mattress fire by joel kopplin

        While you boil water to save the toothbrush, I will burn the blankets. I will burn the blankets because they burn. I will burn the blankets that Aaron wears while he is bored right before and right after breakfast, while he sits bored in front of the shit-box that blasts color and noise through his small face, his hair frizzed out and poofy from sleep. I will burn the blankets while the boy wears them, and I will burn them because he is bored, because he is my son.
        While you boil water to save the baby, I will burn the box spring with gasoline and one of those long lighters with the levers and switches. Flame firing from pulling the trigger. The air will be tart and the hair in my nose will curl. Our eyes will water and the smoke will be dark unlike anything else that is dark. The boy will sit and watch the box spring burn, small face frazzled by the heat, bed blasting flames so hot it will be hard to watch. But he will watch, and we will bond: boy and his old man.
        While you boil water to save us both, to save our marriage, our several years—not to mention the sons (baby and boy) who bobbed up to the surface of your crotch while you babbled and brayed and I grew bearded with want and worry—I will burn the mattress where we sleep, where you sleep. You will use your water for a mug of indigestive tea, which I will refuse and say, “I don’t want that shit.” You will sip the tea, shut off the light, slip off to sleep, and I will start a fire and I will burn the bedroom from the inside out. I will burn your body, our boys’ bodies. I will burn the world.
        But then the day will break and I will find your bones in the ruins. I will find Aaron’s bones, the baby’s bones. I will use these bones and build my boys again, build you too—only I will build you better than before. I will build bodies from the bones beneath the ruins of the house, and we will sit around a patio table from the back yard eating breakfast, the faces of my sons scorched and staring at nothing out of empty sockets. You I will rebuild and place in what’s left of the bathtub in what I can find of the bathroom. I will set your bones in the bath, and I will place the baby in your arms so that you may be at both leisure and motherly duty at once. The two of you will watch the sky now that there is no roof. The bones of Aaron I will teach to ride a bicycle before I go to work. I am the sun. Because of me all things shield their eyes.
Joel Kopplin‘s stuff has been in places like Metazen, HOUSEFIRE, and Red Lightbulbs. His novella Spaces is now available from Outpost19.