by Erin Murphy
The day my brother nearly burns down the house, I am sitting on the living room floor.
Correction: it’s not a house but an apartment, my father’s first since the divorce.
I am playing with Lincoln Logs on the burnt-orange shag carpet, building and rebuilding a perfect house with a green roof.
Correction: I’m not playing; I’m killing time until we’re returned to our real home with our real toys and our real parent.
My father is taking a nap in the apartment’s only bedroom.
Correction: It’s not a nap but his usual stupor, a label for which we won’t have for years.
I see the fire out of the corner of my eye.
Correction: What I see first is the shadow puppet of a fire performing on the kitchen wall; mesmerized, I watch for the better part of a minute before investigating its cause.
When I crane my neck around the corner, I see my two-year-old brother waving a brown paper bag that he has dipped in the lit burner of the gas stove. Pretty, he exclaims. Pretty! Pretty!
Correction: He can’t pronounce pretty. He says pity.
I knock the burning bag from my brother’s hand and scream for our father, who bolts from the bedroom and douses the flames.
Correction: Our father doesn’t respond until I shake him awake; he extinguishes the fire with a pot of cold, two-day-old coffee.
My brother’s exclamations soften to a whisper: Pity. Pity. Pity.
No correction necessary.
Erin Murphy’s creative nonfiction essays and poems have appeared in such journals as Brevity (recent Pushcart nomination), The Georgia Review, Marginalia, as well as in several anthologies, including the forthcoming edition of Models for Writers (Bedford/St. Martin’s Press). Ms Murphy is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent of which, Word Problems, will be published by Word Press in June 2011. With Todd Davis, Ms Murphy co-edited an anthology of poems and essays, Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets (State University of New York Press, 2010).
Find out more about Erin Murphy at her website: http://www.erin-murphy.com.