When the fire burned down our garage my sister could only ask about the waterbed.
“You can’t burn a waterbed, can you?” she asked, her goggle eyes big as pucks.
She was mine alone to love, like a strange painting or the neighbor’s lonesome cat. Our father was always away. Our mother didn’t care for retards.
The man who interviewed me didn’t work for the fire department and I could tell he thought I was the culprit because he charged forth in hot pursuit of a motive. I could have given him plenty.
The smell of a fire gets on something; it bores in and can’t ever really be removed. Rank skunk spray you can rid yourself, but fire, it smolders in the fabric forever.
Jeanie was sis’s name but we changed it up, always with the letter J though: Jezebel, Janine, Jacqui, Junebug. She rather enjoyed the idea that she could become so many different people so easily.
When my mother was at Mr. Taylor’s house comparing bird watching stories, Jeanie liked nothing more than to sneak up to my parent’s bedroom and flop about on the waterbed. She became a mermaid on that thing. A queen being ferried betwixt regal landscapes. A damsel on a raft. A silly girl, not so smart, who at least knew how to swim.
When our parents divorced the first thing to go besides Pop was that waterbed. Mother stabbed it to death with an ice pick and later the carpet man spent the better part of a day fixing things, flooring-wise. He even carried the rubber mat out to the garage like some defeated sea creature slung over his shoulders.
It’s in a safe place now. Jeanie and I step over it every morning on our way to school, me to mine and Jeanie to her special one. I tell her someday she’ll swim again and I think she believes me.
© 2011 *Winner of the 2011 Contest
Len Kuntz lives in rural Washington. His work appears widely in print and online at such places as Juked, Cricket Online Review, Troubadour 21 and also at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.