Inadequate risk assessment

 The engineer came with wire cutters and extensions of copper coil to bring power and light and connections to the outside. He bumped the snow off his boots and shook the flakes from his coat on the concrete step outside. He hung the parker alone by the doorway at the lady’s direction. The living room had only an armchair. The stairway bore its skeleton, carpetless and naked.

 “Been here long?” the workman asked, looking back out through the glass in the front door. To the moving van he parked behind. The old woman had immediately retreated into a kitchen at the end of the hall. All dark aside for the blue hue of a gas burner.

 “Since yesterday,” she replied invisible from the back. He watched his breath make patterns in the air and he settled down to work. He should not have come by himself, but he needed the overtime, plus it sounded like the old bird could do with the company. People were being left without homes and heat all over by the new winters.

His drill punched a gut-shot hole through the decrepit wooden wall. He pushed an eye to the wound and watched the snow fall outside in feathers. He was in the middle of drawing the cables through the aperture when the old woman spoke to him again.

 “Tea?” she asked.

 “Naturally,” he answered, dragging the power line to the fuse box. “I could do with the warmth.”

  She shuffled in quite promptly with a cup in each hand. Made before he even answered, he supposed. 

 “I expect you will want to be off as soon as you can.” He took the mug and offered his thanks.

 “The job won’t take long,” he nodded. The old woman settled into the chair and watched him over the rim of her cup, her eyeglasses obscure behind the white rising steam.  He took a sip of his tea and shut his eyes tight to even muster a swallow.

 “Quite bitter, that,” he placed it on the floor. He looked at the old woman regarding him coldly from her armchair. At how the window had no curtains and how the ivy crept through the glass about its edges. “You got something to warm the room once I get the power running?” He turned his eyes outside, for the removal truck. “I’ll bring it in for you.”

 “No,” the old woman smiled. “Nothing of the sort.”

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