The cottage was cold but finally she got a fire going. She used whatever supplies were at hand.

She watched the varnish bubble as the old chairs lit up, and threw in most of the library that her family had accumulated over years: classics, pulp and a few dozen People magazines from 1994–97.

The curtains melted like plastic, staining the ashes temporarily red and gold.

Ceramic plates, she learned, didn’t burn too well.

In went the plaster she’d chiseled off the wall, then the chisel she’d used to do so.

Copper wiring smelted itself into the shape of wild beasts. She stood back in fright.

Next, the bed she was conceived on and the bed that she conceived on and then a bed where someone she’d never met from her dad’s side had died of some extinct disease.

She waved her hand over the flame.

Down and down until she had just some condiments and a bag of rice left. Those went in, too, making an agreeable pop.

She took a survey of her surroundings. How drafty it felt. Only the studs were left. She considered them, too. The expression frozen onto her face resembled the motion a hand makes when it flicks an object out of disgust. She decided against the studs. The idea of rubble and the mess it makes was too much for her. And besides, what would she say when her family arrived and pressed her to explain?

She thought: If there’s still a skeleton, there’s still hope for new skin.

Occasionally, I make a collage and then write a story based (however loosely) on that collage. This is one of those stories.

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