firelight - a short story

The shadow of the crimson van fell long upon the hillock next to the road as the sun faded into the west. Dry, warm air flowed into the van, warmer than was typically felt early in the fall.

This evening promised to be an exceptional one for lounging around a crackling campfire, watching dancing flames lick at old dead wood.

It had been a long and tiring day for the occupants of the van because of the chores, which had to be taken care of before relaxation could be found.

The van wound up the steep, narrow mountain road and moments before the sun set completely behind the distant mountain range, rolled into a dense forest of pine, oak and tall manzanita.

A spot was selected in a small clearing within the thickest spot of the forest so as to make the collection of firewood a simpler task.

Ax in hand the eldest and strongest of the party began his search for dry, dead wood. The sound of metal biting deeply into gnarled old dead wood rang through the forest as the ax found it's mark. Some of the dead wood was nearly as hard as granite while other stock had been a home for termites and disintegrated as the ax struck it.

Limbs and branches, all fairly thick and some twenty feet long, were dragged back to the campsite where they could be lopped up into sizes capable of being neatly fit into the fire pit.

By the time the wood was dragged back to the clearing, a moonless night had fallen and a lantern had to be lit for illumination.

The branches were stripped of twigs, cut, and stacked carefully, a small portion in the fire pit, the remainder within easy reach.

A match struck brings fire to life. Slowly, at first, within a few pine needles, then rapidly as dry twigs ignite and fire engulfs the kindling and then the logs.

The magical sounds of crickets chirping, an owl hooting in the night, and the sounds of small rodents scurrying through the layered leaves on the forest floor were heard by ears hungry for sounds such as these.

Tongues of flame lapped eagerly at each log as it was placed anew upon the growing pile of glowing coals. Brilliant colors of yellow, orange and the deepest blue flowed caressingly across the wood making it crackle and snap as the night drifted lazily on.

As the fire began to die down, stars seem to leap down out of the crisp, clear sky. Clothing and hair alike had been permeated with the strong, tangy smell of burnt oak. There was very little movement within the camp and tired eyes are having trouble staying open.

The evening has proved to be an absolutely desirable one, evaporating the fatigue of living in an extremely fast paced and demanding society.

The fire watchers retired to their beds and it is not long before sleep comes to exhausted, but thoroughly relaxed bodies.

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