(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

There is no single unified plot in “Assorted Fire Events.” Instead, as its title suggests, the story is a series of events about fire, related to one another only insofar as they are of interest to the narrator writing about them.

In the first paragraph, the narrator recalls one winter when he was thirteen and living in Michigan when a man set fire to several cottages. In the spring when the snow melted, the narrator loved the sight of the black charred remains of one of the cottages and adds it to his “line-up of memorable images.”

For the second fire event, the narrator describes sitting in his study writing and listening to his children playing outside when a fire breaks out at a nearby house because of the spontaneous combustion of varnish-soaked rags. In a footnote, the writer provides a biographical basis for this event, saying that in the previous spring when a house near him was reduced to rubble, he heard the children hollering for joy.

The third fire event focuses briefly on a boy named Shank who pours gasoline on a dog and sets it on fire. The fourth event, which the narrator says in another footnote is a horrible tragic fact, describes how his aunt pours gasoline on her head and body and sets herself on fire, dying a few hours later, her flesh consumed. The aunt has left a note written in the first person from the point of view of the gas can.

In the final and most detailed fire event, the narrator...

(The entire section is 484 words.)