It’s raining outside. Mother always told me not to go out when it rains, so I sit by the window and look outside.
We always have to clean up the neighbourhood after a good rain; urban wildlife that got caught outside, rubbish bins tipped over, or “Uncle” Barry’s backyard. Barry thinks he can grow plants in this weather. Everyone knows you can only grow in the dry season.
You can smell the rain; it’s fresh, but with a bite. That smell is because the rain cleanses the world, Father told me once. Fire does that.
I breathed in deep; it wouldn’t last long, this rain. I couldn’t wait to go outside, splash around through some ashes and see the world. Everything’s different after the rain.
Before long, the pitter patter of flames on the stone roof stopped. I rushed downstairs, to find Father already there with a bucket each for me and him, and wearing his thick rainboots. I slid mine on quickly and grabbed the bucket from him.
The streets were black with fresh ash, and there were a few little fires dwindling out along the way. I put out an overturned bin, with its contents spilled and burning. Father put out a few on the roadside, too.
Uncle Barry’s backyard was smoking again; Father tutted as we stepped over the little stone fence. We tipped the water from our buckets all over the ground there, and cooled down the smoking ashes of his garden. I kicked a few little piles of ash, watched them play in the air like insects. There was a bigger pile in the middle, and my eyes lit up.
“Don’t!” said Father.
I stopped my run and walked in a huff instead, kicking some ash along the way. I’d *really* wanted that big pile too. Father bent to touch it, turned it over. I gasped.
I’d almost kicked Uncle Barry!
“I’m sorry, Father, Uncle Barry…” they didn’t say anything. “Dad? Tell Uncle Barry I’m sorry.”
“He can’t hear you.” Father told me. “He’s gone.”
He was just playing, of course, we play all the time. “Good morning Uncle Barry! Wakey wakey!” I came right up to get him. Boy, he was covered in ash! I knelt down to shake him up, give him a hard time.
And he crumbled into ash.