To DM a 🔥 

by Jon Lindsey

Most men would have walked away. Thrown down the garden hose. Run. But you’ve got to remember, I put up a fight. I didn’t quit. Even as the house we built caught fire. 

         My wife fanned herself in the face of it, the heat. This wanting for water. Our Tuscan terra cotta tile two-story steamed with unquenchable thirst.

         “What else can we do?”

         Hand-in-hand, we waded into the swimming pool. But in the infinity, I lost faith. Turned back to look at what we were losing. Poolside, tucked in my tennis shoe, was my phone. My connection to the world—my contacts, my passwords, my encrypted nudes, years of affirmations my psychologist suggested—a sacrifice to the fire.

“Fantasy’s over,” my wife said, pruning in the chlorine.

      I worried for her, treading water, emphysemic, and with no pajama bottoms. Blessedly the pool is somewhat shallow. Maybe I am too. 

      So why is my suffering bottomless? 

      “It’s just stuff,” she said as we watched it all burn—the formal dining, dinner party set, Opus One Napa Valley Red in the wine fridge, sex swing, the bedrooms of the children we couldn’t conceive, the cat. Just stuff. The pickleball court, the olive groves, the garden snail, ground squirrel, coyote, mountain lion, monarch, rattlesnake. Our stuff.

      “You don’t mean that,” I said and paddled over to her. “It’s our stuff.”

      “Suddenly, you care?” she said, sinking below the waterline.

      “I always cared.” I lifted her up. She held onto my neck. I knew what she meant. “You said you forgave me. And anyways, I didn’t hear you complaining.”

      I heard only her exultant cries of pleasure. They echoed in my mind, even months later. Even as the fire raged and we fought. Even as we held each other and spoke of our blameless love. Even as we catalogued what was insured and what was lost to us forever. Most of it, my wife pointed out, built by enslaved people in hot countries faraway. “It’s our karma,” she said. “Comeuppance.” For defying nature, for buying into a subdivision that trespassed a forest. For wanting more than what we had, more than each other.

      “My god,” she said. ”How long will this take, anyway?” 

All night we watched the tedious show of our domestic creation burning. The stars, poisoned by the fire light, meant we watched the moon for clues about the passing of time. 

      Did the sun rise? There were no birds left to greet it. No songs. Only ashy light. Cuck cuck went the dying embers of the house we built, still alive enough to know to die. At the far end of the pool the stone statue of a cherub, char black cock, blew his trumpet.

Jon Lindsey lives in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in NY Tyrant Magazine, Hobart, and The New Limestone Review. His first novel, Body High, is forthcoming in 2021 from House of Vlad.

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