Archive for Word Problems

Slow Burn

Posted in Erin Murphy, Junk 2: Winter 2011 with tags , , , , , , , on February 14, 2011 by Editors

by Erin Murphy

glassworks

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.

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