It’d been a year since the fire. In the months that followed the blaze people still talked about it, still tried to understand what happened, still gathered occasionally to stare into the remains like parishioners at a saint’s grave. While trying to make sense of the tragedy, inevitably someone would offer the notion of an electrical fire; flames fed by cheap insulation had to be the culprit. A deep silence would fall, each member of the party weighing the idea in their minds. Before it became too heavy another would argue that this didn’t make any sense; the entire family would’ve survived if the fire was just in the walls. This always drew an uncomfortable shuffling of feet as they remembered the son that didn’t make it out, and with somber eyes they would look up at what used to be the attic of the house. There, two glassless window frames, gaping holes surrounded by burnt wood, looked down on the world as if a vow of silence kept them from granting the group peace. Every day of that year had been this way, each soul offering their idea on what happened all those months ago. Once their theories were exhausted, having been turned over and passed like community hymnals, each worshiper would return to their home, feet
weary but mind satisfied that the work of the day was done. Later, as water boiled pasta and ovens baked chicken, families wondered aloud about Michael Slate. Why didn’t he jump? Surely a broken leg was better than losing a life? Surely he could make it down one flight, or better yet, jump from his own window? Surely there was an answer; but on the other side of al dente and the carving knife, no one ever found it.
The Burning of the Houses of Parliament | William Turner | 1834
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