The Darker the Smoke

The pine tree over the back fence whispered, “I told you so”. Jean had once again fooled her brother into doing her weeding for her. “If you help me we can get this done then we will have more time to play.” Terrance heard an unspoken “together” after the word play. He had no idea that the “we” in “time to play” didn’t include him. Jean was always a step ahead of him and on to something else before she even started what was right in front of her. Terrance didn’t stand a chance. He was always there for her and it took years before he realized that being there for her wasn’t always such a good idea. Tying someone’s shoe laces for them until they go to school can create some issues when you are no longer there to do it for them.

Jean had been gone for hours. Terrance moved from the vegetable garden to the sand pile. Maintenance faded into creation. Weeds into highways with bridges and the buildings they serviced. Time passed outside of the construction zone but was disconnected within. An unexpected glance to the east captured a thick black pillar of curling smoke that was about to change that. The darker the smoke, the more trouble it seemed to bring, his father once told him.

Mom was in the kitchen talking with a neighbor. Dad was out of town on a business trip. Terrance rushed in, “fire!” “What? Where?” Faster than Chocolate Quick an adventure was instantly born as everyone piled into the car. Excitement fueled anticipation as Terrance bounced into the back of the station wagon on the car mattress and they were on their way. On a windless day the air rushed through one window and out the other like a wind tunnel.

The siren’s began to get louder. Cars lined the narrow road. Adrenaline rushed across fields and over fences. Closer now, so close that lights flashed through the back window. The siren wasn’t coming from the location of the fire, it was going to the fire and it was gaining quickly. The road narrowed along with the options for getting out of the way. You cannot inch slowly, cautiously over to the side of the road to get out of the way when lights are flashing, sirens are blaring and horns are honking. The ditch of discovery, the ditch of despair came from out of know where. The car tilted to one side and came to a stop. The fire engine rushed by pushing the wind out of its path. Ditches are not so dismissive. They are meant to hold what passes through and to carry it to its destination. With a backwards jump their destination abruptly changed.

The officer making the report was nice enough not to laugh as each accidental explorer climbed out the windows on the left side of the car. Being safe never felt so good. Being stranded without a way home never felt so strange. Having your Dad not there for you when you really needed him never felt so lonely.

The walk home was filled with questions. Legal questions from “Terrance the survivor” to his mother who now had a record with the police department even though she said, “it wasn’t that kind of record”. The longer they walked the more the questions came. Relief for his mother came into sight like an oasis on the other side of State street. Dale’s AG promised refuge from the beating heat of her inquisition. The coldest aisle in the store beckoned to her. Hope comforted her jangled nerves as she pulled the sliding glass on the top of the freezer to one side. Rocket-pops were liberated from the chest and passed to each and the terms of Terrance’s parole were explained. “Nothing is to be said to Dad when he comes home from his trip and the Rocket-pop is yours.” The red, white and blue of the Rocket-pop on a hot summer day drowned out the words of his self appointed parole officer. The nod was not, “sure, not a word”, but instead it was, “sure, I’d love one.” Rocket-pops have a way of hypnotizing anyone who can barely see over the top of the checkout counter. It really wasn’t fair.

To the relief of his mother it was much quieter leaving the store than going in. Frozen goodness on a stick has a way of not only coloring your tongue but silencing the most annoying chatter you’re trying to avoid. When the pop was gone Terrance began to chew the wood stick to extract the last of the juice that had soaked in. Fortunately for his mother it lasted all the way home.

A trip to the towing yard a day or so later released the station wagon back into their custody. His father still was not home. Lesson learned. Note taken.

Unfortunately, with the arrival of his father more than luggage was brought home. Questions came softly enough so Terrance didn’t suspect a thing. The great fire truck chase adventure was told in literally one prolonged, oxygen deprived breath. His mothers face went pale, his fathers eyebrows lifter higher on his forehead that he thought possible. Suddenly Terrence watched his whole life pass before him. At least the part where he was back in Dale’s AG and a Rocket-pop was extended towards him in his mother’s hand. The words he never heard that day were heard in slow motion now. If he had only heard the words that day. . . he would have offered to renew his contract of silence today before his father came home when he had the chance. Now all possibility of renewing his love with Rocket-pops melted between the looks his father gave to his mother.

Some bribes only last as long as the payment they are made with.

Just sayin. . .

One thought on “The Darker the Smoke

  1. “Time passed outside of the construction zone but was disconnected within.”, and therein lies the definition of child’s play.
    I think back to playing alone at a young age and those words ring so true.
    Lovely story, beautifully constructed. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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