Monday, November 21, 2011
Magpie Tales: Sinatra sang it
It was at camp one year.
Fire consumed the logs in angry red, shimmering on our faces. Pops and hisses, the wood let us know it was not going willingly, but its screams were unheeded. Outside the ring of its warmth, where we only ventured to relieve our aching bladders, the night quickly crawled under skin and into bones. Those that did leave in search of a tree returned pale and shaking.
Our counselor, the one in charge of our lodge, was Chris. His last name is no longer important. He was a college kid only a little older than we were at the time. Being his first time in charge of other human beings, he made sure we followed his every whim. If you did not, you were made to stand on the deck while everyone else settled into their bags.
This night Chris was showing a different side. For the fire time of the week, he was one of us.
He spoke low, causing each of us to draw closer until the heat from the fire clawed at our faces, but we would gladly pay the penance to hear what he was saying. His words were dark magic, explaining things we had never heard before, arcane and unusual. His eyes may well have birthed the flames they were so close to color in their reflection.
Chris spoke of a man who one day found himself burning with a flame that he could not put out. A fire that ate his body, little by little, that had no means of starting, other than it just did. It appeared and began the job of disposing of him. Chris called it spontaneous combustion and swore that it was real, that he could show articles as proof that it happened.
I lay awake that night, staring at the springs of the bunk above mine, tracing how they joined in hooks from one side to the next. They flexed and recoiled with each move of the bed's occupant. I imagined the pain as flesh blacked and cracked and wondered if it would hiss as the logs had on the fire that evening. Would it be quick or slow enough that the horror of reality would drive me to madness.
I know now that it will and that it is real. It gnaws at me, my muscles clenching and releasing in their rebellion and I listen for the hiss. It escapes my lips and I get a sideways glance or two but mostly everyone ignores or returns to the conversations. Happy, gay and intoxicated with the holidays, intent on trying the hor d'oeuvres, their talk is a dull roar pierced by laughter here and there. They are oblivious.
You bite the edge of your lips in a mischievous smile. Despite every one's ignorance, even fully clothed, you know what you do to me, with just one look. An olive perched on the edge of a tooth pick rises to pass your lips and I fear the pain may take me before they leave if you don't stop. Desperation lays siege to my thoughts with fantasies of how I might get them to leave, a slow burning madness that is us. Leaving us laying in a field of ash, the remnants of all else.
You look ravishing tonight, my dear.
This is a Magpie Tale.