Writer

MJ Crispin

Western Australia

BURNING PAST

7


A single pair of headlights rolled down the driveway, beams of light catching on the low lying smoke. Joanne pulled her weather beaten trench coat a little tighter around her shoulders and watched the flames in silence. The fire burnt high into the sky, fuelled by the dead vegetation piled below. Trees weren’t the only dead thing in the flames. Not that you could tell. When the flames had eaten their fill and the ashes smouldered there would be little evidence left. She had made sure of that.

It wasn’t like he didn’t deserve it. He had been a cruel and heartless man. She could have forgiven his drunken rages, underhanded comments and his sexism. In fact, he probably would have told her a woman couldn’t best a man; they were too weak and pathetic. Clearly he would have been wrong. The one little thing, the last stress fracture that broke the fragile glass of their lives was his hatred for her farm. She could not forgive him that.

Again and again he would complain about the expenses and losses of the property; how it would be better if they sold the land to a local business tycoon. Again and again Joanne had tried to explain how the farm had always been in her family; that since her father passed away it was her responsibility. She would never sell it. He hadn’t understood; had never understood anything - it was a wonder the man had survived this long.

Joanne had never been one to hesitate. So when she had arrived home that night to find her father’s best bottle of whiskey empty and hanging lifelessly from her husband’s drunken hand she couldn’t control herself anymore. With casual detachment she chose a log from beside the fireplace and advanced on the blight of her life. Joanne was by no means weak, thus she proceeded to bring the log down on his skull with all the force she could manage. The crunch of bone breaking had not been a new sound to her, nor was the feeling of ending a life out of pity. Indifferently she had wrangled his lifeless body into the tray of her faithful Ute and headed to the bonfire she had been slowly building. The intense heat would help to eliminate the filth she had piled up.

With a little kerosene the blaze had leapt to life almost instantly, towering into the sky as a column of fire. It had been burning merrily for some time before the headlights trundled towards her gate. As an exceptionally foul stench wafted past Joanne pulled her flannel shirt over her mouth and glanced towards the local policeman, raising a hand in greeting.

“Whooo-ee, that’s an awful smell there Jo.” He remarked, flashing her a friendly grin before holding his hand over his mouth to avoid the smoke, “What’re you burning?” Joanne lifted the brim of her Akubra hat to smile at him.

“Just some old rubbish Thomas, just some old rubbish.”