c/w: alcohol, pornography, & fire mentions
We built the pyre from the broken canoe in Neil’s dad’s garage. It was Mikey’s idea—he was always the one having ideas, and this one came while were smoking his dad’s cigars under the bleachers.
“We should have a funeral."
Neil said, “are you planning on dying?”
“Not a death funeral. An ‘end of the era’ funeral.” He made the air quotes and everything.
I said, “I hate to break it to you, but I think the word you’re looking for is party, and if we throw a party, no one will come.”
But it turned out that Mikey was not a party, or even a funeral in the modern sense, rather, he described something you'd see in a Viking movie—a boat piled high with stuff, set aflame in the night. He saw it as a fitting end to our high school years. Neil and I saw it as pure idiocy, but we went along anyway.
Our contributions to the pyre were eclectic—Neil, who would soon leave to become a priest, decided to unload all of his vices into the canoe. A stack of dirty magazines, a liter of peppermint schnapps, and an unused pair of brass knuckles. Mikey’s stack indicated that his future plans were far less moral than Neil’s. He retained his porn and booze, instead filling the canoe with anything vaguely academic— notebooks (mostly empty), a school t-shirt, and an unopened copy of Animal Farm. For my part, I contributed items of sentimental value—a science fair project that won third place, a valentine from Gina Castellini, and, finally, Ringo, the stuffed bear that had been my best friend since birth.
When Mikey dropped the match, I expected to feel lighter, happier, maybe, but instead I felt heavier, like the acrid smoke was settling in my lungs and seeping through my skin. Even after it all burned away, aided by the peppermint schnapps, there was a blackened patch in the dry grass. We kicked at the ash, made jokes, tried to feel strong, but without the fire to warm us, we were just three kids alone in the night.
Alexander Evans teaches college writing by day, and at night, he writes flash fiction. His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and been featured in magazines such as Pithead Chapel, X-R-A-Y, and Milk Candy Review. He spends much of his time talking to his rescue pup, Otis, and trying to remember where he set down his cup of tea. @a_rm_evans on Twitter.