She expects the worst. She always has. That’s why she keeps the cupboard crammed with tins and phones her sister Lily with a warning.
She must paper the window white, collect Cornflake boxes and fill them with sand. She must crouch under the kitchen table. But how will she manage with such ancient knees? Perhaps she will try the cupboard under the stairs. She keeps a blanket there.
This morning the sky is sapphire blue, unstained with cloud. A dove coos. Primroses bloom on the bank. The willow has shed its catkins: they lie like tails on the new grass. She peers through the glass. Everything looks normal. There is no sign of dust or the poisonous plume of sulphur. Nothing stirs.
It means nothing. On such a day as this Fred dropped dead on the carpet. He hadn’t complained one day in his life. No warning, not a grunt, a sigh.
They’ve grounded the planes. She heard it on the news. Because THEY know. But they won’t say. They never do.
It could last a year. Two years.
If it’s not the volcano, it will be the bomb, a solar storm, an epidemic.
The doctor told her that Fred had been in to see him. ‘Heart trouble, Chest pains. Didn’t you know?’
‘I knew,’ she said. But she didn’t.
If it’s not the volcano, it will be an earthquake, the ground swallowed up. A tornado, a twister, a tsunami.
The radio is playing a song in the kitchen as she opens a tin of tomato soup. Tra, la, la.
She won’t be caught out again. It pays to be prepared.