The fire engines didn’t make it soon enough. By the time they got there, Carolina Lumber Company was an inferno.
      Across the road, you stood barefoot on your front porch, puffing a cigarette and watching.
      Frightened neighbors lined the street, taking in the horrendous sight. One side of an entire city block in flames; it was a death blow to a small town still recovering from a flood the year before.
      Sirens and smoke saturated the night air. The incandescent wall of fire snapped and crackled as the firemen fought it, the same way your toasted rice cereal did when you drowned it in milk.
      You laid a charred hand on the hot porch rail, felt searing heat on your face, the scolding your boss gave you that morning in the lumber yard still ringing in your ears. “Boy, if we put your paycheck underneath your work boots, you’d starve to death.”
      You flicked your burning cigarette out into the grass and the corners of your lips twisted into a smirk. You picked up your work boots, went inside, and ate a bowl of cereal.



R.L. Black lives in Tennessee and enjoys writing flash fiction, short stories, and poetry. She is also a reader for The Riding Light Review. You can find out more about the author and her publications at


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Cover image: Craig Sunter (