Burning Down the House


Lliane Clarke


I thought my lace curtains would go up sky high first, but they’re just smouldering. I’ll crouch here for a moment longer. It’s cool here. Cool in the dark shadows of eucalyptus trees and asparagus ferns. The embers and sparks can’t touch me.

I thought the verandah would go up fast, but the tin roof is slowing it down I guess. Listen to her – groaning under the burden of her wooden beams. She’s seen it all! All the shouting and pacing, the late nights, glasses of wine hurled at the window, and me curled up in bed with a pillow over my head.

I will weep in the darkness, where nobody will see. I have seen this coming. I will grieve for you but I will do it alone, where you can’t harm me, can’t stop me breathing. I feel your heat but from a safe distance.

I hand painted every one of those window panes, hand sanded, then undercoat then gloss.

There’s the crack of the glass! How can you not hear that? There goes the furniture on the front verandah! It’s taking out the hammock – where we lay. Now the sofa, now the chair where we would sit, then just me alone.

Should I throw petrol on it? Should I run for water buckets in the out house laundry?

Now my hand embroidered lace curtains are catching – look at them dancing in the light. Now that’s a big explosion at the back of the house. Okay! Lights out. Electricity down. Now there’s just darkness and this red fire. Think you can treat me like that and get away with it! Think you can scream and shout and throw pans around my kitchen and then go out! Then ignore me, then come back for more.

And there you are – front door banging, running out into the darkness.

“What the fuck have you done! You’ve gone way too far this time!”