The Fire She Feels
by Kate Finegan
Mama always knew there was something about that lightning, even before that old rascal Franklin tied a key to a kite. Mama, she attracts lightning, always has. Been struck six times. Once with me inside her, even. Wish I could remember that, but I can’t. She knowed there was some kind of power coursing through her. Daddy, he never has believed her, said she couldn’t been struck by lightning once, even, or she’d be dead. Even talked of bringing in the preacher to teach her truth. But me, I believe her, always have. I seen it happen once, felt it. We was coming in from the cows and she froze just like a statue, her hands straight down her sides like rods, palms facing out toward me like she asking my help. So me, I touched her and that same energy went straight through me like some intestinal fire. No denying the power of what happened, not if you were there and felt what we did. There’s some folks speak in tongues and shake like they got something hot inside their bellies. I don’t know what’s got them riled, but what Mama felt, she called it fire. I guess Daddy never did touch her when the fire went through her. I never seen them kiss. Well, Franklin, he called it electricity, that fire, and got all kinds of famous, more famous than he was before, all on account of that key and that kite and that fancy name for the thing my mama felt. E-lec-tri-ci-ty. That word’s too long. Fire’s what it is. That’s what Mama calls it, but Daddy says that’s wrong. The men at the tavern, they believe what Franklin says. Mama tries to wrap her mind around that long word, those many sounds for what she’s felt with her own body, that Yankee man’s newfangled highfalutin word. What I know is this: Mama, she can’t even sign her own name to paper, but she sure beat that high and mighty man to something big, even if Daddy don’t believe her.
Kate Finegan has a short story chapbook forthcoming with Penrose Press in November 2018. Her work has won contests with Thresholds, Phoebe Journal, Midwestern Gothic, and The Fiddlehead; been runner-up for The Puritan‘s Thomas Morton Memorial Prize; and been shortlisted for the Cambridge Short Story Prize. She is currently revising her novel manuscript, set in late eighteenth-century Charleston.