Literary Corner: More at 11

The thing that people get wrong about fire is that they assume it destroys everything in 27 fire-165575_1920its path. This is true at first, but it’s only half the story. The fire isn’t the problem, or even the symptom of the problem. It’s the revealer of the problem. The problem was always there, you see. The things the fire destroys are the constructs people build around the problem to contain it, to hide it, to make the problem beautiful.

I should know. I started my first fire a year ago. I was punished, of course. My foster father believes in correction over coddling, and my caseworker dragged me to another therapist. But this problem was beyond behavioral remediation. Words are air, and no element so invisible can reveal what fire can.

I sit in the back of the police car, watching flames devour the siding, the drywall, the studs, the floors, along with the lies, the excuses, the shifting of blame. Though my hands are bound in metal cuffs, arms wrenched awkwardly behind my back, I breathe a sigh of relief. Maybe I couldn’t save her, but tonight I set her free.


Welcome back to KNZW news. Last night, an area teen burned down his foster home, though he was not the only one arrested. While dousing the flames, firefighters discovered bodies buried in a hidden room in the basement. The police chief is expected to make a full statement later today. Stay tuned for more on this breaking story tonight at eleven.

Mary Elizabeth Summer is the author of the young-adult Trust Me mystery series. She lives in Beaverton with her wife, their daughter, their dog, and their evil overlor—er, cats.

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