He is loading the car, I am finishing the dishes, and he comes in with the watering can. “Renee’s on fire.”
I haul the bowl out so he can get to the tap. He tells the girls to stay indoors.
“Why, what’s happening?”
“Renee’s on fire.”
Renee’s on fire. I tip out the dirty water and turn the cold on full. He’s back, getting a sledgehammer from the shed. I carry the water into Renee’s yard. The carers’ repetitions of come on Renee, open the door cede to the thud of the sledgehammer. Rectangular panes burst out and up and Renee stares through the framework, completely still, a pale orange light rising from her legs. The door is holding, and Renee stretches her hands through the shards towards the sledgehammer.
He slows and aims lower. The door shudders and jerks into an empty kitchen. Smoke hugs the ceiling and a muted alarm sounds. The front door is open and a fat cigar of cloth smoulders on the step.
She appears at the end of the row, supported by two passers-by, her grey hair neat and her skirt gone. Before she passes out, she allows the young policewoman to empty the watering can over her scarlet legs, indented with strings of blackened nylon, and says, “that was a very expensive door.”
We wait for the ambulance, and the glazier, and the right thing to say.
(Shortlisted for the Fish Flash fiction prize 2006; First published in the Fish Anthology)
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