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Fiction by Jane (Cohen) Stinson
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She left the painting on the easel and tiptoed out of the room softly, so quietly that not one part of the room would be disturbed, shut the door, hurried across the bridge, down the stairs, across the living room and into the kitchen. She turned on a single light over the gleaming white stove that sat so pristinely, so properly between the two windows that looked out on the driveway. There was no sound of a car. Only the Jeep sat silent and waiting. There was no sound at all. She stared at the stove for a moment, considering its nature. After a moment she finally knew what it was she had to do to save herself. She moved silently across the kitchen and into the hall that led to the laundry room. A small mountain of dirty clothes awaited her attention. She found two sheets which she could twist into a long rope. She tied the sheets together and then carefully pulled them and turned them until they resembled a rope. She felt as though she had done all of it before, that somehow she was finally performing something she had engineered in her mind a thousand times. In the garage she found two cans of the kerosene they used for the auxiliary stove in the kitchen. She took them and a bucket back to the laundry room. She poured the kerosene into the bucket and then dipped the sheet rope into the liquid again and again until it was thoroughly soaked. The smell of the fumes made her feel sick for just a moment and then the feeling passed, pushed out of her mind by the impetus of the plan she was executing. She carried the sheet-rope into the kitchen and laid it on the counter next to the stove. She knew there were emergency candles in the big miscellaneous drawer below where she put everything that didn't belong somewhere else. Under three screwdrivers and a hammer she found a fat white candle and matches. She quietly, carefully pushed open the window over the counter next to the stove and dropped them outside. She pushed the rope between the gas stove and the counter until it was firmly anchored, then fed it through the window, letting it fall the three feet to the dirt below, Then she pushed the window back down just enough to hold the rope in place. Becky slowly and deliberately, opened the four burner jets on the stove and the jet on the oven. The house was still silent. She stayed just long enough to smell gas and then silently, quickly crossed the room, the front hall, opened the front door and went outside. She found the end of the rope and pulled it out across the dirt between the two shrubs below the kitchen window. She lit the candle and twisted it into the soft dirt next to the end of the rope. Then she fed the rope into the candle until it caught fire, dropped it and ran to the Jeep. She had reached the main highway when the stove gas exploded, lighting the night sky in a spectacular burst of flames. Becky turned the Jeep north towards Canada, north, away from the Witch Tree. Her face burned with the flames of the fire behind her and the fire in her mind that consumed the pale limbs of her prison.

The Witch Tree - page 13