by J. Bradley
Helen stared at the smoke seeping through the seams of the closed oven door, the fire consuming last night’s pizza box. I opened the front door. The fire extinguisher case was bolted next to the apartment door across the hall. The landlords thought ahead. I freed the fire extinguisher, opened the oven. The kitchen didn’t give me enough space to aim properly. We stumbled through the mist of smoke and sodium bicarbonate, onto the balcony.
Before my father “rescued” us from my mother, he listed all the reasons why we were better off without her: listened to talk radio, sucked her teeth at the dinner table, stole the blanket while they slept, never voted in local elections, believed The Doors were better than Pink Floyd. He said the list gave him the conviction he needed to walk us out of her life.
I looked over at the refrigerator. The sonogram pinned to the freezer door looked like a black and yellow blotch from here.
“My hero,” Helen wrapped her arm around my waist.
When Neil is old enough, I’ll show him my list. He’ll see on the first line: doesn’t look in the oven first before turning it on.
J. Bradley is the author of the forthcoming story collection, The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective (Pelekinesis, 2016). He lives at iheartfailure.net.
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