IT is a horrible feeling to be trapped at home, especially when you have fire for company.
Last year, over the June holidays, I offered to babysit Tina, the daughter of Uncle Tim and Auntie Marjorie, my neighbors who live two streets away. Tina is five, a lovely little girl, vivacious and chatty, giggly and fun-loving. Over the ten hours I was going to play babysitter from eight to six o’clock, we did a bunch of things together, including a read-aloud session of her favorite collection of fairy tales: Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, and some other dark tales by the Brothers Grimm.
At lunchtime, I planned to fix us both lunch. Onion omelettes and toast was what I had suggested to Tina’s mother, who had tried the dish once at my home. She loved it, and she approved. So did Tina.
First, I tossed the sliced onions in a pan of melted butter. While it sizzled away towards caramelized perfection, I Whatsapped June and Jane and Hwee Leng. Then Tina screamed for toilet paper from the toilet. Then the FedEx man rang the doorbell with a package for Uncle Tim.
Before I knew it, there was a smell of burnt onions. I rushed into the smoke-filled kitchen, grabbed a towel, threw it at the pan, and that caught fire. The roll of paper kitchen towels by the stove soon ignited too. Now, the stove was raging hot, too hot for me to turn off the fire. The fire alarm screamed. Tina screamed. I screamed. She cried. I cried.
There was an extinguisher in the kitchen, but that was too near the stove and too hot to touch. My first thought was to run out of the house. The main door could open, but the key to the grille door was in the kitchen, and I wasn’t going to hazard back in there again.
Had it not been for Uncle Nehru, the security guard, we could have been trapped for much longer. And who knows, burnt alive. He whacked the knob loose, broke the door free, and charged right into the kitchen to put out the fire. The kitchen was all sooty, and the onions charred beyond recognition. The scene could well have been a modern-day Brothers Grimm tale—dark, ugly, and grim.
Faith Yang, Primary Four
Also by Faith: Clean Up After Your Mess
This essay was written in response to the theme, trapped.