*A short piece of fiction.
On the eve of the harvest moon, in the house of prayer among the college-aged brethren, I heard a wild-haired revolutionary say, “set me on fire and watch me burn.” He said it as if it weren’t cliché; but it was. I’d heard this prayer from another when I was nineteen, and then again when I was twenty-three, each time prayed by boys who hadn’t yet lost the naïveté of a child’s sweet tooth.
The boy prayed this as if he were a thing to behold, a spectacle, a bonfire. He raised his hands high and shook a little, as if a good tremble could conjur Elijah’s ghost, or the reformed spirit of Eddie Vedder circa 1993–the year Pearl Jam won all of those awards and Vedder was dubbed the next messiah of Rock-and-Roll. This praying boy was still in diapers back then.
There are things you let go, rather, choke down. I swallowed hard words, like “what when your stage is a nine-to-five at the factory where layoffs are as common as seventy-five cent snack cakes from the vending machine?” Or worse, “what if you never make it, not really? What if you teeter on the edge of becoming spiritual salt?”
There are things not worth saying, but some words are better shared. I wrote on a napkin, “what if the greatest of goods is not to burn, but to smolder without end. To glow like the southern sky before the autumn night’s snuffing.”
I dotted the sentence when the boy closed in Jesus name. And though I intended to pass the note along, I lacked the heart as I watched the boy standing there, smiling. There is no great honor in crushing a boy’s dreams. Instead, I stuffed the words into my pocket and walked into the Wine Moon’s shadows.