“In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have set it on fire.”
Leo stopped, finger hovering over the arrow button on the remote control, and slid a wary, wide-eyed look toward Sadie. Her face was mostly turned away, facing the television that had caught on an infomercial for a new wonder knife that was slicing paperclips like clay. They’d been flipping channels for a while now, not really focusing on anything, but enjoying the noise around them, and commenting idly on the melodrama of a television moment caught out of context. He tried to remember exactly how long it had been, and exactly when he had gotten lost in the lambent lights and lost track of what she was saying.
He had a bad habit of drifting off on lazy, pleasant afternoons, letting his mind slide where it wanted. He was used to people slipping ridiculous statements into the conversation to catch him. But he was pretty sure this was the first time she’d caught him. Glancing down at her, resting her shoulder against his side, he expected to see her flick a look up toward him, smiling at the delicious imaginary clang of her trap snapping shut.
Sadie stayed facing the television. She pointed toward the screen. “Why would you want to do that?” she asked.
“What?” Leo asked uneasily.
“Cut up paper clips like that,” Sadie said. “What would you do with itty bitty pieces of paper clips? I mean, besides load your shotgun with shrapnel, which is very illegal, and they shouldn’t be suggesting it to us.”
“No,” Leo said. “They should not. Don’t they know you’re listening?”
“No,” Sadie agreed. “So, what are we supposed to do with paper clips scraps?”
“Light them on fire?” Leo asked.
Sadie turned her head, grinned up at him. “I just told you that my pyromania was a bad idea. And I’m pretty sure trying to get metal to catch a flame would be the kind of frustrating and fruitless endeavor that I avoid so that other people can avoid yelling at me for whatever I chucked through the wall.”
Leo tapped the remote, changing the channel so that Sadie would forget about the paperclips before she decided to campaign against their destruction.
“And you were being serious,” he said after a moment.
“Probably,” Sadie said absently. She resettled against his side. “About what?”
Leo looked at the top of her head, blankly. “About… the… retrospect?”
Sadie laughed. “Well, yeah,” she said. “Did you think that was a good idea?”
Leo shook his head immediately. “No. I mean, it wasn’t the Winter Invasion of Russia, but I think you tied with the Titanic.”
She laughed, and didn’t argue. He stared at the top of her head. What had she lit on fire?
“Is that guy proposing to a sandwich?” Sadie asked.
Leo looked at the television. “Yes,” he said.
“You weren’t listening, were you?” Sadie asked.
Leo looked back down, lungs caught on an inhale until he saw the relaxed curve of her smile. “No,” he said on a heavy breath.
“Valiant recovery effort,” she told him. She turned back to the television.
“And you really hadn’t noticed before…” Leo faltered.
“I talked about lighting things on fire?” Sadie shook her head. “Nope.”
“You’re a dangerous sort of person,” Leo said.
“Yep,” Sadie said. “Why is he proposing to a sandwich? And to turkey on rye…”
I’m a thief! I stole the first line of this piece from my friend, Bek. Be sure to stop by her blog tomorrow to see what she was using for kindling…