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(A short story of 1989 words)

Red Sky at Night

Crime and Thrillers Literary

by Colette Coen

A family's new life in Australia is threatened by a bush fire, but this is not the first time the family have had to run from fire. This story won the Eileen Gilmour Creative Writing Competition in 2009

Mum used to watch the evening skies so carefully, judging the weather, hopeful of getting me out from under her feet. I don’t know why she did it ‘cause every day, come hail, rain or shine, I was sent out.

‘Red sky at night is the shepherd’s delight.’

‘Red sky in the morning is the shepherd’s hut on fire.’ I would mumble in return.

She doesn’t say it anymore, not since we moved here, and neither do I. The red dust, the red skies, night after night, no longer worthy of comment. Unremarkable that is until the night that the sky turned not just red, but orange and yellow and black. Crackling and spitting, raising the already unbearable temperatures to a furnace.

We like our barbecues here, or dad does, gives you a chance to meet people, he says. But the sheep were being roasted where they stood: the neighbours too. The smell of burning flesh making our saliva flow and our stomachs retch...

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Review from the CUT team....

Colette captures the harshness of the parched, drought ridden landscape beautifully and her evocative, poetic prose gives us a short glimpse into a life where whispers and trouble follow the protagonists and the red dust of the scorched earth clings to all it touches, like guilt on a troubled conscience. A captivating short story.

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