George Washington arrived in America in 1776 as a stowaway on a Spanish galleon named for a god he would father. He removed his teeth in order to hide doubloons and silkworms in his mouth as he crouched inside a cask of gunpowder. Inhaling scorched the hair from his nostrils and the accent from his throat. Exhaling started a fire which consumed the ship and cast him into a black sea. Here be monsters, the Spaniards drowned. George Washington swam for 40 days until he washed up in Virginia. When he coughed to clear his throat of silkworms he burned Norfolk to the ground. He tried to say, I name this land George Washington but the British couldn’t make out the words through the flames. So George Washington took the fire in his stomach and evaporated the ocean and chased the British back to England, blacking the backs of their red coats. George Washington learned that countries begin with fire, but there are many types of fire. Fire drinks oceans. Fire tempers earth and consciences. Fire from the mouth of a man in a 3-corner hat keeps British children up nights. Though the children never heard it, they remember the sound from his throat. They remember it sounded like America. They remember how there used to be an ocean between them and their cousins and how impossible it once was to cross that distance.
Adam Peterson lives in Houston where he co-edits The Cupboard, a quarterly prose chapbook series. His series of short-shorts, My Untimely Death, is out from Subito Press, and his other work has recently appeared in La Petite Zine, Ninth Letter, Open City, and Denver Quarterly among other journals.