[6.06 / June 2011]

Three Stories

House Fire

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Michael is four years old and his brother is seven years old and there is a fire. It’s summer. Michael is half the size of his brother. They are both only wearing underwear. Michael’s brother carries Michael out of the house and Michael puts his face in his brother’s shoulder. Neither of them knows where their parents are. Michael reaches up and wipes the ash from his brother’s forehead. His brother keeps moving until they are across the street from their house. The neighborhood is lit but no one is home. Michael feels his brother tense when they hear the sirens. Under every streetlamp Michael sees a shadow that can’t find its body. The policemen ask questions but Michael doesn’t hear his brother give any answers. Michael sits on the back of a fire truck wrapped in a scratchy blanket. His brother is wearing a sweatshirt the police give him. Michael looks at the house and at his bedroom window. Michael expects the glass to explode eventually. His brother looks at him with what seems to be the same expectation. Neither of them is sure when their parents are coming home.

Death in the Family

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Michael and his brother are sitting on the roof of their grandparents’ house. Michael is peeling bits of shingles and throwing them over the edge. A phonebook lies open between them. Michael and his brother’s grandparents keep saying the wrong name to the wrong brother. The brothers are told that their mother is on her way. The brothers are told that their father’s body is torn up pretty badly. Michael asks if they’re sure it’s his father. Michael says I can’t remember the last time I talked to him. Michael’s brother says Please remember Michael is fragile. Michael’s brother says This is probably easier with a ladder but then he steps off the roof anyway. Michael looks at his brother on the ground and feels like he’s looking at himself on the ground. His mother has just pulled up in her car. Michael waves to his mother, lands next to his brother. His mother says Michael your father is dead. Michael isn’t sure if she’s talking to him or his brother. Michael thinks that he should have grabbed the phonebook.


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Michael has a child with a woman he meets during a summer in London. The woman is twenty-nine years old and her name is Natalie. Michael is twenty-four years old. Natalie has blonde hair and treats Michael in what he thinks is an unimaginably sweet way. Michael’s brother has been dead for a couple of years. Or Michael’s brother is in London with Michael. Or Michael’s brother also meets a woman and also has a child. But Michael is sure that his brother is dead. Michael is also sure that his child with Natalie looks more like his brother than him. But Michael thinks he sometimes looks more like his brother than his brother does. After his brother dies Michael starts carrying his license in his wallet. Michael gets his license confused with his brother’s license when buying a drink. Michael tries to take out his brother’s license and leave it at home but he takes out the wrong one. Michael’s child with Natalie doesn’t recognize Michael. Michael doesn’t recognize Natalie. Michael searches their apartment looking for Natalie and their child but Natalie isn’t there and their child isn’t there and Michael isn’t sure if this is even their apartment.

Joshua R. Helms is a candidate in the MFA program at The University of Alabama and an assistant editor for Black Warrior Review. His work appears or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, elimae, Monkeybicycle, NANO Fiction, PANK, Stoked, and TYPO.