The fire in Billyís eyes

 

Billy says we had a big fire along the river last night.

We climb down the slippery bank to the old wooden dock where he and I sometimes play hooky.

If I squint, I can make out the blackened timber on the island.

With the tide so low and so little rain, anyone can cross to it by balancing on stones.

Billy says the brush is so drive from lack of rain anything can set it off.

The cops, he claims, think someone started this fire, perhaps with a camp fire, or maybe even deliberately.

Billy winks at me and laughs, telling me how grand the fire was for him to watch.

Iím puzzled by this since I know he lives 15 blocks from the river. I live only two blocks away from here and I never heard the sirens at all, when he claims it was the sirens that drew him.

Then, he asks if I want to go out and see the ruins, then slips off the dock when I say yes.

He knows his way, avoiding all the loose stones that I nearly slip on, until we are both on the firmer ground of the island.

The scent of burning still lingers even though the firemen had the fire out last night.

Billy canít stop talking about what he saw, how the fire roared up even as the fire trucks pumped water all over it.

Billyís face glows in day light as if he can still see each flame.

We find some half burned newspaper and an empty can of lighter fluid.

Billy snatches both up and tosses them into the narrow flow of fast moving water, which takes both away down stream.

He grins and watches them sail away, then grins at me.

I study the ground wondering why anyone would bother to set such a dismal place on fire.

I saw our old school burn once. That made sense to me.

This is all rock and twigs.

Who would want to bother with it?

Billy says it was a glorious fire, and he is so excited about it, I really feel sorry I didnít see it, too.

He suggests that I come down to the river side some night and maybe weíll get lucky and see one together.

By this time, Iím late for supper and head home, thinking about the glow in Billyís eyes and how just a little bit of the fire still burned in them.


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