Pissing on the Coals

The fire had almost burned itself out, and the forest sounds were emerging where there had been song and talk through most of the night. Only Sully remained. He laid his head back in his deck chair and closed his eyes, the last beer of the night still half full in his hand.

Jill came almost half way down the hill behind him before she was betrayed by the forest litter. He turned to her, and she stopped, her arms folded across her chest against the night cool.

“Sorry,” she said. “I thought you’d all gone to bed.”

“I’m on my way,” he said, raising his beer, “in three sips and a swallow.” He took the first of those sips. “What are you doing out so late?”

She scrambled down the last steepness of the path and sat in the chair opposite him, pulling her legs up under the skirt of her dress for warmth. “I like it down here at night.”

There was a long quiet filled with nothing much but the night breeze in the canopy and the gurgle of small waves under the dock. Sully added a couple of logs to the fire. “You could come down earlier, you know. Have a beer. Talk to other human beings.”

She shrugged. “I’d rather not.”

“You used to hang out with us when we were kids. Me and Todd and Rowland, and what was their little sister’s name?”

“Janice.”

“Yeah, Janice. We’d sneak sips from the adults’ drinks, then play tag in the bush or go night swimming.”

“I remember.” Jill half stood, pulling her chair closer to the fire, then sat again.

“Do you remember when Janice wanted to play spin the bottle in the boathouse? I was the only guy there who wasn’t her brother, so she had to kiss me every time.”

“And Todd and Rowland had to kiss me.”

“Yeah. But we kept playing anyway. A pretty long time.”

There was quiet again.

“Did I ever get to kiss you?” he asked. “I don’t remember.”

“No,” she said. “You didn’t.”

“Funny. We must have spun that thing like five times each.”

She shivered, looked out across the lake, almost still. “I’m going to bed,” she said, and she stood, began climbing the path to her cottage.

“Me too,” he replied, though too quietly for her to hear him.” He kicked the fire apart, unzipped his fly, began pissing on the coals.

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