Orange-red embers pulsed and flickered in the bottom of the copper saucer, now dirty, dented and stained from exposure to the elements over the course of several years. The last remnants of the fire still shared some heat, warming the man’s legs as he sat, transfixed, in the warm November night. He poked at it occasionally with a stick, startling the dog that lay in the leaves next to him.
“Go back to bed Charlie,” he mumbled, and the dog dutifully laid its head back down on the ground, though its ears still perked up occasionally as it parsed out the sounds beyond camp – leaves falling with each gust of wind, crickets chirping, an animal sneaking through the shadows.
Above the man and the dog a string of lights had been suspended between two trees and now, even with intermittent burnt out bulbs, they lit the perimeter satisfactorily, swaying in the pleasant, breeze. He stared beyond them, at the silhouettes of leaves against the sky, wondering absently what planet was lit so brightly against the dark. Then he tilted his head to the left, looking into the distance at the milky blue-white illumination of the clouds, as the waning moon struggled to make itself seen.
A siren from a police car, or perhaps an ambulance, sounded in the background amidst a dull quiet roar of traffic noise. He was never certain where that noise came from. There wasn’t a major highway nearby – just Capital Boulevard, the main thoroughfare that brought folks out to the suburbs from downtown, and Main Street, a not-terribly-busy road either. Neither were heavily traveled at night.
Either way, it reminded him of Maryland where the house he grew up in had the same sound – the constant, dull roar of traffic from I-95 that ran several miles from his neighborhood. It reminded him, too, of his grandparents’ house, off of Liberty Road, where he lay in their bed late into the night while the adults celebrated the holidays downstairs, and the noise was more constant and sirens were commonplace beyond their bedroom window. It was oddly comforting to him.
He sighed, staring back at the fire, savoring the evening that was devoid of the day, devoid of progress, of electronics, of everything 21st century. Yet still, he felt compelled to pull out his phone just, he thought, to check the time.
A few moments later, perhaps because of the quickly approaching midnight hour or perhaps because the spell had broken, he decided the night must end. He lifted himself out of the plastic Adirondack chair, poked the fire one more time, and threw his phone into it, before heading inside. On his way, he unplugged the lights and called the dog, who lumbered along, nonplussed by the course of events.