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Rated: 13+ · Non-fiction · Contest Entry · #2244060
A story of Loss... and hope that something, anything... would be salvaged.
It began with a bang - a startling sound on a calm, summery night, sun barely sunk below the horizon. I’d already changed into light nightwear and brunch coat to be cooler, but rushed out the front door at the next sound, right on the heels of the explosion—a car roaring down our long driveway. Car trouble? Someone in need of a phone, maybe? The nearest town was still some kilometres from our farm. Instead, as the vehicle came to a shuddering, gravel-spattering stop, a young woman jumped out, shouting, “Your shed’s on fire!”

I turned and my heart all but stopped. Our big farm shed was ablaze on the inside, a spiral of smoke beginning its upward climb, like an accusing finger, soon turning into a thick column reaching high into that ultra-still sky. People of our nearest town saw it and believed it was our home. Amazingly and most thankfully, on this incredible still night, there was not the slightest drift of embers or hot ashes that could have changed everything… could have turned our beloved 1878 stone farmhouse into an empty shell.

Husband wanted to wrench open doors; rescue something. Anything! Luckily for us all, this proved impossible. Already the shed door handles were far too hot. Luckily? Well, yes. He would certainly have perished in the explosions of machine and vehicle fuel tanks, paint tins and stored farm chemicals—had entry been possible.

After a lifetime (that’s how it felt… waiting helplessly), fire units and our wonderful ‘firies’ began arriving, attempting to drown voracious flames determined to destroy all. For a time, our hopes were high that a miracle would pluck our hard-earned livelihood from this living hell. But this was not to be. Not this time. The destruction-greed proved more powerful than their mighty hoses pumping gallons of water into its maw, and the monster won. So did they. Eventually. But not before we lost all.

Gone was our tractor, machinery, stock trailer; and the lifetime gathering of tools, and countless bits and pieces from many farm clearing sales, far and wide. Then there was all the stock feed, pasture seed, fertiliser, veterinary needs, oils. Inexplicably, two large gas tanks did not explode, despite expanding to a terrifyingly doubled size. They took many nervous days on our part to contract to some semblance of their former selves.

The loss list was endless, continuing to grow eight years later. Conversations recur over and over again. “Where’s that (whatever)? I have one of those.” Eyes lock. “Gone in the fire” we say, and some of us tear up. Still.

A part of me will grieve forever over my greatest loss. A most special old cupboard contained 40+ years of Christmas. All within had been carefully and tenderly packed and put away only one week before their doom. All gone, forever... except, inexplicably, two musical hanging bells (somewhat distorted, but still able to play a wobbly old tune). And a handful of tiny bells; a few crocheted tree decorations, and one Christmas gift box, completely intact…

Photos are a poor substitute for countless heirlooms and children’s creations and my many decorations, wall hangings, countless characters—all handcrafted needleworks added every year. And the Christmas tree mat my husband made for his mother when he was still a child in primary school—78 years before — completely restored and renewed by me just a couple of years before its cremation. Memories and photos help… a little.

And one that hurts hubby badly, to this day — our utility with the fire-fighting unit on its tray top. It was always outside on total fire ban days, ready for action, but there was no warning in place this night. This still, surely blameless, kind and mellow evening seemed unlikely to offer any threat in our farming area.

But nobody counted on a rat that chewed through electrical wiring… his destructive greed decreeing he become the first victim.

(681 words)
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