portion of the artwork for Joseph Young's stories

Joseph Young

Each of his new teachers delivered a small speech. Orientation, they called it, welcome to junior high.

Math, said his math teacher, is everywhere. Everything you can think about comes back to math.

Once you see it, said his science teacher, you can’t unsee it—science is the language of life, the planets, even love.

His social studies teacher said that the clock of history, of time itself, ran on sociology.

Ah, music …, said the band teacher, waxing prophetic.

He went home at the end of his day. Of course he had to, had to, think of what his teachers had told him. Elementary school was gone. The classroom had exploded, all the world and its one teacher in its four white walls.

He played with his dog. Dog dog dog, said the dog. He pet his cat. Cat cat cat.

He grew tired of thinking and went outside. The end of summer was in the green droop of the leaves. The ants across the sidewalk were with a new urgency. His friends in the vacant lot wore socks and shoes and fresh cut hair.

Helllllo! he said and clapped them on the back. They gathered around a small pile of paper, burning in a shallow hole in the dirt.

Where did you get it? he asked, the girl with the can of lighter fluid.

Took it out of my dad’s shed, she answered.

They watched the paper green, then orange, then black as the fire fed.

Someone threw in the plastic lid of a soda cup and they watched it melt and drip. Someone threw in a tuft of a dead squirrel’s hair and they watched it fizzle and stink.

What about a rock! one of them said, and they all laughed as he tumbled it in.

He went home for dinner, tv, and then bed. He lay under the sheet and thought of fire and the feverous world. He smiled and laughed—until he saw the moon in his window. Where the sun that lit its face? Where the sea its gravity pulled?

He became dizzy and afraid. His fingers strained to count the things he knew. The world was a shining bomb.

Return to Archive

FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 57 | Spring/Summer 2021