The Burning Boy

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Phoebe Thatcher sat in the stuffy local library flipping through the pages of a horse magazine, waiting for her mother to pick her up. She yawned and walked over to the dusty window, peering out to see if her mother's car was even on the street. It wasn't, so she walked back to the overstuffed chair she had been sitting in and resumed reading the article she had previously been looking at.

At four-thirty, her mother walked into the library, wiping the beads of sweat from her face. She looked around the dimly lit rooms until she saw her daughter and she walked over to her. "You're half an hour late, mother," Phoebe said, picking up a copy of Moby Dick and taking it to the checkout counter.

"I know, dear. I'm sorry. It's just that I had some unfinished business to attend to," responded Mrs. Thatcher in a voice with a secretive tone about it. Phoebe looked at her mother curiously but dismissed her tone soon after.

Outside, Phoebe's younger brother, Peter and the family's Border collie, Angel sat in the backseat of the station wagon. Mrs. Thatcher pulled out of the driveway of the library and oddly enough, turned in the opposite direction of the house. "Mom, you do realize you're going the wrong way, don't you?" asked Phoebe.

"I'm not going the wrong way," was all her mother would say. The car fell silent, save for Angel's panting and the sounds of the car itself.

The drive took about twenty minutes. Finally, they stopped in front of a small ranch house. A young man of about twenty-three years stood with a garden spade in his hand. Phoebe's mother told Peter to stay with Angel and told Phoebe to follow her.

The two got out of the car and walked over to the man. He didn't notice them at first. Mrs. Thatcher politely cleared her throat and the man stood up. "Afternoon, Joanne," said the man, addressing Phoebe's mother by her first name.

"And to you, Mr. Granger. I've come for what we discussed earlier," was Mrs. Thatcher's response. Phoebe wondered why her mother didn't just say what she wanted. Mr. Granger led the two around the back of his house to a barn. He opened the doors and led Phoebe and her mother to a beautiful chestnut colored mare.

"Thought we could afford her. Guess we should've waited until we were more established," said Mr. Granger. "She's yours now, Phoebe. Happy birthday!"

Phoebe let out a squeal of delight and ran to her new horse. She had completely forgotten that her twelfth birthday was the next weekend. She had wanted a horse of her own ever since she had first learned to ride. Mrs. Thatcher smiled and Mr. Granger laughed out loud at Phoebe's happiness. "This horse is your responsibility, Phoebe," said her mother. "I hope you will take good care of her."

"I will!" cried Phoebe and hugged the horse around the neck. Mrs. Thatcher arranged for her husband to pick the mare up the following day.

The next day, the mare was in her own stable in the Thatcher's barn. Phoebe and her father were looking at the horse with pride. "What are you going to name her?" asked Mr. Thatcher.

"Ginger," replied Phoebe knowing at once it was the perfect name. "I'm going to call her Ginger."

That afternoon, after Phoebe had done her chores, her mother allowed her to ride her new horse. Phoebe rode to a clearing in a small area of parched woodland. She stopped at a small stream that was almost dried up. There was enough water for Ginger to drink though.

After resting for a few minutes, Phoebe resumed her ride. It began to grow late and as she looked around, she realized that she was lost. She continued her ride, hoping for a familiar landmark to present itself.

Presently, Phoebe found herself in another, larger clearing with an old house at the other end. It looked deserted, but she decided to try knocking on the door. Just as she mounted the steps, a noise came from the side of the house. Phoebe turned and found herself looking at a young boy, a little younger than she was. "Hello?" she called. The boy grinned and as the last rays of sunlight slanted over the mountains and disappeared, the boy burst into flames. Phoebe screamed.

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