This story first appeared yesterday for Siobhan Muir’s Thursday’s Threads. A slightly longer, better edited version follows:
Staring anxiously at the timer, Beth let her breath out slowly.
“The clock is running out,” she said in a husky whisper, as if she thought being quiet would keep the thing from going off.
“I know,” I answered, a bit more harshly then I’d intended. “Just let me think…”
She remained where she was, simply watching me. I don’t know which would have unnerved me more – her going to pieces as I studied the wiring or her sitting there, just… just watching.
At the time, just watching me was bad enough, but I don’t think I could have taken her losing it.
I could feel her breath catch as I ghosted my hands over the writing trying to figure out design and purpose for everything through osmosis. For future reference boys and girls… it doesn’t help.
I looked at the timer and bit my lip. “Damned if I do, damned if I don’t,” I finally said as I picked up the dykes to snip the wire.
“Well, when you put it that way… cut the blue wire,” Beth suggested.
Though her voice trembled, I could see the humor in it. I hesitated a moment and then cut the blue wire. And then the red one…and the black one just to be sure.
A moment later the oven timer went off and Beth pulled the souffle from the oven.
This time the smoke detector did not go off.