Firestarter

Billy Wright, six-year-old hero of the novel WHAT I DID, blogs here.

Today I stole some matches.

Dad left them on the table in the kitchen and I knew I wasn’t supposed to touch them but I was desperate and it felt excellent when I first held the box in my hand but now when I think about it my stomach shrivels up.  An enemy will do the same thing if you poke it with the end of your fishing net at the seaside.  Barnacles don’t care.

I took the matches out into the shed.  Then I took a cereal box out of the cycling and some old newspapers too.  I put it all in a pile on the shed floor, and the matches were pretty rattly, so I shook them out onto the pile too until the matchbox was empty.

Then I lit one.

Dad had already showed me how to do it away from myself, and he’d also told me something about holding the match upwards or pointing it down.  I couldn’t remember which and did it wrong and the flame burned my fingers so I dropped the match onto the pile of other ones.

It lay there burning for a bit.  Then it went whoosh, and suddenly all of the matches were flames and so was the newspaper and some some of the box too.  It was excellent.

But the next thing Dad was there and I was wet because he’d thrown water over everything.  And then I was crying because of the shouting.  I should have left the door shut.  He pulled me out onto the grass hard.

-Jesus Christ, Billy!  What were you thinking? Get upstairs.  WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

Much later though he came to my room and sat down on the bed with a two beer shrug.  You’re an idiot, he said.  But I am too.  I shouldn’t have left them out.  And nobody was hurt.  That lawnmower runs on petrol.

I didn’t like him calling us both idiots, and I don’t care about the lawnmower anyway because it’s noisy, but I didn’t say anything because he offered to tell me a story about a bird called a phoenix which is so hot it can actually live in a fire.  I’ve drawn one.

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