"Consumed" by Katie Quinnelly

He put his coat on and sat back down at the desk. "I can build a fire," I said. I stood. He didn't look up. "I'll build a fire," I said. He never said I had to build a fire. His coat was lime green and puffy and hoodless.


I tore the cardboard and looked back to see if he was bothered by the sound of paper tearing. He kept typing. I looked back into the fire. The wood caught and suddenly I couldn't look away. I stared into the light at the woodstove center, adding some old medical documents and a Cheez-It box. I tore an old shirt, and I watched as a newspaper was engulfed. I could hear the keys on his laptop.


I fed the fire whatever it wanted to eat that night. I spoiled it with all the wood I had upstairs. Whatever, I thought. I'll collect more tomorrow. You deserve it. I went through all of the kindling. I burned my old essays with red marks, my cereal boxes with their ingredients lists, my old checkbook and some socks. When I ran out of old stuff, I gathered my washcloths. I burned my books, the shower curtain, my birth certificate, the clothes I was wearing. You deserve it all. Whatever you want tonight.


He sat behind me and he sweat in his coat, but he was too focused on writing to notice how hot it was getting. I lay on the bed in the other corner of the room and curled up naked to a body pillow. My eyes got so heavy in the heat. I tried to keep them open to watch him. Is he still wearing his jacket, is he still wearing his jacket, is he still wearing his jacket. The question bled into my dreams. Is he still, is he still. The lime green surrounded by smoke. The clicking of the keys. My forehead sweating against the pillowcase. Whatever you want tonight. The coat, the color of Tinkerbell's dress, the flames. I'll collect more tomorrow.