When they sleep it is day. When they wake it is night. The day is short. The day is the shortest day. The other days are longer. Ivan sticks to the ceiling. He cannot get down. I am on the ceiling, he thinks. Irish does not laugh. He carries his sheets to the backyard, next to the dumpster. The sheets are wet. He pours gasoline onto the sheets. He lights his sheets on fire.
The sheets catch on fire. The fire does not look like a fire. The flames are short and the smoke is too much. Irish stares at the fire. The fire does not look hot, he thinks.
‘I bet my sheets are still wet,’ he says. He puts his hand in the fire. He touches his sheets. They do not feel wet. His hand burns. The skin turns, bubbles, turns again. He pulls his hand out of the fire and looks at it. It is the shortest day of the year. The sky is black. The smoke hides, dissolves, and elbows its way up—-they used to elbow, they used to elbow when they: in and out. Irish has trouble breathing.
Ivan is stuck to the ceiling and she is on the mattress, cold because there are no sheets. She should leave. The Russian should leave, he thinks. The other one, the other girl, with the pom-pom hair and the snakeskin forearms.
The other girl should come back. She would sit in the basement and draw circles with her knee. She would squat on all fours and turn in a circle. Her knee on the concrete. She would bleed. It would make him dizzy.
The flames that were small are bigger now. The fire is still hot. Irish sits on the back stair, the one closest to the door. He puts his head on his hand. The Russian woman makes noises like she is waking up and beginning to get stalled—-stoic and forgetful. She may not like where she is, anymore. Not on the shortest day of the year.
There is a scream. There are two screams. Ivan has fallen from the ceiling.