Fiction: The Dynamo by Drew Kiser
by Drew Kiser
While his extended family swilled eggnog, we edged toward the roaring fireplace. He looked at me and, at my signal, hopped in. I remember the screams as his clothes caught flame. He disappeared in smoke. But, a moment later, he emerged unscathed, soot-smeared, nude, but smiling. He did whatever I asked. To make up for his two-month grounding, I gifted him a nickname: Cole.
We attended the same university. I was accepted because I was a legacy. He was accepted because his body was an inexhaustible and indestructible source of chemical energy. We would stay up late talking about RuPaul or Plath until he would cave and do a trick for me. He made a loose CD play its songs, charged my phone with a nudge and one time shot a dime-sized arc of lightning from his tongue into my own. He kicked an outlet and short-circuited a whole frat house. Under the cover of darkness we stole their gin and slunk back home.
On graduation day he received the summons from the government. We weighed our options. I told him this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, six figures for a boy who squandered his college years doing tricks. He was on the fence until I told him it would make me happy.
Now Cole lies in a vat of sulfuric acid for 13 hours a day while copper rods harvest the electricity from his skin. He lays his head on my chest at night and tells me he feels upset, that no one at work remembers to call him Cole. I kiss his static-cracking hair and I remind him we have already come a long way. I talk about the woman who fainted when he jumped into the mulcher at the botanical gardens. Pressing his skin against mine, I feel my fatigue start to lift. My frayed nerves begin to hum with well-being. I pet his head as he falls asleep, telling him it will all be better soon, that, this time next year, he will be lighting all of D.C. and New York, too, and we would be married, with a house, and a garden and, who knows, maybe a dog.
“Can I die?” he asked, one evening.
“I don’t know.”
I wake up feeling refreshed.