It was strange seeing the others out of uniform. Sam was wearing a pair of his dad’s ski gloves which were about three sizes too big for him. He kept bending the fingers back over his hand and screaming like a victim in a Hitchcock film. Archie had prepared a homemade balaclava out of his sister’s tights; the problem being that the eye holes weren’t in-line so he could only see through one at a time. Derek had a woollen scarf on and claimed it could be used for a number of things. None of which he named.
We loitered in the park and Sam peed on the swings. Archie threw acorns at the old woman waiting for her pension. We hawked globs of spit at passersby from the overpass. I caught a cat. It had one eye like Archie and a tag on its collar which said: ‘Tinky Winky’. Out of one trouser pocket Sam retrieved a large bottle of lighter fluid. Out of the other, a box of matches, which he brandished like a .45 with the safety off.
“Your turn,” he said, pushing the bottle and box into Derek’s chest. I helped Archie hold the puss down, dodging claws and teeth.
“Light it up. Tail first.”
He tried to use a hand to hold each weapon but they were too big for him, overwhelming his boney frame. He had them pressed together under his chin, fumbling to crack the safety spout on the lighter fluid. The bottle fell from his grip, clanking and glugging to the ground. Some solution splashed the cat who hissed and thrashed. Some doused Derek’s clothes, the chemicals stinging strong.
“C’mon, do it.”
He gave up on the fluid and tried a match which flashed into life. White, yellow, orange. A steady glow that crept its way down the wood.
“Just get it done, Derek!”
As he moved closer the flame touched his fingertips, the match fell from his grasp and landed on his scarf. There was no smoke, the scarf twisting and withering away in seconds. But the flame leapt up, wreathing his neck in gold. Then there was smoke. Thin black wisps of burning flesh. Pink skin dripped from his chin and cheeks. Nose peeling. Snatching its chance the cat broke free and bolted. Derek patted his neck with wild hands as we chased after the cat, laughing.
Alex Robinson is a writer born in Lancashire but living in Staffordshire, England. His poetry has been published in Pandora's Box magazine and he was long-listed in The Word Hut writing competition 2015. Alex is currently studying for his Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Chester.
Deep Water Literary Journal
2017 - Issue 1 - February