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fire pit was equal distance between the hundred year old cabin and
the shallow lake. It was laid there by his great grandfather and
it was still the perfect place for it. How many fires, conversations,
songs, laughs and tears took place around that venerable pit over
the countless years, Cory could only imagine.
It was now past
midnight and the fire was snapping and popping in the cool evening,
still going strong. He was alone by the smokeless fire staring into
the bright orange coals. There was nothing quite like a heaping bed
of coals at the end of a long nights burning. He went through
a lot of wood tonight and now those coals ominous bright orange
- shimmering at him all alone by the small black lake. Those coals are
the color of heat he thought to himself. No, they were the color of
hell. If hell had a color - it was this particular brand of orange
he was sure of it. He continued staring into the hell, there at his
All around the fiery pit stood the empty chairs and they made a perfect
circle including the one he was in. He leaned over the side of his lawn
chair and studied the dark sandy ground where he had piled gads of wood
earlier in the afternoon. There were still a few bits left, so he tossed
another piece of silver birch onto the fire, not so much to feed the
burn but just to get rid of the wood.
He scanned the empty chairs again as he sipped his red wine.
Thats when he saw her.
She was in the middle chair, opposite side of the circle, and he could
see her overtop the dancing flames.
"I cant believe what Im seeing."
She didnt say anything.
"Are you really there?"
Still nothing but a peaceful silence.
"I guess I must be drunk," he said.
"Are you drunk?"
"So you can talk."
"I can talk."
"What are you doing here?"
"I came to see you."
"Wow, I honestly dont know what to say. Its incredible
to see you."
"It is, yes. Its good to talk to you again."
He looked at her in quiet disbelief and although he was amazed and excited,
he was not alarmed.
"I really cant believe this is happening."
"Im here, you can believe it."
"This is too amazing," he said
"How are you Cory?" she asked him.
"Im okay I guess. Much better now."
He looked her over carefully. She was wearing cottage clothes like she
might have done long ago, a turtle neck and a pair of baggy jeans. There
were no signs of additional aging, or undue wear and tear upon her,
she looked just as he remembered.
"So obviously there is an afterlife then I guess youre
proof of that?" he asked.
"You guess Im proof?"
"Well maybe I am just drunk."
"Are you drunk?"
"Probably a little yeah. If I was truthful about it."
He sat up straight and took another sip of the merlot in his glass then
he leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees to take a closer
look at her.
It was her all right and she was sitting there in front of him plain
as plain can be.
"Its been twenty years now since you left," he said.
"I was twenty- three when you went."
"Its been a long time."
"So why now? Why tonight after all this time?"
"Better now than never, dont you think?"
"Absolutely. Im just glad to see you."
He smiled at her and she smiled back. Theyd always had a certain
way of smiling at each other and it had been too long since they did
that together. It brought a comfort to him.
"Why did you come then? Do you have something to tell me?"
"In a fashion I do," she said.
"What does that mean exactly? Are you here to help me somehow?"
"In a fashion I am yes."
"Well what kind of fashion. How can you help me now?"
"I cant do too much really."
"No? So whats it like for you?"
"Im not supposed to talk about me, only about you."
"So I cant ask you about heaven and what its like?"
"I couldnt tell you anything about it."
"I just cant."
"You said you were here to help me. How are you going to help me?"
"Like I said, I cant do too much really."
"You cant give me three wishes or something like that?"
"No. I am not some kind of genie in a bottle and it doesnt
work that way."
"I can always use money."
"Sorry, but I couldnt do it for you anyhow. I told you I
am not some magical genie."
"Maybe not but youre still my mother arent you?"
"Of course Im still your mother."
He paused in silence, not quite understanding. Still, he felt calm in
"So how can you help me?"
"Do you need help?"
"You know what happened."
"Maybe I know some."
"Why dont you tell me what happened?"
"You know what the hell happened, or you wouldnt have come."
"I honestly dont know much because I wasnt there."
"I thought youre supposed to be everywhere and you can see
everything all the time."
"Thats not how it works."
"So how does it work then?"
"I am only there with you if you want me to be."
He didnt know what to say or ask next. So he sat there watching
her for a long moment. He wasnt too sure he wanted to have this
conversation with her at all. Hed had it with himself over and
over again. Still, he didnt see any clear way around it either.
"So why dont you tell me what happened?" she said.
"You bloody well know what god damn happened."
"I told you I dont know."
He drank another big sip and looked down at his feet. He started kicking
at the sand in front of his chair. His mind traveled back in time -
three weeks when he was alone in the garage back at home, on
that sticky night, at three in the morning. He had it in his hand, cold
steel, it was loaded, three rounds, two more than he needed. He wasnt
crying at the time, but he was sweating. He thought for sure hed
do it, but he didnt. He looked up at her again. She was still
there and he could tell that she had traveled back in thought with him.
"I had it in my mouth for over ten minutes," he finally started
"That must have been terrifying."
"I had to take it out because I was drooling on it."
"Then what happened?"
"I put it under my chin for a while."
She wiped a tear from her cheek as she listened. "And then?"
"Then I put it against my temple."
"For how long?"
"At least ten more minutes. I pushed so hard I had a mark there
for two days afterwards."
"Where is it now?"
"In the car, under the drivers seat."
He stood up and walked around the fire toward her chair keeping his
eyes fixed upon her to ensure she didnt accidentally melt away.
He didnt want to lose her like you might lose a cell phone signal
in the deep woods. He moved right alongside her and squatted down close
by her lap still looking into her face.
"I cant believe its really you."
"Im so glad youre here right now."
"Can I touch you, or is that against the rules?"
"You can touch me."
He set his wine glass down in the sand and put both arms around her.
He squeezed her tight and she felt familiar. It was a warm memory returned
from another lifetime, unremembered until now and yet now unforgettable.
"I love you," she said.
"I miss you so much."
He kept hanging on to her and didnt want to let go. He started
crying on her shoulder. She moved her mouth to his ear and kissed it
gently. He was crying full on now.
She squeezed him tighter and then whispered in his ear.
"Lets go to the car together and get it"
The fire cracked proudly and sparks rose up in the warm night air before
cascading downward across the stony fire pit, richly illuminated in
its orangey splendor.
© James Nantau October 2008
Stories in Dreamscapes
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