Study Guide

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

by Aimee Bender

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Girl in the Flammable Skirt” is a series of loosely connected, often symbolic, vignettes narrated by a teenage girl.

In the first section, the girl comes home from school to find her father wearing a backpack made of stone. She tells him to take it off, and he responds by giving it to her. She puts it on her own back and stands bent over in a corner, leaving her father free to move around the house. She asks him what is in the backpack, which is very heavy. He is watching television and replies simply that it is something he owns. She asks if she can put it down, but he says no, it has to be worn. The girl returns to school wearing the heavy backpack. The teacher sits down beside her while the other students do math exercises. The teacher brings her a tissue, even though the girl is not crying. The teacher says she just wanted to bring the girl something light.

In the second section, the girl relates a joke she has heard about two rats, in which one rat is in reality a dog.

The third section returns to the girl and her father. She tells him she loves him more than salt. He is touched by this remark. He had a heart attack two years ago, and because he has weak legs, he must use a wheelchair. Once he asked her to sit in a chair for a day to see what it was like. She sat in it for an entire afternoon and spent an hour of that time knocking against the wooden chair leg with her hands, for luck and protection. This annoyed her father.

She then visited the bathroom and gazed out of the window. The family lives in a high-rise apartment, and the girl often wonders what would happen if there was a fire and they had...

(The entire section is 680 words.)