Hey there, Thursday. How you doing? Ready for a new story?
This week’s Free Fiction Thursday story is Firebug, featuring one of the creepiest characters I’ve ever written. Firebug was published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in June, 2005. Happy reading!
Published by Thunder Valley Press at Amazon
Copyright 2011 Annie Reed
over image copyright 2011 Katie Reed
Me and Bobby, we started a fire yesterday in that empty house on Colfax, the one with the ugly puke-green Realty Masters “For Sale” sign in the front yard. We got in through the patio door, real easy like. The guys working on the inside, fixing up the place, they don’t always lock up when they leave. I guess they think nobody notices, but I do. Even I know better than to leave a house open like that. Just asking for trouble.
We were outside the AM-PM on Fourth and Garnett, hanging out in the shade, when I came up with the idea. Me and Bobby, we went to AM-PM for drinks just like we always do. I had a Mountain Dew with lots of ice. I like lots of ice in the summer, crunch it between my teeth like candy. Bobby was sucking down AM-PM’s lame-ass version of a sour berry Slurpee. He stuck out his tongue every now and then just to gross me out, like a blue tongue is all that gross. I’ve seen grosser.
I’d slipped a lighter in my jeans pocket when the AM-PM cashier wasn’t looking. The lighter was clear orange plastic, the kind where you can see the fluid inside sloshing all around. I almost forgot about it until I did that little jump-skip thing I do over cracks in the sidewalk, and I felt the lighter poking hard against my hip.
“Wanna see something cool?” I asked.
I took the lighter out of my pocket and showed it to Bobby, and all of a sudden, just like that, I had the idea.
Kinda funny when I think about it, how ideas come to me. I didn’t really want the lighter, hadn’t planned on swiping it. It was just so easy to take.
It’s part of the game, to see what I can get away with. People look at me and expect me to be nice. Bobby says it’s my face, the way I can make it look all sweet and innocent. I think he’s jealous because he can’t. People look at Bobby and just expect him to do something bad.
Like that stupid AM-PM cashier. She was this old lady with rotten teeth and frizzy bleached-out hair and a loser job. She watched Bobby the whole time he was in the store like he was going to stuff his Slurpee in his shirt instead of pay for it, or maybe she thought he’d pull a gun on her and rob her. Just because of how he looks, like he can help it. So I smiled my sweet, innocent smile and paid for my Mountain Dew, and when she went back to watching Bobby’s every move, I grabbed the lighter off the display next to the counter. Serves her right. I hope they make her pay for it.
Bobby didn’t want to do the fire at first. He’s always so scared of getting caught.
“Roberto, man, c’mon, we gotta do this,” I said, and because I know he hates his real name, I said it again, drew it out sing-song. “Ro-berrrrr-to.”
He took a swing at me, but I’m faster than him and I ducked out of the way without spilling any of my drink. I could have hit him back, but he’s my friend so I didn’t.
“Don’t call me that,” Bobby said. He looked like he wanted to try to hit me again. “You know I ain’t that fucking name.”
Yeah, I know, but saying it makes Bobby mad enough to do what I want him to. I know it, and he knows I know it, but that doesn’t change things. Bobby’ll do almost anything to prove he’s not Roberto, not some worthless piece of shit like his old man.
“Listen,” I said. “I been inside already. There’s all sorts of stuff in there that’ll burn.”
“Yeah? Then why don’t you go do it? You’re the one who’s got a hard on about it.”
Hard on. That’s funny.
Read the rest of the story here.