Extinguished Camp Fires Burn

By John McCabe

It had been such a sunlit sacrament of a day, sunlight and breezes in the trees and mirrors of sylvan reflections on the water. Our evening campfire fire could have been hypnotic, just what we needed to bring peace and contemplation to us in the woodland in that last week of May.

Phillip Brown was sitting at our fire, the open blaze darting lights in his eyes, bright flashes of yellow, orange. And thus his eyes burned and his words, sharp tongued, flew into the evening that surrounded us.  In the end you realize you can’t stop others from repeating those complaints that are so injurious to you and to them as well, of course. Philip’s scorn and pain like the flames seared our hearing. We were disturbed. Our harmony shattered.

Finally Philip gathered his things, emptied his glass over the fire in a hiss, and left in his old brown car. I always thought of brown as a humble color. As he drove up the hillside I said his name, searching for some meaning to offset his agony. “Philip Brown,” I said again in a whisper, “I wish good brown-like things for you.” I murmured something about the earth and wood, as two burnt logs collapsed into the embers.

When the fire ceased its glow with only specs of red and amber lingering, I noticed the moonlight. Looking up though the pines and the straight, tall poplars, I found the moon, a comfort, soft and silent and seemingly not so far away. Night sounds from the forest soothed my ears and my ears made wonder of each new noise. An unspent piece of wood ignited briefly before it too was reduced to sparks.

Brown was gone. Moonlight was painting the blackness into velvet blueness, almost grey, almost light enough for the search which we humans conjure always about our worlds.

The night itself became hypnotic, the day had departed. Sara touched my hand and it was just the two of us again, Sara and me and the breeze of night that sends us cabin dwellers so willingly off to bed. In the warmth of the blankets, she said to me, “You care about them all, don’t you — Brown and the rest of them, don’t you?”

“So do you,” I said and we slept soundly then, safe within the moonlight from the window while the sun traveled around the world again.


John McCabe, a lifelong writer in all genres, is an active member of the Writers Guild at the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center. His novel The Grey Pennies of Wars centers on his experience as a young soldier undergoing atomic bomb testing in Nevada and is actively seeking a publisher.

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