‘It started the day we moved in,’ the woman says.
‘We wake at 3 or 4 in the morning to explosions and banging,’ the man says. ‘The bedroom is thick with smoke and flames are curling up the doorframe.’
Rather than cowering or escaping through an upstairs window, the man and the woman grab blankets and start the fight of their lives. They hoist buckets from the en-suite, move furniture about and eventually manage to push the fire back from the door. Then back over the landing. Step by step they fight until the fire is confined to one room, then just a teeny corner.
All this takes hours and by then they are filthy and panting like animals.
‘I haven’t the strength to finish it,’ the man says lowering his flail to the floor.
‘I can’t lift another bucket,’ says the woman.
So they stop.
‘We’ll finish it tomorrow I promise,’ the man says gently brushing an ember from her sooty hair. ‘When we’re refreshed.’
‘I can barely stand,’ the woman says looking at the man’s scorched pyjamas, his ashy eyebrows.
Leaning together, they stumble back to the bedroom and collapse into an exhausted sleep.
Only to wake at the same time next morning, the fire renewed, as dangerous as ever.
‘Sometimes I want to stop, to just pack up and leave,’ the woman says. ‘But then what would he do?’
‘I couldn’t fight it without her,’ the man says. ‘I’d be lost.’
They understand this is what it takes to live in the middle of a country, down this kind of street, in a house afire.
Image: Castle rock, Flinders Island. A piece inspired by Lydia Davis’ In a House Besieged from her Collected Stories and written for Dverse where Sanaa asks us write an erotic poem (yes, I know it’s a little indirect 🙂)
And for no reason other than it’s beautiful and it’s playing now, here’s Kali Malone with The Sacrificial Code.