They were sitting quietly on their Montana porch in the blue space between evening and night watching the moon rise orange over the mountains. There was a gentle breeze, and there were full bellies, tanned skin, humidity-curled locks, and nothing but time. The crickets and frogs were serenading them in a pulsing chorus. The pine logs that made up the cabin behind them smelled damp and sweet and familiar like a mother. The girl, a ten-year-old just home from a month at summer camp, hugged her knees to her chest and took it in. They weren't really talking, just watching and listening side by side.
This was a father daughter moment that he knew enough to try to preserve, so he took out one of his Aladdin lamps and lit it with a match from the pocket of his Levi's. It cast a glow not all that dissimilar from that of the stars, and she wondered at the symmetry of it all: earth and sky. She felt the faint heat of the flame on her right cheek and saw her shadow to her left. In that moment she noted that within a shadow no imperfections like wrinkles or shifty eyes or guilt could be found. It was just the outline of a life, but the form of it nonetheless. Shadows held people's goodness.
After replacing the glass chimney of the lamp with his dirt stained hands, he turned the little knob on the brass part to roll the wick up further, causing the flame to go high into the flute, up towards the sky. She watched the flame dance blue and yellow against the glass, begging to be set free. It strengthened the shadows and lent them the crispness of mid-day shadows in the desert. Looking at her shadow in the nighttime, sitting on that porch made her feel strong and self-assured.
As the flame continued to dance against its containment walls, she began to wonder how the delicate glass, the womb of the lantern, could possibly sustain such an assaulting heat. She stared at the shimmering vessel and imagined with all her might the glass shattering, spidering, crinkling from the bottom up like a waterfall turned upside down. She imagined the glass snapping into billions of pieces, pictured it with all her might, in fact saw it clear as day in her mind's eye.
And then, before their eyes, in the blue space between evening and night, the reflective glass chimney of the lantern shattered with a violent explosion. The sound wasn't loud really, but it chilled her nonetheless. Shards of glass spewed onto the table before them. His immediate fatherly instinct was to shield her eyes before even his own, though it would have been impossible to be quick enough to offer any protection had the glass wanted to reach them.
Of course she hadn't needed to see it again anyway. Had she wished it into being?
A few of the tiny shards had passed through the flame on their way out of captivity, travelling like shooting stars, and were now glowing embers on the porch floor.
This is a dangerous post to write.
3 days ago