I woke in the middle of the afternoon in summer, sweating in tropical island heat and hearing my mother clattering with a bucket outside, and the tap in the garden running and squeaking. There was something else too; smoke and crackling, snapping noises. Peek through the window and see the hillside in smoke and charred patches. In the early months of the year the forests are hot and dry and fires spark from stones, leaves, anything. My mother sees my head through the window, her voice is as clear as if she’s in the room.
“Is the homeless man again, he was cooking by the river and the fire spread, the stupid man! I call the fire brigade but they have no water source and the river dry up so you know they wouldn’t come.” Through the haziness fire plumes flare up periodically; as I watch a branch collapses slowly, shuddering as it falls. I knew that later this evening cars would run over a few manicous, lizards and other animals that fled the fire. Because we lived on the opposite hill, separated by the river, our house wasn’t in danger. But I couldn’t help thinking about the manicous. I’d seen them at night, rats with long curly tails and beady eyes with their young strapped to their backs. I thought about them perched in trees, waiting. The fire burned well into the night.
catch a fire prompts for October 2010: float, lizard, rain, sleep, fire
•••Alina Doodnath is a English Literature graduate from UWI St. Augustine currently wrapping up an MSc in Journalism at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Her favourite writers include Ernest Hemingway, Earl Lovelace, James Joyce, C.S. Lewis, Derek Walcott, Eric Roach, Carl Sandburg, Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath, and Adrienne Rich, amongst others.