The Fire

Copyright © 2008 by Tiki Kritzer Seger.  All rights reserved.


I was standing on a chair in front of my dresser wearing a bright yellow raincoat and nothing else.  All of the money that I owned in the world (mostly pennies) was spread on top of the dresser and I was totally engrossed in sorting the coins and counting them.  I was 5 years old.


My brother (3) and I had been locked in our room for fighting and we had been told that we would not be allowed to come out all day.  This was a normal punishment and we were used to finding ways to entertain ourselves, so I was building empires with my riches.


All of a sudden, I smelt something funny.  I yelled through the door to my mother that something must be burning because it smelled like smoke; she just told me to stop playing stupid games.  I kept yelling and she said that if I didn’t stop, then I would have to stay in my room the next day as well.  I heard a whimper behind me, so I closed my mouth and turned around.


My little brother was sitting in the middle of the floor tending a nice, little fire.  He had his thumb in his mouth; when he saw that I was looking at him, he started to cry.  He pulled his thumb out of his mouth and showed me a blister that was starting to form on the tip of it.  I jumped down from the chair, ran over to him and pulled him with me to the door; he started howling.  I screamed through the door that there was a fire and that they better open the door fast; again, my mother didn’t believe me.  I kept screaming and pounding on the door, and my brother started to laugh – he thought that it was all a game. 


After what seemed like ages (it could only have been a minute or so because the fire wasn’t much bigger) my father opened the door and roared at me to shut the fuck up.  I just turned and pointed at the fire.  As soon as they realized what was happening, my parents ran and got a huge pot of water and threw it over the flames; with a snap and a sizzle, the fire was out and there was an almost perfect, black circle in the center of the room.


My mother then cuddled my (by then) whining brother, bandaged his burnt thumb and asked where the matches to start the fire came from.  My father looked around the room and then lifted the corner of the bed; they had placed little stacks of matchbooks under two of the corners because the floor was uneven and the bed wouldn’t balance properly.  The matchbooks were promptly replaced with pieces of folded paper; my parents agreed that they wouldn’t lock us in our room any more and I was apologized to for being told to shut up when I was trying to warn them.


It didn’t mean anything to me; by then I was back at the dresser, counting my pennies and creating rich new worlds in my mind.  The panic was over and the only reminder was a black circle on the floor; later my brother and I would pretend that it was a crater on the moon.