SEX ON FIRE

By John Thomas Tuft

Mernie carefully slid open the old casement window and stretched one leg out over the sill. He listened carefully, making sure that the rest of the house was still as night. The crickets in the yard paused on cue and he silently slid the other leg out, skittered over to the porch roof, lowered himself onto it and jumped to the ground. The crickets resumed their chorus as he crossed to the shed and pushed his bike out the doors, across the grass and onto the dirt road. He used one finger to shove the glasses back up the bridge of his nose and climbed on, pedaling off into the night with a quick glance back over his shoulder. No lights came on. He was free and clear. Off to find Evangeline, the angel of the moon.

The trees flew past as he sped in and out of the moonshadows, the air fragrant with fresh mown hay and damp dirt from the late afternoon thunderstorm.  Mernie made this trip every night that had a full moon, out to the paved road, turning north to head further from town, passing the old sawmill beside Richardson’s pond, and on another five miles to Sand Hill. He dropped his bike in the gravel at the side of the road and jogged up the slope. Tonight was a supermoon and that usually meant he would see Evangeline. He threw himself on the damp grass and looked up, pushing his glasses up. The huge silver disk looked so close he could almost reach out and touch it. He closes his eyes and there she is. She whispers to him, and him alone, “Find someone who will let you fly, and who will help you land.”

Some nights stretch into forever and some nights are passed in a blink.  Mernie wakes up in the middle of the night. The house is cold and dark, and he shivers as he gropes for his glasses, fits them over his ears, pushes them up on the bridge of his nose. He is quiet, so as not to wake his wife and children as he carefully makes his way along the hallway and down the stairs. The old house creaks and groans, as if it knows that history never passes quietly, or without comment. The woman upstairs in his bed is not a martyr, but sometimes he feels like he is running a con called love. He slips out the door and into the car. He coasts it down the hill before turning the engine over, drives away.

Mernie reaches into his pocket, takes out a piece of paper with a phone number, evidence of a pleasant memory, a secret that feels delicious every time he teases himself with it. If he calls, she will be waiting. He pushes the glasses back, that have slid down on his nose. The trees fly past as he speeds through the moonshadows, the sweat of desire hanging heavy in the air. He looks around, confused for a moment. He did not intend to travel this road, but there it is. Sand Hill. It is a night of a supermoon. He feels as foolish as a child as pulls over, turns off the engine and trudges up the hill. The huge silver disk appears so close, it could almost reach out and touch him. He closes his eyes and there she is, Evangeline. She whispers to him, and him alone, “What do you stand for? That you will always be.”

Some nights have no end and some nights never arrive. Mernie sits on the cheap plastic chair beside his bed, the hushed voices outside the door in the hallway and the squeaky swishing of the staff’s shoes sounding like whispers of ghosts. He searches in the gloom with his hands, along the dresser top, and then the bedside table, until he finally finds his glasses inside one slipper. He puts them on, careful to slide them over the raised aging spots along the ridge of his nose. He stares through them at the pictures arranged above the bed. No need to turn on the light, he has memorized them better than his own face in the mirror.

He stands stiffly and feels his way across the room to the window, pulls the cord to open the blinds. Moonshadows dance across the manicured grounds of the nursing home. The door opens behind him. “Grandpa Mernie, what are you doing?” a young girl asks. “Take me to the moon,” he implores her. She knows what to do and gets his robe from the back of the door. After helping him into it, she gently reaches up and pushes his glasses back up on his nose. They get in the elevator and ride it to the top. They step out onto the roof to the greeting of the supermoon. The huge silver disk appears so close, it could almost reach out and take him. Mernie closes his eyes and sways in the slight breeze. “Evangeline,” he whispers. “I’m here,” says Evangeline. “I’m here and I always have been. Falling and flying both depend on the landing.”

Words are magic and writers are wizards.