Janice and I find a room at the Motor Derby Inn a few towns away. The fire is still coming but we are safe for tonight at least. A thin woman with a fake tan and a tired face at the front desk frowns when she tells us they don’t normally allow pets but smiles when she says she will make an exception for us given the circumstances and frowning again as she warns us that we will still be charged for any damage they incur. The TV behind her flashes images of what is following us and of men and women and helicopters trying to stop it.We are given a room with a small upright piano in the corner and Janice wonders aloud what it’s doing here. I suspect the piano is also on the run from something that is trying to eat it which is a good enough reason to be anywhere else but where the eating is being done. Janice seats herself on the bench and pecks out a chromatic song. The dog paces the room like an expecting father in an old black and white movie and howls along with Janice’s staccato playing. The cat hides under the bed and refuses to come out because he knows there is little good reason to and we both know that I would crawl under there with him if I could. Janice strikes a last note that fades like ghost breath. She turns and asks me to play that sad Sibelius piece she likes even though she’s thinking of Satie and even though she knows goddamn well I don’t play anymore. Instead I picture the fire coming to play the baby grand back in our living room, the one I haven’t touched in a long time. How the strings will pop as they are severed by the flames and create an eerie symphony of haunted warble. How once the first leg is devoured it will crash to the floor and the sound will be as if a musical fist of chaos has slammed a table in anger. How the fire will bow and move on to something else it wants to play. How the last note to disappear will sound something like the beginning of a familiar song so that there is no chance for it to ever come to an end. The sound waves will eventually make their way to another pocket of space where the things that live there will weep when they hear it. I hope it’s something that sounds dark but not too dark. Something you could hide yourself in but not lose yourself in. Something that doesn’t sound too much like a request because I know how the fire doesn’t take requests.
Tyrel Kessinger is a stay-at-home dad of two wild animals. His work can be found at Gargoyle, Triggerfish Critical Review, Straylight, and forthcoming from Washington Square Review, Red Rock Review, Atticus Review, and Typehouse. He’s currently in the MFA program at Spalding University and serves time as poetry editor for Great Lakes Review.