Spontaneity by Susan Gibb

He saw it on a TV documentary years ago, when he was little, maybe six or seven. But he remembered it, the blackened walls, the charred wingback chair, and just in front, the empty shoes.

He’d been amazed and liked the sound of it: “spontaneous combustion.” Gone in a whoosh of flame, a smoke ring left to mark your place on earth. Where last you were–in this case, where last the woman sat.

No one understood it, they had said, though theories offered might have been an answer if it happened often enough, but it was rare. A rare phenomenon that no one felt was worth the time and money to explore. But he thought about it quite a lot.

For years he thought it might be the fire of anger, like when his father got so mad he yelled and swung a belt at everyone who scattered through the rooms. Then because he was a small boy then, he’d find a place to hide. And watch. He didn’t want to miss the sight, the phenomenon of seeing his dad explode in fiery rage.

It never happened though, at least not spontaneously. And when they asked him later, he told them it was natural, though very rare.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Spontaneity by Susan Gibb

  1. Al McDermid

    Very sly, Susan. Another ending I should have seen coming but of course did not.

  2. Catherine Davis

    Yes, indeed, sly. Rich, packed short piece. Terrific: “And watch. He didn’t want to miss the sight, the phenomenon of seeing his dad explode in fiery rage” wonderful set-up to high-speed twist of an ending. Great work.

  3. ‘For years he thought it might be the fire of anger’ – very pointed story. enjoyed.

  4. John Riley

    Great ending. A lot going on here–great use of the theme.

  5. Len

    nice job, susan. wonderful. loved the ending.

  6. Ha, this is indeed the way. Like this retrospective a lot Susan.

  7. The ending creeps up on you, quite like that little boy hiding and watching. Brava! Peace…

  8. guy

    I remember reading about spontaneous combustion as a kid. It was kind of like this.
    I take from this the idea that spontaneous combustion is a fantasy of the powerless.

  9. Beautiful turn, very deft. Well done!

  10. Kim Hutchinson

    Love the idea of emotional fire becoming physical, and the unexpected ending! A great twist and another great story…

  11. The innocent child in the midst of all that anger, but I still wouldn’t have predicted the ending. So ominous.

  12. So well done! I liked the ” the blackened walls, the charred wingback chair, and just in front, the empty shoes” and the way you developed the story to reach the ending.

  13. Pingback: Week #33 – Spontaneous combustion | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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