Johnny was an arsonist. Johnny didn’t wanna hurt nobody, but he needed to burn, burn, burn the world up. When he didn’t get to layin’ flame for long stretches, he set to itchin’, and that itchin’ turned to a burnin’ of his own deep inside his lowest parts like a queer devil’s whisper.

The old buildings didn’t seem to mind; no, they didn’t mind at all. Wasted wood and metal bones twisted and blackened and went hot and hotter into the night without much opposition, licked up by shadows and spit into the mouth of nothingness for crumble and decay.

Johnny was doin’ fine; Johnny didn’t hurt nobody and nobody had to find out. But then Johnny made a wrong turn – he chose a straight fool’s quarrel. Johnny, one night, he got wild; he lit up a flare down at the dock and the dock went to water and the water shouldn’t’ve burned but by hell’s chance it’d swallowed up some oil and Johnny watched as the waves danced slow and silent in the curl of the palm of orange-bellied swallows, chokin’ and spittin’ and comin’ up with charcoal guts all the same.

He watched his embers dart out ‘cross the placid face like some hellish desert tumbles, dippin’ and divin’ and layin’ claim to all sort of life; fish and other critters came up with they insides turned out, melted organs spinnin’ in the low low breeze. Johnny saw a lil fish’s eye boil up and burst right out its socket and he turned heel and ran screamin’ into the night while the flames laughed at his coward’s back and jumped higher’n’higher, scorchin’ the feathers of gulls from white to black and meldin’ beaks like tired clasped hands.

Later that night, when Johnny done turned in and let the bottle soothe away his murderer’s woes, he sought comfort in the shadows of his room and they gave it readily; soon, he was dreamin’ of dancin’ in an arsonist’s ball, all redgold and glittery and cacophonous with callous grace and cheer.

But then, he woke; he sat up sputterin’ with ash in his throat and a wet sop sop sop in his ears. He smelled the tainted brogue of charcoal carried faint on the salt of the sea air, and realized his bedroom window was open. He heard waves crashin’ hard, even though he was nowhere near the ocean’s grasp, and for just a moment, he could see foam seepin’ through the low low gap of his bedroom door. Then, like his favorite candle snuffin’ out, Johnny shouted as the contours of darkness crept over his house like a watcher from the skies and blotted out the pale moon glowin’ like eyes in his windows and the oily ocean waves came to claim him, burnin’ and drownin’ and rippin’ to shreds all at once.

Johnny’s body floated in six dozen parts through choppy waters that night, and the sea ate like a queen for years to come.