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Indoor Fireworks

Third Place

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Page 4 of 4

Peter brought no comfort as he removed the boxes from their stacks on the floor. As the first of the furniture began to disappear, the house held its breath and it became terribly cold inside. The couple bundled up and began unplugging things. The electric meter slowed and the house felt duller than it ever had. When the kitchen table was taken out, the house desperately tried to conjure the brilliant weight of large meals, the people gathered around. The memories rolled in and dissipated like fog. It remembered the angry conversation from months before, the smell of rosemary and the hot, airless tension and it understood this feeling. Staccato cracks and groans rippled through the house. Where are you going? Water flushed hot through its pipes until steam filled the attic.

Floorboards creaked resentfully as the sofa was being carried to the moving van out on the street. Shelly hugged herself as she wandered from room to emptying room. Each step across the cold floor sounded like bones snapping. The house asked why she was leaving. She moved to the kitchen, walls groaning around her. What am I going to do? She leaned her belly against the sink, rested her elbows on the counter and ran the water, splashing her face cool, holding her wet hands against her skin and running them through her hair. Sick with worry, the house ran cold. A chill shivered through the attic — ice water through sweating hot pipes. Copper cracked, valves and fittings hissed and spat and water hemorrhaged into the dark. Why aren't you listening to me?

Water trickled down the walls in the front room. Before Peter could wonder, "What the hell?" a river eddied from hallway to living room to bedroom and onto the front porch. Everybody out. A panic of footfalls beat against the timbers, all running to the door except for Shelly. The rising flood strained against the attic floor and the ceiling above her bowed and darkened. Both Shelly and the house remembered the first day there, centering herself in each room. Shelly stood against the oak pillar in the living room, her palms laid against it like the figurehead of some ancient ship. She glimpsed herself in the mirror by the front door. She thought about once wanting to blend into the walls of a place. The attic door burst open and water gray with dust surged around Shelly's ankles. The house remembered the first moment it felt like a home. It remembered her.

"I'm sorry," Shelly whispered. She stepped downstream into the frame of the front door. The house lurched sickeningly to the west and trembled for a moment. Shelly put her hand to the doorframe, leaned over and gave it a kiss. Then she stepped onto the front lawn, water roiling all around her, choking the grass, filling the street. There was a crack like thunder above them, and Shelly stood with Peter and watched the roof collapse. For just a moment, the house felt the sun shine into its darkest places before its walls gave in, toppling to the ground and throwing dust like slow ghosts into the evening sky.

Myke Johns is the co-founder of Write Club Atlanta and a radio producer at Public Broadcasting Atlanta.



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