Week #33 – Spontaneous combustion

Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.

The theme is spontaneous combustion.

Beveridge Reef, 20º00S 167º47’W by Michelle Elvy
Written in Fire . by Len Kuntz

We watched the monks burn, one after another.

Awash in fire, they sat so still that I thought they were fake. Flames rippled off their heads like molten hair. Each explosion caught me unaware, and I’d jerk my beer can. The grainy, black-and-white crowds on screen didn’t seem scared or surprised one bit.

“Why would anybody do something like that?”

My roommate laughed. He’d found the clips online while researching for a term paper.

“They were protesting the Vietnamese regime back in the ‘60’s.”

When I stood, the room swiveled.

“Don’t go. The best one’s coming up.”

I barely made it. I retched hard. When I was done, I started packing.


After that, my paintings were all infernos or burnt-out pits of ash.

My fiancé got nervous and ended us.

I lost friends.

My father came to see me. He said, “It’s obvious you have issues. I mean, all these strange paintings. And look at you. You’re about to explode.”

That was the point, of course.

I’d led a privileged life, with slick cars and cashmere socks.

I’d had so much, but nothing I cared about.

That night I took a gas can with me. I sat in the middle of the outdoor mall, ready to make myself explode. But first I tried to tell them.

I’d made a sign denouncing war. I gripped the wood handle and squeezed till my eyes bled.

People passed by. Some giggled, some tossed coins.

It took flames to get their attention.

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Flaming Beauty . by Matt Potter

No one around the long table wore a grin or a smile or even a slight smirk.

“How did it escape our quality control?” said Vivian, bristling beneath her Chanel suit and perfect make-up. “And who ordered an entire lake of the stuff?”

“You did, Vivian,” I said.

“The question was rhetorical, Robert.” Vivian sat down. “How was I to know it bursts into flame when you rub it into your hair?!”

An enormous dam of expensive shampoo – our newest product – foamed in the backblocks of the company’s manufacturing plant. It was too costly to dump. And would prove even costlier if we put it on the shelves of every supermarket in Australia.

“We’re always talking about niche marketing,” I said.

Twenty honcho heads swivelled in my direction.

“So market it to pyro-maniacal beauty contestants.”

Twenty honcho mouths gaped.

Okay, it was a long shot but who in that room wasn’t desperate to shift that shit? All our jobs depended on it. And maybe we could create retail history at the same time.

Jumping up, I grabbed a whiteboard marker. “What are some of the words and images we could use?”

Raven-haired, I wrote on the whiteboard.

Flowing, someone called out.

Volcano, said someone else. Lava. Changeling.

“I’m thinking meteors, I’m thinking lightning,” I said. “I’m thinking women with their hair on fire being extinguished by hunky firemen.”

Vivian raised an eyebrow. “What’s the slogan?”

I looked at all the faces around the table.

“Now you’re cooking.”

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To be Fair . by Michael Webb

“Come on,” I said to no one in particular. “They didn’t just DISAPPEAR.”

“What didn’t dis-pear, Momma?,” Conor said. He was three, with hair still a rat’s nest and pajama bottoms under his dinosaur shirt.

“My shoes, honey. Go get your sister and put your pants on.”

“Momma, shoes are over ‘dere!,” Conor insisted.

“No, honey. Not those. Go find your sister. KAITLYN!, ” I called.

“Yes, Mom,” she said, coming around the corner. She was less and less girl every minute, it seemed.

“Help your brother with his pants. I need to find my black pumps.”

“I didn’t take them,” she added swiftly.

“I didn’t say you did, honey. Go help your brother.”

“OK,” she said warily.

I could wear other shoes, I thought. But those were the perfect ones for this suit. I walked back into my bedroom in stockinged feet. I had gone through them all, even the ones in the back I wore to parties and formal occasions, and they weren’t there.

Conor wandered back in, now in jeans and sneakers and his dinosaur shirt, hair wet and no longer sticking out. “Good work, Kaitlyn,” I thought.

“Momma’s shoes ‘peared again?”, he asked.

“No, honey,” I said sadly.

“They gone? Denny Dragon burn them up?”

“No, honey. Dragons aren’t real.”

In his world, evil cartoon dragons burned things to cinders. To be fair, it worked as well as any explanation I had.

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Bitch at Heart . by Susan Tepper

Their kid was ugly. The mother was ugly and the father was ugly. What chance did the little kid have? People said what people always say: What a cute kid— stuff like that. The parents beamed. I could never bring myself to say it. My husband told me they would hold it against me. I’ll take my chances I said.

On Tuesday we went to dinner at their place. What a mess. Newspapers from a hundred years stacked next to the cold fireplace. Junk strewn everywhere. The wife stirred things in a pot then stuck in her bare hand to fiddle with some string holding the meat together. Not even out of the pot and already I’d lost my appetite.

My husband made a big show out of smacking his lips and making hunger noises. It got unbearable. I pushed the meat around my plate eating a few carrots. When we got home he told me off for not eating the meat and that started a big screaming match.

The next day the husband phoned to say it was obvious I did not enjoy myself at their place. My own husband protested saying I had a wonderful time but was just a bitch at heart. And that they musn’t take me seriously

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The City beneath the Ice . by Stella Pierides

Once upon a time, deep beneath Siberian ice, there existed a glass-domed city. Its tall cathedrals, minarets, and temples looked as if aiming for the sky. As the city had been specifically constructed to engineer the best society possible, this, symbolically at least, was true. Privileged children from around the world were immediately given up to this city below the ice – which was actually very warm indeed – where it was said they would be brought up to live socially productive and utterly fulfilling lives.

Provided with the most comfortable and sensual environment there existed, they were schooled in the art of negotiation and rhetoric, profitable and healthy living and hygiene in all its forms.

One day, someone entered the city by deception. Touring the city undercover, he filmed the unsuspecting inhabitants going about their daily lives. When he later showed the film to the outside world, there was great fascination, awe, and outcry.

Examined in the light of the day, the city-beneath-the-ice-dwellers were shown to be no different from the other humans. The only difference being the outside world’s view of them, as if they were designated containers for humanity’s need for ideals.

The resulting furor caused them to be brought cruelly over ground, and the city –demoted to “no better than a cave” – was abandoned to the elements. It is said, that it suffered the most unlikely outcome possible: the city spontaneously combusted and the dome, giving way to the ice above, caved-in.

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Being Boring . by Robert Vaughan

It’s been years since I last saw him. No, decades. Water under the bridge. I rejoin him at the bar, careful not to bump his walker.

“Are the bathrooms nice?” he asks. He still has that small town hush, generous wrinkles.

“See for yourself,” I taunt, glancing around the pathetic bar. Smells an odd mixture of wood-smoke and bad genes.

He laughs. His Adam’s apple bob up and down, up and down, like a two bit whore. Or a person with Parkinson’s. Like my brother. “Ask you something?

I shrug. “Sure.”

“Do you think Mom and Dad forgive us?”

“Oh jeez,” I say, “and we were having so much fun.” I pause. Take a swig, enjoy the burn. “I imagine, wherever they are, if you believe in that stuff, the afterlife, they probably aren’t focusing on us. Unless you believe that shit, too.”

He bites his lip. “So you still don’t think it’s our fault?”

We were kids. The accident was ages ago. Life altering, no question.

“I try not to look at it like that. I mean, was I driving? Sure. Was it their fault I drove because they were both too drunk? Maybe. Was it our fault that poor bastard fell asleep at the wheel and slammed into us? You tell me.” I feel blood course through my veins, and my heart pounds as hard as the day it all happened: excruciating blast, metal spark fireworks, spontaneous combustion.

The jukebox plays a Pet Shop Boys song: Being Boring.

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Kicks . by Catherine Russell

Bud stumbled outside and watched the stars churning in the heavens. His breath floated skyward in big white puffs in the evening chill.

“Duuuuuude,” said Dan.

“Hey, watch this,” said Bud, inhaling sharply. He let out a long slow breath. Both men watched the resulting stream dissipate into the heavens.

Dan swigged his beer. “I can do better than that.” He bent forward, angled his butt skyward, and let rip. The resulting noise and odor doubled both men over with laughter.

Bob sat in the snow and waved a hand in front of his face. “Hey, you could have warned me!”

“Could you see it though? I always wondered,” said Dan.

“Naaaah.” Bud produced a lighter from his pocket. “But do it again!”

Dan snorted but angled his body appropriately. The resulting blue flame licked his clothes and singed the hair on Bud’s hand. Both screamed, the lighter fell, and Dan dropped into the snow – extinguishing the fire with a hiss.

Both men stared, horror stricken, at the large burn mark over Dan’s crotch.

“What are you going to tell Gina?” asked Bud.

“Ever heard of spontaneous human combustion?”

“That’s not real; is it?”

Dan grinned. “Yeah, but she’s drunk too. I think she’ll buy it.”

They returned to the party.

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The Orbit of Planet X . by Grey Johnson

Threatening to cross the Earth’s elliptic

I lumber fatly

Too big to be like Jupiter, too small to be a star

I have no sky clique in the shape of a mythic beast, no A-List identity

Only a troublesome borderline pathway, too dim and distant to be clearly determined

I think I will vary my route, in my sullen brown dwarfish way

Graze the surface of the earth

Mate with the sun

And blow all the telescopes to burning bits

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Flash Fires . by Meg Tuite

The morning was so calm. My son, Luke, and I sat at the kitchen table and watched the school bus slow down, wait, and then move off again. The grocery list was still up on the refrigerator as if it was just another damn day and I wouldn’t combust.

I drove Luke to school knowing he’d be late, but to hell with them. I was the real teacher and look where that had gotten Luke. I didn’t probe him. It had been my test, not his.

At two a.m. the night before, I had seen Luke’s flaming face hovering above me with hysteria. A sea of pain gushed open inside and absorbed me. All signs had been blinking on and off for years, but I’d refused to see them. Luke was burning away, just like me. His story was like a chain that swung back at me. He was terrorized and wasted on something that had started out so small and innocent, like that kitty we found stranded in a back alley once. But over the isolated, demented hours of night, that fun, little high had become a loose tiger that couldn’t be contained. I sat up with him through the explosive hours pushing chamomile tea, rocking him and talking softly to bring him back, while through the words my own fears ignited inside me like some acid-green aura. I was flammable and the explosives were on my ass, closing in, and now my boy was going down as well.

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Twinkle, twinkle, little planet . by Bernard Heise

When the first incidents occurred in Cairo, Berlin, Toronto and Wichita, people mistook them for acts of terrorism. But the reality was worse. Eyewitness reports indicated that the individuals involved were not setting off suicide bombs but rather were the victims of some sort of fire that spontaneously flamed from within before making them explode. Certainly, the explosions weren’t nearly as powerful as a typical suicide bomb, but they could easily kill or maim anyone nearby, obliterate a taxicab or disable a bus. And, apart from a large sect of evangelical Christians who were convinced, despite biblical inconsistencies, that they were witnessing the rapture and eagerly anticipated their own combustion, most people found them much more frightening, for they were completely unpredictable and unexplained. As the frequency of such incidents grew, so did the probability that within any group an individual would ignite. Like the Black Death, the threat was indiscriminate, failing to honor the privileges of socio-political distinction. Explosions were taking place in homeless shelters, corporate boardrooms, at cabinet meetings, and family dinner tables. As they looked into each other’s eyes, friends, comrades, and lovers not only recognized their mutual affection but now also understood that they were the likely agents of their own mutual destruction. And so it was that people stopped working and playing. Instead, they slipped their bonds of sociability and fled the burning cities, seeking solitude in the forests and the hills, where they forgot their language and waited in silence for the fire within.

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The Drama Boat . by Nicolette Wong

None of us can fight the combustion―not my boss, a soft-spoken man with cunning defenses; not my colleagues who could bring the house down after too much alcohol and a bit of pole dance; not the old lady cleaner who comes in everyday to break her back clearing someone else’s trash; not me, who has problem co-existing with more than a few people at a time and is always on the run.

Jack clenches the bottle of gasoline in his hand. I remember his Australian accent.

‘Calm down, mate,’ I say, ‘you want to go home and row down Albert Park Lake.’

‘We aren’t making a movie here,’ he says, pointing to the camera gear around our office. ‘You guys should have let me.’

The last syllable of Jack’s last word forms a magic ring in the air and for a moment our eyes are burst. When we look again, Jack is drinking up the liquid in a perfect frenzy that no amount of rehearsal or drama studies―which Jack claims to have wasted his early adult life on―could have produced. We can almost hear the lung smash and stomach stove inside him. Jack with no air to dream of lakes anymore.

Then he bends over, rolls off the chair and falls onto the floor.

‘What did you do?’ someone turns to my boss.

‘I told him he’d have to pay if he wanted to be on board, and it’s a lot to pay,’ he says.

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Reiki Master . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

The morning Merilee disappeared, my lover died in a fire that started and ended in her queen-sized bed. The fire department declared arson, perhaps self-immolation, although they never found traces of accelerant. But I’d discovered Twenty-One Love Poems spread open on the rug, and remembered the heat from her hands stilled inches above my mons.

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Film Noir . by Al McDermid

He’s on his third shot, liquid fortification, when she walks up and stands next to him at the bar.

“Buy me a drink,” she says. He looks at the bartender, who looks at her. “Same as him.”

“What are we drinking to?” he asks. She has a few years on her, but she wears them well; her breasts hang loose under her silk blouse.

“How about my tits,” she says, “since you can’t seem to keep your eyes off them.”

“And why is this a bad thing?” he asks. She gives him a look, and then knocks her tequila back in one motion, and not to be outdone, he follows suit.

When she finishes the lime she says, “You know, if you weren’t such an asshole, you would have fucked me by now.”

He puts twenty dollars on the bar and takes her by the wrist, leads her toward the door. She matches his pace and puts her arm around his waist, laughing. Once outside, he pulls her into the alley next to the bar and hikes up her skirt, not surprised to find she’s wearing no panties.

After finishing, they lean panting against the wall. “Give me a cigarette,” she says. He lights two and hands her one. After a long drag, she says, “So, lover, how’d you like your anniversary present?”

“Best ever,” he says. “Don’t know how I’m going to outdo you next year.”

“You’ll think of something,” she says, smiling. “You always do.”

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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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Cigarettes and Gin . by Katherine Nabity

“Grandmother?” Janis smelled smoke. Cigarette smoke. “What’s going on in here?”

Janis found Grandmother sitting on an old wood chair in the middle of the room with a cigarette and 1.75L of gin.

Grandmother Mable despised smoking. When Janis experimented, Grandmother had taken her to view the lungs of a smoker. Janis had puked all over the autopsy room.

“I want to go by spontaneous combustion,” said Grandmother.


“You know, spontaneous human combustion. I was reading about it the other day. It seems to happen a lot to old people. Close your mouth, dear. You look like you’re catching flies.”

“It happens a lot?” Janis could do no better than repeat. Clean-living Grandmother. Paragon of wholesome. Cigarettes and gin.

“Yes, well, not too often. I’ve decided I want to make a splash.”

“A splash?”

Grandmother rolled her eyes. “Yes. I’ve lived too quietly and there’s not much I can do about it now. But my death? That’s something I can do something about.” Grandmother tapped ash onto the skirt of dress and took a swig of gin.

“But how? I thought it’s… spontaneous.”

“It isn’t. There are always factors in common. Old age, nodding off while drunk, cigarettes that cause the fire. Something about how slowly fat can burn when there isn’t anything to accelerate the fire. But that doesn’t mean that every death by spontaneous combustion isn’t sensational. I’ve decided, dear, that finally I want to be sensational.”

Strangely, Janis couldn’t argue.

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Watching the Clock . by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

Benjamin did everything by the clock. He ate when the little hand pointed to five and the big hand pointed to six. He danced when the little hand pointed to three and the big hand pointed to seven. He slept when they both hit twelve.

To be more precise, he did everything according to his copper pocketwatch. It was hand-wound, and it ticked too slow as it ran down, and it ticked too fast when he wound it back up. Benjamin never tried to set it aright.

His friends called him spontaneous. He’d consult his watch in the middle of a movie and stand up, asking if they wanted tacos. He’d sleep on the beach, on a bus stop bench, in a French restaurant with his head in his plate. His relationships never lasted long. Neither did his jobs. Fortunately, Benjamin was a good enough writer to make a living beginning an article every time the big hand passed four.

One day, his watch stopped and wouldn’t wind. Benjamin thought about getting it repaired but knew it wouldn’t be the same. What had he lived for all these years?

He packed a can of kerosene in his rucksack and made his way to Westlake Station, where he watched the giant terracotta clock.

—When the big hand passes eight, I’ll douse myself and burn.

Then he realized he’d forgotten his lighter.

For the first time, Benjamin was lost.

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Testimony . by John Riley

The next winter the house burned down. The summer before Bobby lived with us. He was short with a thick mustache and big muscles and didn’t like wearing a shirt in the heat. He showed me how to make a belt snap by looping the end to the buckle and jerking it from both sides. It’s trickier than it sounds when you’re a kid. You’d catch a finger if you weren’t careful and have to worry about crying. I walked around snapping his belt until she yelled at me to please for God’s sake stop. “I can’t take it anymore,” she said. He did card tricks too but wouldn’t show me how they worked. I could figure them out when I grew up. Now I think about it maybe his name wasn’t Bobby. The first day he wasn’t there I kept my mouth shut. The next day I asked where he’d gone. “Back to where he came from,” she said.

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Knitting . by Alex Lockwood

I think she’s trying to blow me up.

It’s not the fact she dislikes people knitting in public (she finds it annoying). It’s that when I challenge her on why, she reels back, like curds in water. That drives me nuts. I mean, knitting. Who’s it hurting? I guess there’s an attitude to perling while waiting for the bus. Those damn carefree click-clacking needles. I thought it was harmless, like doodling. But doodlers annoy her too (mindless, she says).

She says my dislikes are just as arbitrary. Noisy eating, for example.

I don’t think they’re arbitrary. All my annoyances are based on obvious injustices from childhood. Helpless at the family table.

(Ok, stop. Think. If mine are all based on…).

No, I make a list of why SHE should apologise. I’ve written it out on the back of a beer label that came off in one. It’s waxy, and the ink doesn’t take. But I can make out the words:

1. It’s her turn.

2. How many times have I apologised when I didn’t think I was wrong?

3. What she withholds from me is just as corrosive as what I withhold from her.

The old guy at the bar asks what I’m doing. I don’t answer. (Noisy fucking drinker slurping beer.)

But I guess how hurt she must have been once to be so hardened now. Just the crust of a scab.

I see what I’m doing. Helpless. I look at my list. I blow up

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The Little Things . by Joanne Jagoda

The little things tipped her: the haircut, designer jeans and especially the jacket. She had been nagging at him for years to dump his corduroy with the patched elbows. So many professors wore them they were a cliché.

When he came into the kitchen in a black leather bomber jacket with his hair spiked, she glanced at him sharply, peering over her half spectacles from the morning paper. This “new” look made her feel frumpy and self conscious.


“No, I’ll grab a bagel. I’ll be home late. I’m meeting a potential faculty hire. You know the routine, dinner and meetings.”

“Oh, ok. I have my book group.”

It was past 1am. Pretending to be asleep, she was barely breathing. Quietly he pulled off his boots, stripped and showered. . She loved when he would wrap his long legs around her, pull her close and nuzzle her neck, but he stayed on his side and fell into a deep sleep.

She got up, smelled his leather jacket and breathed in the unmistakable perfume. Gorge rose in her throat, and she went to the computer. She knew his password, S-P-O-N-C-O-M, for “spontaneous combustion”, the topic of his physics thesis. She had put the bastard through six years of graduate school. There in his email were thirty adoring emails from “J”…signed with a letter, not even her full name. Pure rage bubbled and she grabbed her best shears. He was sleeping peacefully. She cut that beautiful leather jacket in tidy squares.

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Claims Department: Or, You Don’t Always Get What You Want
by Martin Brick

“Hello. Imperial Insurance.”

“Hello. This is Daniel Yardley. I’m calling about a recent claim.”

“Of course, Mr. Yardley…. A fire in your bedroom.”

“Correct. But the claim was denied.”

“Yes. Negligence. There were individuals present who could’ve prevented the incident.”

“My wife.”

“And Mr. Edwards.”

“My business partner.”

“The fire inspector’s report suggests they were ‘distracted’.”

“No need for euphemisms. They were screwing. Hence my argument: My policy covers ‘acts of god’ including tornado, lightning, yada-yada, and spontaneous combustion.”

“Isn’t that…?”

“A general definition taken from the very reputable Oxford English Dictionary reads, ‘the act of burning away through conditions produced within the substance itself’.”

“Conditions within the candle? The bed-linens?”

“No. My wife and Mr. Edwards.”

“I’m confused.”

“The conditions for destruction were developing in the substance of those people.”

“That sounds metaphorical. We don’t cover metaphors.”

“The question is the cause. The fire was caused not by negligence, but by internal conditions. Something uncontrollable, innate. An act of God.”

“So it’s not a metaphorical problem, but theological.”

“No. Listen. This tragedy needs purpose, requires rebuilding.”

“Mr. Yardley, I understand. But the rebuilding you need isn’t financial. Be thankful nobody was hurt.”

“Exactly the problem. It doesn’t seem right.”

“So maybe you need to pray for another fire.”

“Seems cold.”

“Maybe, but no harm in praying. If it happens, I guess it was justified.”

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Diversity . by Kim Hutchinson

Once upon a time, a traveler came upon a quiet cul-de-sac. His name was Joe, and he was an average working man. He had a pronounced scar on his cheek, a mark of experience. Joe liked this pretty place, and decided to stay.

At first, no one spoke to him. When he began to garden, the neighbors started to take interest. He admired their begonias and petunias, they admired his. Everyone was happy and at peace.

Slowly, the wind began to shift. He heard whispers on it: Improper. Wildflowers. Weeds. Joe knew this was what people often do, but it made him sad. He loved his neighbors’ gardens. One neighbor planted crystals between flowers to better reflect his mind as he viewed them. Another planted flowers of different shapes, but the same color and scent. Others wove in statues and animals and whimsy.

He knew they all planted the same way, from seeds and cuttings lovingly tended with bare hands, and that Nature loved wild things—diversity—most of all. She abhorred refinement. Sometimes, she punished purity with weakened genes. He didn’t care where flowers came from or what they were called, only that they were beautiful, only that each was true to itself.

The wind grew hot. The whispers grew louder. One day, he woke to blackened stalks and the scent of fuel oil.

“Must’ve been spontaneous combustion,” laughed a neighbor. The others turned their faces away.

Joe picked up his spade and turned the scorched earth, replanting

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Protest . by Matthew A. Hamilton

He walks to the middle of the street and sits down, crosses his legs. The war is three years old. He is calm and patient. Soldiers watch him closely. They are afraid. His robe intimidates them. A crowd gathers. The man pulls out a book, opens it. His lips move in silence. Then he places the book on the street and raises his hands. He snaps his fingers. Calico flames, like tamed cats, crawl up his arms. He returns to the earth in peace. By his death, he teaches others how to live.

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Multiple Simultaneous . by Catherine Davis

We are all multiple simultaneous.

We could have, should have, seen it coming, but who would have believed? Only doctors of decadence – say Orwell, Burgess, Burroughs, Wells – name your own fave flavor. Lick twice. Nice.

Merrily we roll along, beep-beep: Fashion!

Your next plosion could be your last, or best. Do it in the road. Ankle bracelet yourself to your twin, cause it’s going to be one crazy ride, kids.

Is is IS. Definition please, bailiff. Thank you. Gavel that, gang.

Yes. Yes indeed.

After the CHIP, forget it. Hush-up internationale, mais bien sûr. The black market in anti-transmission helmets will very billionaire those who dare.

Go cataclysmic. Too late! Done that, next please.

Multiple simultaneous. Just breathe, breathe. Activity classification ancient. Can you remember? Autonomic has evolved: zoom zoom.

Did not report spontaneous combustions planet-wide, especially incidents occurring in USA. Messy as spaghettios splattered out of over-boiling pot. Did put on the lid, fyi, ‘i’ being classified, and totally inaccessible.

Circulate, regenerate. It’s the new prehensile. Grab a sharp pencil and stickittotheman. Through your temple, otherwise, if you want to get off.

One two three, one two three, one two three – in case that helps. But as we are bi-podal, wtf??

What would a mollusk do?

Multiple simultaneous – so if you can’t keep up, they probably – heh heh, yeah – know what to do with you. Don’t cry to me sister, I have my own load.

Say it with me now:

Multiple simultaneous. Multiple simultaneous. Multiple simultaneous.

Repeat as necessary.

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Texas City . by Guy Yasko

Now that one over there, she’s more my type: little dangerous. See the eyes, the mouth? Stormy — but that’s because there’s passion.

Don’t mind if i do. Thanks.

Logistics — operations, container shipping. No, you wouldn’t. You really wouldn’t. It was just as boring in Vietnam. Different ports, different stuff, same old shit. Been doing it too long to get out. I’m supposed to keep a lid on costs. Sure. Goes without saying. But you tell me if some pissant jiggering of operations is going to get you going in the morning. Don’t think so. No.

Me? Because there’s always the chance that something will blow. You wouldn’t believe the shit they put in these things: You have your weapons, your fireworks, lithium cells, pistachios, nuclear waste, ammonium nitrate — there’s a classic for you. Ever hear of Texas City? Blew a couple planes out of the sky. You get containers of that stuff and you’re checking on that ship every five minutes. They’d can me for sure. Out in a blaze of glory.


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Tex Mex . by Michael J. Solender

His face contorted and began to fall into itself, like a soufflé that had spontaneously combusted, it got red and slightly bloated, then deflated to the point where his nose was barely noticeable from underneath his quivering lips. He sputtered then stuttered something incoherent and then simply told me to go straight to hell and stormed out of the room.

I doubted that I was the first person to remark upon the state of his equipment.

I didn’t care if it was a business arrangement. In order for me to maintain my business I must maintain my health. Given the pitiful condition of the aforementioned apparatus, I could not and would not accommodate client forty-seven and his rather pedestrian request that I “fellate him and then deposit the excretion in the baby food jar” he brought to capture the particular moment of exuberance.

Flank steak, onions, green peppers and tortillas. The 57th Street market would be open after client 48 and I’d been thinking about fajitas since Marcy and I had margaritas at Tejas earlier before work. Marcy slayed me with her stories of her nieces and the dress up party they held for her. Cotton candy colored bows in their hair and a mini-tea set, Marcy so loved being an auntie.

I wasn’t much the auntie type. As far as I knew, my brother wasn’t married. It might have been nice to be an auntie.

Two more clients, then I could eat. A girl has got to eat.

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Prompter. by Stephen Hastings-King

There is a here and I am in it, stumbling over gullies and gashes past vertical forms made from broken grasses and corkscrews of newly fallen snow spinning in the pressurized hiss of the wind. Here is a not remembering how the journey started over the decay of each footstep into a network of tiny crackling sounds. There, ahead, in the blur, the town periodically folds into itself as if it had been painted on a scrim.

When I reach the fold I walk through to backstage where the sets that enable time are arranged in thick sequences. Over the marsh are rows of spotlights; below center is a small open space. A human form looks back at me, The Prompter who remembers what is forgotten, his head giant with alarm.

Then there is a here and I am amongst the gullies and grasses and corkscrews of newly fallen snow and see no spotlights or prompter. When I walk networks of tiny cracking sounds radiate from beneath my feet and dissolve into the suspendedness of a Christmas morning town.

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I Wear my Square Sunglasses . by Walter Bjorkman

Eddie, standing on the outskirts of SLC, thumb out, getting hot, thirsty, tired and pissed off.

“If I see one more damn pair of horn-rimmed glasses go by me with a mannequin-wife in the seat next to him, trying not to look at me . . .” he raised his fist to the one cloud in the sky that danced around the sun but never passed in front. Sure, why does he deserve any shade.

“Damn glasses are square glasses, for squares wear them, so their square mannequin-wives don’t have to look in their eyes, lest they see lust, which they won’t anyway. And they are solid black square eyeglasses which is a relief to their square mannequin-wives who can’t look in their eyes. And their two tiny square-clones in the square backseat in the boxy square-car, that can’t look in their square-father’s eyes either, and won’t look at me neither, wearing the same square black glasses at the age of three squared, nine. And, you, cloud, I swear you are changing your shape to be square as you not block the sun – if I could look directly at the sun, I’d probably see that it’s square right here in gaddamm Utah, a square state in shape, even the cutout in the northeast where Wyoming juts in is square!”

“Whew, glad I got that off my chest, I feel better now.” Eddie apologized to the sky, which wasn’t square, then immediately burst into square flames.

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A Speck of Light . by John Wentworth Chapin

As the closing credits roll for Spinal Tap, I click off the VCR and TV. Bobby is stoned past the point of giggling. He grunts and says, “That’s true, you know, what they said about the drummer and spontaneous combustion.”

I’m still staring at that little spot in the center of the television, waiting for it to wick out. It’s an old one, rabbit ears and all. I need new friends or something.

“My grandfather knew a guy who died of spontaneous combustion,” Bobby says. “Wait, no, my grandfather died of it. The whole inside of his truck got crisped.”

No, he probably didn’t, I think. I wish we were at Bobby’s so I could take off, but instead I just stare at my TV. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him digging around in the ashtray.

“Is your wife coming back?” he asks.

This startles me; I wonder what he knows about Heather. I turn to look at him. He’s offering me a tiny wedge of juice-soaked paper wisping thin smoke from the dim ember. He doesn’t know anything about anything.

I turn to look back at the TV, but the light has winked out. I take the roach from Bobby gingerly and hold it to my lips. I want to tell him she spontaneously combusted, but I don’t. I kill the joint instead.

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New Year . by Michelle Elvy

Helen slept in dreams of gold. Everything exploding, which was not frightening at all. The explosions were beautiful, wondrous, and left her feeling calm and light.

House-job-commute: kapow! Broke-down car: kapow! Snotty sister: kapow! Cheating husband: kapow! She lined up those things and said (or did not say because it was a dream after all): Off with your head! And their heads fell right off. Just like that. It happened with the flick of a wand (she had a wand, somewhere, and she might have even yelled Expelliarmus!)… or maybe just a withering glance (yep, that worked too). Simultaneously all those things exploded, evaporated, dissipated into thin air. Even the yappy dog from next door — one raised eyebrow did him in. A year’s worth of jammed up stuff was simply gone and the air was clean and she could breathe — in her dream.

Helen awoke with a flash of giddy golden light all around her as the dream lingered. Then she glanced up to the water-stained ceiling, heard the whir of the fan, felt the dull grey sheets hanging heavy on her body. She glanced at the grey lump in the bed beside her, snoring in oblivious peace after the late-night celebration, his breath the usual mixture of alcohol and cigarettes. She leaned in close, said: Kapow. And whispered to herself: Happy new year.

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52|250 thanks Michelle Elvy for the art this week.

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Filed under Wk #33 - Spontaneous combustion

One response to “Week #33 – Spontaneous combustion

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

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