Getting up to meet yourself coming down

by Rick Bailey

A man wakes in the middle of the night and discovers his head is on fire. His wife sleeps beside him, exhausted from years of childbirth, the daily work of children, hearth and home. He knows better than to wake her or burn her nice pillow cases. He slips out of bed and stands in front of the mirror. It’s such a big one, he whispers, more than enough. He tamps out his sideburns, confining the flames to the top, then pulls back the curtains, opens the window, and climbs out on the roof. Above their silver maple, the moon is a giant cookie. Damp under his bare feet, the brittle shingles scratch and tick as he crawls toward top of the house. He is a torch. Tonight he could be a meteor. He could dive to earth and make a crater that would fill with cool water. His remains, mere crumbs, would puzzle scientists from around the world for years. Beneath him, his children roll in their beds with dreams of their own. His wife turns toward his place, inhales, exhales, and rests an arm where his chest should be. When he reaches the chimney, he rests his back against it and waits, grateful for the warmth of the brick. A breeze brings the smell of apples already starting to drop. He can’t see much after all. Now what, he wonders. And why.