Wednesday, April 8, 2015

sweat and embers

Someday, maybe, it would become second nature to him, but for the moment every goddamned thing took an amazing effort to yield middling or worse results. Theodore blinked away burning sweat and stayed intent on the task held within his cramping hands. Every short, violent motion was fought by vicious friction. Again and again he pushed his rough dowel against the hollowed log. Over and over he scraped the knotted stick forward into a brittle bird’s nest and jerked it back again.

As his exhausted arms moved past pain into numbness, the smell of smoke struck his nostrils. Two more thrusts and he saw the barest hint of an ember. He leaned forward and allowed himself to smile.

Just then, a fat glob of sweat fell from his chin to douse any hope of a flame. Biting his bottom lip hard enough to draw blood, Theodore barely choked back a scream. Flailing to his feet, he spun about, red faced and white knuckled.

When he finally opened his eyes, a sagging lean-to and two dubious bottles of mud-brown water were waiting to greet him. His breath stuttered out in short barking bursts, somewhere between a sob and manic laughter.

Eventually the tears came to a close, either from dehydration or the dead, listless weight expanding in his chest. Teddy turned slowly around to squat on aching calves and started his drive for fire all over again.

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