Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week Cathy Ulrich writes about Small Burning Things, her new story collection out from Okay Donkey Press.
If Small Burning Things were a match, it would be the last one in a flat little matchbook with the logo and address of a long-gone restaurant on the cover, something you snatched out of an ashtray when restaurants still had ashtrays, nicotine-stained and glass-heavy, a little redhead match surrounded by the cardboard stub-tails of its former match-mates, little sulfur love, last of its kind, waiting to burn.
If Small Burning Things were a bonfire, it would be the one from that party your senior year of high school, out in the hills on the edge of town, already littered with beer bottles and ash from parties before, the flames licking at the sky and music playing from someone’s car radio till the battery went dead, that party you remember like you might have been there yourself, where two girls passed out and all the boys were named Joe.
If Small Burning Things were a summer night, it would be that last one your parents drove you by the marsh before it got concrete-filled in, where they pulled the car over and turned off the headlights, said look, and you did, peeking your head over the back door through the window till you could see the flash and sparkle of fireflies amongst the reeds.
If Small Burning Things were a fall day, it would be the one where your neighbor down the street burns the last of the debris from their summer garden, smoke blacking into the air, that familiar smell of autumn firewafting through the streets.
If Small Burning Things were a girl, it would be that one from your school that always walked like she was in a hurry to get somewhere, always closed her locker with a flourished slam, that girl who didn’t sit in the back or the front of class, who didn’t raise her hand too much or not enough, that girl you never talked to, that girl you barely knew, that girl, if you’d looked her in the eye, you would have seen, was ready to burn.
Cathy Ulrich is the founding editor of Milk Candy Review, a journal of flash fiction. Her work has been published in various journals, including Black Warrior Review, Jellyfish Review, Passages North, Split Lip Magazine, and Wigleaf and can be found in Best Microfiction 2021 and 2022, Best of the Net 2022, Best Small Fictions 2019, and Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions 2019 and 2022. Her first collection of short stories, GHOSTS OF YOU, was released by Okay Donkey Press in 2019. She lives in Montana with her daughter and various small animals. Follow her on Twitter at @loki_writes.