Semi-Spontaneous Combustion— Daniel Enderle
I usually sleep in my truck parked on the road above the campsite. I swear I sleep better sitting up with the seat kicked back at about forty-five degrees than I do in my own bed. I never liked setting up and taking down tents and I can’t sleep in a bag. Just give me a wool blanket and a pillow. With the moon roof open two inches, the windows don’t fog and I wake at first light. In no other sector of my life am I an early riser, but I think just-before-dawn is a really cool time of day. Just then, I can see some trees with the river between them showing as a band of gray against the deep brown of the forest.
I like to get down to the rocks around the fire pit first, before anyone else is up. It’s my favorite part of any camping trip. It was for my father, also. I know because we talked about it one time. I like to start the fire and I keep it small for a while… knowing it will grow and be cooked on and kept going for the rest of the day. I like to have something to read and something to smoke before I bank the fire and start filling the coffee pot with river water and ground beans.
I try to keep quiet because I like the moments between the time when the glass knob on the lid first shows evidence of percolation and when the second-one-up appears. Not that I mind really. I know it’s inevitable and partly my fault. I just prefer the anticipation – knowing I have friends nearby who are still snoozing.
One morning I rolled over two blackened logs, pushed their still hot undersides together, and fanned them with a red plastic plate before sprinkling some tiny dry twigs on the pale yellow flame. I built a little lean-to of bigger twigs to block a steady breeze blowing up the river from the coast. Weed, coffee and some light verse with just enough early light to read by is an unbeatable combination for me and I got about forty minutes to myself as golden light gilded the treetops.
I heard a long zipper go down and then back up. One of the teenagers, wearing a plaid lumber jacket and a goofy hat with his long auburn hair flowing out and halfway down his back, came along the trail. He observed perfect first-thing etiquette and kept silent as he settled into a blue folding camp chair. He’d left a couple of empty seats between us, but he was within arm’s reach, so I passed him a loaded bowl and a lighter. He said, “Thanks”, but he whispered it.
He said it again when I passed him some coffee. After a little while, his mother joined us and I poured her some coffee too. I like her although we tend not to get along. Her body is absolutely delectable. She wore unlaced hiking boots, but the rest of her ensemble she had evidently slept in. Tight leggings and a little half robe over a silky camisole. Her breasts reminded me of two adorable round headed toddlers pushing each other around in the backseat of a foreign sports car. I caught her son looking at me out of the corner of his eye. He raised his eyebrows and frowned just a little bit.
She started asking me about how I got the fire started and I told her it was easy. “I didn’t even have to use a match.” This did not make her happy. I asked, “Why? Does that worry you for some reason?” She said, “A little.” And I said, “How come?”
“I always make sure the fire is completely out before I go to sleep.”
“Because of Smokey the Bear.” This remark was both a question and an answer at the same time.
I said, “You do know that this is a rain forest? The ground is damp, the air is damp, and the trees are damp. This whole place is moist! You couldn’t light these woods on fire if you had a pile of tires and some Napalm.” And she closed her robe and that was that.