by Sarina Bosco
Honorable Mention – Flash 405, August 2022: “Burn”
Something about the bones. Or not just the bones; rather, the way they were packed together into a small parcel, covered with downy fur, delicate and weightless and secretive. She picked them up and carried them in her palms under the pines. Through the dark stand, up the hill, the house sat empty without her in it.
She’d tried before to burn them out. It wasn’t just the last one, but everyone before him. It had begun with the boy in the closet when she was seven years old. A family friend’s son, trapping her in there, a lock she couldn’t figure out, clammy hands yanking down the neckline of her bathing suit. And after that it never really ended.
Small mundane assaults. Just eyes or words, but sometimes more than that. A student grabbing her chest as she moved through a crowd on the green; the man who followed her up Main Street until she had to duck into a bank; another who tried to explain to her that she was looking at a pressure washer, honey, not a hose as she shopped for a replacement nozzle.
She’d burned so many things. Candles at first, but prayers didn’t work. Sage. Then books, the books she loved, like sacrifices. Lace bras. Vodka when she drank it, her own hair once, roses, wood from Brazil. She burned it all but nothing took away the way they lingered there—in her home, where all she wanted was to be alone.
Once, being alone had seemed like the worst-case scenario. At the top of the hill, her thighs burned and she stepped across the flagstones, left the door open to let twilight in and looked around at her little life.
Not the stove, not the incense burner. Something new, something different. There had to be another spell-recipe-prescription-plea to get rid of them and be alone, alone.
The fireplace. They’d said it was when she bought the house years ago.
Kneeling carefully, she unfurled her hands from her chest and placed the little packets of bones on a nest of crumpled paper and creosote. The wheel of the lighter bit into the pad of her thumb. She cried, again, for all the small mundane things that had been done to her over and over, that would keep being done to her, and she lit it—watched flames devour the tiny perfect bones. Prayed that it would be enough.
The way burn changes throughout this piece—in some places metaphor, in others reality. And what a first sentence to pull a reader into this piece: “Something about the bones.”
Sarina Bosco is a chronic New Englander and hoarder of myths and typewriters.
Photo Credit: Ashim D’Silva