Fighting Fire With Fire

When I was about, oh, I guess eight or nine or so, my older brother got into trouble for playing with matches, as kids sometimes do.

My dad had me and him sit down at the dining room table. Producing a box of matches, my dad told my brother:

“I’ll teach YOU to play with matches!”

And with that he pulled out a match, lit it, and pinned my brother’s arm to the table. Then he took that lit match and laid in on my brother’s arm, holding it there until it was burning my dad’s fingers. Instead of withdrawing it, my dad just let it go, holding my screaming brother’s down until the match went out.

Then, looking at me, he said:

“That’s what YOU’LL get if I catch YOU playing with matches.”

I would say “The End” here, except it isn’t.

My brother, in his early 50’s now, still has that scar on his hand. When we talk about those ‘bad’ thing in our past, he always brings it up, what my dad did to him.

And he hates my dad with a passion for doing that.

At the time I was awestruck that my dad would do this. I can’t forget watching it; the match burning, the skin reddening, blistering, blackening. And my brother unable to move or escape.

It was, I guess, symbolic of our childhood.

Scars which burn for a lifetime.

And I don’t love my dad. And I still played with matches.

But much, much more carefully, doing it in secret, outside.

(PS: It wasn’t the last time my dad burnt him with matches. But that’s for another story, another time. And I still shudder, remembering.)