Doug Jones did not ask for this fire. He did not volunteer for the strains of harnessing it. This is why he regards this fire like the severed thumb he once found in the nearby old growth forest.
He is not young, but when he was he aspired to the routine — to sell encyclopedias from a barber’s chair, for his marriage to last at least until rust gathered at the roofline of the barn. “Call yourself an asshole every hour on the eights,” an uncle once told him while smoking in church. “And then for the rest of that hour prove yourself wrong or right.”
It’s the kind of advice, the sort of pat certainty that could guide you, so long as you didn’t possess this fire. Alas, alack: Doug Jones possessed all 84 miles per hour of this fire.
It made his right hand as hot as his heart. It made strangers rise and stomp and roar unifying slogans. When he stopped it made those strangers maraud the city proper for another glimpse of Doug Jones and his fire. It made his jawbones rumble.
He whispered through the corded phone calls he took in the kitchen late at night. He drove the darkened streets of the next town over, soothed by only the three minutes and 22 seconds of the REO Speedwagon song he’d been waiting for. “Look at this imprecise longing,” he said to the FM dial on his aftermarket Rockford Fosgate car stereo. “I am Frodo after the money runs out.”
The fire has given him riches and adoration, but it has also annealed his will into that of every sleepy Kentucky pawpaw. For he knows that no fire is different from another. The fire he wields is the same fire that shines a miner’s lantern. The fire he wields is the same that commits to flames the old growth forest where he found the thumb. It makes a pyre of the grasses and carrion, which starves the mice, which starves the shrews, which impels the barn owls to wander strange canyons like Doug Jones. This is why he looks at it so.
This fire, this power? Doug Jones did not ask for it.