Fiction | June 02, 2021

The Burning

Gail Upchurch

The burning comes right after and all at once.

The irony of calling out for a God you swore off back in high school—the day Shawn was shot in the head because his cherry-red Monte Carlo looked just like the car Keno drove—is not lost on you. It’s just that you can’t do anything else besides scream, “godgodgodgodgodgodgod” and clench the six-hundred-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets in your hands and splay your toes so wide the skin between the third and fourth ones tears and thrash your head from side to side on the down pillowcase whose lavender scent seemed innocuous at first but now crackles, livid and full of ire. You close your eyes against shiny red spears darting beneath your eyelids—your flesh and blood smoldering. You lie on the bed, cauterized, rigid as a board, waiting. And then, just like that, it leaves.

If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at an institution whose library subscribes to Project Muse, you can read this piece and the full archives of the Missouri Review for free. Check this list to see if your library is a Project Muse subscriber.