A journal of narrative writing.
Lessons Before Fire

Listen to “Lessons Before Fire”
read by Alexandra Teague

Girls lifting pencils to our lips, dragging the sweet pink nothing of erasers, practicing thumb and forefinger flicks into the footed onyx box where my father kept marbles, its lock lifting open to make-believe ashes, each breath made new, valuable as it passed our lips—our grown-up selves, strings of exhalations, swirling like clambroths, aggies— wordless when my father yelled at us to stop pretending dirty habits, what we knew would hurt us, as if knowledge could hold off hurt like our neighbor’s dog’s choke chain it slipped from anyway, trying to bite me that summer I spent pretending sweet sixteen wasn’t still half a decade, with that girl who is only sweat and dirty blonde curls in memory—even her name blown out of my parents’ study, the open window where we French exhaled air above our fathers arguing in the driveway as they did more and more because hers (out of work) sold refrigerators from his garage (not zoned commercial), and my father couldn’t sleep through banging metal, dolly wheels squeaking down the narrow space between our houses—If you call the cops again, her father yelled—you’ll regret it. (And after, the cops saying—If you’d been here you wouldn’t have lived.) The flames starting when someone poured gasoline on our lawn up our stairs to our back porch— left ashes of whoever we thought we were.