.


Your home is supposed to be where you feel safest. Should you feel that way? Can you feel that way again?



  1. Sometimes when the sun in shining and the grass is freshly mowed it all feels the same again.


I closed on a new house recently; my realtor said it’ll be good for me. There’s no boxes to unpack, so there’s that, but I can still manage to feel like my old self for even minutes at a time if I just forget.


For brief, beautiful moments I haunt my new home like it’s the old one and I can see a future through the hazy prism of my present. The edges are dark, blurry, impossible to discern whether there’s anyone else there but me and truth be told, I’m not sure if I’m ready to find out.

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