A-Z Part Q
In the alcove at the side of the fireplace, a brass box holds kindling sticks and firelighters. There is coal in the scuttle and logs in a basket. The grate has some ash, craters of it, like a moonscape. Claire ponders raking it out, but then again, it is a light layer, it won’t choke out the draw of air. She has done enough work to be happy with her day. She opens the brass lid of the box to pull out a square of firelighter, a handful of sticks to make a fast blaze. Echo, meanwhile, has wandered over and poked the curious ash.
‘Careful,’ Claire warns, gathering the child to her lap. ‘You can watch this, okay, but then I put the fireguard up and you don’t touch. Ouch, hot!’
Echo, intrigued, makes no comment. She studies the white cube of paraffin as it catches the proffered flame. She studies the flames that spiral around the skinny kindling.
‘Woff,’ she whispers.
‘Fire is lively, like the dogs,’ Claire tells her. ‘Kind of sounds like woff, doesn’t it? Woff woff, like Cerberus, guarding the gates of Hades. On both counts, mind your fingers!’
They sit, eyes lulled by the fire. Flames sway, knot themselves in energetic bursts around twigs; shape to a dense glow that ignites the larger sticks, that jumps up more flame. Hot colours dance, entrancing adult and child. Fractal patterns of smoke leak out. Claire’s mind idly pats words around: heat, flame, heartstring, connected.
Echo sits on Claire’s lap, growing heavier, leaning stronger. Fire flares into dreams.