CN: graphic description (no image) of burned animal
I fill my glass to the brim with ice. So much ice that the water I pour in has to jostle and squeeze past, hugging corners, slipping salaciously past curves and furrows like it’s making a run for the bar in a crowded nightclub, arms high, eyes on the prize, ‘excuse me’ and ’sorry’ and ‘pardon me’ flung in every direction. I check my phone as a slow stream hisses from the fridge. Twitter and Facebook flick images of leaping flames, and singed landscapes so barren they look otherworldly, and animals, caught fleeing the conflagration, trapped in fencing wire, their faces contorted by fear and fire.
The baby kangaroo undoes me. Held upright, its body melted into the fence so it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, its lips recoiled by heat revealing front teeth in a ghoulish grin, the juvenile joey looks more like a teenager hanging on the fence talking to a neighbour than the charred remains of a marsupial. A cruel, mocking dichotomy.
Then I feel it; the rising fury. It forms from the swirling acid at the pit of my stomach, seething and roiling. I feel the heat of it travelling up my chest, into my throat. I feel the air escape my lungs in a loud sudden grunt. My throat constricts. My free fist, the one not holding a glass, clenches. I remember the same clenched fist raised in protest to inaction on climate change in 1987. I stretch my neck to relieve the pressure, but there is no relief to be found.
I sip at my water. Gulp at it. Force the liquid down, squeezing through my closing throat, pressing down the swelling anger. It won’t be long till water becomes like pepper once was, like salt, like all the ubiquitous modern-day bagatelle of everyday life — more precious than gold.
If only they’d listened to us thirty years ago. If only we’d done more.
Image credit: Tatiana Gerus/Flickr