By: Matt Gordon
I am man, wielder of the flame. Also, I got a fire pit contraption for Christmas and it finally arrived. It took a while to get here because it is one of these new-fangled fancy ones. You know, it is the kind that holds the fire so you don’t have to, and it comes complete with a carrying case because you just never know when you’ll need a twenty pound drum to make a fire in.
Yesterday, I was excited to use it. That is what I like best about Christmas gifts—be they timely delivered or not. You get them out of the box and you play with them. This is why socks are such a grave disappointment—there are no batteries, flashes, nor dings. You just wear them and then, to quote BB, “the thrill is gone.”
Not so with a stainless-steel flame container.
First I get to take it out of the box. That takes about three hours because I don’t go at it with scissors, but with teeth. It just feels right, you know? Here I am connecting with the ancients, for it is fire that bonds humankind throughout the eons. I chew through the cardboard and tape voraciously, only to find more cardboard and tape. Then eventually I come to a filmy plastic layer; the residue from such is still in my teeth. This happens pretty much every time I get any kind of package. I reason that by the time I go get the scissors I could have this thing open entirely through what the Lord has given me: fingernails, teeth, toenails, elbows, and pure masculinity. Every second that goes by is another tick of the clock that reminds me of my sweat equity and further commits me to not taking or making a short cut via scissors, knife, or common sense. Eventually, like Andy Dufresne sputtering out of Shawshank, my fire pit contraption is free! There’s less poop though.
Second, I get to put the thing together. Since there is only a single unconnected piece and all one is to do with it is flip it over like a pancake, this step only took me about six hours.
Third, one peruses the instructions. My fire pit contraption has three pages of these. Basically the order of operation goes like this: 1) Start a Fire in this Thing and Not on Your Face, Dummy. And then there are two-and-three-quarter pages of warnings affirming to me that it wasn’t just a box I opened, but Pandora’s Box. There Will Be Burns and all of that. Hurriedly, I threw these instructions out so my wife couldn’t invoke them and my lack of heeding them when I burn our neighborhood down. I would have preferred using them as kindling but some evidence is just too risky to keep waiting around for the burning.
Finally, it is time to forage for fuel. Fortunately, I have been gathering sticks in my yard for some time. My hopes were that some kindly soul would see them and carry them from my yard in an act of kindness. But thus far the stick fairy has yet to visit our abode, so the pile has grown immense over the years. “Monstrosity” is how I’ve overheard the neighbors describe it. But now it will cower before me! The sticks in question are small and sickly and wet, precisely the type the warnings said not to burn. Good thing I threw said warnings out when I had the chance. To blend with the twigs and sickly sticks, I’ll have a mixture of trash from around the house, old things, stuff I find in the yard, and some wood from the local gas station. One only has to take out a small loan to pay for the four or five “logs” they’ll sell you at the gas station, and I’ve used their firewood before: what it lacks in producing heat it makes up for by burning out in mere seconds. That’s right, gas station firewood is reliable in that it is basically good for nothing. Look out neighbors, it should be quite a blaze! A monstrosity, you might say.
With all of these things in position, it was time to claim my ancestral place, linked to bygone ages—it was time to start a fire in my backyard. It has been a long week, so my plan was to use last night as the inaugural lighting of the flame, a true passing of the torch from the past to the present. I would sit outside, strum a guitar, sip a cola, and pretend I was in the American frontier, far from this world, and farther still from its darkness, as the light of my fire would dance melodically along with my misplayed chords. It would be glorious and warm and bright—truly an antidote to chaos, contained and aglow in majesty.
Giddy, I trudged home from the toil of work. My children were waiting. In the twilight of winter it was hard to tell if they were little cherubs staring out at the street awaiting my arrival, or demons—their faces pressed zealously against the glass of our front window. I could almost hear their tribal chant—DA-DA! DA-DA! DA-DA! It was the sweet cadence of bloodlust.
I drove another lap around the neighborhood just to ready myself for the pandemonium that is a normal Thursday evening with two pent-up boys ages three and one. Eventually I went home—what other choice did I have?
We chased and tickled and wrestled and chased and read and played and chased and cried (all of us) and recovered and tumbled and talked and dreamed and cleaned and dirtied and cleaned again. Eventually we bathed and changed clothes, then did most of it all over again.
At 7:48 I closed the door on my three-year-old’s room and on the day itself. I staggered down the stairs. I knew the fire-making called out to me, but louder still was the voice of the recliner. I slumped into it defeated. Feeling a bit like death for all the day had asked of me, I pointed and clicked the red button on black remote and the television came to life.
It was not the light I had planned but still there was a glow flickering nonetheless. I closed my eyes against it, as some show played attempting to whisk me far from this world. I smiled tiredly, thankful for being right where I was: wife beside me, sleeping boys above me, and fire still burning within. I am man, wielder of the flame.