Arsonist With Unlit Match

Arsonist With Unlit Match

Arsonist With Unlit Match 1920 1440 Matt Fiander

She stands close enough to the building for the fumes to creep into her nose. This is the last time, she tells herself, as she always does. Even as the strong scent turns to memory, not the gas she’s poured but rather a locked garage, years ago. Exhaust. A truck idling, hose from pipe to cab, her father’s name on the side of the truck. Her father’s body in the driver’s seat. Maybe this started there. Maybe not. She remembers holiday commercials as a kid warning about the dangers of Christmas trees, how they can burst into flame, torch the whole house, evaporate the tears in a mother’s tired eyes.

She doesn’t read the name on the FOR LEASE sign in the building’s window as she stands with the match and the wick of twisted newspaper under her arm. The name, their ownership, the lofts or office space they’d stack behind these walls. None of it matters. All you hold in this life is water leaking through your fingers. And water does no good anyway if the land is too far gone. A good burn to make things grow again, to cover over the dead earth.

She hopes, always she hopes, the fire in front of her will be her last. Until she unites match with box. Strike anywhere it says, but always the box. As the small flame flares, something takes over for the gas’s odor. The sulphurous death smell of the match’s burning tip clouds her head. She thinks the right fire, the last one, will smell like some breathing beast, a hulking, hidden gatekeeper burning to life, spreading out, setting her free — from that name on a truck door, that name on left-behind bills, that name like a rusted plow pulled through unfertile ground.

Before she lights the wick, it’s that match, musty with chemicals and rotten, that pulls her back to the cold present. She leans in close, closer than last time, reaching out with the lit twist of obituaries, and waits to feel the fumes ignite.

Header photograph © Caroline Bardwell.

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