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Learning to Lie

I couldn’t have been older than two when it happened. I was sitting by the fireplace on the grey blue carpet watching my dad stuff the fireplace with wood. The hearth surrounding it was made from the flatter stones found on the property when the land was turned from a lot to a home. The cool grays and earthen browns were placed carefully into organized randomization. There was a pattern of sorts between the colors and the sizes of the rock seemed to alternate.

Looking out the window into the sky beyond the pine forest I could see the tiniest little snow flakes beginning to cluster to form the blanket that would cover the ground. My dad said to me, “Don’t touch that, baby girl. It’s hot,” as he crumpled up 7 sheets of newspaper to fill the basin of the fireplace. On top he stacked two pine logs in a pyramid that was made to funnel the air to help ignite the wood. Next, he lit a match and with the quick hisssss-pop! the newspaper inside was glowing. Orange, yellow, transparent blue. When logs catch on fire they pop three times and sometimes the whine, almost as if you’re burning their soul but in reality what you’re burning is sap or leftover moisture trapped inside the grain of the wood. Again, my dad reminded me, “Don’t touch.”

Sitting by the fire I remember thinkingIt can’t be thaaaat hot. So I stuck my fingers out, touched the metal tray designed to catch stray ash or sparks. No heat. I reached my hand up further and gingerly touched the black shell of the fireplace, noting the light inside of the dark box that kept it contained. No heat. I reached across for the tarnished brass frame that housed the glass window in which I watched the flames twist and snap as they ate away at the wood. This time, though, there was heat. My little wrist met the glass that had been gaining heat since the fire first started. I didn’t scream, though I wanted to. I silenced my cries as I jerked myself away from the fireplace, the pain was so hot I couldn’t tell if I’d burnt myself with something hot or something frozen. I didn’t tell my parents.

Later that night after my wrist had been stained red and the blisters had formed I reached across the dinner table for a sip of the milk in my cup. As I did so, my parents caught sight of what I’d been so carefully hiding. A dainty scar still licks my wrist after fifteen years.

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