We're Getting Close
Meredith Alling

There is a dumpster on fire at the end of the street. I set it on fire because it contains information—personal information—that is no longer safe in the house. Someone has been snooping. I kept this information—OK, it was notes, passed in class, between Linda and I—in a small metal box with a lock, and somebody damaged it. Clearly broke into it. How much they saw I cannot know. Each note was folded as it had been but I would definitely refold a note after reading it. So.

So I took the whole thing down to the dumpster and threw it in and lit a match and it turned into fire.

The thing is that those notes between Linda and I were private. I shared very personal information with her. We had some code words but you can't hide everything. I figured that my room was private and that especially my drawers were private and that especially a locked metal box was private but apparently not. That's why I'm moving out when I turn 17. Yeah, you can do it when you're 17, look it up. You just have to qualify.

In order of most suspected to least suspected my suspects go like this: Eric, Mom, Dad. Dad is pretty much only on there to show how high and how low I can go, because Dad I think has never even been in my room.

Eric is a shit. Mom and Dad think he is so super blessed because he's doing well in soccer. Uhhh. That counts for basically nothing. Anyway he is definitely #1 suspect, especially when paired with any of his shit little friends. I would not go back to middle school if you paid me.

The thing about high school is that, yes, I'm not going to lie, it's hard. But you are way more your own person and you can go out to lunch and meet new people like Linda.

Linda has this crazy Mom. My God.

OK back to the list. Eric is high up there. If I find out that he did it I have three options for revenge: 1) tell Mom that he skipped soccer practice TWICE this season with John Norsh and that he tried a beer at John Norsh's house when his parents were at Bembes 2) key his guitar 3) tell Beth Watkins that he has her number highlighted in the school directory.

There is a chance, however, that Mom is involved. Mom is so so suspicious. I don't mean that I'm suspicious of her doing it (which I am) but here, in this moment, I mean that she is suspicious of me. She would like love to read my mind. Anyway I am pretty sure that she thinks I am up to "no good" but whether she would be so bold as to break into my personal property I do not know.

She did once ask me to help spy on Eric. Eric was super depressed in 6th. I think it's just because he was sort of a goofy loser starting a new school. But Mom was like "can you talk to your brother?" And I wanted to be like uhhh, you. I guess that isn't spying.

So back to #1 then (like I said #3 simply establishes how low I can go vs. how high and how sure). The confrontation will be severe and the punishment swift. Perhaps I will let him choose what punishment he receives. I would put big money on key guitar. Ranking 1-3: guitar, Norsh, Watkins.

There is one last threat. What if this fire gets out of control? I can see from my window that it is not, you know, small. It is whirling out of the blue box. It is kind of shaking.

What if this fire gets out of control and takes down a section of tree or sets the neighbor's house on fire, starting with their tree? We're getting close. What if when the fire takes down the section of trees or peels the shingles Dad calls out and we all run downstairs and stand in the dining room and look out the bay window and I look at Eric and he looks at me and I hold up the school directory and he says "I did it"?

Will that make it all better? Should I get the hose?

Meredith Alling lives and writes in Los Angeles. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Nailed Magazine, and Wyvern Lit. You can find her on Twitter @meremyth.

Detail of drawing on main page courtesy of Andrea Joseph.

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