cleansing flame

“What are you doing?”

Joe peered quizzically over Anton’s shoulder and watched, transfixed by fascination and fear, as his friend sparked the lighter into life.  The small yellow flame held steady, held the power to set them free, and held the capacity to imprison them forever.  Neither wondered how something so small could irrevocably change the world.  They too were small and knew they had the same possibility within them.

“Thinking about starting a fire,” Anton finally answered.  The words were passionless but his eyes danced with pain.

Joe looked from his friend to the flame and back again, “Why?”

Anton shrugged and snapped the lighter shut with a well practiced flick of his wrist.  “No reason in particular,” he muttered and looked into Joe’s face to see if his friend was going to read more of it than he should.  Anton didn’t need another lecture from his parents.  Not that day.  Not ever again.

He felt Joe’s eyes slide away, sheepish and dull.  It wasn’t what he wanted to see, but it was better than the fear that might have been there.

“Come on,” Anton jumped up, “let’s go climb the slide tower at the park.”

Joe perked up, relieved, and nodded in smiling assent, “Okay.”

The two kids raced down the block, their steps ringing in echoes on the suburban street.  Anton slipped the lighter into his backpocket for later.  Joe tried to push the whole thing from his mind, but would never forget the pain he’d seen in his friend’s eyes.

It hadn’t just been Anton’s pain there.  It had been the whole world’s.  The starving.  The dying.  The bullied and abused.  The hurt.  The sick.  Anton felt it all and couldn’t process it, couldn’t handle the darker truths of the world.  Joe knew it was only a matter of time before the lighter sparked again, found a fuel, and unleashed Anton’s desire to see the world burn.

Joe didn’t understand completely.  He didn’t feel like his friend did.  The darkness didn’t eat at his soul.  But, he did know that sometimes, like a forest fire, you need to raze what is existing to make room for change, for new life, for something better.

The thoughts clung to him, burned him, even as he smiled and laughed and screamed as he and his friend romped around the park.

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10 thoughts on “cleansing flame

  1. And… not a comment but mine. I often wonder what people are made of. Are they filled with fire and just repress it? Or are they just here to pass the time? I don’t judge either/or, but I wonder, and god how I wonder. And yes, I’d ignite it all, because sometimes you just have to burn the temple down. I coined that phrase long ago, drunk as hell, sitting with my buds on a rooftop, looking on the city, and that was the only thing I could think of. That we should burn the temple down. That we have to.

    The whole world’s hurt. I just look around sometimes, look up, and wonder what the hell… how did we even get here? If it’s a cosmological set of circumstances and chance (which I believe is the case), we are phenomenally lucky. I believe we are meant for great things, if not by obligation to pay back our luck, then because we are essentially good. I believe that. We are good. We just trip over ourselves at times, on the road to something more profound.

    • I wasn’t expecting many comments on this one. I’d hoped for some interaction, but… well, Friday in the kingdom always seems a bit quieter than every other day, and then I wasn’t sure my normal readers would know what to do with this one. I knew you’d respond, though, since it was written in response to your call to arms.
      Burn the temple down? Yes… why not. Things are certainly broken and scrapping it all and starting over, while not the only solution, would probably be the quickest way to get it done.
      I love your closing line… on the road to something more profound. We all just need dance lessons so we are more nimble on our feet and quick tripping over ourselves…

  2. Yeah, I get the thoughts on this. Sometimes, something is so broken you can’t fix it, you have to clear it away and start afresh. Only we can’t do that with the world, if we break it too much then we break everything. Anton needs a little time to learn this, and then maybe he could be more effective in being a clearer.

    • I’m not sure Anton is too worried about the world… just the people on it… And there are several ways to wipe them away without hurting the world itself. Or, perhaps that is what you meant – that the people are too ingrained in the world to change them without also hurting the world…

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