There were no fires that year. It was hot, sure, but something in the city conspired to keep the combustion only in the heads of the citizens. Minds burned up and burned out; it was a season of high fever and hi jinx. People danced on the telegraph poles, ran into traffic just to play chicken with motor cars, jumped from windows.
They weren’t trying to kill themselves. They weren’t depressed, they were full of life. Window jumpers would stand on the ledge and call down to the street. Ahoy! After a few incidents, the crowd knew the routine. SUMMON THE FIRE BRIGADE! the cry would go up, carried lustily along the street to the nearest hook-and-ladder station, and the firemen – no women then – would arrive tout suite and unpack the trampoline.
It was lucky there were no fires, we all felt blessed. The window jumpers gave the fire brigade something to do, when they weren’t rescuing cats from trees. The cats could climb down on their own but everyone agreed that the spectacle was the thing and the cats didn’t seem to mind.
It was a hot summer, and we were all touched by madness in the sunshine. Our minds boiled until the steam bloomed from our ears and the flames glowed in our eyeballs. We bounced when we jumped, and we climbed where we didn’t need to climb. When autumn came we lit the bonfires and the smoke of a real fire finally cleared our heads.
When I was young I was happy, not by accident but by design. I smiled, huge and broad, at anyone who passed me in my pram. I was wheeled around the streets by the youngest of the family, the pram old and battered and once their own. Once their parents lay stupefied in its embrace.
His mind bled. He held up his hand; it shimmered, each hair picked out in fine spirals of oil-on-water rainbows. His body rippled between states. He was male and female. She could feel each change but couldn’t decide which was true, her own thought process an unreliable narrator.
Seething-black snake-serpent in MY HOUSE keep your distance creature I know you I know where you slither-crawled from where you’ll get yourself back in to curled sleepless round your nest of rotted chalk eggshells hatching only dead cells.
The fading light of sunset suffused the woods with a staggeringly tedious glow. Oh god, he thought, not this again. Not the majestic beauty of nature. The rich autumnal hymn rising wordlessly to the delight of the unknowable cosmos. Christ. Who actually enjoys this bullshit?
John shivered in the damp. It was July, but had been raining so long that the heat of any Summer sun was long forgotten. Every tree in the grey mist of the morning looked like the looming head of some giant figure, hauling itself across the landscape on its belly. The birdsong cut sideways through the glum, a cheery reminder of a season that should be happening. Was maybe happening elsewhere.
The air was heavy; baked and left to cool, it smelled like the screen of an old television set. Her feet flexed inside her close-fitting shoes, grinding tight circles in the dust. She breathed in steadily, fighting the urge to cough, seeing in her mind the oxygen reddening her blood. The blood reddening her skin. She ran her hand over her bare arms, a nervous gesture, and shuddered in the heat.