by Nina Fosati

Set Fire to the Rain

Her companions ask about the fire. Erin shrugs. ‘There’s not much to it. The firemen come. They put it out. You live somewhere else for a while. Life goes on.’ They nod without looking up from their phones.

Typical. They wouldn’t twig it anyway. Living a misstep away from calamity. How it creeps into your bones. The heaving need to escape. Erin rubs her nose hard. A holdover from the days when coke used to make her itch. The first time she tried it, she rocketed around the house fierce and fine. When she landed hours later, the seductive energy murmured, ‘More. I want more.’ Coke rarely bothers to caress her shoulder anymore, but the chittering never stops.

So far, she has declined all offers of rock candy. It’s cheaper, but the high, they say, fades fast. Erin stares at the yellow crystal slowly melting in Andre’s spoon. The tip of the needle sips at the glowing liquid.

Andre cradles her extended arm in his. ‘Are you sure?’

She wants to bark at him to hurry. He deftly inserts the needle. The warmth runs up her arm, melts into her body. She flinches at the buzzes that crawl up her neck, closes her eyes. Embraces the silence.

Friendly Fire

When Erin was in Kindergarten, she followed her own fascinations. She didn’t understand school busses. She didn’t understand other children either. The differences didn’t concern her. Her parents weren’t ones to offer information. No one explained why it mattered which bus she got on. Nor that their fights had more to do with having lost everything in the fire than with her behavior. They said things like ‘God damn kid don’t know nothing’ and ‘too stupid for words.’ They never said, ‘Different busses won’t take you to different parents.’

Burning Down the House

Erin’s father pulled into the driveway. Alerted to a strangeness in their parents, she and her siblings broke off their squabbling. ‘Why’d you stop, Dad? Did you forget something at the store?’

He opened the car door and, with a sharp command, told them to stay put. Smoke seeped from under the garage door in puffs. Something hazy and dark swirled behind the living room curtains.

The passenger door creaked. After a whispered consultation with their mother, her dad headed towards the neighbor’s house. In short order, the children were plunked in front of a huge TV cupboard in an unfamiliar beige on beige home.

For a while, inspecting her neighbor’s house kept Erin occupied, but soon she wondered where her parents were. As oldest, there were secrets you didn’t tell your brother and sister. Her parents would say it was all right if she looked for them. Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor disagreed. Who were they to tell her no?

Erin wriggled outside as an incoming neighbor held the door open. She darted toward the front lawn. Firetrucks with multiple hoses surrounded the dwelling. She spotted her dad and curled her arms around his leg.

Smoke billowed from the far end of the house. Cars lined the side of the road; a camera crew filmed the action. A series of muted detonations sounded from inside the house. A blast of shattered wood and tile erupted from the roof. A cooing song of surprise rose from the ring of bystanders.

Her dad tried to step forward, only then looking down at Erin. He lifted her up and handed her to someone who bundled her back into the neighbor’s house. This time they made her sit on the puffy leather ottoman and gave her candy. Through the flash bang of Power Rangers fighting on the television, she tasted blood. Erin studied the thick wooden stick. A line of red ran down its side. She had cut her tongue on the clear rock crystals.

Nina Fosati loves portraiture and historic clothing. She posts a daily favorite on twitter @NinaFosati. Recently named a Featured Author by the Heartland Society of Women Writers, her work can be found in JMWW Journal, Halfway Down the Stairs, Nightingale & Sparrow, and Oye Drum.

For a comprehensive list, go to her website