11am on the road from Melbourne to Canberra
“I still can’t believe the drought is this bad down here.” Tom sighed.
“I know, this trip has made it seem worse – Canberra is dry and yellow, but a lot of the farmland down here has turned to dust. It’s so awful.”
3pm, at Mc Donald’s Yass, only an hour from Canberra
Eve scrambled in her handbag for her Bricanyl. “My asthma is so bad” She wheezed. “I can’t believe how much smoke there is around. It’s spooky Tom.”
“There is a lot, but I’m sure it’ll clear by tomorrow. The radio said there’s a big firefront in Namadgi. It’s probably blown in from there.”
4pm in Canberra, heading south to Kambah
“Don’t forget to get petrol”
“I’ll get it tomorrow when we shop for Micah’s party”
”Don’t we need milk anyway?”
“No, Kim said she got some for us and left it in the fridge.”
“Oh” Eve felt uneasy, but she knew it was impossible to change Tom’s mind once it was made up. They’d had the petrol argument before.
1pm the next day
“I’m not sure I should come with you.” Eve tried to breathe normally, but the wheeze was easy to hear.
“I don’t want to leave you here alone right now” Tom reasoned.
“Do we have to shop today?”
“What do you think? Micah knows his party is tomorrow and everyone is coming. Do you see a birthday cake or party food here??”
“OK. Lets go.”
1.15pm on the road to Tuggeranong
“Tom, let’s go home NOW”
“Umm, OK, yep, Turn the radio on OK?”
Even Tom could not keep the anxiety from his voice as the two of them sensed the change. After an eerie darkness, suddenly the hills to the west of Tuggeranong were glowing orange-red.
5.30 pm In their own driveway - Kambah
“Are you sure you put all the photo albums in?”
“Yep, they were the first things you brought out to me remember?”
Eve, the two boys and the family cat were packed into the car amidst their dearest possessions.
“OK. Come on, lets lock up and go!”
Eve looked up at the hill only a street from their house.
“TOM, QUICK THE HILL IS BURNING!”
“TOM COME ON!” Eve sat horror struck as the tree over the road burst into flames that soared twice its height. She honked the horn repeatedly until Tom appeared. He glanced at the tree, jumped in started the car. He took off towards the road. The car shuddered and stopped. He tried again. The car bunny hopped and stalled a second time. Eve glared at him and then snapped.
“We’re out of petrol!!! The fire is here and we’re out of petrol. I can’t run, I can hardly breathe, and WE”RE OUT OF PETROL!!! WHY DIDN”T YOU FILL UP YESTERDAY WHEN I ASKED YOU TO?” She started to cry.
“It’s OK. Look at me.” He held her face so that she had to see his eyes. “We will get everyone out of the car and go into the house. We will be OK. Understand? They still might get it out. Most of it’s grass, not trees. It will be OK”
Eve nodded, and mildly did what he had asked, shaking all the while, and keeping one eye on the fire. When they were in, and had replaced the wet towels in the doorway, the whole family gathered to hug.
“Bad fire” said little Micah, holding out one hand in a ‘stop’ motion. “God make the bad fire go away.” His scrunched up little angry face was more than Eve could bear. She dropped her head to his shoulder and sobbed as she cuddled him close. Tom prayed aloud for their safety and that of others around them. The menacing orange glow continued and the roar of the fire increased - and then they were gone. Tom looked out the window towards the firefront.
“It’s out Eve! They’ve got it out!” He knew they had a long night ahead of them, but for now, it appeared they were safe. “Praise God!”
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