Terry was prepared to wait a week for a response from Dave. He knew Dave would need time to mull everything over and consider what needed to be done. He needed space especially after the ton of bricks that Terry laid on him. Terry fell into restless sleep but knowing that he had done well. He had to eat his words however, when he got a text at two in the morning from Dave saying, "How much fire wood do you have?"
Terry reread the text on the bright little screen repeatedly until his tired brain were able to make meanings of the pixels.
"Never mind, I know how much you have." said the cell phone. "Bring all of it and a can of lighting fluid."
Terry's mind took time to process this information before asking the call phone, "Why?"
"Just do it, and meet me at the campgrounds."
So much for waiting. By 2:30, Terry had loaded the requested supplies into his car and began his journey. By 2:45, Terry was at the front gate. Stepping out of the car, he walked to the gate, punched in the PIN on the key pad, and got back into his car to wait for the gate to finish opening. What he was doing, and unexpectedly Dave as well, was in a way illegal. They were trespassing on government property past closing time to do what Dave wanted to do with firewood and lighter fluid. The three of them simply justified themselves saying they needed better security if they really didn't anyone to trespass. Terry drove past the gate and walked outside again to close it behind him by punching in the four digits. How Dave got the PIN, Terry will never know, but it has come in handy when the three of them wanted to do some minor delinquency. Terry continued down the driveway, looking for Dave's car at their usual late night fire pit. Sure enough, Dave's red sedan came into view in a small parking lot with Dave sitting on his rear bumper. As Terry pulled up to a parking spot, Dave called out, "Took you long enough."
"I can still turn around if you want." They were jesting but Dave's face remained stoic.
"You bring everything?"
"Yeah. It's a bit late for a campfire though."
"It's not for a campfire."
"An effigy? Why?"
"Just help me with it." Together, they unloaded Terry's car and laid out the supplies next to the fire pit. Dave pulled a wind of 100 feet of rope out of his car and laid it next to the firewood.
"Now what?" asked Terry.
"I'll show you." replied Dave. Kneeling down, he began fashioning the logs vertically in a circle to form a crude barrel tied with rope and filled with other logs to maintain shape. When finished, Dave began a second thinner bundle and placed that on top. "Help me find a stick," said Dave.
"Uh, okay," replied Terry looking at the ground. "How big?"
"A foot long and thick." Terry looked at his friend to see if the joke was intentional but Dave's face gave no sense of humor. He refocused his attention to stick finding, not quite sure why. After many candidates, Dave found a stick to his liking and stuck it in a crevice between logs. He then pulled from his pocket a torn photo of Emma and Dave except Dave was no longer in the photo. Terry saw Emma's smile face beaming at him. The nonchalant smile that set you as ease but piercing eyes that read every aspect of your soul. Terry didn't need to see the other half of the photo to remember Dave's face: a halfhearted smile and eyes that said he was dead inside.
It was the first red-flag that Terry had caught. Dave loved seeing his face and was an avid supporter of looking great in every picture. His disinterested smile and sad eyes was anything but his best effort. Terry didn't say anything when he first saw it, assuming that Dave was just having a bad day. A mistake that he would forever regret.
Dave walked up to the small structure and punched the stick through the photo twice above and below Emma's face. Dave then picked up the lighter fluid and drowned the wood. Looking around the ground, Dave then picked up a twig with a bundle of leaves and pulled out a lighter from his pocket. He lit the twig on fire and tossed it on top of the bundle. The ignition was immediate and hot. Terry thought his arm hair would be singed and confirmed the though when he could smell burnt hair.
Dave and Terry stood there watching the effigy burn. The only movement between the two was when Dave raised the lighter fluid and pressed on the bottle releasing a wave of angry flames. The area around them was lit with red and orange light that cast long, sharp shadow on the ground. Terry looked to Dave after he added fluid for the third time, worried that the flames would travel along the fluid and ignite the two in hellish flames. Dave didn't seem to care. He stood there, eyes glaring at the fire as if challenging the flames to touch him. As if will power and a dark look could hold back the beast in the flames. His face was riddle with shadows and his complexion intense. Man, beast, and flame would cower.
"Dave?" said Terry, breaking the silence.
"What?" Dave's eyes didn't change.
"What is this?"
"What do you think? It's an effigy dumb ass."
"We've done this a thousand time and now you ask why? Because you were right. Fuck that bitch. She screwed me over. I haven't really been happy in months. Now I can watch her face burn. Now you can say 'I told you so'. "
Terry ignored the last comment. "But every time we've made an effigy, you did it because you were letting go."
"And this is me letting go of her bullshit! This is me watching her burn for what she did. I've been depressed, angry, and confused and now she can go fuck herself."
"But you're still angry."
"Yeah! 'Cause she's a worthless whore and did this to me."
"And you're going to let her continue?"
Dave was about to counter but stopped himself. His gaze left the fire and his complexion became less intense.
"If you're letting go....let go." Dave looked at his childhood friend. He gave one last look at the effigy before it fell apart into a pile of weakened wood. Dave went through his pockets. He eventually pulled out a pack of cigarettes and his lighter. He pulled a cigarette, one of five that he had only ever pulled out, and placed it on his lips. He started the lighter and brought it up to the end of the cig while cupping his hand around the flame. Before the cig was lit he killed the flame and stood there. Then, looking at Terry, he took out the cig and held it out to Terry.
"You heard me. Light it."
Terry was dumbfounded. "I don't even know how."
"Put it between your lips, I'll hold the flame. Breath in little puffs until smoke comes. You'll feel when it does."
"I'm not going to smoke that."
"Of course you're not, you're just going to light it."
Terry gave one last questioning look at Dave before taking the cig and placing it between his lips. Dave brought up the lighter, cupping his hand around the flame again, and followed Dave's instructions. When finished, he pulled the cig out from his mouth in a coughing fit and handed it to Dave.
Dave looked at the tobacco and began breathing out. When he ran out of air he pushed out more until his lung we're empty. Placing the roll in his mouth he began breathing in. He breathed in deep and long and when it felt like his longs were fulled of acrid smoke, he breathed in a little more. He sipped more and more of the carcinogenic smoke until his lungs were about to burst. when he could truly hold no more, no more toxins and body killing drugs, he held it there, letting the smoke sit. Dave resisted the urge to cough, not letting any cancer leave his lungs. He felt the smoke burn him inside. Felt his body scream to let it out but he wouldn't let it. Tears came to his eyes. All the toxins and pains and festerings gathered in his lungs and only when Dave no longer felt the burn did he let it go. He released it all. In one steady constant stream, everything left his body. He breathed out until he couldn't empty his lungs more and immediately sucked in the fresh air of the world. It was cool but warmed by the fire. The burned tissues inside of him rejoiced at the refreshing change. He filled himself with the smell of greenery and cool summer air. Then he released. He breathed in again and felt the same euphoria, and breathed out. Breath in. Breath out.
Terry noticed Dave's complexion change. It was calm and at piece. Dave tossed the cig into the camp fire without a second thought. Dave looked at peace before the peace left him to be replaced by his conniving smile.
"I hope you don't mind. I also invited someone," said Dave.
"I wasn't sure what would happen tonight so I figured we'd need backup?"
"Is that why I'm here?" said a voice behind them. Terry froze. the voice had always been like silk to him: warm and soft. He was scared though that he had torn that silk. Terry turned around to see their third amigo and ex: Janet. It may have been the fire, but Terry felt warm and his face hot. The fire's glow reflected off of her as her soft eyes looked at her two friends.
"I wasn't sure if Terry could do it so I asked you to come just in case we needed someone to get this party started." She smiled. She too was used to Dave's riddles. It was an absolute certainty that Terry could save Dave from anything. Dave only invited her to get Terry and Janet in the same place. Terry knew this well.
"Good thing I brought drinks." Said Janet.
"I got the franks." said Dave.
"I...I was told to bring...firewood." said Terry, still very confused.
"Then let's unpack!" proclaimed Dave and he raced off to the cars. Janet and Terry looked at each other before looking down with a stupid smile.
Terry was the first to look up. "Let's go help Dave," and he held out his hand.
Janet took it.