The rain came that night. It hit the roof of the cottage hard and loud and pattered against the windows. Myers opened the back door and looked out. The village was gone in the rain. He came back inside and decided to work the vigilant stove. He had plenty of kindling now, and with firelighters and the driest of wood, Myers got it burning. He shut the damper, closed the doors. The wood spat and cracked. He sat back feeling satisfied. Man and fire.
As he watched the flames rear and flicker, he saw himself as a child sitting in his father’s car with his father at the wheel and wearing the same white shirt and tie he had always worn. Outside, the countryside rolled up and receded. Myers put a hand on the glass to block the sun, which as it disappeared was bleeding beautiful reds and yellows into the earth. Myers, a boy of ten, closed one eye and imagined himself balancing on the horizon, bathed in beauty.
His father was halfway through another lecture, his voice loud and gruff.
‘The city is where the money is, boy,’ he was saying. ‘Not the countryside. In the city, people are mad enough to fork over more money than they own. Take the Bible for example,’ he said. ‘People believe the bible was written by the infallible hand of God. And yet the Bible was penned by the fallible hand of man. And even if God did communicate with man, there’s no way there wouldn’t be errors in the translation. I would imagine God’s language is pretty complicated.’ He clipped Myers around the ear. ‘Are you listening to me, boy? I’m teaching you a valuable lesson.’
Myers nodded. ‘Yes, sir.’
‘You see, boy, my position is one of trust. If a customer trusts what you tell them is true, they’ll buy from you without prejudice. And if you’re really trustworthy they’ll devote themselves to you.’ He wagged a finger in the air and said, ‘Don’t underestimate the power of lies, Henry.’
Looking back now, Myers felt sick to his stomach. His father had been a deceitful man, and he wondered how his mother, a woman he barely remembered, could have been so entwined with him. He remembered his mother like remembering a dream. The only memory he had of her was one of her sitting in sunshine with her head back to catch the rays. She had been a beautiful and sad woman. In the same memory, she stood and turned, as though facing an audience, and reaching out she spun a wind-turn with her finger. It clicked and blurred, and as it spun darkness fell on her face and she glanced up at the sky. Then she was gone.
Myers stared at the flames in the stove. His hands had a tremble, his breathing was laboured. He glanced about the cottage. Pushing back his chair he stood and went to the backdoor and opened it. Rain spat in his face. With what light there was, he was able to make out a metal bracket in the brick by the door, a bracket that once held something in place. A wind-turn.
My father moved us to London. Why? When my mother died?
Back inside, he opened the doors of the stove and poked about with an iron poker. The flames were dying. He cursed. The kindling had burnt but the logs had only blackened and not caught. He grabbed more firelighters, broke off large chunks and threw them in, the smell of chemicals burning his nostrils. He covered the firelighter with more kindling and struck a match. The flames reared up, fierce red and bold. Maybe now, he thought. But once again, after ten minutes, the fire died. He went through this process all night until he’d exhausted the firelighters and the kindling was all but gone. He could get it lit but not keep it going. The logs were not catching. He needed anthracite. If it carried on like this, he’d never get the cottage warm. The floors and the walls were ice cold He couldn’t relax. He could see his breath in front of his face. Damn it! A failure at fire! His father would have enjoyed this. Myers imagined him watching from some ghostly realm. Laughing. Warmth. None of it.