My brother called dibs on anorexia, even though it’s meant for girls. Since pyromania’s for boys, I took it; cherishing the asymmetry. I love the way fire hides, then jumps out to say BOO! like our father did when we were little. We dance with the flames. In the backyard. The woods. Along the railroad tracks. Late at night, in my room, fire devours lists with the names and hashtags of kids who taunt us on the bus and at school.

When my brother starts eating again, I put away my lighter. We have a pact. But I miss the heat, am terrified it won’t slake my hunger again. The dry grass beckons. An abandoned barn begs me to end its loneliness. The list of names on my desk has grown long, so long.

As a child, I loved the rain. The dark clouds crossing the prairie, the smell of sweet earth in the backyard, the chance to see a rainbow. Now, the fields are dry, the air smells of decay, no pot of gold awaits us. I seek glowing embers, hot blue flame. I tell my brother it’s time to purge.


Tom Walsh is a writer and editor living in northern California. He has been a newspaper reporter, editor, wildland firefighter, and more. His stories are in or forthcoming in Litro USA, Hobart Pulp, The Cabinet of Heed, The Dead Mule School, Janus Literary, and elsewhere. His cat, born in the UK on the 4th of July, is, of course, named Independence. Follow him @tom1walsh.