“Up in Flames” Short Story

This one, I feel like I genuinely wrote forever ago. I mean, this was from the time before I called myself a writer, so you know it’s old. Really, it’s not great. It was sometime midway through high school, so forever ago, pulled from my files and cleaned up a bit, but it’s essentially the same as I wrote it then. As I feel is necessary with all works of fiction, take from this what you will. If art can’t be open to interpretation, what is? I included a trigger warning, but I expect many people will read it with a different perspective. I also apologize for the slightly morbid feel of the story. I’d say high school was a dark and scary place, but really I just think I’m such a sucker for symbolism that I got inspired by the smallest thing and rolled with it.

Hopefully by the end of this week I’ll have another DC related post up. I’ve been trying, but with the amount of work expected of us, it’s hard to maintain a weekly blog. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this short.

Trigger Warning for Suicide, kind of sort of in a way. But I’d rather be safe than sorry, right?


He had kept everything. At the time, there had been no reason in being rid of it. Now he’d found his reason: if he didn’t get rid of it, he would never be able to escape the ties. In order to have anything new, anything different, he had to destroy the old. Things had changed now.

With his spare hand, he twisted the knob, and the door of the shed opened with a creak. The hinges were rusted, a sign of the time they had endured. Everything was here. Not a single item was out of place. The light cast from outside caused shadows to spring in horror from their hiding places; their stretching forms made everything seem larger than life. Hesitantly, he stepped into the room. Shelves lined the walls, a cabinet stood in the corner, and the there was not an inch of empty space between them. In the center of the room, was a small, simple table that stood as high as his waist. On it sat a bronzed key, weathered by time, just as the hinges had been.

First, he lay the flower down next to the key. It was small and white and tied with several ribbons. He set it down gently, as if the soft petals could shatter like glass or a broken heart. Next, he placed the candle upright on the table and used the third item, a box of matches, to light it. As the tiny flame danced, the shadows joined in the jubilation, dancing to celebrate the symbolism of his actions.

For the memory of it, he took a short stroll around the room. There were items everywhere: small books full of words, little trinkets that represented something or another. They were moments. Each and every one of them stood for a precious moment. The cabinet was nearly overflowing with papers, each one documented and categorized conversations on a cornucopia of topics. Behind every item, barely visible on the wall, were scribbled thoughts and quotes in no logical order. The black ink had faded since they had been written, but he scanned them still:

“It can’t be easy.”

“Don’t be like that.”

“I know and it makes all the difference.”

“No matter what happens.”

Everything in this room was a part of him. Memories and moments that spanned the time he’d lost so that now the mere sight of them was only painful. It would be tragic to see them go, but he knew they had to. This room was full of the past. And the past ought to stay in the past. There were new things to discover now: new people, new places, new things. New moments and memories.

He turned his back to the piles of papers, the seemingly random objects that had run out of relevance, and the writing on the wall. Then he lifted the flower again, trying to ignore the key at the edge of his vision. He would miss that key – seeing it, being part of it. Begrudgingly, he tore his eyes away, knowing this had to be quick and clean, like a band-aid over an old wound. If not now, it would be never. With one final glance around the little shed, he tipped the candle over.

THE END


Once outside, he knelt down with his back to the shed. With his bare hands, he scraped the dirt up in front of him. Handfuls of the soil cleared away to make a small hole. He ceremoniously placed the little white flower inside and pushed the dirt back around it. Heat began to warm his back as he stared at its fragile petals. The flower had no roots, and so no hope of growing, yet he placed it there anyway. What life it had left would ebb away into the soil in a few days, but by then he wouldn’t be around to see it.

When he was satisfied with his work, he pushed himself to his feet and wiped his soiled hands on his faded jeans. A crackling nose had started behind him and he could feel the warmth. He was tempted to look over his shoulder, to watch his old things going up in smoke. He knew he shouldn’t, but he did. And he was doomed by that glance.

Flames devoured the wooden walls with a ravenous red hunger. They licked up the sides with destruction and rage, swallowing the shed whole. Fire was killing his past – killing it. His mind went straight to the key. What would he do without that little key? Nevermind that. How would he remember the quotes, the stories, or all the precious moments without the objects in that room?

He looked down at the flower, then back up to see his treasures burning. This was his fault. He had started the destruction of his own most prized possessions. Again he looked down and it clicked. Something snapped into place in his mind. Why was he willing to let everything burn for the sake of something that wouldn’t live to see tomorrow? Where were his priorities? What was more important?

It was impulse, really, that caused him to act. It was impulse, but a moment of truth nonetheless. Perhaps he would have regretted it, or acted differently if given a second chance. As it was, he couldn’t take it back.

He jumped into the flames to join his past.

And he burned.

THE REAL (but slightly more morbid) END

#hashtagforeverything – RGADC

There was a time when the hashtag was still merely a pound sign.  Now though, hashtags permeate the minds of the millennial generation. Not only do they appear on phone screens, but they also worm their way into conversation. I’d say I think of them because I’m a social media intern, but that’s not really true. There’s just a #hashtagforeverything.

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Here are some highlighted hashtags from the trip so far:

#ShouldaGoneWithGaston

  • This is my personal favorite, and the hashtag I use by far the most frequently. My friend and I were on the way back from Evita on the metro when a handsome man walked up to us and asked for the bathroom. Of course, there was no bathroom, so he stayed and talked to us while we waited fifteen minutes for the next train. His name was Gaston, he was Chilean, and he spent a lot of time trying to persuade us to go dancing with him. But on a Thursday night after a show with work on Friday? I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. I don’t know what was wrong with me. I’m supposed to make the most of this time in my life; I’m supposed to go out dancing with a hot Chilean man on a Thursday night if I have the chance. But I didn’t because I wanted to sleep. I regretted it as soon as I got home. Still think I #shouldago    newithgaston.

#AOTUSlol

  • AOTUS = Archivist of the United States, a position appointed by the President. The current Archivist is David Ferriero, and he’s basically in charge of everything Archives. He also makes really good pancakes (with chocolate chips). He’s kind of like our governmental celebrity here. Every now and then he’ll walk past our desks or our education center and we’ll all exchange looks and make a big fuss over the AOTUS. “He waved at me!” etc. The actual hashtag though came from a misread text but it felt fitting. #aotuslol

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(That one time the AOTUS made us breakfast. It was such an important moment.)

#TheBradyBunch

  • Tier 1, as my friend group jokingly calls each other, has been hanging out since week one. It’s a little bit of an odd concoction of friends, and we willingly adopt anyone who comes our way, so our numbers fluctuate a lot. But it’s a comfortable friend group and feels so natural. Early on in our DC stay, we were eating at a hole-in-the-wall taqueria when a man, who we suspect may have been homeless, came up to us and told us “we looked like the f—ing Brady Bunch.” He proceeded to name us all after the characters and never asked our actual names. I was Carol Brady and my lovely friend Joachim was deemed my Mike. For about thirty minutes he just stayed and told us story after story, suggesting bars, and only ever calling us by our Brady Bunch names. I could barely understand him, but it was one of the most entertaining and strange encounters I have ever had. We never saw him again, but we all walked away afterward happily singing The Brady Bunch theme song. “That’s the way we became #thebradybunch!”

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(Some of the “Brady Bunch” [Tier 1] at Halloween. I’m trying not to smile, since it messed up my makeup, but that’s really hard when you’re having fun.)

#JournalLikeJefferson

  • Did you know Jefferson journaled daily about the weather conditions? Yeah, well we didn’t either, but our boss at the Archives is a wealth of information. He wrote the weather in his journal consistently and continuously. For fifty years. He recorded and studied meteorology  That’s commitment. Have a daily habit? Really, I need to write more every day. A set word count or the like. Maybe I’ll finally start the habit and #journallikejefferson.

#InternHell

  • There are a couple things we’ve been warned not to do as interns, primarily to never think any job is below us. However, if any of us mess up, we joke that we are going to #internhell. “Was that you who jammed the printer? #internhell.” “Don’t fall asleep on the job. #internhell.” You get the idea. Some interns in the program have really bad experiences, but our supervisors are very understanding and forgiving. So, thankfully, #internhell remains a joke alone.

#TexasTakeOver

We’re contagious. Apparently. A Texan in DC is hilarious to begin with. We are fascinated every time it rains. I’m praying to see at least one snow here. The changing leaves are mesmerizing, and apparently they aren’t even as beautiful here as they are other places. We also rub our “y’all”s off on the people around us. Honestly, I think I use it more now that I’m away from Texas than I did before. It’s as if I’m honoring my home by sticking to my “y’all”s. Now our friends have caught themselves on a y’all every now and then. We make a grand joke about “y’all” scaring strangers away. We just can’t help it. It’s almost like we get into their heads. It’s a full-out #texastakeover!

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(But really, look at those leaves. Everything turns brown so fast in Texas.)

Truth be told, I really am missing Texas right now. I will desperately miss DC when I leave, since I’ve really fallen in love with living in this city. But I’m missing my home – especially in the midst of NaNoWriMo when I want so badly to be writing with everyone there. Of course, I know once I get there, I’ll miss everyone here, like #thebradybunch. It’s sad to have one such wonderful, but busy, semester, and then see everyone disperse at the end of it. Now there’s only a month left, and I’m not sure how to feel about it. I don’t want my time here to end, but I also can’t wait to be home. This semester has been incredible, but there is only so much time left to it.

So I’ll leave you with one more hashtag that’s both sad and hopeful: #behomesoon.