Renny Walsh was a convicted arsonist whose obsession with the flame led him to prisons all over the burnable United States of America. He never made gigantic fires, preferring the coziness of a blaze upon the hair of a toddler’s dolly, or the crackle of a combusting herb garden. Big fires were too showy, not personal enough for him. Starting an inferno that consumes a building creates a distance from the initial flame that did not suit Renny’s tastes. One twig that one man lights gets torched by his spark, his flame. But, a forest fire’s flame passes from igniter to igniter so that the one who initiated the blaze is exiled from the excitement, forgotten.
Renny Walsh had planned his crowning glory as a fire aficionado. There was to be an outdoor exhibition of Queslin Paisley’s work at the Phranneve Coastal Park in England starting at 7:30 the following Sunday and Renny could not have hand-selected a better target for his passionate burning passion.
Paisley had achieved notoriety after unveiling his intricate and finely crafted dollhouses. They were his medium, and he was undoubtedly a master. A critic at The Movement described his work as such:
“Paisley’s delicate structures of wood, paint and plastic are marvels of miniaturization. With the love and care put into each piece, it becomes trite to refer to these works as merely “dollhouses.” These, my esteemed colleagues, are dollhomes.”
Needless to say, this was the opportunity the firebug Renny Walsh had been fantasizing about since back when he was just a little firelarvae. Imagine; all the joy and power of destroying a home worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, married with the control of cooking burger on the grill. The idea was simple; run in, toss a match, let the pleasure wash over you. He had the tools: a pack of wooden matches from the executive room of the Chateau Exquisite, and a pair of hands unafraid to ignite.
The flight was uneventful, most of his luggage was checked –but a large silver belt buckle gave him a little trouble at security (it had melted to his jeans and the pants had to be fully removed before he was allowed on the plane). Eventually he found himself at the edge of a beautiful area underneath a metal archway with decorated letters spelling out “PHRANNEVE COASTAL PARK.”
He made an attempt at a casual stroll, but his untamed smile and bounce in his step attracted more than one second glance. Renny did not care. The consequences of his actions were of no consequence. He would endure any punishment for the brief combustion that could fuel his dreams with bliss for years to come. He searched for his targets among the tiny creations. Passing a micro college dorm complete with a Rat Pack poster and a beer stained chair, Walsh’s eyes fell upon the One. What once was Queslin Paisley’s masterpiece, would quickly and ashily mutate into Renny’s masterpiece.
It was a scale reproduction of a white Victorian-style home left to ruin on a faded lawn. The perfectly crafted and intricately patterned blue trim on the white wooden panel evoked a sense of an America built by grandfathers too proud to ask for help. Queen Victoria was happy to lend her name across the ocean to the style that blossomed into great beauty and further blossomed into great decrepitude. There was a tiny rusted rake on the tiny gray-green grass that touched the tiny clogged plastic gutters that hugged the outside of the shingle shedding roof. That would be his entryway. Renny Walsh traced the path the flame would take with his eyes, accounting for every detail. Here, in the master bedroom, the empty pill bottles piled on the bed would redirect the destructive journey to the working ceiling fan. The chipped paint on the white picket fence would go up right after the empty clothesline fell, all burning, from the smoldering, leafless oak.
Someone in a suit was making an announcement from a podium on the other side of the exhibit. The gallery patrons had moseyed over to the pavilion to hear whatever news the smartly dressed gentleman would impart to them. This would be his chance. His hands shaking with excitement, he managed to retain enough control to remove the small cardboard packet of matches from his front breast pocket. The match stood between his thumb and pointer finger twitching with the pounding pulse of Renny’s thumb. Glancing behind him to ensure this moment would not be spoiled, Renny Walsh slid the white and red tip across the side of the box. He grinned at the familiar hiss of friction. The scent of sulfur permeated the close proximity of Renny’s surroundings as the flames engulfed the match head like a pile of crickets jumping on top of each other. As his hand grew nearer to the tiny garage with a faded stencil silhouette of two kissing children, the wooden panels of the home began to glow from the light of the match. Only millimeters away, Renny closed his eyes and shifted his weight forward as the sweat began to gather on his brow.
Suddenly, his hand was hit with a splash. Walsh’s eyes shot open and he looked at the extinguished match in his water and saliva soaked hand. His head began darting in all directions searching for a culprit when he glanced up and saw a smug, large-mouthed, asshole pelican circling his bald head. Renny’s eyes fixated on that big stupid mouth. His irises lit afire and burned with a passion he normally reserved for vintage desk clocks, or wooden amplifiers. Keeping his sharp gaze on the bird he reopened the Chateau Exquisite box and picked out another match, and began frantically scraping it on the side of the cardboard container. Nothing. The entire package had been soaked.
“Hey! What the hell do you think you’re doing?” A voice called out from too close. “Someone call the police! This guys trying to burn the dollhomes!”
Renny Walsh was a strong man, but was quickly subdued by the gaggle of art critics, art enthusiasts and Arteeests whose obsession with Queslin Paisley rivaled Walsh’s obsession with arson. The cuffs were slapped on, and as he was dragged away he was heard to scream, “The Pelicans will suffer! The Pelicans will die! God give me the strength!” He was sentenced to 15 years in an English prison for attempted arson, and resisting arrest.
Andy Junk is a great man without a biography.