Ten-year old Quentin did not intentionally ruin the barbecue.
Quentin’s divorced father Barry had told his son Quentin to bring the charcoal and the can of lighter fluid from the garage.
Barry had then loaded the charcoal into the grill and doused the charcoal with what he thought was the lighter fluid.
Barry’s new girlfriend Barbara (“Barbie”) stood close by Barry for the lighting of the barbecue.
When Barry lit the charcoal it exploded. Quentin had brought his father a can of kerosene instead of lighter fluid. The cans were similar in size and in shape.
Quentin, Barry, and Barbie were showered with flaming charcoal and kerosene.
Barry’s eyebrows and hair were scorched and smoldering.
Barbie’s new summer dress was on fire in a dozen places.
Quentin, slapping the cinders out of his own hair, noticed a halo of smoke around Barbie’s head and he cried, “Your hair is on fire!”
Barbie screamed and ran to the table and doused her head with a pitcher of lemonade.
Barry turned to Quentin, blinking and staggering and swinging his barbecue tongs, raging, “What the fuck did you do?!”
Quentin cried, “I didn’t do nuthin’!”
Barbie cried to Barry, “See?! He hates me! I told you!”
Barry lurched toward Barbie to comfort and assure her and he embraced her.
They both then screamed and pushed each other away. The burning spots on their clothes had pressed into each other’s skin.
Barbie stumbled backwards and grabbed at the table, but the tablecloth slid in her grip as she toppled. The platter of shrimp then fell onto the smoldering Barbie as she tumbled flat.
Barry was shuffling backwards slapping the embers in his clothing when he was hit in the face with a handful of saucy shrimp that Barbie had thrown at him, wailing in rage, “I’m burned!”
Quentin hopped in terror at this end of civilization as he knew it, this Destruction of Pompeii before him. Quentin was shouting, “Call 911! Call 911!”
Barry yelled, “I am not paying for an ambulance! Get in the truck. We’re going to the hospital!”
Barry then tried to support Barbie who allowed his help for a moment but then slapped his arm away, and limping she made it to the truck in the driveway where Quentin held the door open.
Barbie screamed back at the lagging Barry, “What are you waiting for?!”
Barry rubbed his eyes beneath his singed eyebrows and growled, “My eyes must have been scorched. My sight is blurry, Goddammit. I can’t drive the truck!”
Barbie screamed at Barry, “Well I don’t know how to drive your damn giant truck!”
Barry hollered to Quentin, “Quentin, you’ll have to drive us!”
Barbie screamed at Barry, “What?!! Barry, you call 911 right now!!”
Barry shouted back, “I’m not paying for an ambulance!”
Barbie sobbed, “You cheap asshole! I don’t mean anything to you!”
Quentin cried, “Dad, I only drove in parking lots!”
Barry shook his fist at Quentin, “You shut up and drive!”
With no choice left to her Barbie climbed into the back seat of the truck’s extended cab, sobbing, “I’m going to die.” When Barry tried to follow her she kicked at him with her heels, screaming “Stay away from me FOREVER!”
Quentin braced himself with manly resolve and clambered into the driver’s seat. Barry slumped into the passenger seat beside him and dug out the truck keys and held them out to Quentin.
Quentin shoved the keys into the ignition and turned the key but the engine only clicked once and then was silent. Quentin turned to his father, “Dad…?”
Barbie cried, “See?! He hates me!”
Barry yelled, “There’s a flat spot in the ignition. Goddammit, you know that! Turn the key and hold it!”
Quentin turned the key again and he began to sob, “It’s not my fault! I didn’t do nuthin’!”
The engine suddenly roared, loudly from too much gas. Quentin was pressing the accelerator to the floor.
Barry hollered, “Ease up!”
Quentin raised his foot and put the truck into gear. The truck jostled jerkily down the driveway and onto their neighborhood street, Camino Barbacoa.
Barbie wailed and covered her face dramatically.
Quentin stomped on the brake and everyone was flung forward.
Barry yelled, “What the fuck…!”
Quentin wailed, “Everyone stop yelling at me!”
Barbie cursed at Barry, “You never really loved me at all.”
Barry grabbed Quentin’s arm and said through clenched teeth, “Just fucking drive,” and Barry slapped on the truck’s emergency blinkers to warn other drivers.
They wound down the hill from the house. There was no traffic but because it was a holiday the streets were lined with parked cars, making the two-lane road nearly as narrow as one lane. Quentin did his best but he soon side-swiped a parked car. All three of them shouted “Oh!”
Quentin stopped the truck and began to cry.
Barry shouted, “Don’t stop! Keep driving!! Go!!”
Quentin bawled, “I’m sorry. I told you I only drove in empty parking lots,” and his tears did not improve his downhill driving ability as he side-swiped another car, “Oh!” and another car, “Oh, Jesus!!” and another car, “Oh!!”
Quentin cried each time, “I didn’t do nuthin’!”
When they finally arrived at the stop-sign before the highway, Barbie suddenly yanked the extended cab door open and jumped out of the truck.
“Barbie!” yelled Barry and he yanked his door handle to go after her but Quentin was beginning his turn onto the highway, oblivious, saturated with recalling driving instructions.
Barry hung onto the passenger door as it swung open with the truck’s halting forward motion and he shouted, “Stop! Fucking stop! Put it in park, Goddammit!”
Barbie was fleeing down the street waving her arms and crying, “Help! Help me! Help!”
Barry yelled, “Barbie! Come back!”
Oncoming traffic honked and veered and slammed on their screeching brakes as Barry’s truck stopped halfway onto the highway.
A firetruck was coming up the other way, siren rising.
Barry saw Barbie flailing like a chicken toward the oncoming firetruck, stepping from the curb into traffic, trying to cross to the other side. It was only because Barry’s halted truck had slowed traffic that Barbie was not run over as more vehicles honked and veered and slammed on their screeching brakes.
The firetruck, suddenly seeking to turn up the very street down which Barry, Barbie, and Quentin had fled, found itself blocked by the vehicles stopped for Barry’s truck.
Barbie now jumped onto the firetruck door step and hung on to the door handle, crying to the startled firemen inside. The vehicles in the way of the firetruck slowly broke their gridlock, moving like a Rubik’s Cube, to make way for the firetruck.
The firemen gazed in wide-eyed wonder as the charred Barry jumped onto the truck beside the smudged Barbie who instantly began flailing her free fist upon Barry as she still clutched the door handle with her other hand.
At last, and without stopping to shed Barry or Barbie, the firetruck sped up the hill on Camino Barbacoa.
Quentin got out of the truck into the crowd of other motorists who had exited their vehicles and now looked up the hill toward the house with the burning rooftop.
Yes, of course it was Barry and Quentin’s house.
Quentin bawled, “I didn’t do nuthin’!”
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