AN IMPROMPTU VOLCANO • by Kevin Brennan

We were alarmed at first, my wife and I, when the small volcano appeared in our backyard. It had sprouted up one night, like a mushroom.

It was no taller than a standard Weber grill, I’d say, and about ten feet wide, maybe. Kind of a cute little volcano, actually. And it was definitely a volcano, we could tell, because it pooted out little puffs of smoke with an acrid sulfurous odor. It had taken out our built-in fire pit when it shot up, the fragments of which were strewn about its base.

We weren’t sure what to do, so we called the city, and they said if it wasn’t dangerous there was no reason to do anything. It wasn’t against code apparently. Garden volcano — no, not prohibited. Do keep us informed, they said.

The kids loved it. They climbed all over it and played a sort of “king of the hill” game. We said to stay away from the cauldron, though.

A few days after it first appeared, we noticed that it had grown some, maybe now as tall as a firetruck? Its peak was definitely above eye level anyway, and now its slopes reached all the way to our fences on each side of the yard. I noticed stress cracks in the house foundation, and I started worrying a little more at that point.

The next morning it began spitting out hot lava. Genuine lava. We forbade the kids from playing on it now, even though the lava flowed down only so far before it cooled enough to solidify. But lava’s kind of a serious thing. I understand it can range from 1300°F to 2400°F, actually.

We took photos and videos, naturally, and some of them went viral.

We called up the university and they sent over a geologist who said he’d never seen anything like this before. A baby volcano springing up from nothing. In a suburban yard. He took soil samples and samples of the cooled lava, taking care to stay away from the super-hot fresh lava flowing freely now and creeping closer and closer to the house.

It smelled up a storm now too.

One day the volcano had grown another few feet and the lava reached the house and set it on fire.

And that’s when we said, Okay. That’s it. We’re moving.


Kevin Brennan is the author of six novels, including Parts Unknown (William Morrow/HarperCollins), Yesterday Road, and, most recently, Eternity Began Tomorrow. He’s also the editor of The Disappointed Housewife, a literary magazine for writers of offbeat and idiosyncratic fiction, poetry, and essays. He lives with his wife in California’s Sierra foothills.


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