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Mark Trainer

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 Wednesday?

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 retreating.

"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 consumed.

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.

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