I pushed our things out the door and onto the porch, kicking them down the steps. The unbreakables I flung, their first teddies, my wife’s slippers, a fistful of the peppermint pillows from last Christmas, in the grass, candy for the car ride, to keep the kids quiet, an umbrella in case it rained, the remote control, whatever we’d need to start over as my wife showered me with the contracts and guarantees from the fireproof box at the top of our closet, out the second storey window, forcing me into the air, reaching madly because they were important papers, perfectly safe in the fireproof box where they’d been.

Everything else was crashing to the ground, too heavy to set down with ease, the TV, the microwave, the coffee table with all the pockmarks, gouged out cave drawings, smiling faces. The children were frantic, determined to save as much of their stuff as possible, so much junk, the poster board I helped decorate for the presentation on The American Indians, things they’d stopped playing with long ago, the bits and pieces of their whole lives, the baby mobile we could never bring ourselves to throw out with the trash because they’d both used it. I could hear them scurrying about, disturbing their mother’s nice things, working well together as they searched for the gumball machine treasures they’d kept scattered about the house.

“Stay out of the basement,” I yelled, stepping onto our welcome mat, listening for the little bones of their feet bounding down the wooden steps. I especially didn’t want them in the corner where I kept the flammables, Varsol, so dangerous my voice was pealing like heavy church bells. Do… you… hear… me? All around, the sheets of paper from the safe box fluttering in place like little angels, blameless, my wife’s long hair hanging out the second story window, beyond my reach, her eyes telling stories just like in a silent movie, the children! the children!, the disappointment showing through as she went up in flames, proof she’d always been the better one, better than me. Better than me.

I’d have jumped.