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[Fiction] More than a Kerosene Lamp

by Christine Arroyo

If you’d been dating this guy for six months, falling in love over shared environmental projects—his the ocean, yours the forest—if you’d been sailing down the Baja California coast for months, if you’d gone swimming with stingrays miles from shore, if he’d taught you how to dive for sea kelp, how to understand the migratory patterns of whales, how to identify wind and current details, if you’d fallen in love with his awe of the natural world, his commitment to veganism, then you, too, would be shocked when he brought out a kerosene lamp on the last day of the sailing trip, as if he knew that you’d take issue with it, as if he knew that you, who had handcuffed yourself to pipelines, spent nights in jail and only gotten off on a technicality, you who hadn’t flown in an airplane or driven a gas-guzzling car for years, that you of all people would be especially offended by this kerosene lamp, that you would want to smash it and throw all the parts into the trash, that you, too, would feel a boiling anger inside of you as he swings the lamp like he’s Ishmael from Moby-Dick, as you stand there wondering if you even know this man at all as he defends this kerosene lamp, saying how much he loves it, which makes you wonder if he loves it more than you, so as sea lions bark like dogs somewhere on shore, you tell him that kerosene burns even dirtier than almost any other fossil fuel, that it releases carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, that the initiatives in Africa to replace kerosene lamps and stoves with solar power are because the kerosene is poisoning people, giving them asthma and cancer, that kerosene lamps are like the gateway drug to all fossil fuels, and you will stare at him in shock as he says he doesn’t care about the carbon footprint of “one measly lantern”—his words, not yours—before you accuse him of being a privileged white male, and instead of being swayed by your passion, he then doubles down on this carbon-emitting lantern, holding it close to him like it’s his firstborn child as he points out that the Lycra spandex bathing suit you’re wearing is actually plastic and that your bathing suit is contributing to the poisoning of seabirds and the scourge of microplastics in every body of water on the planet. You look at him, speechless, and then you say, “My bathing suit isn’t made of Lycra,” even though you know it is.

Christine Arroyo’s work has been published in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Dark Recesses Press, Beyond Words, Burningword Literary Journal, and Variety Pack, to name a few. Her work has been nominated for Best of the Net and is also included in the Best Microfiction 2023 anthology. She has just completed her first novel about siblings navigating an increasingly warming world.


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