Dadís on Fire
Dadís on fire. We all return home from school to find him exploding in
flames in the den. Should we be more surprised at the tongues of orange and
yellow leaping from his hands and chest, or to find him home so early on a
Mom looks like sheís been expecting it for years. She half wants to touch
him and half wants to back away from the heat, her arms reaching out to him then
"Does it hurt?" she says.
His face looks papery and brittle under the flames and thereís a distinct
smell. "Not as much as youíd think," he says.
Little Jodie moves toward him. She wants to touch the blazing colors. But he
puts out a hand, its skin undulating in receding layers.
"Stay clear of me, Little Jodie."
"How did this happen?" I say. Thereís a constant sound coming
from him like when the stove lights, a low rushing wind.
"Itís anyoneís guess, really."
Mom flees the room and we hear stainless steel clashing in the kitchen. Dad
examines his plutonic limbs with something like wonder.
Mom catches him from behind with a saucepan of water. He lurches forward and
screams, "Oh, for the love of God!" Steam rushes up from his
skin and for a moment itís just like any other day with all of us in the den,
watching him smolder. But one by one licks of color spring up from his arms and
neck, joining each other until he is entirely re-ignited.
A foreboding circle of black has developed on the ceiling above him, and now
his favorite wingback chair catches fire. He watches it through his flames, his
eyes as wide as ours at the sight of him. As mom puts out the chair, he gestures
to the front door with an igneous hand. "Let me go," he says,
"before I bring the place down." I open the door and feel the
scorching heat pass from him to me as he goes by.
He gets no farther than the front yard, where, looking lost, he traces little
circles in the lawn, leaving the grass charred behind him. Little Jodie starts
to cry. The three of us watch him from the window and wait. But he will not be
Mark Trainer is a graduate of the M.F.A. writing program at the University of
Virginia. His work has appeared in The Greensboro Review, Shenandoah,
and The Blue Penny Quarterly. He is currently the Editor of The Blue
Moon Review and Writer-in-Residence at the Portsmouth Abbey School.