Thanksgiving never works out for me. It’s like a bad relationship—I get all bubbly over the mashed potatoes and drumsticks, but the yams make me puke and by the time I force down the apple pie I’m ready to spend hours in the bathroom. So, I never call Thanksgiving back or leave it friendly emails. Yet I get called back, year after year. Sweet Jesus.
This year will be different. No more Mr. Nice Dickwad.
Mom says, “Oh Gene, will you shut up and pass the cranberries? Christ, can’t you see that Republicans will keep us strong?”
And dad, “You know what Arlene—you can fuckin’ kiss my ass right now. Republicans are road kill. If I had a gun I’d put it to your head and blow your brains out all over the rolls. You got that?”
I go to my car, spill gasoline all around the outside of the house (I grew up here, my old stuffed animals are still in my bedroom, though that got converted to a den once I left for Jeter U) drop a lit match, and walk up to the Wawa for a warm pretzel.
Hearing whether they scream or not doesn’t interest me. My grandmother is 92, a Madonna doll melting by a radiator. She won’t even smell the smoke since she’ll be chaining on her Winstons. They’ll all get out okay, probably. And if not, well, what of it? No big loss.
I’m bi. I can’t remember who I’m dating or what parts they have. It doesn’t matter—stir in a penis, a vagina, an ass, and a mouth--it comes out the same sticky stew. My parents don’t like that I’m bi. Dad hoped for a gay son, someone he could insult non-stop but still vote for liberals. Mom thinks bi people are confused and Republicans are by definition straight, so I should vote with my dick and be straight.
I don’t vote.
I burn stuff.
You might not know it to look at mousy me with my brown alpaca sweater and salmon-colored beret, but I’m a firebug. I’d set myself on fire if I could film it right and watch the reruns. At thirteen I burned the family garage down. Billy Wingles and I were tossing matches on the cement floor. Gas caught fire. Billy shrieked and ran out. I ran out too—but not far. I watched it burn.
“Kids today,” Mom said, adding nothing more.
Actually, I think I’ve been burning for a long time. Some college boyfriend or girlfriend called me a fuse waiting to be lit. He or she couldn’t light my fuse well enough, but the point was made.
Can you go to hell and burn forever? Torching the family house with relatives in it should qualify me. Jesus, think of me as a lit match tossed in the eighth ring of Hell. Heaven probably has no arsonists, just harp players. Why do people want to go to Heaven? Imagine an eternity where nothing burns.
Everything’s cool. The cops are pulling into the Wawa. I’ll surrender quietly. The one cop I went to high school with--a popular basketball player who preferred my balls. Now he’s married and living in an Internet porn site.
“Hi, yeah, here I am. It’s okay.”
Off we go into the pre-Black Friday night, the fire department pissed off because who would do such a thing on Thanksgiving? I would. And did. As the cops haul my ass to jail, I’m thinking about fire. What it needs is to burn without stopping, an eternal flame with no gas jet to prop up the flickering. My body stretched between the blue at the flame’s center and a stark red outline on a falling piece of ash.
Kenneth Pobo’s fiction can be read online at Verbsap, Word Riot, Tonopah Review, Shine, and Fiction at Work. His poetry book, Glass Garden, came out in 2008 from WordTech Press.