There’s a fire raging at Romper Room. Miss Alice coughs hi to all the boys and girls as smoke rises over her face and hand mirror.
Hello, Magic Mirror friends. She reads messy names Sujenny and Ambrian and Joemily.
Firemen in Mr. Roger-cardigan-colored outfits arrive with hoses filled with glitter and PlayDoh water that turns into a clumpy blue mess. They try to open the giant folding ladder of Miss Alice’s Fire Engine Playset ($9.98 + tax) but it snaps like ribbon candy.
The fire began as a Swedish chime carousel announced a holiday St. Lucia play. Shirley Temple lookalikes lined up with flammable head wreaths and white candles to showcase a new culture. I sent in my application to be one of them but wasn’t chosen. I was never called out by Miss Alice in her magic mirror either. I still practiced for months with a book on my head, walking like a runway model.
The chosen Shirley Temple St. Lucia’s are better at it then I would be, marching like sausage-hair-curled soldiers. In minutes, their hair is on fire too as the fire engine sirens play Edelweiss. The firemen spray down their curls with seltzer water from clown-sized spritz bottles.
I have to let the children know I’m watching them.
Miss Alice Puff the Magic Dragon breathes through our television screen. I feel her hot breath on my face as I reach my hands out to catch her; she falls from forty stories almost into our living room, but not quite. Her face presses against the black and white screen, black and white flames licking at us.
She mumbles as smoke crowds into her plastic lungs but we can’t hear her anymore. We watch her paper dress fill with flaming memory words as she reads messages from boys and Shirley Temple girls.
Fire Fire help help me can you see me, boys and girls?
The firemen-boys finally put out the fire with their glitter hoses. Miss Alice holds the paper mirror in bandaged hands and tries to read our names in the ashes. Alice she crow-voiced calls out, can you hear me? And yet, she can’t hear herself.
The St. Lucia Shirley’s run over to reassure her but she can’t see them anymore either. Her blue eyes and blue cardigan are black and white and grayscale. Do you see me, Miss Alice? I call at the television as she is carried away. My fingerprints spell out her name on the flickering screen. A pile of Christmas music ashes fall behind her.
Perhaps to distract, my mother brings a crushed box of silver angels and finger white candles to the table. I light a candle for Miss Alice and say her name into our dining room mirrored walls. I practice walking with a fake evergreen wreath on my head. Miss Alice will need replacement Shirley’s. I need to be ready.