Household Fires

Let’s get fired up! said the dad. His daughters liked
their beds. What do I have to do to get you
motivated dad asked. The thing about
his daughters was they hadn’t left

their beds for some while. Are any of you girls
up there yelled dad. Are any of you girls
still alive? It was a question he should have asked

a bit earlier. The hardest questions sometimes
to say aloud are important. He warned I will give you
to the count of ten. There were at least ten
daughters though more than ten beds the problem
was this the dad realized. Was he let them

have abundance. He would fix that right up
starting now. I will actually only give you
to the count of five he yelled nothing moved
upstairs. Do I have to burn down the house

he called out do I have to make
marshmallows of the pretty white
beds you love more than dear dad?
Throat dry he went and drank
water sure not to leave any left over
in the glass because otherwise

his daughters might put out against his wishes
the fire he threatened to start. He wasn’t sure
when he’d last seen a daughter. Their bodies
and heads were covered fully with sheets
in some but not all of the beds. Which beds
and which rooms and which daughter’s heads

were which the dad wondered. None of them
would get up or look different than any other
one when their bodies and faces were covered
up upstairs in beds. Let’s get fired up!
the dad yelled. He found himself yelling still.

Alissa Nutting is author of the short story collection Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls (Starcherone/Dzanc 2010). Her work can be found in Tin House, BOMB, Fence, the New York Times, and various anthologies, and will appear in the Norton Introduction to Literature (2013). She is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at John Carroll University.