Short Story: Barn Burning

I see a barn burning. Every time I’m alone with my thoughts this picture of a flame engulfed barn seeps into my mind. Each time the flames are in mid roar, whipping at the air, coiling back like a snake and striking whatever is near it like the patch of grass surrounded by dirt at the foot of the barn or like the leaves on the tree which had grown towards the barn as if it had some kind of gravitational pull, the tree trunk wasn’t on fire but it would be soon enough, down to the roots. I find myself out of breath as if I am there in person. My lungs taxed from breathing in the heat embedded air. I could almost cough from the ever-widening ball of smoke.

Then, I’ll remember I’ve got to do something or the phone would ring or someone will call my name and the image would vanish, like a snap of a finger, that quick. Sometimes I think that I can smell smoke but that’s just my mind playing tricks.

I work as an editor at a furniture magazine. Sounds exciting? No, I didn’t think so, but it pays the bills so I can’t complain. Each day I get a few articles about the different types of couches (I couldn’t believe how many unique pieces of couches there are because before I started  working here, all I knew about was that one long piece on which I often fell asleep on at night and also a love seat just because I read about it in a book one time) or I’ll edit articles about some new trend in home interior decorating, which if you pay attention is just the same out of style trend coming back, it just skips a generation or two and then becomes “new” again. All I really do with my time is delete a couple sentences, reword some here and there, fix a few spelling mistakes and perhaps add a sentence at the end of a paragraph to help it flow into the next one. Pretty simple stuff. So, now you can understand why I think about that burning barn so much.

I do all my work at the downtown office. It’s good because I read once that familiarity and routine are two things you need to get your creative juices flowing. The same time, at the same place, concentrating on the same thing is supposed to help you connect with the muses if you believe in such things. It’s these muses writers often credit their ideas to. How wonderful. I can sometimes feel the muses as I edit these articles but then again, I think about how I can sometimes smell smoke on my clothes after I’ve thought about the barn burning.

Once I’m finished editing I go to this bookstore nearby to do my own writing. I read once that new settings, new experiences can jog up the story inside of you. There I set camp by the window and watch the living screen in front of me unfold with all its moving parts with its different characters and the changing scenery and noises. Each second is unique. Even inside the bookstore is pleasant for the barista rings the little bell when the coffee order is ready and it reminds me of Nabokov’s Lo-Li-Ta because its three actions as well, the bell-the name of the customer in a cherry voice-the thank you reply trying to match the cheerfulness of the barista.  The murmurs of people, the footsteps clicking, the pages swishing, even the scratching legs of the chairs don’t bother me, its all part of the play, the music, the charm of the place.

The most charming of all is the girl that works there. Shoulder length black hair with a hint of brown, always flashing a smile when you walk in and asking if she can help you.

“Just looking around,” is my usual retort for I like to browse the new releases, perhaps grab a couple and read a chapter or two before starting on my edits.

One day, as I was editing, she came up to me and asked if I was a writer.

“Kind of,” I replied, “trying to be one but right now I edit writers.”

At that, her face broke into her usual smile and she sat down beside me, without invitation but I didn’t mind.

“I’ve been thinking about writing something too,” she said.

“Have you written a story before?”

“Not yet,” she shook her head and her shoulder-length hair fluttered side to side, gently like a curtain does covering an open window as the calm wind blows outside.

“What are you interested in writing about?”

“I don’t know, just about life or maybe about working at a bookstore, I don’t know, I just feel this desire to write something.”

“Well, that’s a good place to start.”

“How long have you been writing for?” She asked.

“Editing for about three years or so and I’ve been trying to get a story together for about four…or, gosh, maybe five, time flies you know when you get busy. One day I’ll figure it out.”

“You know, thinking about it, I actually do have something specific in mind.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, you see for the past month or two, around the time I got this itch to write, I’ve been thinking about this scenario a lot because it keeps popping in my head and I don’t know where it’s coming from but it feels important, you know, like it won’t go away until I do something about it.”

“What is it that your seeing?”

“A burning barn,” she said, “I just feel like I need to get it out of me, you know. Do you ever feel that way?”


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