Love by the Fire

Matthew Donnellon

Photo by Vadim Sadovski on Unsplash

John only knew three things.

He lived ten miles from the end of nowhere.

He was broke.

Both of those things weren’t changing any time soon.

He worked part time as a mechanic and it paid just enough to cover hunting and fishing supplies. He lived in his grandfather’s old cabin. So as long as he could eat that was pretty much the end of his worries.

He was on his way to the river now. He crossed the bridge down by the dam, and checked the little parking lot. There were a couple trucks on the north side of the road so he coasted a little further until he saw the trail on the south the side of the highway.

The old truck crunched on the gravel as he left the paved road behind. He swung around the trail until it opened up as he neared the river. People never came to this little spot, and that’s how John liked it. The summer tourists would be here soon and all the other spots would be full till fall.

He carried his pole out on the dock tossing a spinner bait and started reeling, pausing for a half second here and there and jiggling the tip of the rod just so.

He did it for another half hour and put his gear back in the truck and headed home.

It was just starting to get dark when he got to the cabin. He made some dinner and then fell asleep in the chair, a typical night back in the woods.

The next day he slept in because there wasn’t any work. He did the normal things one does when living in the sticks. He cut some firewood. He worked on his tractor.

He spent two hours patching a leaky spot in his roof.

He started up the side-by-side and tossed a couple tools in its little pickup bed. He jumped into the seat and started off along the property. The trails were getting sloppy and his grandfather would smack him if he saw their state.

He spent three hours at half a dozen spots, using a weed whacker, a shovel, and an ax. After sweating through his shirt and dirtying his hands, he headed back home.

There was a message on his phone. Danny and the boys got a camp site and were in the process of starting a bonfire.

John loaded up the cooler because sitting around poking logs set ablaze for hours into the night was made more tolerable when inebriated.

And that’s exactly what he did. Danny and his friends were already started and beginning to have trouble standing. He put his chair down in the sand and took over fire poking duties.

They heard a little commotion.

“What’s that?”

“The site on the other side of the trees has people at it,” Danny said.

“Yeah? Anyone we know?” John asked.

“Nah man, group of city people,” Danny said.

“Really? Already?”

“They come earlier every year.”

“That they do.”

And with that they went back to staring at the sky looking for shooting stars.

And that’s when he saw her.

She was heading from the parking lot to the other camp.

She stopped when she saw them, “Hi” was all she said.

But for John time stopped. He saw the fire in her eyes. He saw another universe in that half second. Like he was being born again.

“I’ll be right back,” John told his friends.

John never came back.

They found a log down by the river. It was quiet. They could still hear both groups.

They talked, and laughed, and introductions were made.

She hated the city and found a summer job out here in the sticks.

They sat and watched for falling stars.

John still says he saw more meteors that night than any other he’d seen before. He doesn’t think it was a coincidence.

Finally, the sun came up and they’d been talking all night. She was staying with some friends and didn’t want them to worry.

But, before she left they made plans for that night.

Soon they saw each other every evening. There were more fires. And more nights looking for shooting stars, because out in the country there isn’t much else to do.

By the end of that summer she moved into the cabin.

John found more shifts at the garage. There was less time for fishing and hunting but he didn’t care.

A few years later, they were both sitting by the fire. This time with two kids on their laps, and another on the way.

John looked at her again and he could still see the fire in her eyes.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI

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