Cinders

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by Paul Beckman

I like to take pictures at fires. The firemen, trucks, hoses, ladders, onlookers with their concerned looks and the fires themselves, especially when the flames are roaring and the black smoke is drifting through the air with lit cinders like fireflies. I love hearing the crackling of the fire, the smell of burnt wood, but those flying cinders most of all.

I have a fire website — myfavoritefires.com. It’s personal and I name the fires by date, time, and location. This is now my only hobby. I used to have more hobbies but since I got the fire department scanner this takes up a good deal of my time. After all, I have a regular job at our local weekly selling ads, doing interviews, and writing a weekly feature.

I actually don’t talk to people about my hobby except to tell them I’m mostly a photographer and that, in my small town, is acceptable so no one thinks anything about my taking pictures at fires because I shoot parades, farmer’s markets, local fairs and basically I’m never without my camera.

I tried to explain this to the police when they brought me in for questioning regarding a suspicious fire. They laid out photo after photo of me at just about every fire in town. It turns out that I’m not the only fire photographer — the department has their own. They even had an old black and white one of me from when I was thirteen watching my own house burn. I was holding my camera then too.


Paul Beckman’s story Healing Time was one of the winners in the 2016 Best of the Small Fictions. His stories are widely published in print and online in the following magazines among others: Connecticut Review, Raleigh Review, Litro, Playboy, and Thrice Fiction. His latest collection, Peek, weighed in at 65 stories and 120 pages. His published story website is www.paulbeckmanstories.com and his blog is www.pincusb.com. Paul hosts the FBomb NY flash fiction reading series monthly at KGB in New York.