Day 74: The Camp Fire

The Camp Fire
Matt Zurbo


Zac and Minty were going bush for the weekend. “Are we gunna be bored, Dad?” the boys asked.
Dad took a good look at them.
“Probably,” he admitted.
(Dad, in driver’s seat of car, arm on headrest to better turn and look back at two boys, both playing computer games.)

Dad’s old friend, Rook, was a bushie. “You, kid, rake those leaves!” he grumbled. “You, gather some dead sticks.”
(Rook giving two stressed, hard-working kids orders.)

Then, the weekend began!
(Rook, Dad, Mum in tinnie, fishing, boys on raft, attached by rope.)

On dusk, the fire was lit.

Rook’s wife Rosie arrived. Their friend, Dewy, soon drove in. “That’s the way campfires work,” Rook said to the boys. “We gather ‘round.”
(Everyone around camp fire, except Dewy, who is arriving on old school Land Rover, stepping out, happy dogs about him.)

Everybody ate as the stars came out.

“I knew it. Bored!” Zac rumbled. But Minty was too busy watching the fire. It has a power to it, something more than warmth. If felt wild.
(Close-up of fire.)

Rook told a story of two local farmers who would compete against each other to dig the most spuds. They worked day and night, without rest, week after week, faster, harder, just to beat the other!
“Dull,” said Zac.
But Minty, somehow, while looking into the fire could picture it!
(Rook telling tale, its images appearing in smoke and flames rising from fire. Minty is the only one looking up and watching it.)

Then, Rosie told her story of when she was a kid, and they climbed the local waterfall.
(She is standing while the others sit, animated as she tells her tale. Minty is looking up at the smoke and sparks of the fire, which contain the image of her tale – a younger Rosie and her friends panicking when her brother got stuck on a ledge of the waterfall! Zac is bored, yawning).

Dewy was a ship carpenter, by trade. He told of the time he stowed away on a foreign fishing frigate and, after many high seas, spent six months living in Russia!
(Same thing)

Every time Rook stoked the fire, it made dozens of sparks shoot up, circling its main shaft, only to return as ash, as if from the Milky Way.

Dad was too modest about his past, but Rook had known him forever. He told told tales of when Dad was a boy, fleeing the war in Europe. Neither of the boys had ever known their dad’s life had been so hard.
(Fire image of Dad as boy, huddled with brother and sister a they are herded by soldiers with machine guns, fleeing with Eastern European mum)

“You’re telling it wrong,” Dad said, and spoke of the time he busted his hip by jumping off the roof. “I thought I was a paratrooper!”
(Ten year old Dad jumping off roof of village shack using a tablecloth as a parachute. Mum running towards him, hands out in worry.)

Minty felt the fire captured everybody’s laughter, as if the flames made it lift and spread and surround them and last forever.
(Fire smoke image of them all laughing, with crowns on their heads, and a feast in front of them, as if they are kings.)

Zac was crazy with boredom! He leapt for the woodpile. “Let’s put more on!!”
“Whoa! Look around,” big Rook demanded. “Low branches,’ dry bush. Respect the fire.”

“Remember Ash Wednesday?” Rosie said, then told of fighting a fire that burned down four houses and took lives.
(Minty staring into the smoke above the flames, picturing it.)

Story after story was told. The fire made the adults more honest, it made them funnier.
(Rook telling a tale of being chased by a bull. Everybody laughing, except Zac, who is bored, and Minty, who is smiling, looking up at fire smoke image)

“I’m going to bed,” Zac huffed.
“Not so fast, kid,” Rook insisted. “First, tell us a story.”
“A story!?” Zac protested. 

Zac thought it was all garbage, so told a tale of fighting and running from dinosaurs.
The story was bold,
and colourful,
and involved time machines.
The adults loved it!
(Zak talking, animated, is story in the smoke above them, others around fire, laughing, smiling, etc…)

Zac was hooked! He didn’t want to go to sleep anymore.
Each shadow of the clearing looked like a dinosaur now, each flame full of their might.
(Suitable double page image, even dinosaurs in cloud shapes)

Dad looked up at a passing satellite. Then, they were talking about the stars! And other planets…!
(Our group’s heads looking up at sky filled with big planets of all shapes and sizes, including one made of machinery, and a rocket or two, maybe an astronaut.)

Eventually, everyone started drifting to bed, until only Rook and Minty remained.
“Why didn’t you tell a story, kid?” the bushman asked, even though he knew.
Minty was too shy.
Rook mumbled. “Well, I’m off. Cows to milk in the morning. It looks like you have the most important job of all.”
“Me…?” said Minty.
“To put the coals out before you go to sleep. Blazes that consumed entire mountain ranges have started from less.”
Then he was gone.
(Minty standing by fire, watching Rook, who is talking over his shoulder as he leaves.)

Minty watched the remaining fire. (Small, most of it black, but..,) If he looked close enough, it still glowed orange, as if it carried the sun!

He whispered to it the story of the night just gone, of how he thought the fire was a library for memories, living stories, history without pages, carried up by the heat, until they filled the sky. That the fire was important, and needed.
(Minty looking down on much, much smaller fire, talking, the smoke is rising, forming an image at its core, of the groups, happy, talking and eating around the fire. The darker smoke on the edges holds the image from the stories they told.)

Then he poured the water.
Nothing wants to die, not even fire. It hissed and fizzled before finally falling silent.(Smoke rising, billowing, with melting shapes of people in it.)

Next week, or month, or when Zac and Minty grew up, there would be other campfires.
(Zak and Minty leaning out of car windows to wave good-bye to Rook and Rose.)
He couldn’t wait to offer them more stories.

And keep the history of himself and his family alive.
(Final image of dead fire pit.)


The End.

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