A short story entitled A Narrow Escape

The Salleh family lived in a raised wooden house in a small town in Kelantan. Encik Salleh had two sons - Bongsu was five and Jamal was twelve. His wife, Mak Timah, worked at home, sewing clothes for neighbors and friends. There were two bedrooms in the house. Bongsu and Jamal had a room to themselves. They slept on mattresses on the floor. A mosquito net kept the boys from being bitten by insects while they were sleeping.

One night, Bongsu went to bed earlier than usual because he was feeling tired. It was 8 p.m. Jamal was doing his homework and Mak Timah was working at her sewing machine in the living room. Pak Salleh was talking to the neighbours outside. Thunder rumbled in the distance. A strong wind rose. The lights in the living room began to swing back and forth. `It's going to rain,' Mak Timah told her elder son. 'I hope there won't be a power failure tonight. That has been quite frequent lately.'

No sooner had she said that than the lights went out and the whole house was in darkness. Mak Timah sighed. Another power failure. It was a good thing that she had kept some candles, matches and torch- lights in the drawer beside her sewing machine. She found a torchlight and switched it on. It flickered and went out. The batteries were dead. She found two candles and lit them. Just then, she heard Bongsu crying in the bedroom. She passed a candle to Jamal and took the other with her to the boys' bedroom.

As Mak Timah hurried towards Bongsu's bed, she tripped over something. The candle flew out of her hand and landed on the mosquito net which caught fire immediately.

'Bongsu! Mak Timah screamed as the burning mosquito net collapsed on the mattress. By then, Pak Salleh had come into the house. Seeing the flames in the room, he rushed out and shouted for help. The neighbors came running with pails of water.

They threw water on to the burning mattress and put out the fire in minutes. The power supply came back just then. Mak Timah was as white as a sheet. 'Bongsu! was all she could say as she stared at the blackened pile of ashes. Suddenly, there was a cry from a comer of the room.

It was Bongsu! Mak Timah ran to hold him in her arms. She wept with relief. Bongsu had had a bad dream. He woke up to find his mother. The lights went out just then and he could not find the doorway to the living room. He cried and that was when Mak Timah heard him. He had crawled into the corner and was sitting there when his mother walked in, tripped and set the mosquito net on fire. He was so frightened that he had not made a sound. It was indeed a narrow escape for Bongsu and his family.


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