Morning. Mid-winter light. A razor-sharp day, slippery ice sheets underfoot and muddy paths frozen into corrugated ridges. It’s cold enough to cut skin, make eyes and nose run a river and disappear fingers.
In my refrigerator bedroom, my breath floats in clean-edged sunbeams slicing between the curtains’ narrow gap. I dress quickly, thermals under lined trousers, a vest and winter shirt, two jerseys, double socks. Downstairs for hot caffeine, porridge and a sizzled crispy bacon sandwich, its melting butter oozing between the rye bread slices.
I’m the only fool up and about. There’s still no electricity, light switches click to nothing and it’s warmer inside the freezer than out. No power, no ready heat, no light, gas cylinders nearly empty. The new normal.
Fur-trimmed parka with double gloves and my bright blue woolen hat pulled over my ears and then outside. The brilliant low sun pricks my eyes and the cold air steals my breath. I head to the far reaches of the kitchen garden, liberate the wood-splitting maul, mash hammer and the wood grenade from the shed and heave out logs from the pile’s remnants ready for splitting. The first is knotted, twisted, pinched – even the heavy maul won’t do it. I drive in the grenade’s tip with the mash hammer so I can use the maul as a sledgehammer to force it into the log’s cramped fibres.
As I raise my arms, the lid of the cold frame by the shed lifts. I freeze. A rat spills onto the path. We stare each other out for a moment before it runs over my left boot and disappears under the shed.
Roger was born in London and has lived in the North East of England in the Tyne Valley for well over 40 years. He retired in 2012 from a working life in health care and environmental consultancy among various other odd occupations that demanded mainly dry as dust reports and proposals. Now, getting on a bit, he is finding deep pleasure in writing odd bits of flash fiction, short stories and the occasional poem. He’s trying to learn what words can really do, find a consistent voice. About six years ago, he acquired an allotment and passionately wishes he had done that years ago.