By Dan Leicht
He walked into the bookstore and took a match to the bookcase closest to the door. The first book to catch fire was written by a man who believed himself the best cook in all of South Dakota. The pages burned longer than the recipe called for, making them illegibale in the process. Marcus Silvo, the cook, would have been disappointed. His book did catch fire the rest of the shelf however, so even though his book wasn’t selling it was still having an impact.
Larry, the shopkeep with a glass eye, pulled in a long breath and let out a deep sigh. “Bonkers,” he uttered. Larry’s mother had used that word in place of swearing when he was a child and it stuck. The forty-two-year-old former car salesmen broke the glass and finagled with the fire extinguisher. By the time he figured out how to use it three firemen had broken his front door and put out the flames with a two-hundred-foot hose. The bookcase fire was put out but the floor looked like a makeshift aquarium. Larry once had a goldfish he’d won at a ring toss game at the carnival that lived five years.
Twirling the pack of matches between his fingers, whistling a tune he’d heard eight times, he felt invincible. His life prior to that moment had been nothing but homework and home cooked meals; nothing had ever happened to pull him into the next moment with enough tenacity to grab the world like a meager plaything.
“Edmund,” said his mother, he’d just entered the house and removed his shoes. “Dinner is ready.” His hands still yearning, like a man who’d just won a fistfight, eagerly grabbed at the taco ingredients placed about the table.
“I saw a peculiar story on the news just now,” said his mother, her voice bold.
“Oh yeah?” replied Edmund.
“That bookstore where Kristen works was visited by a pyromaniac.”
“Was she there when it happened?” he asked, pretending to be concerned.
“Edmund,” his mother said, her brow aimed down at her plate. “You can’t blame her for everything.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He pushed his chair away from the table and excused himself to his bedroom. Alone he sifted through a book on his desk consisting of other way he might get Kristen’s attention. While dragging his finger across each line of page sixteen he was distracted by a succession of pebbles at his window.
“Edmund! Edmund! Edmund, open the damn window!” He closed the book and lifted the wooden window frame. Standing in his backyard was Kristen in a dark blue hooded sweatshirt, torn up jeans and soccer cleats. “If you were trying to get my attention you have it now,” she said. “My mom told me about the fire at the bookstore.” Her voice was insincere, but Edmund was happy just to see her face.
“You suck,” he replied. He pushed the window down and latched it shut.
Dan Leicht 2017©