Time to put my money where my mouth is. I’m going to try to get this done every Friday this year. Writer’s Digest has a plethora (fancy word-smithing for shit-load…I gotta stretch that vocabulary muscle, right?) of writing prompts available to the aspiring writer. I finally took the plunge and subscribed to their digital magazine in the hopes of lighting a fire under me.
The only instruction for the prompt was to keep the story to 750 words. I hope you enjoy what follows.
The writing prompt I used this week was:
You return to the house where you grew up,
only to learn it has been condemned.
It’s been 27 years since I last saw my childhood home. So many memories, I didn’t know where to begin. I knew they ended, though. That’s why I’m here after all these years. As I pulled around the corner, I could see the picket fence leaning at a precarious angle as if raw determination and stubbornness held it up.
I could identify.
I got out of my car after parking boldly in the driveway. I looked up and down the street and saw nothing. No kids playing in front yards. No balls rolling away from its playmates. It was like the neighborhood knew what had happened here and had grown afraid to be happy.
I closed my car door with a dull thud. My hospital bracelet hung loosely from my wrist. I could have taken it off, but it was like a medal to me. I was sane again. Visiting my home was the last step I needed to stave off the demons that followed me since I was a kid.
I ridiculously wondered if my parents would still be home. The thought was anathema to me, but I had to know. I opened the trunk and removed the red plastic canister. Still amazed me how heavy a gallon of liquid could be. I reached into my left jacket pocket and stroked the cheap Bic lighter I picked up with my pack of smokes at the corner convenience store. It was finally going to be over.
Gooseflesh stood out on my arm as I marched up the walk to the front door. I couldn’t bring myself to look at it. I was afraid the door would stare back malevolently.
“Stop being such a pussy!” I harshly whispered to myself. “It’s just a house. It isn’t evil. They were.”
I forced my gaze up and stopped in shock.
“CONDEMNED” read the red notice taped across the door.
I had to stifle a laugh. Condemned, indeed. Seems I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Feeling foolish, I knocked on the door half expecting my old man to answer it in a cloud of smoke from his unfiltered Marlboro. I knew that wouldn’t happen, though.
My knocks went unanswered. I took out my switchblade, listened to the satisfying “snick” when I pressed the release and cut through the notice affixed to the door. I walked out of the daylight and into my personal nightmare.
I could still hear the screaming. I could still smell the burning flesh when I glanced down on the cigarette burn scars on my forearm. They were long dead, but they were still alive and kicking in my mind’s eye.
As I turned the corner toward the kitchen, I saw my mother dressed in her gaudy housecoat standing over the deep fryer cooking who knew what in fat. Her own lit Virginia Slim dangled from her thin lips, a curl of bluish smoke rising to coat the yellowed walls.
God, I hated them.
I walked from room to room dousing each in gasoline and cursing Hank and Estelle with each splash I heard hit the floor. I refused to call them by their typical parental names. They didn’t deserve it. An accidental meeting of sperm and egg did not Mom and Dad make.
I made my way back to the kitchen and saw the stove’s burners covered with dust. I remembered how they glowed an angry red and the scorching pain. I absent-mindedly caressed the right side of my now-ringed face. Rings that matched those burners.
The doctor said I was healed, both physically and mentally, after what I had done. It wasn’t every day a kid from Nowheresville, Louisiana, killed both his parents. The courts understood my plight, though, and that’s how I came to be in Dr. Lindstrom’s care. He was the only male authority figure that has never hurt me. I imagined him more than once saying he thought of me as a son. I wanted to make him proud. Destroying the last symbol of my suffering would make it happen.
I popped the gas line under the stove loose and heard hissing escape the line. I walked out the front door of my personal Hell and struck the match that would end my agony.
As I got in the car, I heard sirens from the local volunteer firehouse break the silence of the day. They sounded like doves.
I smiled, put my car in gear, and drove away healed.
Featured Image: Flickr and Hot Meteor