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.