“Fire Sermon”

Nothing would burn. Barbecues consisted of people attempting to start the grill. “Pour some tequila on it,” they’d say. “Rub some sticks together for Christ’s sake,” they’d say. “My grandma told me about something she used to say when the stove wouldn’t light,” they’d say. “Get out of the way. Let me do it,” they’d take turns saying. One man put his socks inside of a gas can and left them over night. When he tried to light them the next morning, they wouldn’t even smolder, not even a little. The internal combustion engine was caput, too. Some reader of books said the gods had wised up and snatched back the gift of fire, which we weren’t supposed to have anyway. “Just look,” he said, “at how our skin has thinned.” “We just lost it, dumbass,” a woman with flames on her car shouted. In such a crisis, cruelty is not uncommon. People wanted to see if a person would burn. A person would not burn. So people wanted to see what it would take to make a person spontaneously combust, a phenomenon which had fascinated the pre-inflammable crowd as much as the spontaneous orgasm, which they dreaded and hoped for. “You can’t try to make someone do something spontaneously,” one of them attempted to note. But they did try, and it took more than they had, apparently. The elements had long endowed religious types and some non-religious types with what could be called religious feeling, but there was a backlash against all major religions because of their prejudice against fire, and there was a resurgence of interest in paganism. People who could still remember fire took to cataloguing its various forms. Everyone who could afford it purchased a photograph of fire and used it to cover a window, or if they had one, a fire exit. A former priest held a prayer vigil that, as he said, would last indefinitely. It was tricky at first because folks were used to having candles at such events. But people still did as the man said and chanted heavenward, “What do you want from us?” They chanted, knowing that if the heavens spoke, they would say, “Burnt offerings.”

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Jordan Sanderson

About Jordan Sanderson

Jordan Sanderson earned a PhD from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. His work has appeared in several journals, including NANO Fiction, Caketrain, Double Room, Gigantic Sequins, and The Oklahoma Review, and he is the author of two chapbooks, Abattoir (Slash Pine Press, 2014) and The Formulas (ELJ Publications, 2014). Jordan lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and teaches English at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.