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Anyone in Vance's family could tell you that he liked to play with matches for as far back as they could remember. When he was only three years old, his father caught him staring into the toilet bowl, lighting one match after the other, and smiling as the doomed flames reflected in his blue eyes when they trickled down toward the water. He grinned so wide you could see his upper gums. His distressed father pressed his palm to his throat and frowned.
Then there was that time on a warm June afternoon, when his mother found him lighting Christmas candles that had been packed away in the garage. She scolded him, and then she hid every source of flame in the house.
But that only encouraged his desire. His eyes would grow large, and he'd purse his lips as though he were about to whistle when he held a fresh book of matches at family birthday gatherings; there was something so intriguing about that initial burst of flame just after the bulbous tip of the match cracked against the sandpaper. And then the way the flame relaxed into a smooth little ball of yellow heat as a thin line of smoke leaked into the air. It was almost criminal to blow out the candles and make a birthday wish.
The only thing more exciting than lighting one match was lighting the entire book all at once. On the afternoon he learned how to do it, it occurred to him that something between his legs began to stir as he watched the flames explode. It was the same wonderful feeling he received when he saw an attractive man on television. A sensation of tightness and pleasure pulled inside his ball sack; his penis slowly began to grow long and stiff. He was eleven years old by then; not even remotely sure of what to do with his erection or how to respond to any of his natural feelings about other men.
Ten years later, when a neighbor's garage caught fire in the middle of the night, his mother looked at his father and rolled her eyes as she gazed at the smoke from her bedroom window. And when they went downstairs in their bathrobes to see if everyone was all right, it wasn't much of a shock to see their college age son standing on the sidelines sporting a wide grin. His arms were folded across his chest; his legs were spread wide. He rocked quickly on the balls of his feet as the handsome, powerful firemen doused the orange flames. His mother looked at his father with a raised eyebrow, and then she asked another neighborhood gawker if anyone had been injured or killed. When they learned the garage had been completely void of all life and that everyone was safe, they quietly crossed back to the house with their hands in their pockets and their shoulders slumped forward. The one thing they failed to realize was that their son was just as interested in the firemen as he was in the fire.