Playing with Fire – Michael Chin

We talked the corner-store cashier into letting us buy the Bic lighter, equal parts cavalier attitude and fully imagined lies that my father wanted it and sent us with a crisp five-dollar bill to get one and didn’t care what color it was.

On the walk home, we took turns rubbing our thumbs over the spark wheel. Slow to feel the potential in its metallic grooves. Fast to catch a flame.

We tried to light a circle of unspooled thread around the driveway, visions of shooting baskets in a ring fire. It didn’t work. We left flaming pieces of Styrofoam and cardboard in the road for the thrill of watching cars run them over or swerve to avoid them, until one woman—I took her for a mother—stopped and asked us if we were responsible for the fire in the street. We said no, but the way she stared through us and warned us of danger stole what fun there was from our game.

He kept the lighter. It was his idea to get it in the first place, and I knew I’d only get in trouble if it were found in my room. I don’t know that I ever saw it again or if he ever used it, only that it took up residence in the dark of a dresser drawer. That it waited.
Michael Chin

Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and currently writes and teaches in Corvallis, Oregon. He won the 2014 Jim Knudsen Editor’s Prize from the University of New Orleans and has previously published work in journals including Bayou Magazine and Weave Magazine.