CRACKLING FLAMES • by Julie Ann Shapiro

Sam got way too excited over those bright orange flames with the fingertips all a-blue and insisted we drive out to see the wild fires. I thought of Grandpa Joe’s warning, “Be wary of the fire spirit,” as we headed out and knew we should turn back, but Sam got so horny seeing half the county ablaze on the news. Besides, he asked real nice with his hands between my thighs if we could just see the flames on the big Eucalyptus trees in the forest up the road.

It’d be our first time getting laid. I told him that the cops and the fire department would never let us through the fire zone. Sam flashed me a badge, one he’d gotten off the Internet, and as for me I whipped out a bag of condoms I’d been keeping for the day I worked up my nerve.

Oh, there’d been opportunities with other boys at the diner where I worked and countless times with Sam while we watched movies at my house when Mom and Dad fell asleep and we’d sneak out back to watch the stars or so we’d always say. Somehow we never got around to doing it. I think we were each scared of bumping the wrong way our first time.

With the fires looming in the distance and viewable from our windshield those prior fears of our supposed clumsiness seemed so small. We coughed and my eyes itched as Sam suggested we drive there naked. And we did it too. The smoke got so thick outside, no one could have seen our clothes anyways.

The cops saw the car alright, an oldie Ford Sedan that Sam revved up so it’d hiccup high off the road on cue when he braked to the point of screeching. The cops didn’t see that trick of Sam’s. I kind of wished they did and that Sam could have shown off a bit, being our night and all. They put their sirens on and shouted through a megaphone, “Leave on the double” on account of the flames threatening to jump the road.

We left and drove a good ten miles away naked with our hands all over each other and the flames in the rear view mirror. Finally I told Sam to stop. I couldn’t take it anymore–the heat, that is. So Sam turned into the nearest parking of a 7-11 and streaked right through the double doors of the fluorescent convenience store. Man, he’s got nerve and the cutest buns ever doing the funky like my fire dance. I still can’t believe 7-11 sold him the beer. Sam’s barely 20 years old.  

I guess they liked the wad of cash and figured anyone buying booze in their birthday suit deserves a treat, kind of my way of thinking too. I told that to Sam as I jumped in his lap and smelled sulfur. He said, “Wait for the count of “three”.

“Huh?” I’d been waiting my whole life for this one moment… what’s another second or two? I got so hot and so what if he smelled a bit like matches. I guess I’m a little crazy like him. Heck, who am I kidding… my whole body wanted him, maybe becoming him a little. Isn’t that what happens in sex anyhow? I don’t know… philosophy student I’m not. But I sure smelled burnt rubber and that’s when Sam grinned the most; I should have known better. He’d lit the 7-11 ablaze.

I heard the sirens.   They sure showed up fast. I watched our sparks. Like fireflies they darted here and there lighting the sky with twinkling orange stars.   Sam said, “I got bit by the fire bug.”

I said, “I don’t know. I think doing it made everything look prettier.”

Sam didn’t see it that way. He said, “There’s nothing like doing it with 20 feet flames behind ya,” and got dressed, mighty quick, blew me a kiss, and hopped out of the car.

I watched as the Fire Department hosed down the neighboring dry cleaning business and the tall wavering palm fronds, now crowned orange, and called out for Sam.  

He didn’t answer me, not that I expected he would. Sam skipped out to watch the flames. Of course, he showed the fire department his badge and acted all official. I knew the truth. See, another wild fire blazed. Those darned Santa Ana winds bring out the worst in the trees and in Sam.  

Julie Ann Shapiro is a freelance writer, short story author and novelist.  Her first novel, Jen-Zen & The One Shoe Diaries, is available from SynergEbooks. More than fifty of her short stories have been published.

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