Skip to content

Week #51: Creative Writing Challenge – Leaves on Fire

December 31, 2021

Start your story with the line, “By the time I stepped outside, the leaves were on fire.”

By the time I stepped outside, the leaves were on fire. The flames licked toward the sky, and heat radiated over the gray, rocky yard. I watched my cousin hack at the table with a rusty axe we’d found in the shed out back, splintering and severing the table, until the pieces would fit alongside the leaves to burn. She was silent except for the grunts and deep breaths it took to wield the axe. I worried my cousin would burn just like the table as she presided over the conflagration, tears streaming down her face.

It had been my cousin’s idea to burn the table. She started with the leaves, the ones her mother always added when they came to visit, the two blondes with pigtails and shiny teeth who shared her father’s angular chin and his blue eyes. The blondes always sat with their plates on the leaves, while everyone else was relegated to the outer edges of the oak. My aunt never said anything to us when the blondes started attending our Sunday family dinners. No one else said anything either.

When my cousin was seventeen, my uncle made himself scarce. My aunt was silent as he drove away with the blondes in the back seat, but my cousin chased him down the street screaming obscenities. My aunt always left the leaves in the table after that. There were no more Sunday family dinners despite my mother’s daily phone calls, and when we found my aunt with her wrists dripping red and a goodbye note on the dresser, we’d gotten her a nice cozy room where she could be taken care of. My cousin moved in with us.

When my cousin got the phone call, she decided it was time to burn the table. The blondes had called using speakerphone to tell her their father had died. They thought she’d want to know, but my cousin hung up on them. I went with her to the storage facility where all the furniture from my cousin’s house had been shoved into corners and forgotten. We hadn’t been able to find the leaves at first, but spotted them leaning up against a back wall, nothing within a three foot radius. My cousin flung them into the back of the truck we’d brought, carving a gash through the finish on the rest of the table. My cousin laughed and said, “Yeah, let’s burn the son of a bitch.”

Hand in hand we watched the flames as the solid oak burned to a gray powdery ash. When my mother got home and heard the news, she insisted on visiting my aunt, so we piled into the truck and drove across town.

My aunt’s room was small, but someone checked on her every couple of hours, and she wasn’t allowed metal silverware or string or access to pills. My aunt was sitting in a chair by a sealed window when we arrived. My cousin blurted out, “The blondes called. He’s dead and I burned the fucking table.”

My aunt looked at each of us in turn, stood up, and said, “Good. I hope you burned the leaves first.”

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: