“I said it was an accident waiting to happen.”
The pair were stood together, on the doorstep, in the street, next to the road. It was funny that the doorstep – threshold to the homestead; scene of family life, gossip and drudgery – still sat there, sturdy as ever, slightly pock-marked but largely polished.
“I needed a fag.”
The embers glowed intermittently in the ebbing night and the pair pulled their tatty coats tighter, as if reminded they were now outside, not in. The man absent-mindedly pushed gently at a broken brick with his foot, applying incrementally more pressure to turn it over. He’d started slightly embarrassed, wanting to cause a distraction, but now it was like he really had to look under the fallen masonry for answers.
“I don’t know why you never have matches,” she sighed, breaking the silence. “I should buy you a lighter for your birthday.”
“You always say that.” His reply was soft, warm. He was trying to be kind; he knew it was his fault. “You could get me one of those with the ladies whose clothes fall off,” he joked.
“That’s pens, silly,” she said, and they laughed, teeth showing in the half dark.
It was quiet again, save for a few creaks of settlement and the odd crackle as shattered timber succumbed to the fire or splintered away to dust under the weight of three floors. The pair gazed at the house, stunned by the sudden change but mesmerised by its new shape.
Gradually, they became aware of people approaching, then surrounding them. The distant sirens they had recognised only vaguely became more insistent and were soon deafening.
“Those ones with pilot lights are lethal; you’re supposed to get them replaced.” The hulking man with arms like trees stared at her.
“Do you know how much those new ones cost?” she sulked. “Plus they put them in the kitchen, which is bananas.”
You can find more of Clare’s work on her award-winning blog http://wordsandfixtures.blogspot.com