Like fire

candlenight

I parked the Jeep in the driveway and killed the engine, listening to it tick and hiss. The digital clock on the dash read exactly midnight and every house on the block was hushed in shadow. What the hell am I doing back here, I thought. I’m not ready for this yet. I’m not prepared for the onslaught of emotion and the flood of words. I’d been driving for fifteen straight hours and my eyes were fried, my brain was drugged by the hypnotic meter of passing road signs and stitched highway lines and I looked up at the dark windows of my old house and thought about leaving again. I could just restart this Jeep and head back west, continue this boundless exploration, separate myself from feeling and consequence, from time and its perverse control. But I knew that I could rearrange time no more than I could continue to evade my wife and father and the rubble of my former life.

I got out of the Jeep into the mild night and stretched the road from my muscles, I listened to the symphonic creak and snap of joints, and suddenly I felt very tired and very old, like all the miles and all the towns and the stories had finally caught up with me, all the dark hours and the years and the promises, memories now just as lost as I was in front of that house I would never again call home.

I unlocked the front door and Harvey was right there pouncing on me, licking my face and hands, and it was only then that I realized I’d forgotten all about the dog, my one true friend on the planet and the only soul I could trust. I should have brought him out there on the road with me, through the peaks and valleys, the quiet wastelands and steady grumble of metropolitan America. Seeing him again and hearing him whimper with joy, feeling his body shudder with excitement reminded me that there is nothing more consistent in a man’s life nor more loyal to him than his dog. I scratched his ears and rubbed his belly and my eyes began to well with tears but I wasn’t certain it was from the sudden rush of love and sentiment for my dog or from all the smoke in the room and when I heard the leaping gust of flames coming from the rear of the house I jumped up and ran back there.

Fire was crawling up the walls and across the ceiling, fire in red and blue tongues with yellow eyes and orange legs, hissing and growling, fire like the light and heat of the world fresh out of god’s pocket, and I stood there watching rapt with the flames like dancing miracles in my eyes. Harvey was at my leg barking at the fire and I finally slipped from my trance, thinking about my wife. I’ve got to save my wife. I ran upstairs to my old bedroom and my father naked save for his boxer shorts was beating at the flames with a blanket, his body thin and pale and hairless like a white worm. My wife sat on the bed watching, screaming insults at my father as the draperies and the carpet and the room burned bright and loud with Harvey next to me barking still. My father continued to wave the blanket, fanning the flames, swelling them in a storm of sparks and then suddenly he fell down. I ran over to him and picked him up and slung him over my shoulder. Holy shit, my wife said, seeing me for the first time. Baby, where’d you come from? I told her to get out of bed before the house burned down and she just sat there staring at me dazed with the flames snapping about her in a whirl of hunger and lust.

To read the story in its entirety, you’re gonna have to buy the book when it comes out.

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