'Unlit Sticks' by K. S. Moore

The tractor scores bright lines in the field. Four bales of silage already loom, great barrel-shadows with a sheen of their own.

I hide behind glass and a dark house that has brought out the black in me. It is June and I'm about to light the fire. The house needs a fire. It's old, heartless, permanently on pause. I assemble the timber. The phone rings.

I wonder whether to wash my hands. So many creatures in the garden . . . I'd be a fool to think they hadn't scurried over my kindling. I worry about the germs spreading, imagine them skipping from my hand to the receiver, leaving a trail of risk. I'll wipe it later.

“Is Mrs Wall there please?”

I'm not a Mrs, I'm a Miss, so I shake my head, until I remember to speak.

“There's no Mrs Wall here.”
“Are you sure?”
Of course.

I hang up, turn on the television. It releases a jangle of sound and I wonder why I even own it. It's not as if I need the company. I have Lana. She turns her key in the door. Clicks into place.

“Any phonecalls for me?”

I shake my head. This house has taken all my words. I cannot find them, even as she runs from a rotten marriage.

“I thought . . .”

I never discover what the thought was. It is lost as her handbag slips from her shoulder to her wrist, triggers a sigh and sit down at table.

Neither of us makes tea, meets eyes.

The fire is just unlit sticks.

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