Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Entry #205

Watching the House Burn
by Christian Bell


We watched the old house burn, holding hands. Above, the sky gray, bare trees, screeching blackbirds the sirens of alert. The wide open grounds, a field of bumpy green, broken tree limbs. For years, we talked about legends of the building’s history. A psycho father killed his family, hanged himself. Every other family that moved in stayed for awhile and abruptly left. It sat on the grounds of either an abandoned cemetery, a typhoid-ravaged boarding school, or a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Some people had claimed to see figures in the windows, but it’s more like the windows become eyes, trees framing the structure as wiry mad hair.

We watched the flames, screaming demons eating oxygen. I stare, transfixed, think I see silhouettes, black snakes of smoke moving uphill through bare trees. We don’t believe in ghosts. We’ve come here since childhood, stealing kisses in the shadows. She would cry on my shoulder, trying to flush out the monster back home. Now, as an adult, this arson was her therapy. I brought the gasoline and the lighter; she was a prisoner, she couldn’t lift her hands. The flames crackled and spit—cauterization for her wounds.

Later, we would kiss. Later, I would ask her to marry me. All the world’s blackbirds circled above, their chorus harsh jagged scratches. Her monster would still be alive after this—smoking cigars, drinking beer, rotting away in a beaten torn recliner. For now, she clutched my hand, wouldn’t let us leave.

29 comments:

Michael Solender said...

ooh a new side.. dark and creepy

Laurel said...

I am reminded of Forrest Gump:

"Sometimes, there just aren't enough rocks."

Fantastic description of the consumption of fire. I feel that in this instance, at least, my opinion is valid and qualified since I watched my own house burn when I was eight. The snapping, writhing energy of it is encapsulated here:

screaming demons eating oxygen. I stare, transfixed, think I see silhouettes, black snakes of smoke moving uphill through bare trees.

This is a vivid accounting of both arson and sin. Nice job.

Bernita said...

Truly beautiful descriptive passages.

peggywriter said...

This blew me away.

laughingwolf said...

well done, christian...

Carrie said...

This made me [glee] a little =D Great piece.

CJT said...

Christian, your pieces never cease to amaze me. I'm going to have to add your blog to my favorites list...

Kudos again,
-CJT

Aniket said...

Brilliant descriptive details. Very well written.

PEOPLE, PLACES, VOICES, FACES... said...

Christian,

I agree with so many of the comments above, that for a while I thought I wouldn't leave a comment because I have nothing new to say.

However, I wanted to point out that I love some of the very striking images here, especially the

1. window-eyes and the trees framing the house as mad, wiry hair

2. Your description of the flames as screaming demons eating oxygen

3. The very poignant, terrifying image of her crying on his shoulder, "trying to flush out the monster back home"

4 And finally the absolutely brilliant "harsh jagged scratches" of the blackbirds' chorus

Ranee

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

A haunting piece. Vivid descriptions; felt I was watching it along with the narrator. Like Laurel, I thought of Forrest Gump, too ~ such an emotional scene. Nice job!

Beth Harar said...

One of my favorites.

Tim Remp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Remp said...

Lets try this again! :)

screaming demons eating oxygen was great! I like how you twisted her pain back on the real person in the rotting chair.

-Tim
#138

Kartik said...

Very stark and vivid imagery!!

Dolors said...

Your description makes a story. Good!

Aerin said...



Caveat

Something I Would Keep

Let's see if I can say this the way I want to: I am very appreciative of the characterization of the narrator. There's not much said about him/her (yes, I know, marriage, but that could still be two "hers"), but so much that the reader discovers and infers. The story is really about him/her, not the abused girl watching the house in flames.

Something I Might Tweak

I'd space the two "Later" sentences from the rest of that paragraph.

Aerin said...

DAMN. I'm still not sure I said that correctly. For me, there's a story, a story-within-story AND a meta story. There's enormous complexity, but it's so skillful that you can hardly tell. I get something new with each read-through. THAT takes talent. Well done.

James R. Tomlinson said...

I prefer my stories dark and this, dear writer, is very very dark. (Trust me, coming from someone who works in a prison, I know dark when I see it.) If it were my creation though, the monster wouldn't live in the end. Why? Because of all that effort describing the fire.

Preeti said...

Oh my God.
That was dark as dark can be.

Uhmm... I'm a little dazed because the images are still flashing inside my brain. although the darkness speared a chill inside me i found myself experiencing the heat from the fire too.
Very few writers can actually transport a reader into the event that they have penned and make them go through the actions that are happening.
You, my friend, have done exactly that.

I salute thee... for thy abilities...

quin browne said...

christian!! oh, the places you took us here!

truevoid said...

strong writing. and very descriptive. good job!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Ahhhhhhh. Now that's therapy. But that's also the pyro in me.

Well done. Love the descriptions.

Aimee Laine said...

Oh he loves her so! :)

Craig said...

I like the contrast you made between imagined and real life monsters.

Beth said...

I really loved this. It's like a much deeper Jenny's house with Forrest Gump. Really well done.

JaneyV said...

The imagery of the fire is breathtaking. There is a lot to think about in this piece and I think I've only scratched the surface.

It's very powerful.

pjd said...

I'm a little confused why they burned down an abandoned house as therapy for her monster back home. But like everyone else I love the rich descriptions and images, and the characterizations.

Watch the tense shift at the beginning of the second paragraph.

Nicely written.

catvibe said...

Like Pete, I'm a little confused as to why they are choosing to burn this house down, especially if they don't believe in ghosts. I don't get the why here. But what I do get is your extraordinary writing here. A visual delight! And also, like JR, love that dark. Nice job! Would love to know more about this pair.

Leatherdykeuk said...

Lovely piece, all the better because she isn't 'cured' by the fire