Dart Valley Writers U3A




Lucy Willetts


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No Smoke Without Fire




The curtains twitched as Malcolm snuck another furtive glance between the gap onto the street outside; the sensation of the material on his fingertips deliciously addictive as he pressed his nose up against the window for a better look. Sure enough, she was still there.  Barbara Lomax, whose only contribution to the community was to keep an eager eye on everybody else's business.   

"I know you're in there Mr. Hudson.  I also know you didn't apply for planning permission - I've checked with the council see.  That's why I'm here - to let you know you'll have to remove it."

Malcolm watched awhile, transfixed, as her black Labrador paced up and down the path as it selected a suitable place to relieve itself.  You didn't see him complaining about that though, did you? He turned to his visitor, who sat quietly in the armchair by the fire, a cup of tea and plate of biscuits untouched on the coffee table beside her.  "And what do you think Mary?  Hmmm?" 

Seemingly mesmorised by the flames, her eyes never wavered from the fire.  "Had plenty to say for yourself when it came to complaining about my leaves littering your drive though didn't you Mary?"  Still, she didn't respond. 

Barbara Lomax looked up at the thick flume of smoke as it bellowed from the chimney and tutted under her breath.  God only knew what he was burning in there.  Or why.  Temperatures had soared this past week and most of the villagers were lighting their barbeques, not their woodburners.

"We've had numerous complaints Mr. Hudson.  Your woodburner is seriously impacting upon people's lives."

The stifling heat was oppressive in the small room and Malcolm brushed away the sweat from his face irritably with the sleeve of his shirt as he once again addressed his guest.

"Did you complain Mary?  Did you?  Mother Nature's certainly got it in for you, hasn't she?"  Still, she remained silent.  "What's the matter?  Cat got your tongue?"  He chuckled at his little joke - his eyes twinkling with delight as his beloved cat licked its lips; the steady stream of purring like an idle engine as he stretched out luxuriantly on Mary's lap.

Barbara Lomax's voice once again echoed from the other side of the letterbox and Malcolm could taste blood as he sank his teeth into his lower lip in an effort to contain his anger.  Why couldn't she just mind her own bloody business and leave him alone?

"There's legislation to adhere to Mr. Hudson.  Rules about pollution.  You can't just burn anything you know!"  

He knew all about the effects on the environment from burning the wrong products thank you very much.  Google had been very informative about that particular matter.  What Google hadn't been able to clarify, was whether burning the remnants of a human body could block his chimney and this bothered him - very much indeed and as he chucked another leg on the fire, he sent a silent prayer to the big man upstairs that his uninvited guest wouldn't cause any problems on her way out.

© LE Willetts 2014