Self Insolation

“If you’d left sooner we wouldn’t be stuck with you, Kenny,” said Dahlia, one hand on the back of the couch so she could lean in and bring the point of her finger within an inch of his nose. The liquor stores were still open because they were essential services. She gargled and gulped creme de menthe before leaving to buy the day’s booze and repeated the procedure on her return. That was the extent of her precautions.

“Mom, you can’t blame him. No-one knew the bans were coming,” said Macy.

“Shut it, Macy, or so help me Jesus I will ki-kick you both out on the street.”

She said it without even looking at her daughter. She wasn’t really looking at Kenny either. Her eyes weren’t focusing. Kenny slid across the couch, out from underneath that wavering finger and the cloud of sour wine and mint.

“I’ll get dinner started,” he said, moving towards the kitchen.

“You do that, Kenny! Start dinner.” She jabbed her finger after him. “Microway us some goddam hah pockets, Kenny! That snot dinner. That snot even fooood!” said Dahlia. She backed herself up to the brown recliner, grabbed both arms to aim her ass, and fell back into it. She ground the back of her head a couple of times against the headrest then fell asleep.

“She’s obsessed with hot pockets,” said Kenny.

They were out on the deck, the lake behind them as dark as the clouds, the wind pushing the water, catching it, blowing it into white crests that dissolved into the air.

Macy pulled the blonde hair out of her eyes and mouth, tucked it into the yellow beanie she was wearing, and pressed herself harder against Kenny.

“We need to get out of here,” she said.

“We can’t go anywhere unless we take her car and you know how that’ll end.”

“Last night I found her walking back and forth outside our door. She had a fricking boxcutter. I don’t know if she wants to use it on me or on you.”

“Or the hot pockets.”

“It’s not funny. I didn’t know she was this bad. We’re not safe here.”

Time passes.

They both sat up in bed. The clock said 3.40. The sound. It was already over.

“The gun safe,” whispered Macy.

“You never told me you had guns here.”

“It was my Dad’s. No-one knows the combination. It hasn’t been opened since he died.”

“I think your Mom worked it out.”

Macy slid out from under the quilts, tiptoed across the carpet to the door and slowly pressed the lock button in the centre of the doorknob. The click was unreasonably loud. She climbed back into bed as her Mom’s footsteps became audible in the hallway.

Macy grabbed Kenny’s hands and they both slid down, trying to get further away, to make as small a target as possible. They held their breath.

Dahlia tried the doorknob. She was panting. Was it anger? Crying? The walk down the hall? She tried it again. A gunshot. Kenny rolled on top of Macy.

“Ah, dammit. Not again,” she muttered through the door and they heard her walk away.

“Get off. We gotta call 911,” said Macy, reaching for her phone.

Kenny grabbed her arm.

“My warrants, baby.”

“But you didn’t do any of that stuff.”

“Yeah, but I don’t want to sit in a cell while they work that out. I’ll get the COVID.”

“Can’t your lawyer…”

“He’s in ICU with it. Knowing my luck he’ll die.”

“Tomorrow we find a way to get out of here,” she said. “Can you get off me.”

“Get off? It’s kind of hot.”

“You’re squashing me.”

“You know what else is hot?”



She jabbed him in the ribs.

Time passes.

They were woken by a second noise before dawn. The clatter of a dropped pan. The smell of bacon was in the air. Ears to the door, they heard scraping and Dahlia whistling.

“Mom?” said Macy from the kitchen doorway, Kenny right behind her. There were four plates piled with bacon on the counter and two packs opened and waiting next to the stove.

“Morning, honey,” said Dahlia. She was dressed like she was heading out for an aerobics class, her first one in forty years. She wore a green apron over the top. “I’ve cooked some breakfast for you.”

“That’s a lot of bacon,” said Macy. She had moved into the kitchen, but Kenny stayed in the doorway, leaning against the jamb.

“Yeah. I thought I’d cook a bunch since I wasn’t going to be around to look after you.”

“Where are you going? Have you forgotten about the travel ban?”

Dahlia pulled strips of crisp bacon from the pan with a pair of tongs and dropped them onto a plate already piled high. She nodded towards the doors to the deck.

“I’m going out that way. Up the angels’ ladder into the warm embrace of my love, the sun.”

She turned to peer out the window over the sink.

“I haven’t got much time. He’s about to rise.”

She took off the apron.

“What are you talking about?” said Macy.

They followed her onto the deck, exchanging raised eyebrows and silent WTFs. The red edge of the sun was just cresting the water at the horizon. The cloudless morning was cold. Dahlia’s heavy breathing created plumes that swirled in her wake as she trotted down the steps and crunched across the grass towards the lake.

“Where are you going?” yelled Macy.

“Up the angels’ ladder! Love’s ladder!” called Dahlia, waving and pointing out into the lake where the reflection of the rising sun made a glowing band of colour that appeared to reach out to the lake shore and to Dahlia.

“I’m climbing it to the sun!”

“Are there meds she’s supposed to be taking?” said Kenny.

Dahlia trotted to the grassy lip of the lake and stepped down into the water. She may have misjudged the depth or been surprised when the angels’ ladder did not support her weight. She lurched heavily, squealed as the cold water reached up past her thigh, and then fell sideways, disappearing beneath the surface.

“Oh my G…” started Macy, but Dahlia popped up, wiped her eyes clear, whipped her wet hair back over her head, and clawed and rolled her way back onto the grass of the shore. She marched back to the deck, up the stairs, trembling with cold, her face blotchy, her lips blue, and walked right up to Kenny, her finger up near his nose again.

“This is all your fault, Kenny,” she hissed, and stomped into the house.

“Mom,” Macy called after her. “You’re not getting Dad’s gun are you?”

“No,” came the reply, “I’m freezing. I’m gonna shower.”

“You know what would warm her right up?” said Kenny.

“Don’t. We have to find that gun before she gets out.”