The other scouts lay snoring or gossiping in their pathetic egg-shell tents. Cold-hearted evergreens stood around like wolves not quite hungry enough to make a kill. The dark moved round them in quick capes of red. The shadows prickled at my back.
A lone stick stirred the fire, deadbeat embers pawing it off lazily at one end in the pit of gouged earth and transplanted stones, slump-shouldered scout master sword-gripping it at the other, like a border guard poking a corpse for one last sign of life. Without its beret, the round, once-blond pate glowed like a lava lamp. The deep-lidded eyes gazed vaguely into the gasping flames as if through a window in the dust.
Even the crows were silent for a while. They’d been badgering me all day with their street-smart challenge to come and get the dead. Let the crows take them to their mocking, wary hearts. I had no use for treadless feet, slack hands and staring marbles in a face like cooling stone.
The charred stick end forced its numb way from coal to coal, turning up memories of fire. The scout master looked up and dropped a single grizzled tear.
(c) 2012 Mark Penny