Go, you say, before he gets in the mustard-coloured Nissan and winds the window down. There’s still ash in your lashes and milk on your skin. His voice crackles, eucalypt, as he tells you to Get in, quick – and that It’s lucky the old thing even starts. You smell the glue of your shoes, the rubber soles too, melting as you stand above brickwork, laid down one long-ago Sunday afternoon.
Washing, unburnt, still hangs on the line: the linen shirt you once wore to the office. Only yesterday, when your cupboards were full of sheets and your drawers were full of spoons. You notice telephone poles, lining the road like felled trees, as you watch him roar up Skyline Road, then down Mount Wise; no bush to hide anything any more.
Stay, you mouth to the Heeler, russet-coloured, her eyes irritated and damp. You both look to the sky as fat drops of Saturday rain speckle the colourless earth, the twisted tin: home. A charred hen lies on what was once driveway – wings spread. You remember two hours ago hazily: the pumps melting, then him running about yelling Woollens; wet them – so you did, with everything, anything, from the fridge. Rev, Cottee’s, soda stream: it all got soaked in.
No sirens ring out along the ridge now, as you’d always imagined they would. No helicopters hover, dumping dam water over neighbours’ sheds, over cars – most newer than your own. Rainbow trout; yabbies, blue – you steady your breath by imagining things, other than fire, falling from a now-cleared, unchanged sky. Stay, you say, calmer now, the heeler panting a little less – smiling in her own way. Stay, you say, everything’s going to be ok.