My older sister took step dance and fiddle lessons
during the last half of the 1990’sThe classes happened after school hours
at a modest, well kept home on Alder Point Road.
I’d walk with my mother to the end of the road
where lobster and scallop boats rested ‘gainst the pier after days work.

One warm evening with the sun still high
we reached the pier early, then turned around and ambled the opposite
direction to kill time, waiting.

We talked about nothing in particular, maybe
what we’d have for dinner or yardworks that need doing, nothing in particular.

I smelled what I thought was brushfire as we stepped into an area with many houses.
Rounding a high hedge I saw it was in fact an entire clothesline full of clothes, on fire.

There was no one around. It’s strange to be the first to a scene.

I saw an outdoor faucet with hose attached, the hose was on fire.
My mother was knocking on the side door of the home but getting no response so
she pushed the door wide open. A woman in her early forties stood
casually washing dishes at the kitchen sink.

‘Your back yard is on fire’ I think I said, and we all went to look.
Some of the clothes hung, burning.
Most of them were on the ground, burning.
The shed stood – burning.

A neighbor had already called the fire department who were showing up now.
They tried their best to save other out-buildings while the woman searched for her son.

She found him in the basement with a friend of his from the neighborhood.
They had been playing with solvents in the shed, lighting them up in styrofoam containers.
One boy’s arms no longer had skin below his t-shirts sleeves;
the woman’s son had burned three layers of skin from his face, head and neck

they sat in the basement and burned together
afraid to confess what they had done