As he grew older – now in his mid-seventies – Ernest had a preoccupation each summer: to chop up enough firewood for the following two winters so that if he were to pass on then Polly his wife would have enough firewood to keep warm for at least two winters. It wasn’t a silly idea. He dreaded the thought that his dear widow should suffer from cold. Finances would be stretched. If the worst came to the worst she could cook on the log-burner as well as heat the house. The firewood was an insurance of sorts.
Ernest knew the likelihood that he would go first. Polly was fit as a fiddle. He suffered from breathlessness and a mild diabetes. Husbands often (usually) predeceased their spouses. Chopping wood for winter was thoughtful and practical. The wood shed was full to overflowing as autumn closed its curtains.
These thoughts occupied Ernest each day as he went out to get enough firewood for the evening. He appreciated his foresight. He just wished he didn’t have to do it alone.
Anita’s husband, Creswell, had said it was probably best not to light the fire until they got the chimney cleaned. It would be a tragedy if the house caught on fire.
“Use the gas heater. It’ll take the chill out even if it smells the house out a bit.”
Anita and Creswell had budget worries. Groceries, electricity, and running the car were priorities. Getting a chimney cleaner was a little too expensive at present, even though Creswell worked. Anita didn’t have a job, and in the current economic climate two jobs had become necessary to pay for day to day living.
So off to work Creswell went! Anita lit the fire. It will be out by the time Creswell gets back from work, and then she can turn the heater on like it had been going all day.
Fall evenings fall so soon;
the windows closed by noon, shut tight;
the curtains drawn lest light
too weak invades the brightly lit
and cheerful space. Flame flits
in hearth to warm, uplift the heart,
with smell of soup, jam tarts,
fresh bread, all a la carte fireside
dinner. Yet TV guides
demand the day’s world-wide newscast.
A bomb kills over there,
eight soldiers die somewhere, and far
away fancy film stars
rant, silken voices jarred with beeps.
A drug-drugged druggy weeps;
some politicians speak about
corruption. Stamps and shouts
and blood and hurts and pouts invade
the family room. Love fades.
Fall evenings fall. They’re made for guilt.
Melissa had a pet python. It was huge. Of course, she was unmarried. The snake kept all men at a distance.
At night Melissa would snuggle up in bed with the pet python wrapped around her. On a warm night the snake would sleep on the floor.
“It curls around me for warmth,” said Melissa. “It’s not going to swallow me!”
Melissa pooh-poohed the idea that it could devour her. “Pooh-pooh,” said Melissa.
“It will kill you one day,” warned Melissa’s mother.
“Pooh-pooh,” said Melissa.
One night Melissa got up in the dark to go the bathroom. She tripped on the python curled up asleep in the corridor. She broke her neck. In the morning there wasn’t much to clean up. Just a pair of slippers.