Fire with a Shwish

big fire burn 6

I was orphaned at three years of age. I don’t remember my family or the accident that took them from me. Fortunately for me, my Poppa’s brother, Uncle Pete, had a large family who was more than willing to take me to raise as one of his own. Uncle Pete and his wife, Betty Sue, had 9 other young’uns. Would they even notice that one more plate was needed at the table?

2 best friendsPatty was just 2 months older than me so I had a real playmate for many years. Patty had red hair, I had blonde; both had long pig tales and freckles. We were the same size, with the same likes, especially fire burning garbage in the old rusted barrel.

Another special cousin was Sam, Patty’s brother, who was 9 years old when I moved in with his family. He looked after me better than he did his little sister, Patty. I’m sure he was told to because I had always lived in the city. At three years of age, I didn’t know anything about country living. Sam was rather small for his age but he was smart and could run like a gazelle. He taught Patty and me how to place our feet so we could run fast, too.

Every day after dinner, Momma B would have the older girls wash, dry, and put away the dishes. Momma B would always have the papers and burnable items stuffed into a peck basket and placed by the kitchen door.

It was Sam’s job to take the items to the barrel to burn. Any wood item had to be put simple garbage burn 4aside until there was enough to fill the barrel. It was either paper or wood: never both at the same time. Everyday Sam let Patty and me go with him. We were to never tell or all of us would get in trouble. We could always watch but never participate. Soon we self- taught the steps in which to properly burn the trash. Neither Patty nor I ever let him know that we were watching and learning all about fire starting.

I had never seen anything like this. I found it so exciting. The sparkle wasn’t only in the barrel but also in our eyes. Sam had never taken Patty to a burn either. Strict rules set by his parents only allowed an older brother with him if the barrel would be overly full.

When the basket was filled for the day, Momma B would call out to Sam and hand him a book of matches. It was that book of matches that held the magic! Not that rusted old barrel. It was the sound of the match rubbing against the strip at the bottom of the book and listening to the sound of ‘SHWISH’! I always watched so closely as to how that sound was made, just by two items being rubbed together. I could never actually catch the moment it happened. This went on for nearly six more years.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAPatty seldom said a word while we were watching this magical show. I was always full of questions. “WHEN!? When, Sam, are you going to let me try to be magic?” Sam assured me I would have to be at least ten. Perhaps on my tenth birthday! I had two more years to try to figure out just how those two things would work together. Maybe if I got a little closer. Sam always made me get back though. He was taking no chances with maybe an ember getting me. Then the truth would be out that I was where I should not have been. Then I’d never know how those matches started fire! I could never let that happen!

Finally! It was my tenth birthday! I was to do the honors! As my cousin handed me the matches, I felt energy and power surge through my entire body. My heart began to beat faster, my mouth felt dry as I opened the matchbook and tore one match away from the rest. The air around me grew still. There was no sound except my heart beating and my own breathing.

Right there in my hands, I was nearly stiff as a board. I heard it, ‘SHWISH’!

Sure enough, one of the pieces of butcher paper had ignited. Small, blue flames danced along its edges, licking at the newspaper next to it. Success was mine! I had crossed over to another side of life. ‘I WAS A FIRE-STARTER’! That night I went to sleep in a ‘rage of glory’. Now all I had to do was to wait until I was older to live the rest of my dream.

One day I was going to be the ‘FIRE QUEEN’! I would hold the keys to the city! I would represent POWER! RESPONSIBILITY! RESPECT! One day I would be the captain at the fire station. One day I would ride in the fire truck down main street on July 4th.


Fiction Author: C.G.Rose            852 Words


TIP:  He who strikes match most likely get fingers burned!

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