The Lovely Fire by Katharine Wheeler-Dubin

He came out to let me know it was okay, that everything was cool. He said it wasn’t such a big deal as he first thought, despite the mess, despite the ash. He looked at me smiling, told me to go clean up, go home. My face was covered in soot. I had been sitting on his steps all night, waiting for him to come outside, waiting
and waiting. I didn’t know you were still here, he said. Aren’t your parents worried? Told me he had stuff to do, things to take care of, maybe he’d call me later. I stood, one foot on the cement, the other on the grass, watching him go. My parents don’t give a shit.
The first thing I did yesterday morning was count the lines growing from the corners of his eyes. I pretended to be asleep once he woke up, watched him move around the room kicking aside cans from the night before, getting dressed. He didn’t look at me, and he forgot to kiss me goodbye and I sat up from the covers only when he was gone. I was feeling shy that morning. I took a sick day from school because I thought he’d be back
but he didn’t come back until seven. When it was getting dark, I got an idea. It would be lovely, lighting a fire, lovely for him. He works too much, but you can’t tell because he hardly shows it and never complains. The metal grating covering his fireplace took a couple minutes to yank off, but I knew how much he’d appreciate it. Men appreciate small favors.
A fire takes a flame, breath, and fuel to make it grow. I had a lighter in my pocket and he had plenty of newspaper lying around, plus wood from the set he had been building for the musical. It was easy, getting the fire started in that old fireplace. The smoke filled up the room so sweet, like it was a campfire, the flames dancing and dancing. He came home, his car making a crunching sound in the driveway, and as he opened the gate, I ran out to meet him. Welcome home! I flounced into his arms. Men love girls who flounce.
You’re still here? You didn’t leave? I stood there smiling and he walked with me into his house, getting ready to relax with his favorite girl after a long day. Then he was yelling and cursing and beating at the fire with his shirt. What the fuck! What the fuck! He ran to the kitchen and grabbed a half-empty can of beer, threw it over my lovely fire. Get the fuck out! Get the fuck out!
I went outside and sat on the steps, waiting for him, waiting for him to let me know if
it was alright, if this was alright. I look old for my age, and my parents don’t give a shit.
Offer me a drink, I asked him quiet, like you did last night, after rehearsal. When
everyone had gone, and it was only me and you.

Katie Wheeler-Dubin (aka Hot Wheels), enjoys watching, from her front window, young women twerking on cars. Having moved to New Orleans for the summer from the Bay Area, she is learning how to move in the heat, chronicled in her forthcoming memoir, I Went to Sleep Drunk and Woke Up Hungry. This spring of 2014, she directed Quiet Lightning’s first short, Combustion. Read and watch Katie’s work on her site.

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