Love is a Firestarter*
by Nate Ealy
The light was still red.
Brady Blancard was sitting in his old Ford Escort at the stoplight waiting for the green. There was not much traffic on the road at this time in the afternoon, but he had to obey the laws. He had already broken too many today.
Another fire truck zoomed by. Brady watched it disappear over the horizon through his rear view mirror. He wanted to roll down his window and hang his arm out, but there was still too much heat outside for that. He would have to wait until sundown to cruise with the window down, and by then he could be in jail.
Brady Blancard had had a very adventurous afternoon. It kicked off with a quick call to his girlfriend and a short conversation with a man named Roger Flemming instead. Brady found out the man’s name and what he was doing and then hung up. He did not want to talk to Melissa anymore. He had a different fire burning in his chest.
I can’t believe she did it again, he thought. Brady hit the steering wheel.
Once, three months ago when their relationship was young, Melissa had done this kind of thing before. Brady had come over to her house one night to surprise her and when he knocked on the door a shirtless man with more tattoos than chest hair answered. Melissa told him that was a onetime deal and she would never do that again. Now he finds out that she had lied to him, and if she could have lied about that then what else?
Brady tried not to let his mind wander down that path. Instead he looked back up at the stoplight. The light still had not changed. He might as well save gas and shut the car off.
The last time he put the car in park he was at Melissa’s house. They had not moved in together. Maybe another couple months down the road they would but not yet. Brady had looked at the small single story home that held so many of his precious memories. Many fun times were spent inside that house, and now one nasty memory would bring it all down.
He had a can of gasoline in one hand and a book of matches in the other. Brady had started on the front porch because that was where the relationship really started. They shared their first kiss on that porch after the first date. It would be the first spark that sent the relationship up in flames.
Next he poured the gas into the living room, the kitchen, and then out the back door dousing everything within reach. Brady had wanted to make sure that the house burned to the ground. He did not want a charred frame left standing. Ashes. Ashes were all that he wanted to be left.
Brady had made a special trip into the bedroom. The most intimate experiences of the relationship were spent here in Melissa’s bed. Brady upended his gas can and let the remaining fuel fall out on the bed sheets. Just as Melissa had heated up Roger’s bed this afternoon he would heat up hers.
With the stench of gas filling the house Brady had walked out. Soon the inferno in his heart would become reality in the house. All he needed to do was light a match. He took one last look around the neighborhood. All the yards were empty. No one was outside. Better yet no one was watching. He struck a match and dropped it on the front porch.
The gas caught and the flames ran inside following the trail of gasoline that Brady had sprinkled throughout Melissa’s house. He watched from the driver’s seat of his Escort. Brady’s feelings of rage and anger were satisfied as he saw the flames reach out of the windows of the living room. He left shortly after that. He had to escape.
That was the chain of events leading Brady Blancard to this red light. He had burned his girlfriend’s house down because she had cheated on him. Now he had to figure out what happened next.
Well, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a single man, Brady chuckled.
His real problem was not his relationship status but rather what he did next. Sitting at the light he could turn left and meet up with Paulson Drive which would take him home. He could sit on his couch and watch SportsCenter until the cops came or Melissa. Then he would have to have an alibi.
Brady’s other option was to turn right and hit the interstate. Freedom following the yellow lines to anywhere but here. He could go to Oklahoma and watch Kevin Durant play ball, or he could go further west to the deserts of Nevada. He could disappear in the metropolis of New York City and become another person on the sidewalk. The one thing that the interstate did not solve was guilt. If he did choose to turn right he would look guilty. Very guilty. Running like that would only cement him as the number one suspect.
His only saving grace so far was the red stoplight staring back at him. Hanging from its perch, the light seemed poised to wait until Brady had made a decision before it turned green. Through his anger and rage Brady had not thought this far ahead. A little piece of him never suspected he would make it this far. He had planned on how to burn the house down, but not how to get away with it.
Did he leave fingerprints on anything while he doused the house in gasoline? Brady did not think so, but the chance was there. He could have lost some of his thinning hair in the breeze that would incriminate him as well.
I should have worn gloves and a hair net, he thought.
The longer the light sat on red the more scenarios crawled into his mind.
What if some of the neighbors had watched him the whole time from behind the curtains? He had checked the yards but did not take the time to look into every window. Surely some of Melissa’s neighbors worked the afternoon shift, but Brady knew it was silly to think all of her neighbors would. When the police would go door to door after the fire chief declared it a case of arson they would all say they saw his Escort parked in the drive.
Brady had to leave town. He could grow a mustache, or even a beard. He had done that once back in high school and it did not look too strange. He could pull it off. Mexico could even be an option now. He could go anywhere from the interstate.
If he went all the way south of the border there would be no one to vouch for his innocence though. Guilty as he was, Brady was still presumed innocent until proved otherwise. If he left town for Mexico then he would be giving up any plea of innocence with his absence. The chance was still there that no one had seen him. It wasn’t as if he made a Facebook status saying Going to burn Melissa’s house down! Bring your hot dogs! It would be his word against theirs. Maybe he did have a chance if he stayed. Yes, leaving would be just as good as confessing. Or would it?
Brady’s mind was burning with these thoughts and more. He looked up and could see a news chopper flying overhead. It was going in the same direction that the fire trucks had gone before. At least his efforts were enough to make the local news.
The light had to change soon. It had already gone too long as it was. Brady held his foot over the gas pedal ready to push. A few cars had fallen in line behind him, but now he could sense he was closer to his freedom or his death.
Brady took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He knew what he needed to do.
He opened his eyes and saw the green light beaming down at him.
Brady pushed the gas and turned the wheel.
*originally published in The Echo