Neil Richard Grayson

for Nick

Here’s a fairy tale; an already anxious kid’s bedroom is struck by lightning. The whole family gets knocked to the kitchen floor. Ignoring his mother’s slurry calls he takes the stairs three at a time and charges past his KEEP OUT signs. Do you know what a ceiling on fire looks like? When you’re twelve, I figure it looks like God. He grabs his flaming guitar and tosses it through the window into the rain and yard, kicks the Victoria’s Secret catalogs from the closet corner to where he’s sure they’ll burn, looks over his infernal room one more time to pick up anything else, and, in a moment that he will turn over daily thereafter but only ever show to a few friends, he realizes that every single thing he owns is meaningless and leaves. He never tells me about his burns, even when he does tell me about the guitar.

Fast forward four years; another stormy night, seemingly without impetus and still as high as any other 2am, kid comes back exhausted from jamming at Jackson’s and accidentally drives two extra miles to his ruined house instead of his grandmother’s, and he’s right there at the charred front door, fishing for the key until he realizes why he doesn’t have it.

The door easily opens for him, and just before he can really get a look at the shoes still melted to the floor, the blackened kitchen where his mother would get drunk and swoon at the beauty of her boys in the yellow light, the crumbling stairs leading back up to where we once held his brother by the neck against the wall and said that Hell is where the fags go so stop acting like one, the living room where his dad watched football for a few years before he got bored and left, before he sees any of this, the door stirs the air and the whole place ionizes, disintegrates into salt, a white wave gushing down the stairs before those go too, and it all tumbles into the basement, no breaking sounds just a long one like the wind, like God’s broom or roaring applause or the ocean, and before the kid ever really gets to see it’s just a pit overflowing with salt, which doesn’t last long in the rain.

Neil Richard Grayson is an MFA candidate and University Fellow at The Ohio State. He is a native of Rochester, NY and usually eats most of his takeout in the car on the way home. He can be found online at @oldmangrayson. This is his first major publication.