Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Sitting down in front of the fire I realized that it had been a long time since I had been out on a very cold winters night in front of a fire full of flames.  My nephew had dragged me out here because for some reason or other he wanted to bond or some such shit.  I was sure his mother had something to do with it, because this kid had the motivation of a slug in December. The scent of a woman was about the only thing that made him move faster than his shadow at night.

Just as I was getting comfortable between the rocks that littered the site, I looked over and noticed that the end of his sleeping bag was on fire.  This kid was not to bright. No common sense.  I might add that his dad should have stayed around; I like to think that common sense comes from the father.  But as I sat here looking at his sleeping bag catching fire, I thought back to the fourth grade when I lived with my father.  He turned me loose with a cutting torch and told me to cut all of the old lawnmowers behind his shop in half.  I wondered if he could get custody these days?

I knew it was going to be a long night when I leaned over and watched as my nephew threw his burning bag into the stream to quench the fire.  Glad he wasn’t burned but was I about a share a bag with a man or relinquish mine and opt out for the extra bedding I thought to bring.  Just because you’re a man and you don’t hang out in the bars or have drinking buddies doesn’t mean you don’t have a life escape.

I had fun in school, the Army made it tough.  Marrying made it easier again, now widowed…. I was getting use to it.

The Kid leaned forward and spit into the flames and said, “Know anything about fireflies?  Why couldn’t those hookers have stayed in the site next to ours?”  The fire had died down to a mellow roar now with only five of those log things you buy in the grocery store in it.  What good is a mans spunk if it doesn’t have any follow thru?  He continued:,”You know what I mean?  Fire flies?”

I told him I know they’re in the south and you can smear them on your skin and run around and glow in the dark.

“What’s to know about fireflies?”

He went on to tell me about how they could spread the moss from the south side of the trees to the north side and fake out lost travelers.

Holy shit!  I’m trapped in a Ridgemont High movie with Spicoli.  I never thought of my Sis as an acid user, but now I knew it wasn’t his idea, but my sisters.  This one should have fallen out of the tree.  I started to say something when our campsite lit up like the 4th.  I found myself having trouble breathing; the air was full of what seemed to be paper.

In the morning I would come to find out some office types tied a helium balloon to a bag of office shredded paper and lit the fuse to a M80 and let it go.  Lucky us.  I even felt sorry for the kid.  He had just totally covered himself with this unbelievable bug lotion and you can only imagine what he looked like now, and he had my sleeping bag.  You know there’s something to be said about winter but right now I can’t imagine what.

It gets dark at 5 pm unless you’re somewhere not in the Midwest.  Here, the sun goes behind something and its dark by 3:30 pm.  Oh, to be in the Midwest. Maybe we could fix a big dinner, oh yeah we had that at 2:30 pm because it was getting dark and we didn’t have any lights.  Seems they’re sitting back on the curb in town, probably with everything we’ll need in the morning, but what the hell.

By now, the group that sent the paper flying was getting loud.  I looked over at the Kid.  What the hell is going through their minds when their heads are snapping back and forth as fast as they can to some music? This kid wouldn’t have seen a nuclear explosion.

Maybe brain cells can fall out of the orifices in the head.  I met a man at a reunion party once that believed that if you sleep too much on your side you could lose brain cells, another holy shit.

Just then, the hookers showed up.  They hadn’t left for good. They just didn’t trust us and took everything to dinner with them.  I leaned this the next morning.  I also became aware that we were about as scary as a couple of Grandpa Walton’s and they were all over us like, you know, mother hens.

They must have known that I was the one with all the common sense.  I was sure the Kid  was loosing more brain cells about now.  You know how many different directions flames can go, being directed by the wind?

I missed my wife, she was the best. She made everything right.  I heard movement behind me, turned to see a women tripping over an old wet sleeping bag that was still smoldering.  After her little dance she ended up next to me on the rock I had spent the last hour on.  she told me that her name was Cleo and asked if I did this much.  Not sure what she meant, so I said, “Do what, camp out?  Oh, not really, my wife thought camping out was staying in a good hotel.  this is the first time in a long time.”

“Me too,” she said “Actually, this is my first time.  I was brought up in New York City.  The closest I got to this was picnics in Central Park.”

I didn’t know anyone who had  picnics in Central Park.  I like her already. the sleeping bag was getting a little loud and I thought to myself, maybe I should have eaten more junk food as a kid. Cleo looked over and back at me and smiled.  I don’t know how the kid did it but the fire had three more logs on it.  the night seemed right.  we talked for awhile about this and that and finally she asked, “What are you doing out here with only a couple of blankets?” She went on to say that even she knew to bring a subzero bag out here.  Oh, boy, I thought to myself, I just slipped down the food chain three notches and she probably made more money than me to boot.

I wasn’t sure if telling her about the fire, the sleeping bad, and the creek was going to hold much weight being that he was with one of the girls.  But she seemed to understand perfectly.  I felt perplexed.  About then, things on the other side of the fire started to stir.  Things like asking  how old was he, and sounds of “Wow,”  and “Is it morning yet” could be heard.

I thought to myself, at least I make more noise when I’m having fun.

Cleo shook her head in agreement, like she could read my mind.  Just then three more logs went on the fire.  No wonder the kids of today don’t have any money….it’s all wasted having fun and man that really sucks.  I reached over and grabbed Cleo’s hand and held it, I’m not sure why, but it seemed the thing to do.  The next thing I knew, all the girls had their sleeping bags next to our grocery store log fire and was settling in for the night. I didn’t feel old but I certainly felt like a den mother right about then.  Cleo was shaking her head in agreement, to what I wasn’t sure, but I had a warm feeling in my chest.

Cleo and I sat up talking all night.  By morning I had learned that she was a Behavioral Science major and these girls were also students but had been busted for having too much fun on campus.  Cleo had taken them on as a project for the weekend for extra credit.

You know the problem with un chaperoned dated is that you tend to think with your heart and not with your head.  Cleo and I are luck.  We’re celebrating our 15 year as husband and wife and we’re happy.

You ask, did I bond with the Kid that night, and all I can say is…. can anyone bond with a 21 year old man that’s surrounded by a bunch of happy hookers?

Ah Shucks.


2 thoughts on “A Night By the Fire”
  1. That is a great short story. The wonderful things that happen by becoming close to the natural world. But who wrote the story?

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