The klaxon signals the shift change and tension slowly ratchets.
Ma juggles pots and pans at the fireside. We daren’t distract her; one burned stew spells disaster… tears… blows… blood.
We hear him coming, hawking up the acrid dust he’s inhaled all day, and we hide behind the privy to safely measure his mood.
The door slams and Ma’s nervous greetings earn monosyllabic grunts that spell hope.
At Ma’s signal we file in to take our place at supper and Clara, the eldest, carries his dinner carefully to the table.
She stumbles… the pot shatters on the flagged floor.
And so it begins…