FIRE IN THE HEART • by Samantha Memi

The woman leapt from the top of the burning building. The flames reddened the faces of the watching crowd. The heat pushed them back. The woman hit the ground. The crowd oooooed.

If only I’d been a firewoman, I thought, with a ladder as tall as a building and a hose-pipe big enough to cool the over-heated and extinguish the burning mad, I could have caught her in my arms and carried her to safety. To the cheers of the watching crowd she would have swooned in my arms. “Oh you’re wonderful,” she’d have said, “I owe you my life.”

I would have smiled ironically and looked into her eyes. “It’s nothing,” I’d have said as nonchalantly as possible, “you need to rest.”

I would go to see her in hospital; a tube in her nose and machines that beeped and showed heartbeats on radar. I would hold her hand and her eyes would open.

“It’s you,” she’d say, “my fireman.”

“Woman,” I’d breathe.

“Sorry?”

“Firewoman.”

She’d be embarrassed because of her burnt face and hair.

“What’s your name?” I’d ask.

Her name would be Helen.

“And yours?”

“Samantha.”

When she left hospital she would move into my apartment. She would have to rest, of course, and I would have to look after her. While I was at work she could recuperate by taking baths with Rescue Remedy. I would come home and read her stories by Helen Simpson and Emily Perkins. When she had healed we would sleep together, and I’d hold her gently in my arms and rock her because the shock of the fire would have left her in trauma and often she would shake all over when she felt nervous.

I would take her down the station and show her the big red engine and how I could unroll a hose single-handed and she would laugh. All my workmates would be jealous and say, “You’re doin’ all right for yourself aintcha Samantha,” and I’d smile knowingly, thinking of Helen’s soft body in my bed.

Her mother would have taught her to cook and she would do oodles of pasta with thick yummy sauce and she’d love baking carrot cake and I’d love eating it and catching the crumbs in the palm of my hand and laughing and sighing, “Mmmmmm.”

Her parents would be old, rich, and both of them would like me; her father especially. His wink would be a sign to me that even if I made a faux pas at supper no one would really mind.

Then we’d travel. I’d throw away my hatchet, stuff the helmet in a box for any nephews or nieces that appeared, and off we’d pop to Thailand. She’d want to venture into the jungle, “Looking for orchids,” she’d say, “what else,” and she’d find the most delicate, fragrant orchid in existence and her eyes would light up like a child’s and she’d turn to me and say, “For you.”

***

“Come along now, move along,” said the policeman as an ambulance siren whined to a halt and medics rushed to the red mess that had once been a human being.

I wiped the tears from my cheek.

“She wasn’t very old,” said a woman beside me, “you could see that.”

“Yes,” said her friend, peering over the shoulder of a man, who turned and looked away. The show was over; time to go home; he took out his mobile. What would he say to his wife?

“Guess what I saw tonight? Some woman got caught in a fire and jumped, made a terrible mess in the road.”

“Really, isn’t that awful,” she’d answer, “the electrician came today, said he couldn’t fix the washing machine, it needs a new part.”

Would he be saddened by his wife’s indifference? Would he pick up the paper and turn to the TV page searching for a late night movie he could ogle with ease?

What would I say to people at work? How would I forget?

“Excuse me, do you know who she was?”

“Just move along please, the building may be weakened by the fire, please go home.”

Home? To what? An empty room. An empty bed. And if I decided to train in the fire service — what would they say? You’re too old, you’re too lonely, and anyway, you dream too much.


Samantha Memi used to work in a library, then she taught English, now she writes.


Rate this story:
 average 5 stars • 3 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • fishlovesca

    Congratulations. Amazing story.

  • Sandra Crook

    A really sensitively written piece – very enjoyable.

  • mizathena

    Really beautiful. Touching, original. It will stay with me.

  • Sheila Cornelius

    Too whimsical for my tastes, but smoothly written. The explanation seemed a long time coming.

  • Chetan

    Was a good one.. Really a worth read for the “common man”.

  • Julie

    Stunning!

  • J Howard

    Wow, what an interesting piece! I just loved the narrator’s voice, your choice of words, the sad and delicate wistfulness of the whole thing.

    All those imagined details–the Rescue Remedy baths, her coworkers’ reactions, the pasta and carrot cake, the trip to Thailand–just added to the sense of melancholy. This was skillfully written, no question about it.

    First rate storytelling, Samamantha! Thanks for sharing.

  • J Howard

    “Samamantha”? LOL! C’mon, you know who I meant..

    J

  • ajcap

    Left me incredibly sad. The last few lines made me want to hug Samantha, lie to her and tell her it’s o.k. to dream too much.

    Very well written flash,to evoke that kind of response.

  • Wanda

    Five sentences in the first pargraph starting with “The” almost made me stop reading.

    The continued use of the static verb “would” finally did.

    Sorry.

  • AJ Smith

    I loved this story!

  • I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been said: Sad, brilliant, amazing, stunning.

  • The identically structured sentences in the opening paragraph almost stopped me (even though I assumed it was for effect). But, I am glad I went on.

    Sensitive story-telling with a memorable voice. Haunting, is a word that comes to mind.

    Loved it. Four stars…

  • Very good – and who skips a sensitive story over opening sentence structure in a story this short?

    The story was so compelling.

  • Kit

    Poignant. Beautiful. Haunting. And it felt so true to me. Five stars.

  • Jen

    At first I wasn’t sure I liked this, Samantha seemed to get too carried away with her fantasy life [not that I’m any better,] but then we got to the end and it revealed just how sad she was. Maybe she’s wanted to train as a firefighter for along time? I don’t blame her for being sad about missed chances. Very beautiful and realistic story.

  • Touching

  • John Im

    Samantha is heroic for dreaming of a world without
    stereotypes in which diversity is celebrated. I mean
    both the character and the writer.

  • Paul Friesen

    I was also struck by the repeated “the” sentences in the opening paragraph, but like Seattle Jim, I assumed it was for effect. If I could make a recommendation to the author. I think the effect you were going for could be better achieved by making each sentence a separate paragraph. Observe

    The woman leapt from the top of the burning building.

    The flames reddened the faces of the watching crowd.

    The heat pushed them back.

    The woman hit the ground.

    The crowd oooooed.

    It may seem silly, a simple change like that; but read it, and you’ll see each sentence hits you separately, and I’m betting that’s the effect you were going for.

  • This is the best piece I’ve read on here in a long time.

    Brilliant structure that didn’t feel at all like a gimmick.

    I don’t usually give all 5 stars, but this one earned them!

  • Another magical story from EDF. It drew me into the main charter’s life and daydreams, almost like immersing in a foreign culture and beginning to understand another viewpoint on a lonely life. Then the author built – at least in me – an expectation of something sinister (I thought the MC might prove to be the cause of the fire), and then the isolated view of the lives of other onlookers emphasised the loneliness. Great writing.

    🙂 scar

  • Amanda

    I think the effect you were going for was perfect – despite what all those other people said.

    Loved the story, I can totally relate to dreaming too much.

    Five Stars!!!

  • Jack Engels

    I didn’t know verb choice could illicit such a strong reaction for someone to veto an entire story. I’m more of a theme man myself.

  • Samantha Memi

    I was so pleased with all the lovely comments that I treated myself to a book. Thank you all so much.

  • Jerry Kraft

    Lovely story with a delicious sense of the wistful and the sublimely sad. I thought the narrative voice was very effective and the comments about sentence structure and verb forms quite silly. You got me involved and made me care about all that happened to this woman, and all that hasn’t happened for her. Bravo.

  • fishlovesca

    Extraordinary writing on so many levels, Samantha. The kind of story that just takes your head off. May be my favorite ever on here.

    Forgot to note earlier I gave your story five well-deserved stars.

  • Brilliant and beautiful and heartbreaking

  • Somehow I am reminded of Oscar Wilde’s remark that “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing”.

  • Simone

    This one touched me and, in the end, made me cry. The last line did me in – you’re too this, you’re too that … how many times have some of us heard that in our lives?

  • This is well-written and very convincing. Thing is, it convinced me of something quite different from the interpretations I see above. For me, Samantha is a fantasist who is behaving much like a stalker. In her world, the victim will be eternally grateful and fulfill all Samantha’s needs or – or what? For these kinds of people, when the reality doesn’t pan out, the violence begins. I wonder if author Samantha meant us to see the fantasist or the loneliness. Nice work, anyway!

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  • Well thought out and totally original. I love the concept of the story. Very well done.

  • I read this a long time ago but was reminded of it by the podcast. I read a lot of short stories, and this is one of a very, very few that I remembered well. Loved the author’s insight into the main character’s mind.

  • Isabella David

    A really touching and gorgeously written story that will stay with me in the same way it’s staying with the MC. Brilliantly done!

  • Isabella David

    A really touching and gorgeously written story that will stay with me in the same way it’s staying with the MC. Brilliantly done!

  • wendy2020

    Every part of the is story grabbed me…the plot, the characters, the emotional tug, the imaginative,yet, concrete details that built the “what if” world and then thrust us back into reality. To have all those elements succeed in a flash fiction piece gives a huge appreciation to the talents of this writer.

  • wendy2020

    Every part of the is story grabbed me…the plot, the characters, the emotional tug, the imaginative,yet, concrete details that built the “what if” world and then thrust us back into reality. To have all those elements succeed in a flash fiction piece gives a huge appreciation to the talents of this writer.