The Heater Hog
Fire roars through over and through its victims, leaving visible scars in its wake. Fourteen year old Jason Lightfoot has learned that lesson the hard way.
His next lesson will be even more painful.
Jason is yet to learn that fire can also burn - unseen - within. Buried in a guilty conscience it razes love and hope and happiness - and inflames cowardice.
Can he survive those flames? More
Jason Lightfoot is fourteen years old...but his years do not match the brutal vastness of his experiences. At ten, Jason suffered horrific burns in a household accident. An old kerosene heater which he was reading in front of, somehow overturned and set the boy alight. Jason survived his injuries but the intervening years have been filled with torturous rehabilitation and further cosmetic operations. But Jason was born with an indomitable spirit, a warrior mother and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of generally supportive 'L' Laheys. Bruce and Cheryl 'Cher' Lahey had begun their married life as neighbours to Mark and Michelle 'Micky' Lightfoot. In fact, Cher and Micky were lifelong friends. After the arrival of their fifth son - all of whom had names beginning with 'L' - the elder Lahey's had reluctantly decided they needed more spacious housing. They had been in the throes of moving when Jason had had his accident. Fortunately their new home was only a few kilometres away. This reality had softened their second eldest's roars of complaint, for Lionel and Jason were best friends and the timing of the parting had been particularly torturous for both boys.
Mark Lightfoot, once the hero of his son, had also chosen distance.
Unable to cope with the deformities burned into his son's face, the university lecturer in English and Creative Writing had abandoned his wife and son - and was unaware of the birth of his daughter Justine, nine months after his departure. Neither mother nor son spoke about the betrayer.
Lee Lahey had also abandoned Micky. Once as close to her as he had been to his own mother, he had nevertheless refused to speak with her since Jason's accident. His relationship with his parents and brothers, particularly Lionel, had also devolved in that time.
Now sixteen, his ongoing bullying of Jason had recently escalated. He and Jason's school nemesis, Paul McDougall, form an alliance based on their mutual hatred of 'the mutant'. Paul is the privileged son of a wealthy businessman. He is a high achieving student and sportsman whom his teachers agree will 'go far'. Blessed with good looks, cultivated charm and natural leadership abilities, Paul is also the girls’ favourite. Most boys and small animals however, share neither view.
Welded to the path of his father's abuses and prejudices, Paul has long declared Jason's deformities an 'affront'. His bullying of the boy however, has failed to elicit the desired response.
Jason refuses to acknowledge his own inferiority. He is, he agrees, ugly. This fact is not to be disputed given the reality of his facial scars, the youngster concedes. However, he answers the bully's abuses, if Paul finds his visage so disagreeable all he has to do is not look at it. That way, Jason concludes, they will both be the happier for being out of each other's sight.
Lee and Paul combine their mutual hatred and knowledge of their inflexible foe and create a plan of vengeance. There is one entity the mutant cannot ignore - fire!
After two fiery 'accidents', Micky calls the senior Laheys' over to discuss their growing concerns and suspicions. None of them want to name Lee as the potential instigator, but three year old Justine innocently repeats an overheard conversation...
At the Lahey residence Lionel watches Paul McDougall cross their yard. The reason for his elder brother's recently increased abusiveness suddenly becomes clear. He confronts Lee - and learns more than his fourteen years have equipped him to handle. Realising what McDougall has in store for the Lightfoot household, he frantically rings the residence. Micky is unable to translate his screeched warnings and calls Bruce to the phone, wasting precious minutes. Before he can explain to his father he hears an explosion...
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