It was on New Year’s Eve that I set fire to the county. For years afterwards, I would tell myself—and anyone else who cared to listen—that the conflagration had ended my marriage. But in reality, the spark that had once flared between you and me had long since been extinguished, and the bonds that held us together were already stretched beyond their elastic limit.
“Matt? What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
What did it look like?
“Having a bonfire.”
“Have you forgotten that the Fergusons are coming over? They’ll be here any moment.”
I had, of course. I’ve always found it easy to forget things I don’t want to do.
“Why must you always leave everything to the last minute?”
You spun around, muttering “... and make me do all the work,” the volume precisely calculated so as to be just audible.
“What did you say?” I called as you strode back into the house, your retreating shoulders rigid with resentment. I picked up a cedar log and hurled it at the fire, sending up a fountain of sparks that danced prettily against the darkening sky.
It was that last log that caused all the trouble. I never knew it at the time, but without it, you and I would have lived unhappily ever after. Instead, a pocket of resin -- long imprisoned deep inside the wood -- vaporized and burst its way to freedom, creating a miniature flamethrower that sent a jet of superheated flammables into the heart of the blaze.
Electrons that for decades had suffocated between carbon atoms suddenly found the energy to leap the walls of their chemical prison and go in search of oxygen with which to bond. The temperature jumped abruptly, expanding the combustion zone and recruiting more fuel: more hydrocarbons, more oxygen, and countless more electrons looking for new partners.
Thus began the relentless escalation, the chain reaction which— before it was done—would consume twenty-three homes, fifteen automobiles, three cats, two goldfish, one parakeet, and my marriage.
Still, to look on the bright side, at least I didn’t have to spend New Year’s Eve with the Fergusons.