.....more great Fiction!
The first time I set my mattress on fire I was cooking spaghetti in the kitchen and the fire alarms went off. I thought the boiling water had set the alarms off so I ignored them but they kept wailing so I ran into my bedroom to find that a candle had fallen onto my bed. I put it out with the pot of boiling spaghetti water. My cat had just pissed in my closet so I lit some vanilla candles to freshen the air. I called you on your way home from work to tell you that I ruined our dinner but you didn’t answer so I left you a long, detailed message describing the burns that resembled Hollywood actors. When you got home you stuck your tongue out like an iguana then lifted me into a hug. I remember because I broiled that hug on 550 degrees until it melted in our mouths and you told me what a good cook I was. I packed little portions of that hug in Tupperware dishes for your lunch the next day. You wrote me an email about the color of the leaves on the tree outside your office window and I replied, asking if naked trees made you sad. You said they made you no sadder than usual but when I Googled “usual,” a speak-easy style bar was the first result. It served fancy drinks with the lights off and told customers that they were having a good time.
The second time I set my mattress on fire I was practicing fire cupping on you, a therapeutic practice I’d heard about from a hippie in my book club. The YouTube tutorial was difficult to follow in real time and I got nervous so I dropped one of the cups. You sprang off of the bed like a tiger and came back in with the fire extinguisher you’d brought over after the spaghetti incident. I was spitting on the flames and pulling my stringy, neon blue hair out in chunks. You put the fire out and I watched your chiseled back move fluidly. It was decorated with large, dark circles. You turned to me and kissed me lightly then said that there had been an evil spirit named Frederick living in my mattress anyway and that I’d just freed him to go find his family. You ordered us pho and told me about all of the times that you meant to call home but never did. I thought you were both brave and pitiful and I held you long after you’d fallen asleep.
For those who can't make it to the mecca that is Kelly Writers House, we gather once per month, in a traveling show sort of migration around South Florida to enjoy the companionship, the intellectual stimulation and the pure exhaustion of the mental challenge of a live close read!
The third time I set my mattress on fire you were at the home you never called and I didn’t understand why. I was working on an art piece in my bed while watching music videos on MTV. I collaged monkey skulls and digital cameras and trains that were constantly departing and never arriving then threw some red paint over top of it to resemble splattered blood. I grabbed a lighter out of my desk drawer and began to run the flame along the edges to singe them but the lighter was a piece of shit and I burned my thumb and dropped the paper. It went out almost immediately but left a pumpkin-shaped burn on your side of the bed right by the pillow. I ran a knife over it and pretended to carve our vows into it. You called and I answered on the first ring. You said that your mother’s backbone was made out of jello and that she wiggled uncomfortably when she walked. I told you that all of the colors had faded from the furniture since you left and you said that you knew. My eye wouldn’t stop twitching and you said you could hear me frowning, that it sounded like coyotes yipping in the night. I told you to give your mother a break and not step on any more cracks while you were home. You described the way my skin felt against your teeth and said you’d be home in the morning.
The fourth and last time I set my mattress on fire I was in the alley next to my shabby apartment. I’d dragged the mattress down six flights of stairs and banged my elbow on the railing. It sent tingles up and down my arm and I screamed until my voice box shattered like a glass vase and sliced up my throat. You’d just come all over my mattress then told me you were dying. You said it so sweetly, I could have mistaken you for a butterfly. I didn’t understand what that meant except that you were leaving me so I burned your DNA and spun around in circles, stuck in the whirlwind of your double helices. I cried hysterically because I wanted to have ten thousand of your babies. You grabbed me by the arm and pulled me close and we watched the flames dance like strippers, gradually removing any trace of our love. Once the excavation was complete, you peed on the fire to put it out and I told you that your pee smelled like garbage and you laughed because you no longer recognized me.
Marisa Crane is a creative writer and web editor living in San Diego, CA. Her work has been featured in Apeiron Review, The Radvocate, Blue Bonnet Review, Glassbook Magazine, and more. Her fiction is slated to be published in the upcoming issues of Dissonance Magazine and Press Pause Press.