The dying hawthorn branches crackle and spit with the fury of fireworks, their leaping glow an impossible promise of potential – an intensity, a vigour which fades to nothing in moments. John forks the pile, pushing its life to an ever-shrinking centre point. He is pleased to have a physical task with which to occupy himself, gratified by the heat, the wayward sparks pricking his skin, the coiling smoke which stings his throat and waters his eyes. Something needed to trigger a release.
His wife has told him, only hours earlier and almost in apologetic passing, they are expecting another child – a seventh. There is no room for more, not in the house, not in his heart, and yet what can a man do other than wrap an arm around her briefly, we’ll manage. It is a mistake. An error. A mishap that must now be transformed into a hope. It is the remnants of a similarly conceived fire – a clumsy attempt to create something stronger, something which rises more delicately to intensity, burns off its early passion and settles into a lasting flame. Something which slowly, only slowly, becomes embers – and, still, that solid warmth – before it finally turns to ash.
But such a fire needs a stronger base. A bed of dry kindling, hefty well-seasoned logs and enough air to fan but not disperse its flame. Such a fire needs the sort of forward-looking attention to preparation and selection and execution which only comes from experience. It must be planned well, before it starts. Enthusiasm alone is not enough. Yet it was all they’d had some two decades before. That and a desire to escape the ashes of their own parents’ failings. The urge to fly. He’d always felt it and had thought with her, his wife, it was the same – or at the very least that she would cling on tight as he flexed his wings and took them both elsewhere. That they would soar. Together.
He kicks the final twigs into scattered embers, fragments of passion which now flicker weakly and which will, before he’s even washed the grime from his skin, ebb into the darkness and be gone.
4 Replies to “Flame, embers and ash”
I like the way the first sentence loops into the last. Here's a man who needs a challenge 🙂 Is this story going to be about the seventh child, the special one?
he is a phoenix!
sandie, i loved the correlation between the physical fire the man is tending and his own life. i am from a country where couples especially the more materially deprived are the ones having lots of children. this line — "and yet what can a man do other than wrap an arm around her briefly, we’ll manage. It is a mistake. An error. A mishap that must now be transformed into a hope." — is so true.
Thanks, folks.It's not a story about the 7th child… though that would be an interesting one – but, for me at this point, a distraction! It's just a small scene from my WIP. The poor baby in question is irrelevant to the story, I'm afraid.Yes, Sito, it's one of several almost inevitable consequences of poverty the world over. In this instance it's a lesser version of same thing – the character a lowly worker, living in cramped conditions, contrasted against that of his employer who lives alone in a large castle… albeit unhappily. But it's a cheerful story really!F… phoenix. Yes, he is! As, of course, are we all!