Yes, dear readers, I understand that my working title could use more imagination, but I figure I have to write the story first before I start thinking about a snappy title. So, you’ll just have to accept it for now and hope the story is interesting enough in its own right.
For the past seven or eight months I’ve been on a mystery kick, and I am going to try my hand at a new story since posting here is the best way to stay (loosely) accountable to a drafting schedule. Not that I haven’t been writing.
Nothing remained but the ash that swirled around the bent steel frame of what was once a car. All Mickey Benneker wanted to do was see the damage the fire had done. He had watched the news all week and wore thick boots that kept out most of the heat that still radiated from the earth. At the height of a fire’s powers it could boil the water in the ground, drawing out the steam like a conjuror desperate to prove herself under the eye of a wakeful master.
A cool dawn breeze scattered more of the ash, and Mickey made his way to the trailhead. He had always thought of fire as the ultimate glutton, eating everything in its path until forced to stop by earth, or water, or man. He lit his own fires in a kiln in his backyard and once, when his landlord was away, he dug out a pit and made a bonfire. It rose ten feet high and he watched it burn all night, well after his friends had finished all of the beer and taken off. He had collected sticks and brush for weeks, yet he still used all of the wood that was in the shed, which, according to the stipulations of his rental agreement, he had to replenish at his own expense. The next day he took his truck to the store where the bagboy helped him tie down a full cord, and when he got home he passed the pit every time he walked by with a bundle. Just to see what would happen, he threw the last log in, surprised when it started smoking on the still-hot embers.
Mickey could never have been a firefighter. He loved it too much; he would rather see it come to its natural end. That, and he never could manage to pass EMT training.
Something in the dirt caught his eye, a flicker of white against the blackened earth, and he bent down to examine it. A tooth. Whether human or animal, he couldn’t say. It was sharp, and chipped. If it were human, it would have to be a canine. Our only proof that we should eat meat, he thought. He fingered the tooth, polishing off some of the dirt with his thumb, and put it in his pocket.