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Nostalgic Night at the Dumpster Fire

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I’ve enjoyed writing for many years. I'm dedicating more time to the craft in my retirement days.

Author's Note

This work of fiction, narrated in the first person by a female character, was written in response to a challenge from Chris Mills. I hope you enjoy it.

And thanks for the inspiration, Chris.

Nostalgic Night at the Dumpster Fire

I didn’t know if he had stolen the batteries, found them somewhere in the trash, or how he’d acquired them. And I didn’t really care. That night we danced for the first time in many, many months to real music from a mangled and partially melted boom box playing staticky oldies on the AM dial while the dumpster fire burned away, sending dark smoke, sparks and tiny bits of black paper and soot into the night sky, leaving a sickly but strangely pleasant perfume of melting, burning plastic wafting on the gentle evening breeze.

The Chain by Fleetwood Mac came on the radio and I can still hear him saying it over and over. We loved that song, sang it long ago together, too, while we lay on our backs in the Black Hills National Forest, away from the campfire and even further away from the rodent competition of the everyday workaday, looking into the night sky for shooting stars and satellites passing overhead. When the music began to wind down for a moment, when there was only acoustic guitar and faint, rhythmic taps on the high hat, I jumped up suddenly, picked up a longish stick and readied myself to start playing the bass guitar solo right along with John McVie.

"The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac

While I concentrated on getting the hand and finger movements just right for each big bass note, he spun round and round in front of me, faster and faster until I was certain he’d topple with dizziness. Instead, he stopped abruptly without as much as a wobble, faced me and transitioned to his own air guitar precisely at the perfect moment: Lindsey Buckingham making that axe sing and ring until the voices of the band began to rise in a crescendo, singing about keeping it all together. “Running in the shadows,” he mouthed just like Lindsey. And I dropped my bass guitar stick, turned my head skyward, spread my arms wide and started belting out the final few seconds as the song faded away into a Geico commercial about beatboxing in a big box store.

He ran to me, grabbed me in his arms and spun me around a bit, then leaned in, pushed me away and supported my back in a slow, deliberate dip. His eyes never left mine, mine never left his, until he lifted me up quickly, raised my arm straight above my head and twirled me around as the first notes of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” started to play on the boom box.

"Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison

We came together after the spin, looked one another in the eyes once again, then I put my head on his shoulder and we slow danced round and round, eyes closed and listening for the foghorn to blow. I want to say I heard it. I think he heard it, too, but we didn’t speak and so I’ll never know if I really did…or if he did, or if either of us made it all the way to the coast and that spot on the beach just below the lighthouse. Or not.

I wanted in the worst way for those batteries to last forever, for the night to never end because all of this—or nearly all of this—was so much like old times, like better days in a better year, any year other than veinte veinte. But when I opened my eyes, saw sparks from the fire fading away into blackness where clouds were rolling in to cover the stars, I had the certain feeling it would not.

“Sir…ma’am,” the officer said just then, quietly, almost what I would call politely. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave. No loitering here, and no dumpster fires allowed. City ordinance, you know.”

Would that such a rule were true everywhere, for everyone, I thought. Still, it was a rule and the officer had been polite. So we stopped dancing, separated and looked at each other. His eyes were sad, black holes, defeated, and I’m sure I didn’t look any better. He turned his gaze to the ground and I looked over to the officer and nodded. We turned and walked away, hand in hand, into the darkness of the alley as the officer’s radio crackled with unintelligible chatter behind us.

© 2020 greg cain