We have a fantastic group of talented writers to regularly come to Chasing Driftwood’s Monday evening writing group and I shall be highlighting their work here wherever possible. Toby gave me permission to post this short story he wrote in response to a current global issue. Perhaps you can guess what or who inspired this piece?

In Denial

A short story by Toby Martin



“The house is on fire.”

“It’s what now?”

I looked at him pleadingly. “On fire. Jim, the house is on fire. It might have been that cigarette you had earlier. Told you shouldn’t have done it in the house.”

Jim frowned. “Are you saying you want me to stop smoking?”

I shrugged. “I mean, yeah, and not just because it’ll set the house on fire…” I shook my head. “But that’s not the point, Jim! The house is on fire! We need to get out!”

Jim yawned and crossed one leg over the other. “Well, I’m kind of comfortable here. How do I know this isn’t just a ruse to get my chair?”

I coughed in indignation. The smoke was beginning to take its toll. More urgent action was needed. “Come on, Jim!” I wailed. “Are you really going to deny the fire?”

“Well, I can’t see it…”

“Come and have a look then!”

Jim scoffed. “And let you get my chair? Nice try!”

I groaned loudly, seized his chair from behind and pushed it towards the door. Here, the flames were just visible and the crackling audible above the hideous smell of smoke. Coughing, I managed to gesture whilst looking exasperatedly at Jim.

“See?” I managed to splutter.

“Oh yeah…” Jim leaned forward. “Yeah, that does look like a fire.”

“Exactly,” I said, almost sagging with the relief that he had finally got it.

“But…” Jim frowned and leaned back again. “I’m not convinced that I was the one to start it…”

“That doesn’t matter!” I screeched. “We need to get out of the house!”

“It does matter,” Jim replied, pulling a cigarette and a light from his shirt pocket. “Because it means I can have another fag now…”

“Don’t!” I cried, slapping it out of his hand.

He glared at me. “You know, I think its kind of arrogant to assume either of us could have possibly started the fire,” he said. “Fire is a natural phenomenon, my friend, and a very powerful one at that. To think that we, mere humans could cause it? Such arrogance…”

“What the flying fuck are you talking about?” I wailed. “Humans control fires all the time. And cause them! And its still irrelevant, because regardless of where the fire came from, we need to get the fuck out of here!”

“The thing is, though,” Jim continued, picking his cigarette back up and lighting it as the flames licked their way closer. “Fires are, as I said, a natural phenomenon. They’ve happened before in various places and will continue to happen in various places. It’s not really anything to worry about. I don’t know why nature scares you so much!” He gave a short laugh.

I stared at him for a few seconds, wondering if the fire would give me a merciful lobotomy before coming to my senses. “Fine,” I said. “Have it your way. But I’m not staying here.” I ran to the patio doors and yanked at the handle. Locked. And where was the key?

“Jim!” I hollered, my eyes starting to water from the smoke. “Where’s the key for this door?”

“I’ve got it.”

“Could I have it, please?”

“No. You don’t need it, and I might need it to get into my cigarette cupboard later.”