Night Fire by Michael Berger

At the peak of our bad times, Angela and I lived in the Excelsior neighborhood, famous for signs like: No Habitation In Vehicles. We didn’t have a car but would have liked an emerald Bugatti to live in. Everyday, we passed the fogged-up beds of beached sedans.

nightfireOne autumn night, the moonlight was all washed out with smoke. We stood in the street sucking on each other’s fingers. This wasn’t unusual behavior for us. Yet people cringed. We had fallen asleep in each other’s clothes again. A child’s cold hand, one of a dozen we lived among had shook us awake.

Plumes of pink smoke blossomed from a star-shaped window. The street smelled of burnt waffles, revving engines and a noxious odor that Angela and I knew all too well: rotting meat. The military guys in the unit below had a black market butchering thing. Nothing was more invasive than that smell that managed to penetrate our bedroom every night. We timed our love life accordingly. But often we just gave up and embraced it, as we did lots of things.

Yet Angela was stronger than me. No matter how bad things got in terms of shower accidents and  knife threats, bounced checks and pregnancy scares; even when the rotting meat emanated off every dog, stone and lily, or the sound of shattering glass resounded in an endless loop, there was forever her neck rearing back in impetuous laughter, a vision I can summon whenever I like.


Michael Berger is a writer, bookseller and creative conspirator living in San Francisco. His writing can be found at The Rumpus, The Legendary, The Nervous Breakdown as well as in varied pamphlets, zines and anthologies. He is also the former fiction editor of The Splinter Generation. Originally from the repressed Catholic suburbs of San Diego, he is one of the founders of the The Iron Garters Bike Club (more of an art club) and is writing a novel about their outlaw adventures. He is on the verge of moving to Las Vegas to pursue his MFA in poetry and teaching and hopefully not blow his stipend on roulette in the process.

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