The Devil You Know

 

“Stop falling on your sword. It’s getting dull.” JSM

Chapter Twenty Eight

Sleeping in the Rain

Fire is my friend.

Of all the elements, it’s the one I can control.

I can start a fire with flint and steel. I taught myself to build flames in the pouring rain. At gatherings, I’m the one asked to make a campfire and keep it alive. I enjoy it’s creation when times get tough, I treat it like an art form, and I seem to revert to a caveman mentality.

I’ve been known to sit and stare for hours, keeping a constant vigil, letting the fire simmer and dwindle, then raising it to the sky in an explosion of sparks and heat. As long as I have access to burnable material, I can control fire. Call it a side hobby.

It’s also therapeutic. Meditative. Hypnotic. It allows a place to think, ponder regret, reflect on the past and dwell on mistakes. The outside world disappears and all that exists is dancing flickers of pointy colored light.

It’s a go-to-place. I seek the solace of fire.

Watching my portfolio and three years of life curl up in the flames, fall to the coals in charred fragments and transforming to ash within the raging inferno, was an instant moment of regret and sadness. The heat now too intense to reach in and retrieve what I foolishly discarded in a fit of anger.

All I could do is question my motives and wonder why.

*****

Are you out of your mind?

I just might be.

“Hey, you want something to drink?” My friend came to join me on the grass, sat a few feet to my left and handed me a bottle of soda.

I wiped a forming tear and thanked him.

Smiling at the tall flame he pulled his knees to his chest, “You can crash on the couch if you want.”

“Thanks.” I hurled a log into the pit and asked, “will gold melt in there?”

“Gold?”

“Yeah, I chucked my medals in. Along with everything else. Probably not real gold anyways.”

“I guess it depends on how hot it gets. Medals?”

“The graphic arts competition.”

“Yeah, yeah,” He nodded and looked to his slippers, “That’s right. Probably wasn’t the smartest move.”

“No kidding. What’s done is done.”

“You want company, or do you want to be alone?”

“It’s your property. You can stay if you want. This is all I’m doing.”

We sat and conversed for an hour before he decided to go back inside. He was the first to hear the story on the events that brought me to his backyard, my termination from a dream job, and the idiotic reasoning behind the temper tantrum and the fiery purge of my accomplishments.

He seemed to agree with my plight and the explanation of my actions, but stated outright I could have chosen a different method to cope with the situation.

And with those obvious few words of wisdom, accompanied with a tender sympathetic pat on the shoulder, I was once again alone with my thoughts.

I glanced behind me and watched the lights in his home flick off one by one, and when the upstairs became dark, it started to rain.

Great.  Just what I need.

Over the next two hours, I watched the flames vanish until it was nothing more than a large bed of sizzling coals. I allowed the rain to conquer my creation, watching and hearing the hiss of cool water on red hot debris and fatigue overwhelmed me.

You have to sleep.

I’m not moving.  I’m staying here.

Don’t be a moron. Go home.

Nah… this looks good enough for now.

I placed my head on my backpack and tried to use it for a pillow.  The belts, buckles and straps made for an uncomfortable and lumpy resting spot, so instead, I gutted out it’s contents and stuffed my head inside it. A built in rain protector. I lowered my covered head to the soaked earth, closed my eyes and listened to the patter of raindrops on the bag’s material.

There I stayed. Laying outside in the rain feeling sorry for myself. Obstinate and angry at the world. Defiant and locked into a mindset of self punishment. I felt slighted, embarrassed and torn on what to do next. My head covered with a black backpack.

Damn.  I haven’t even told the family yet.  That should be fun.

Once the sun made it’s presence known and the birds of the morning sang their songs around me, I felt myself floating on the tail end of a dream. My subconscious in a limbo state between the real world and the sleeping realm.

Before me standing at the edge of a tree line, an angelic being with long auburn hair, adorned in a flowing white robe. Before I ripped off the backpack from around my head and lurched into a sitting position I heard a voice while in the limbo state. A whisper from the back of my mind, “Her name is Saara.  She is the queen of Heaven.”

What the hell?

It was a moment before I realized where I was. I shook away the visage and the cobwebs and blinked out the floating image from my memory.

I gathered my rain soaked material, stood up, and stretched the aching muscles. My clothes clung to me like a heavy second skin.

Today is a new day, and you have nowhere to go. What to do, what to do.

Oh yeah. Go home first. Discussions are needed and you need to get dry clothing.

… shit.

I dragged my feet back to the homestead and found an empty house. The only thing noticed out of the ordinary, was a handwritten note on the kitchen table.

“Steel mill called. They want to talk to you.”

Fate is a funny thing. It happens when it’s least expected. Fate takes many forms. Sometimes it’s staring you right in the face and obvious. Other times, it’s subtle and secretive.

As fate would have it, I started my new position at the steel mill the very next day. The layoffs had been lifted.

Instead of seeking something elsewhere, I stuck with the devil I knew and understood. I know steel. It’s better than starting over completely from scratch. I needed to make the money.

Saara would have to wait.

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