Write On!

You Can’t Burn What’s in Flames

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2012 at 9:51 pm

by Jen Gregory

My mother always told me not to play with fire, that’s why I love watching things burn so much. She was on me about everything, constantly nagging me, telling me what to do, what to wear. Leave it to me to find a match box on the street and forget to take it out of my pocket before she washed my jeans. She was certain I was a smoker. You can only be accused of so many things you aren’t doing before you think, “Dang, why don’t I start smoking? I’m in trouble for it anyways.”

That’s how it all starts with privileged kids like me, somebody riding us too hard. That’s why I’m here in a juvy court room waiting for some uptight, bald, overweight judge to decide how long I need to be locked up for starting one tiny little fire. It was hay in an old barn, not like I was trying to kill somebody. Sometimes you just get bored, that’s all it was.

“We don’t play with fire Matthew. It could hurt someone, it could hurt you.”

I heard her voice the whole time I was doing it, lighting that fire. I could hear her tss-tssk everytime I struck a match on the side of the box. She’s just scared of fire but I think it’s pretty awesome, can’t take my eyes off of it really. I buy matches all the time, sit somewhere private and light one after the other. Sometimes, I bring the little orange smoking flame up under my hand and hold it there just to see how long it takes the pain to bother me. Every day it seems like I can hold the match up a little longer. I’m getting good at it. My palms are covered in little pink scars. My mom thinks I have some sort of drug problem. She’s had me tested, sent me to three counselors and one psychologist that put me on some crazy medicine. Two days of that stuff made me feel like a crazy person, so I just pretend to take it now.

“Matthew, tell me about your childhood.”

“It sucked.”

“Why did it ‘suck’ Matthew?”

“Just did, don’t most? How was your childhood Dr. Phil?”

“I can see you don’t want to try today, do you?”

“Not especially.”

“Then why did you come?”

“Because I had to, I’m fifteen. I can’t drive. She controls my life.”

“Did you tell her you didn’t want to come here today?”

“No point in that doc, have you met her?”

“So your mother is controlling. Do you find that frustrating?”

“Nah, it’s a trip. Fun.”

Blah, blah, blah. The woman is a steam engine. She’s going to roll over everything in her path. That’s why my dad lives four hours away and throws money at her while him and his new family sails off into the sunset, literally. They just rented a yacht and sailed over the ocean blue into Jamaica for a month. I was inconveniently locked up in a juvenile detention center when invited me to come along. My dad feels guilty but I don’t blame him, she makes me miserable too. I’d avoid her at all cost if I could.

She’s the crazy one! Always having me and my head examined but I haven’t seen her step foot in a counselor’s office and talk about how she doesn’t leave the house, how she doesn’t trust anybody. She sure isn’t telling them how she slaps me across the face when I get smart with her, how before I was bigger when she was having a really bad day she would lock me in my room and forget to feed me dinner. Yeah, she forgets that part. She’s real forgetful except when it comes to making a good impression at my school or with a doctor. She donates money, runs charities. We even got to this church where she is all plugged in. I watch her step up to that altar and pray, all kneeled down and what I think about is, “Get up hypocrite. God can’t fix you!”

I hate her. Dad says hate is too strong of a word but he doesn’t know. He has no clue what she does to me. On rare occasions when I’m not running like a lab rat through a maze for this baseball game or that music lesson she lets me do something I want to do. Then it’s like I can’t think of  anything except to stay in my room and ignore her.

Court is in session. All rise for the honorable Judge Richard Tingle.

All the kids in the room snicker. I do. What kind of judge is named tingle?

My attorney, only the best for me of course, tells the judge I’ve never been in trouble, how I’m a good student. All that stuff. Honestly though I fit in here. I knew that the first night I spent locked up. I’m free here.

It’s a long debate but the judge smacks his gavel and says something I never expected.

He is sending me to a military school for privileged kids. I look over at my mother and what I see is relief, she’s free too. He recommends three years at this “academy” for my better good. Says I’ll learn how to be a man and learn discipline. It’s out in some small town in Texas and I can start the next month.

His gavel goes tap, tap.

Court is adjourned.

She kisses me on the cheek and tells me how much she loves me even cries. She’ll have her church friends praying for me day and night. First I have to check in, find my barracks and stuff then I go for my examination and initiation, all because I found matches or all because I played with fire. She’s driving away as I walk to the medical office. I feel it in my heart, the way the dread of this new thing weighs less than her presence.

And that’s how I ended up in the middle of nowhere – naked but free.

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  1. So, we both wrote about 15 year old rebels. 🙂 Must have been in the air. I love it, love the title especially (you’re always so good with titles). Glad you wrote.

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