The other day I was trapped at the Mill (the horror!) during a concert. I hadn't really written anything in days and since there was no one to talk to while a techno-indie band played on stage I seized the opportunity. There's no greater self-conscious act than writing in a moleskine notebook, in a bar, in Iowa City.
Part of Elliot knew he was going to burn down a house on the new street, he just didn't know which one. His family moved to town in August. It was a big step, his parents told him. They'd been living in an apartment his whole life and now they had a house with a yard.
It took Elliot a week to decide why he hated the street. It was the very thing his parents said he'd love: the yards with their fences. In the apartment, everyone had been the same, equal, disappearing into identical doors to, he presumed, identical homes with cluttered furniture and an existence negotiated around things. Here, everything was different.
The little boy next door invited him over to play in the backyard. They played truth or dare. The little boy's name was Grey and his greatest fear was dinosaurs. The next night, Elliot went to his window, scratched on it with a rake and played a stereo recording of a velociraptor hissing from Jurassic Park.
Years later, in an adulthood of apartments, Elliot decided that capitalism was to blame. Even in grade school he had a premature favor for egalitarianism. That's why a week after the velociraptor incident in the dead of night he removed the fences from the Maker's yard. They were gone on vacation and Mr. Maker spent the week before painting it. When they got back the neighborhood was alive with talk about punks. Elliot preferred to think of himself as a ghost in those final few weeks leading up to Halloween. He was the "damned thing" that knocked over trash cans, banged on doors, and broke windows. The Bean's cat disappeared one day in September. Jameson's iPod and laptop were stolen. Suspicion began, gradually, falling on the young couple that had just moved in with their sweet little son.
"What do you want to go as for Halloween?" Elliot's mother asked him tiredly the day before. She hadn't been sleeping well. Neither had his father. They regarded Elliot with great care.
"I want to go as a clown," he said. It was the smile painted to his face that he really wanted.
After his parents went to the party and the babysitter was absorbed in her movie, Elliot snuck down to the laundry room with a box of matches. It felt right. It felt just. The painted smile and the growing apprehension of the neighborhood nearly boiling over to action.
He hadn't burned anything since he was eight. Everyone says he's a great architect. It's his secret pleasure that one day all his buildings and everything else will come tumbling down leaving all to huddle around their fires together. All equal.