We were standing in a queue at Intermarché. Outside the weather was very cold and blustery. The queue was the first long queue we had ever experienced in our time in rural France, and the locals were enjoying it. It gave them an opportunity to chat. With the cold outside it almost felt like Christmas. I was wondering what it might be like, to be burned alive.
‘It’s like Tesco in Osterley,’ said W.
Earlier we had been talking about how the grace period, of moving to a different country, was over.
‘The honeymoon period is most definitely over,’ I said.
‘What, France, or ours?’ she asked.
‘Ours never began,’ I said, which prompted a half-hearted left cross to the shoulder.
It was pretty miserable, standing there, waiting in the queue at Intermarché supermarket. It reminded me of huddling in the music department at school during cold lunch times. Boys perched against radiators like pigeons on a rooftop. We were not afraid of the music teacher and his penalties for capture were not harsh. He shooed us out, and we snuck back in. It was preferable doing this, than freezing outside for the entire lunch break.
Earlier, before the relative suffering of the queue – and I believe I did suffer, in some way – Ch was annoying me by running up and punching me in the back. I was trying to sit by the fire and watching the flames lick around a piece of wood that looked like a leg. I failed to capture him and he had the rhythm of advance and retreat well-oiled, and he would not stop, despite me asking him to. So I enticed him with a story. I patted my leg and said come and sit here, child.
Disarmed by the novelty of this, he came and sat on my lap by the fire, and as we both looked into it I said:
One day there was a little Jordanian boy called Aswat Al-Anini, and he wanted to be a pilot. His father did not want him to be a pilot, and said to him “Aswat, banish these dreams of pure blue skies and exhilarating flight like an eagle, and become a doctor.” But Aswat was determined, and he studied hard, and trained hard, and rejected his father’s advice, went against his father’s wishes and became a pilot in the Jordanian Air Force.
Yes, they really have one.
So Aswat was very happy, getting in his plane, and flying missions over Iraq and dropping bombs. Except one day he got shot down, and was captured by ISIS.
‘Joe!’ said W from the kitchen area.
And do you know what they did to little Aswat?
The End, I said to Ch.
‘That’s not a very good story,’ said Ch.
‘Your mother has banned the ending.’
His mother then said: ‘Trust me son, I know the ending and it’s not good, you don’t want to hear it.’
‘So stop punching me in the back.’
The fire now crept right up the log and the flames curled and slithered about it.
To help ponder another in a long history of public burnings. Of people being incarcerated, told they were going to die a hideous, slow death, then one morning led out to see a stake bursting up from a thorny crown of firewood and kindling, to be taken trembling and sick with fear to this stake and then bound to it.
Presumably a high-priest would then officiate to ensure salvation of the soul within the corporeal frame that was about to become toast.
And as the fires were lit, what would be the first sensation for the victim? A slight warmth of foot? Or perhaps a sudden sticking rush of pain as the flames gripped like a giant hand and pressed agony onto every available surface of the body, bubbling skin and bursting eyeballs, charring bone to cinder. Slowly killing the life form trapped within the inferno.
Well done humans, I applaud thee. Well done for bringing the Kingdom of Hell on earth. A fine achievement. Clap, clap, clap.