Spring, 1982, Western Pennsylvania
THEY STOOD IN THE open field, arms around each other, watching the conflagration. The flames shot out of the chimney, punched holes in the roof and made the night sky bright as noon. They'd been looking forward to their high school graduation with perhaps a bit more anticipation than the rest of their class. In the distance, approaching sirens added to their personal musica universalis.
"I love that smell." He lifted his nose and took a deep breath.
"Yes. It's much better than Mother's usual cooking."
"You're so wicked, brother dear, but so right. This does smell better than anything she's made. I must remember the recipe, in case I ever want to duplicate it."
"You want to try cannibalism? Em, you really are an evil bitch." He hummed softly, so softly she couldn't make out the tune.
"What are you humming now?"
"What? Oh. 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.'"
"You know, you can't hum for shit."
"Thank you." He paused, pushed the hair off her face. "You know, this was the perfect night."
"To do this. Now we're free. We'll go off to college, never have to come back here, hear them going on and on about the farm and living a wholesome life and how we have to obey, like parrots or automatons. Not us. Now, we can have a life. You can have a life."
"Get out of this two-bit town, blow this Popsicle stand. Hit the road, Jack, and not come back no more, no more. I am so looking forward to the next few years. Out of here, doing what we want, having it our way. Oh! I made a funny! Have it our way, have it our way! Only instead of char-broiled burgers, we have char-broiled parents!"
"It's a good plan. Step one. How many more? Contingencies, we have to have alternatives. You know what else?" He switched his humming to "Celebration."
"What else?" She picked up his hand and sucked on his fingers.
"Pastor Kalian, that hypocritical bastard. He won't bother you any more." He nods, smiling at her.
"Oh? What did you do to him?"
"Do? I didn't do anything, except ask him what hymns would be good for a funeral, if he had any he was especially fond of, so fond he'd want them at his own. That's all. You know, Emmybem, it's just too bad."
"What?" She bit the spot where his neck met his shoulder, that indent where his jugular pulsed. "What?"
"Well, the way they smoked, they were certain to die of cancer sooner or later. It would have been interesting to watch."
"God, you're such a monster!"
"I'm the monster? You're the one who wants to remember the recipe and didn't you say you wanted to make s'mores? So who's the monster?"
"Touché." She laughed as she pressed herself against him. "You remember our fifteenth birthday? How pissed they were about us 'losing' Caruso?"
"How could I forget? We've learned so much since then."
"Sometimes I miss that dog. I wish they'd let us get another."
"The way he howled! And the blood!" He sighed, hugged her. "It was beautiful, absolute poetry in motion. No. Poetry in terror."
"Poetry of terror. Hmm. Is there a poetry of terror? Not Frost or Blake or Shakespeare. Did Lovecraft write poetry? King? Clark? Mary Shelley? Maybe that's what I should do for freshman English: 'The Poetry of Terror.'"
Listening to the crackle of the beams as they burnt through, watching the beautiful flicker, like a very large, very romantic fireplace, gave them a frisson of pleasure. The charring flesh of their now deceased parents filled the open field with an ambrosial fragrance, never to be forgotten but savoured in their memories.
The children had warned them often enough, spoken to their doctors and minister, asking for help in getting Mother and Father to quit. Cigarettes were dangerous, everybody knew that. Just a few days before, the twins had told them, as they had so many times before, "Mother, Father, one of these days, you guys are going to burn the house down. You're going to take your pills and fall asleep and that's going to be it. One of these days..."