Written 25 May.
The day began so well, there was no hint of what was coming.
Our neighbour ST appeared on our deck with the huge gas bottle- he’d been walking along the track and seen I’d dumped it on the bottom step This wouldn’t happen in the city! We chat for a few minutes, and I apologise for our noisy generator again.
Those extra solar panels would’ve done the trick, but they still haven’t turned up. We’re still waiting.
I remind him that we were going to put them out on the pontoon, where there’s sun for much longer than on our roof shaded by our neighbours’ trees.
He asks where we bought them. He’s a businessman, so we talk about how in this crisis, everyone needs deliveries.
I tell him.
Solar shop online. They’ve got branches every where.
Are you sure?
Have you rung them?
I tell him we’ve rung many times but their phones are down. I suppose in this crisis they can’t get help.
You can check if they actually exist.
It’s my old friend George’s idea. I’m always asking him advice. You go to google earth and check their neighbour’s building, look their number up, ring them, and ask if if they know anything about the company.
I say I’ll tell GG.
We have a community, he says. And he’s right, we do.
GG decides to drag the generator into the tool shed, along the deck but next to the bathroom. And that’s important, because I write the misty, rainy day away with the chapter and bore myself silly. GG puts on the generator late afternoon and it roars away. Just on dusk, I go to the bathroom and notice something ring outside the window- mist? steam? Does the generator change pitch? Later, I wonder. I’m curious enough about chemist rising, though still in the daydream of my chapter, to drift to the door. I don’t need to sniff. A stench blasts my senses, a burning stench, much worse that when i burn rice. But it’s too wet for a bushfire, i think vaguely and walk along the deck towards the shed, turn the corner and there’s the generator inside the shed with yellow flames leaping around it.
I’d like to say that I ran to the kitchen and grabbed saucepans of water to throw over the fire and put it out- haven’t we gone over and over what we’d do in a bushfire? but I don’t. I just stand stock still. A voice comes out of me yelling help help but its like the way yu yell in a nightmare, for drowned by the roaring generator, it’s a silent scream. and i’m thinking: do I put water on a generator or would that make it worse? Is this a petrol fire, and are they different.
Help, help, I yell again, and then i rush it to K, but she’s deep i nnetflix and is deaf to the world. Just then, unbelievably GG appears.
He stares at me, understands, and runs.
Get water, he says.
I’m still so shocked, I dither in the kitchen over saucepans- this one that’s unwashed, or a nice clean one. Managed to yell for K again and she comes out.
There’s a fire.
She understands immediately, grabs a big saucepan, fills it with water, and runs. I run after her with another saucepan. She sets the pace, filling pans and running with them, while I follow her stupidly.
Turn on the pump, shouts GG.
The pump, I repeat. Where’s the pump?
I use the pump everyday to water the top garden. Slowly, I remember how to turn on the pump.
By now, K’s sloshed so much water that she’s drowned the flames and Gg ‘s able to drag the generator out of the shed, so its out in the open. Only the shed door is burning. K sloshes more water, so its just singed. The generator is also singed, and dead.
We collapse inside the house, shaking, whispering to each other that we could’ve burned down the house, burned down the community. K goes to lie on her bed, exhausted.. I suggest we visit ST and his wife. I email them, and we take with us a bottle of whisky. but they ply us with gin and tonics, and slices of pear and cheese. Soon talk of the generator is exhausted and we talk about more interesting things – Donald Trump, art, life. We have a community.