Sensing Adventure, Part II

15 September 2010 § Leave a comment

Standing nearby, the boy in the red shirt had seen the man with the backpack walk up to the lady. He was entranced by what the backpack could mean. Where could this man be from? Where was he going? Why is he in my neighborhood? He listened to every word the man said to the smiling lady. Elephants and tigers? Adventure?

Just then, the boy in the red shirt and the no-longer smiling lady made eye contact. For one moment, neither of them said anything, daring to think about their fates from that day on. She wondered if she was prepared to receive what could be a large sum of money for doing nothing at all but tolerating this hoodlum boy in her yard sale. No one would ever know, she figured. She saw the amazement in the boy’s eyes and justified to herself that he really wanted to go. Even though she had no paternal right to say one way or the other whether this troublemaker went off to the circus, the lady at the ugly yellow table loved money very much, and did not give a thought as to the boy’s parents at all.

The boy unconsciously dropped the trinket he had been playing with. His mind was elsewhere, in some far off land where lions leaped through flaming hoops and he himself had a black top hat and red waistcoat and all the power in the world.

The palpable excitement did not elude the man with the backpack. He knew how this would turn out – he’d seen it every night, in the eyes of the mesmerized audience, heard it in the chatter afterward as people shuffled out of the giant tent into the darkness. If daydreaming was real, this was it. But it did not seem to capture him in the same way it did his two conspirators. He busied himself pulling stacks of paper from his pack and setting them on the flimsy yellow table, next to the lady’s metal cashbox.

Five minutes later, the man extended a pen to the boy. When he flicked it with his thumb, a flame erupted from the tip. And that’s when the boy hesitated.

At first he jumped back, for the flame was much bigger and more impressive than that of a cigarette lighter. This flame had arms, as if it were part of a large bonfire, or one of those designs he had seen on old trucks with loud engines. The fire wisped and grabbed at the air, the man’s jacket (which did not seem to burn), and then the boy’s nose as he moved closer to it, took it from the man and inspected it. It looked like an ordinary pen, the kind you click one end of to produce the ink tip. The fire shot up when he moved his thumb off the clicker.

The boy was captivated, and therefore was not thinking of the otherwise obvious symbolism the flame represented, especially so as he wrote his name in cursive that he’d been learning at school – his teacher had said cursive makes things more official. To add to the feeling of importance in the depth of his stomach, he tried hard to not make any mistakes.

In what seemed like just a second, the boy noticed that the grass under his feet felt mushier than it had before, and he wondered where his bike was. He had ridden it here earlier, hoping to steal a thing or two, perhaps a toy or a book, and be off quickly without getting caught. Then he thought of taking the pen. It would have been the find of the summer. Imagine, having a pen that shot fire! He could be a magician!

But the man and the unsmiling lady and the backpack and the important looking papers, brochures and contracts, instruction manuals and ones that said ‘Warning’ and ‘Caution’ and other things he had overlooked – these things changed his plan immensely.

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