Short Story: Smoke on the Ridge

Smoke rising over Rome during the riots of October 2011

Smoke rising over Rome during the riots of October 2011

It’s been ages since I posted, a fact I put down to my muse being too slow and time going too fast! Anyway, here is a short story for you to ponder over coffee:

Smoke on the Ridge

Let me set the scene for you.

I am in my car, a small grey thing with all the charm and power of a weak cup of coffee, heading towards the lights of the big town. By “lights” I mean garage and by “big town” I mean the small, somewhat faded town along this road. It is sunny and warm and, on days like this, I miss my convertible with its considerable charm and reasonable power.

On my old MP3 player, Alison Krauss is urging me to “Forget about it” but I am unclear as to what I should be purging from my memory, or whether I have, in fact already followed her instruction.

I drive into the village that this road intersects, a village that nestles at the foot of the hill that takes travellers up to the top of the next valley before the descent into the big town. This is a lovely part of the world. If the police didn’t lurk so often in the lay-by with their speed gun, it would be perfect.

Exiting this tranquil haven at twenty-nine miles per hour, there is a series of three tight bends and it is as I approach the middle one that I see it. Straight ahead of me.

Smoke on the ridge.

Thick black smoke, acrid I suppose, rising from the ridge of the hills that protect the village I have just passed from any north-easterly winds.

Either side of the column of smoke are buildings, a farmhouse to the left and a barn of some sort to the right.

There are no sirens, no emergency services, no sounds of explosions.

Just black smoke.

I head on to town. Hours later, driving back, I glance at the ridge from the middle bend. The farmhouse and the barn are still there. The smoke has gone.

Just another day of burning tyres in the country.

I forget about it.

***

Let me set the scene for you.

I am in my car, a small grey battered pick-up. It doesn’t look great, having been forcibly converted to an open-top, but it is a survivor. It doesn’t go fast but then, if it did, it would be my brother driving it not me. Plus its suspension would break.

I am heading towards the next big town along this road to collect parts. I say big town, but really it is just a collection of buildings still standing despite all attempts to flatten them. On my old tape player, the remains of Bob Dylan’s album “Blood on the Tracks” struggles to be heard. I think “Simple Twist of Fate” is  playing. The tape has been chewed up and snapped so many times now that it is a miracle it still works. You can only melt tape back together so many times. But, like this car, the tape is a survivor.

I approach the ruins of a small village that nestles at the foot of the hill that takes travellers up to the top of the next valley. This is dangerous territory. Snipers with all kinds of agendas watch the road with a certain grim fascination. I turn Bob off as I enter the first row of shattered buildings – perhaps speed would be an advantage after all.

Through the village without incident and up, into the series of three tight bends. As I approach the middle one that I see it. Straight ahead of me.

Smoke on the ridge.

Thick black smoke, acrid without doubt, rising from the ridge of the hills that have failed to protect the village I have just passed from the onslaught of war.

Either side of the column of smoke are buildings, a farmhouse to the left and a barn of some sort to the right.

There are no sirens, no emergency services, no sounds of explosions.

Just black smoke.

I head on to the town. Hours later, driving back, I glance at the ridge.

The farmhouse and barn are gone. The smoke remains.

Just another day of war in my country.

The rest of the world seems to have forgotten about it.

 oOo

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Categories: Short Story, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Short Story: Smoke on the Ridge

  1. Excellent writing.How like the real situation this must have been in places like Kosovo and war torn Yugoslavia and how like it still is today in some places that we just don’t read about. Locals just have to get on with what they’re doing as best they can.

    Like

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