Nov 04

How I nearly killed my sister

So tomorrow is a big birthday. I like the way that it’s on a Saturday this year. That feels good and right to me. Also, the thing I like most about my birthday is that it’s on Guy Fawkes. I’ve always had a weirdy obsession with fire, even before I was old enough to understand about the guy with the explosives.

I must have been about three or four when I nearly burned my sister alive. I can remember it with absolute clarity. It was hot, really hot (it always is in Zambia) and I couldn’t sleep. I’d been bugging the bejeepers out of my parents, not wanting to go to bed, and they’d shut the livingroom door and obviously decided to ignore me wailing in the corridor outside.

It was a good tactic. I got bored of the wailing and stopped. Did I go back to bed? I did not. I took my snivelling self into their bedroom, found a box of matches and THEN went back to bed.

My sister was fast asleep in her cot. (She’s always been a good girl.) The moon was streaming in the window, and the noise from the telly in the livingroom was faint and reassuring. I shook the box of matches, opened them and took a deep sniff. Mmm. Always loved that smell. The curtains in our bedroom were a weird texture. I looked at the box of matches and took one out. I looked at the curtains. I looked back at the match. Wondering, I held the match to the curtain and whisked it across.


How did that happen? I have no idea! To this day, I cannot understand how a match can ignite on curtains, but that’s what happened. Massive blaze. I leapt to my feet (always had a keen sense of danger) and ran to the livingroom door, wailing at max volume.

Did the parents budge? Nuh uh. Ignoring the Irritating Child Bringing Them To Their Knees was clearly their tactic, and they were sticking to it.

I don’t know what it was that made them come to the door, but I’m glad they did. I can still see the shiny buckets slick with slopped water as Mom and Dad rushed to put out the fire. It had already consumed much of my bed and begun on my sister’s, but she got out eeeelive, as my mother would say.

Now I have a hearty respect for fire, and even lighting the hob to boil an egg gets my heart beating faster than it should. So fireworks? Oh YES. Bring ’em on. All the fire – none of the fear. I canna wait!

I’ve asked my sister to stay home safely, with doors and windows shut and the extinguisher at the ready, but I think she’s over the trauma she never knew she had.

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