Caleb Echterling makes his own pickles. He tweets funny fiction using the clever handle @CalebEchterling. You can find more of his work at www.calebechterling.com.
Allan poured gasoline into a Coke bottle. Petroleum splashed onto his clothes and the ground as he aimed the stream from the too-wide spout of the gas can. The pungent smell of fire-in-waiting filled his nose. He jammed a pair of past-their-expiration-date boxers into the bottle, and held a lighter to the exposed waistband.
Black smoke curled from burning elastic. The bottle crashed into Allan’s driveway, spreading a blanket of fire over a baking sheet dolloped with cookie dough. Twelve pyres of flour offerings to the baking gods singed black circles into stainless steel.
“Dammit,” Allan muttered. His gas-slick fingers pulled up the YouTube video. He digested the contents one more time. “What am I doing wrong? Did I put enough butter in the cookies? I can’t bring these charcoal briquettes to the church bake sale. I’ll be excommunicated.”
A siren screeched to a stop, blocking the driveway. Three firefighters in full battle gear jumped from a red truck so shiny it belonged in the Liberace Museum. Allan dove behind a bush.
“I see you hiding,” said a firefighter. “Come out and tell us what fuel you’re cooking with.”
Allan peeked through the scraggly fingers of the untrimmed boxwood. “Unleaded regular. Is that a problem?”
“Damn straight it’s a problem. It’s a Class 19 misdemeanor to assemble Molotov cocktails using anything other than diesel.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know. If you move your vehicle, I’ll run out right now…”
A second firefighter yanked an axe from the side of the truck. The handle twirled in her fingers like a baton. “Don’t forget that it’s a Class 37 misdemeanor to set fire to used undergarments without a permit from the city. You didn’t torch any underwear, did you?”
Allan stood to his full five feet six inches. His hands shook as though gripped by sudden onset Parkinson’s. “It won’t happen again. If you let me go get some diesel, I promise I’ll do it right next time.”
The third firefighter popped open a door on the back of the truck. “You’re not going anywhere, buddy.” He pulled out a metal can decorated with dents. “We’re the fire department. We’ve got everything you need for setting fires right here.”