Fires and the Stories We Tell

She leaves without a word and walks into the reflection of the mirror.  I know we are done, yet I wonder.  There is only a little gas left in the stove.  Exchange rates are trending toward the dollar.

Indifference comes from what we don’t know.  That’s the easy way, the way of dumb happiness.  Raising your hand to block the broken smile is a smart move.  It protects you inside the eggshell.  No one wants to contemplate the fire over the horizon.  Children burning nearby can warm hands on a cold day.  “Let’s pray…” and everyone kneels.  Soldiers understand with eyeless skulls and tongues rocking on the doldrums of old lives.  Tomorrow they will retake the blood stained sand and brittle leather of the city.  The place seems so far, so far away.  Right now it is better to remain geostationary, alive and functioning like the communication satellite 22,000 miles overhead.

The helicopters are flying tonight in the green vision of our death march.  We can’t see them from the ground, but we can hear them.  They are black upon a slightly blacker shade of black.  Everyone looks up and somehow the fire starts in the trucks.  Our reception is lousy and we fall down upon the sand.  The border is closed and we can see the spotlights.  My headset is made by a bunch of slave children, but it works.  “Are you there?” is the last thing I say before waking up on fire.

Would she ever return to me?  No one can say, not even my friends living on the edge of town.  The kitchen sink is still there.  The dogs need to be walked.  I don’t think I will ever see her again.  She is too pretty for me, with her face of paper and clean water.

The howling vigilantes are at the ebony door now, trying to kick it down; fools that they are.  You would need a ten-footed robot, the ones with the red paint, to get in and that is out of everyone’s budget.  The job is impossible, since the two, black, transgender doctors are just now shoving a bookcase filled with hardback literature against the door.  They also slide dead bolts into place at the top and bottom.  Unknown to everyone is the titanium door frame that the original owner put in many years earlier.  The door, simply put, is a beast without name.

Unfortunately, there are other ways to get into the house.  There are giant rabbit holes underneath the cedar foundation.  The rabbits are imported from Brazil.  They have an oceanic quality about them and many people mistake them for lost seals.

Fear grips the two doctors as they cower on the first-rate flooring compound bonded together by seaborne chemicals.

A few rocks fly and crash through the upstairs windows.  Fish swim in a glass bowl.  Somebody in the mob yells they need to start a fire: “That’ll get’em out!”  A roar goes up from the men as they shake their fists in the air and look around wildly with eyes like thrashing roadkill.

There are about 100 men in the mob.   They are here to burn the two men hiding in the house who were born female, but since early adolescence knew they were men. They met by chance at medical school.  The burning of people represents a change in cultural customs.  Lynching is less common now.  It has been replaced by the burning of living people who do not want to be set on fire.   When the executions happen at night, their forms are illuminated like cartoon characters frantically running, tree to tree, only to drop in a final exploding frame.  Old napalm, spooned from used bombs found at military supply stores, is the preferred fuel.

The two inside are rumored to be kidnappers come to steal children for their body parts.  The town’s preacher, standing at the back with a portion of his congregation, lights a rolled up newspaper and begins to make his way through the crowd.   “Gangway, out of the way you bastards, let me through!” and the crowd parts and he pushes toward the ebony door.  Someone produces two buckets of honey-colored napalm and everything is according to the stricture of religion: by the sins of our former shadows.

I stand across the street watching the whole thing.  I wonder if I should intervene.  Most of the men work in the doll factory that my father owns.  He’s a craftsman from Austria who immigrated before the war.  The plant produces over a million electronic sex dolls for the skyscrapers and malls of China.  The men burning the house would probably listen to me, but something tells me to remain silent and let the ebony door catch fire and then the whole house.  The smoke swirling into the night air will be seen by those living over the horizon.

I feel nothing.  Being invisible is good when the option is a hopeless life of mostly long lines of killing and hiding in front of plasma screens.

Where are the newsmen reporting from the tombs beneath my skin?

Oh, but I am cold she says.  We need to build a fire.

I begin to walk away from the mob as the flames grow.  The warmth is just reaching my body.  Embers to construct cities upon, an inferno for the blind, and as the rooms blister, I can hear the screams, but I have other plans tonight.  In my quietude, where combustion is only cloth and skin, we will burn kittens to stay alive.  I tell her to get undressed and our bodies lie close.  The armies march into the city.  The king regains his crown.

We rest like two bodies ready to cross the river and our bed is the realm of the sun.  The helicopter lands and the rotor blades are glowing, reflecting the fire.

At that moment, in the dark bar, I watch her go out the door.  Everyone else floats upon the rhythm of the melancholy music, devoid of feeling, turning over and over.  The powdered ether is in my cheek pocket, lining my teeth and gums.  I lack everything that is ultimately necessary, but I don’t care.  Most of us are for sale to the highest bidder or the best liar.  They want us in their world.  I am not of that quality, of that brand.   I am on my knees in a desert border town.  Just over the horizon a fire glows.   The armies are celebrating victory before a pile of burning children.   As the flames rise, the men warm their hands.  Their faces are without eyes.  Almost helpless, they are still able to etch a few lines upon a single page of history.

I am here to tell you not to worry.  It is a waste.  Everything is a waste.  Let us sleep now, to give us the necessary strength to meet the disinterest of a new day.

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5 thoughts on “Fires and the Stories We Tell

    1. Thanks Mary. This post is part of the book, but I have changed it to fit Tin Hats. Sometimes I get tired of describing people and events in the normal way and try to put down words that might be incomprehensible, yet if one takes the time to read them, an image or feeling emerges. It is a tricky sort of thing. They burn LBGT folks in Africa. It is common. In Mexico they burn reputed kidnappers, sometimes falsely. Apart from the aid convoy being attacked and the death of 22 people, there was another barrel bombing a month ago of a funeral for children killed in Aleppo: 16 died. Fire bombings are common in Syria. Often they come from helicopters and the explosive device is crude and a spreading fire is always a component of the attack. There is something about the news that reminds me of Europe prior to WWII. Isolationism, nativism, nationalism, racism, and a lack of collective will to confront the problem. What is the problem? I am afraid it is the ghost of 160 years of colonialism coming back to haunt us. You can not draw a line down the middle of a person. People are not a map and what someone many years ago said is totally true: “the map is not the terrain.” I wrote this post yesterday and the whole time I was listening to the “Ghost of Tom Joad”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAgkXxuGS9k
      No home, no job, no peace, no rest….

      There is a Terrence Malick/James Jones line that says something like…we have a choice…they either want us in the lie or dead. Because of that, I find it all a waste, everything a waste.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Wow Duke – you’ve painted quite a picture – the canvas is overwhelming and the colors almost too vivid to view with the naked eye. Definitely magic realism on steroids. I generally pick a few of your sentences for tweets but it’s gonna be hard to pick a just one. I might end up tweeting them all.

    Liked by 1 person

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