The Paris Review

Violets

BUD SMITH

A day after we made our suicide pact, the bank sent a yellow letter saying we’d lose our house. That night, instead of just killing ourselves, Monique and I set the place on fire.

It was easy to start. A mountain of rags soaked in turpentine. Up it went, a solitary match. I ducked outside. The garage door came down on its automatic track.

We sat in the truck and watched the house the way we used to watch the creature feature at the drive-in. It was like waiting for drugs to kick in, giddy and impatient, doubtful. But then the smoke puffed out the garage door where the weather seal was bad and we exhaled.

Our shotguns were on our laps, loaded, ready to go. It would have been better to buy just one and share it, but then one of us would have had to see the splatter of the other. When I first tried to

get the guns, the store declined my card. I returned to the truck emptyhanded. After talking it over, Monique and I went into the store together and financed the guns same as cash for ninety days.

We lived all the way out of town, by ourselves on the edge of a dark ravine. When the fire department arrived, we’d pull our triggers. We wanted to see as much of the fire as we could. It was our home.

The flames appeared in the living room window. It looked like someone was having a dance party. I listened for the Bee Gees. Things got more interesting. Even now I’m aroused thinking about it. Biggest surprise of my life. I felt a new rush of joy. I set my gun on the dashboard. Monique did the same.

Now since I’ve got you here listening, I want to properly tell about the fire.

It was a work of hellish art, but inside we could see the angels twisting up. When the roof fell, orange sparks burst through the smoke.

Monique gasped, clasped my hand. It was like our first date all over again.

She surprised me: unzipped my fly, brought me to climax, and then licked the mess off. Ash covered the windshield. I put on the wipers. We waited patiently to be arrested, but not only did the police not show, neither did a single fire engine.

What did show up was the sun. In the new morning light the ground was gray like a filthy, perfect Christmas. We stared at the hissing charcoal ruins and were excited. Excited for our future. Even just one final breakfast before they locked us up.

I started the pickup and drove down our dirt road to the nearest neighbor, half a mile off, who had slept through it. The guy was the captain of the volunteer fire department. I got the urge to pound on his

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