Ring of Fire

Daniel V. Klein © 2004

He'd found the box on his front steps, along with the note.  "Luke – don't call, don't write, don't visit, don't email.  Just don't.  Here's all your stuff – now leave me the fuck alone or I'll call the cops."  She didn't even sign it.

When it was good, it was real good.  Problem was, after that it usually got bad, and then worse.  But when Luke was able to start over, that's when it was great.  Every few months, it seemed, in a different part of town.  Luke had tried to settle down, but no matter who he hooked up with, it just didn't seem to work out.  Yeah, right now it sucked, but it was gonna get great real soon now...

"I'm the man your mother warned you about," Luke told her one night, and she laughed.  Johnny Cash was smoldering "Ring of Fire" on the stereo, as Luke caressed the pale skin of her back with his fingertips.  Something about her drove Luke wild.  He was Black Sabbath and she was Britney.  A disco inferno to her bright eyed Maria Muldaur.  Darkness and light.  Luke didn't understand it – he never did – but when they kissed... "Ooooh, fire."  Driving in her car, out in the park, or just like now, he didn't care.  Fire.

But right now he hated her, hated her damn clove cigarettes, hated her pissy little dog, hated her taste in music, just hated everything about her.  "Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me." Hell, she hadn't knocked on the damn pipes, she hadn't even called him by his chosen name.  Just "Luke" and "leave me the fuck alone".   Flames of passion, flames of rage, and the dark smoldering embers of a good lay gone bad.

"My mother never warned me about no man," she said.  "Just told me they was all bad.  But you know what?"  She rolled over, languidly pulled Luke down on top of her, and whispered in his ear.  "I like playing with fire."  And they kissed...

Those lips – what they could do to him.  And right now he could almost see the sneer as she dropped off the box.  Luke took the shoes and the full can from underneath the porch.  The old lady down the block had always been nice to Luke.  A bit deaf, and half blind, but nice.  Blasted those old torch songs of hers on the shitty little stereo her son bought for her.  And best of all, she never even noticed the stuff Luke hid under her porch.  Luke liked that the most about her.

"What the hell did I do to deserve this?" Luke wondered.  "It's not like I hit her, or disrespected her.  Just showed her my dark side, offered to share the fun.  Even told her my secret: "Don't get cocky, don't get sloppy, and don't come back to gloat."  Women.  Always asking for honesty, and then running away when they get it.  They don't want honesty, they want fantasy.  Their fantasy, not yours.  At least I was honest about my darkness and light.  You gotta try, gotta show ‘em what you want, what you need, what really makes you tick.  And I thought that finally she was the one, that this time I'd really found her.  I thought she was my match.  Wrong again.

Luke pulled on the shoes.  He watched enough cop shows on TV, and knew that fibers and footprints could get you.  These shoes were just for special nights, and were under the old lady's porch the rest of the time.  Even if the cops found 'em, they were a block away from his place.  Nobody would make the connection, and you don't leave fingerprints on suede.

He walked to her house in the dark, shoes squidging, can sloshing.  He'd boosted the shoes years ago, and probably only worn them a dozen times or so.  Luke had lost track – so many loves lost, so many angels turned devil on him.  Took the alleys and back paths, stayed out of the light.  Nobody saw him – they never did.  "Don't get cocky, don't get sloppy..."

Luke took the Blue Tip out of his mouth – "Strike anywhere," the best kind.   Rolled it between his fingers, and caressed the tip against the rough clapboard of the house.  Her house.  Watched as the puff of smoke fled from the rounded end, followed hot on the heels of that first bright burst of flame.  Inhaled, and smelled the whiff of phosphorus smoke, followed by the flush of warmth reflected on his lips.  Savored the way the match head curled around as the flame lovingly burned its way down the wooden shaft of the match, little jets of gas puffing small bursts of evanescence.  Teasing himself, kneeling down, hand on his crotch, relishing the thrill, holding on until just before it became too much to bear, before he cried out in pleasure and pain... Just at the last second, he dropped the guttering flame into the pool of liquid by his feet.  His semen mixed with the gasoline, high-test that wound its way around the house, with extra-special splashes by the doors and windows, and his secret safe.

"...and don't come back to gloat."  Bringer of light.  Oh yeah, this was gonna be great.  Lucifer smiled in post-orgasmic bliss and walked away, humming to himself.  "Just a hunk-a hunk-a burnin' love,"  Breaking up was hard to do, oh yeah.  Breaking up sucked.  But starting over was just fuckin' awesome.