John J. Barnes

The afternoon sun blazed through the court room windows, beating down on the jury and most of guests
witnessing the trial. You can see by the steady beads of sweat trickling down their foreheads that they were
not comfortable, and the stingy cheap suits that the everyman wore were not making it better. I sat calmly as
the prosecution’s case was spoken by a worm of an attorney representing the state in the case of “The State
of Florida vs. Jacob Millman”. Spoken was a bit of an understatement, he was preaching, preaching and pacing
back and forth passed the judge in a folksy manner. The rays of sunlight were so intense you could see the spit
flailing from his mouth each time he spoke of me. “Shamefully jealous of him” is the way spoke as he sought to
prove that I murdered my own brother. But nothing could be further from the truth, the truth is that no one
believed my story. I steadily glanced back at my parents to see saddened look in their eyes. It was a look that
I couldn’t quite dissect, a sort of mix between pity and confusion. It said they were sad to see me in this
position, but didn’t know what to believe, and I didn’t blame them. It was two days ago that it happened,
something I couldn’t explain and didn’t know why it had happened to him. My brother Wallace was always a
good guy and didn’t deserve to go that way.

It was a cold Saturday night as I sat in my room pounding away on my keyboard as usual. Then after that I
would pace the length of my room trying to decide what to do next, but most of the time it would be a few
bouts of masturbation followed either by more internet surfing or a good snack and a movie. I always kept my
eyes and mind away from my brother’s room, and he would always be starting his male metro sexual routine
about the same time I started my pacing. He would hum rock songs to himself as he bathed,  primped, and
dressed himself for the night out. It was almost a ritual that he would be going out every weekend, whether it
be a date, a night out with his football buddies, or a party he heard about that always got to him but somehow
always evaded my ears. Anytime he came to my room for something I would rush to the computer or whip out a
book and pretend that I was busy. My pride made me feel like I couldn’t let my brother know I was a loser even
though we both already knew I was. I wanted nothing more than to join him on one of his tomfooleries on the

Wallace was a popular guy in high school, and not because he tried to be or because he kept up with the latest
trend or anything like that. It was the simple fact that everything he has been doing since I’ve known him has
always been what the in crowd was about. The way he walked, treated girls, played sports, handled situations,
it was always what the popular click seemed to idolize. I was accepted by his friends simply for being his
brother, but the relationship was purely by acquaintance. The most I got from them was a “hey” or a flattering
greeting from one of his girlfriends. Sometimes the jocks would give me a hard time, but only for a little while
before they diverted their attentions back to Wallace. And on most nights, I would drown in my boredom after a
couple hours of pretending that I’m fine being a loser, but then wallow after he left.

I still remember the time on my clock when something out of the ordinary happened, 9:35. Wallace burst
through my door as I scrambled onto my bed, grabbing the first magazine I could find. I was a little pissed at
him for not knocking, but this was always an exciting escape from my boredom as I would be curious to see
what he wanted, or better yet, if I was to go with him. And it happened on that night, out of the blue, for no
reason at all. I asked him what for. “ What do you mean what for, to party you nimrod,” he exclaimed while
doing a little jig.  A chilling wave of excitement ran up my spine as I sprung off my bed and dashed to my
closet, scrounging up a plaid pattern button-down shirt and jeans. I remember it as being my first time I had
actually attempted to groom myself to accentuate my looks. Of course I had to dive into my brother’s line of
hair care products and cologne as I had none of my own, but it was the fastest I’ve ever moved before in my

I caught a brief stint of conversation between Wallace and my mother in the kitchen as I ran down the stairs.
There was a tone in my mother’s voice that grabbed my curiosity; so naturally, I snuck over to hear what it
was about. I was disheartened to hear her telling my brother to make sure I had a good time, treating me like I
was some sort of charity case or something. I had half a mind to walk in there and tell them to forget the whole
thing, but this was desperation. I realized I didn’t care if I was to be dead weight on my brother’s night out, I
needed to get out of my house and my long nights of isolation.

Sitting beside him in the passenger seat of his cherry 2007 Ford Mustang, I remember hearing nothing but the
roar of the V8 engine and the swish of the wind passing into the half-cracked windows. The two stops we made
that night were his girlfriend’s, Camy, house to pick her up and remember as I waited in the car seeing him
storm out in a bitter rage. She wasn’t able to come out with us that night due to a last minute call she had to
baby-sit—the fact that she cared for the money more than being with Wallace didn’t make him too happy I can
recall. The other stop was at a corner gas station where we filled up and got a couple of treats for the rest of
the trip ( beef jerky and cherry slushies).

“So where’s the fire?” I so blatantly asked as I polished off my slushy.

“ The fire…Is at ‘Bill’s Boards’,” Wallace said with a mouthful of jerky.

Bill’s Boards was late night pool hall that was frequented by all of the seniors in our town, I felt like the luckiest
kid on the face of the planet when he said that. The place had met all my expectations the minute we pulled
into the parking lot. There were crowds of teens in the prime of their adolescence spread out amongst the cars,
some were deep into conversation while others were drowning out the world with their stereos on full volume
and their windows down in their cars. Wallace was warmly greeted before he stepped foot out of his car. They
were using all sorts of nicknames as they slugged him on the shoulder in the testosterone engorged displays of
male bonding—“Wallyworld”, “ Superstud”, “ Wallinator”, and “ King Killer”. But the one that stood out, the one
that had caught my attention was a little unusual.

“ Boozlebub’s here!” One guy in a track letterman jacket yelled out.

Boozlebub?; I thought to myself. What on earth could that mean? Well, after a few get-to-know-you
conversations and a couple of introductions by Wallace we moved into the pool hall. Bill, the owner, was a big
fan of the town’s varsity sports teams and threw a couple of pitchers of beer and a few shots to our table that
night and I found out how my brother had earned his nickname. During a few racks of pool, the drinking games
were endless and non-stop—in fact, I think there were more drinking games going on than pool games.  

“ Boozlebub! Boozlebub! Go, go Boozlebub!” His friends cheered him on as he continued to devour his opponents
in game after game, guzzling and chugging his way to victory.

“ Learn from the best little Jakey,” one of his friends told me. “ Your brother drinks like the devil!” That’s when it
came to me, my brother had earned that name in some weird spice of the word booze and the way he drank it—
like the devil.

Well naturally I took the wheel on the way home due to my brother’s inebriated state and he was like a whole
different person.

“ I love you my little Jakey bro,” he kept saying in between moments of sticking his head out of the window for
fresh air. “ You know bro, I’m glad I took you along cause I don’t know how I was gonna get to wherever were
going right now tonight!”

“ Home Wally, were going home,” I said calmly.

I don’t remember exactly what caused it or when it began, but in the midst of Wallace’s drunken rambling
something happened that changed my life forever.

“ Boozlebub, whoohoo!” My brother exclaimed with his eyes half-open. “ I really ruled tonight, I killed ‘em, I—“

Then, in a matter of seconds, a blue flame started to emerge from the right thigh of my brother’s jeans. I
thought maybe he lit a match or something while my eyes were on the road but there was something different
about it, something eerily sinister. It was no accidental fire, the flame scorched and moved wickedly up my
brother’s leg like a lit wick of a firecracker. It was as if my brother was made of ethyl alcohol the way it spread,
and by the time I noticed, Bud had not. In his drunken state, I had to shout at him for him to see that his leg
was catching fire.

I thought; What is going on here? What did he do? The flame started to move rapidly up Wallace’s body and it
wasn’t until it was half-way up his chest when he started to notice, but still no panicking. I pulled the car over
in a hurry, stripped my shirt, and tried desperately to douse the flames. The more I swatted him, the bigger the
flames got and what frightened me most of all was Wally himself. Amidst the panic I could of sworn I heard him
starting to laugh, as if nothing were happening, his body frantically bobbing and thrusting back and forth while
chuckling madly. Sparks began to fly from his eyes and still he was laughing. In complete shock, I had nothing
to do but stare and weep in horror as the fire took my brother in a matter of seconds. It was the most sad and
horrifying thing I had ever seen in my life, and when the flame had done it’s job, it went away, leaving the
charred skeleton of what used to be my brother in the passenger seat. What really had me was the burn the
inferno had left; nothing had been touched but my brother and a small halo on the seat around him. It was as if
the fire from hell itself had swallowed him whole, then quenched itself out.

I had heard of this before, but never knew it to be true before witnessing it take my brother firsthand. SHC
(spontaneous human combustion), always thought by some to exist but without ever any proof—one theory is
that excessive amounts of alcohol can cause the body to ignite like a candle. And now hear I am, tried for the
murder of my own brother, my sanity doubted by my own parents, and no way to prove my case. I never know
if I’ll ever get over the horror of what happened to my brother or if I’ll find any logic behind it, but as I sit here
and look at the sweating brow of my incredulous public attorney, I can only pray that I get off on the insanity