The summer was at its seasonal apex, and the relentless heat
only began to subside as the Sun released the sky to the night. As the twilight begot orange clouds and
the sky had demurred from blue to now purple and was soon to be blackness; Fireflies began to beacon to each other
as the late evening still had a bit of light. Gary Mitchell came to knock on the front door of Billy
Thompson’s house. Gary stood
impatiently as he could hear inside of Billy’s house. The front door opened.
“ Gary spoke elatedly, “They’re out.”
“Whaddya mean, they’re out?”
Gary Mitchell looked back out towards the Thompson house’
front yard and pointed. “Look
Billy, Lightnin’ Bugs! We can
catch them and make lamps out of them.”
Billy Thompson looked out into his front yard to see the
tiny green beacons randomly alighting in all directions. “Cool! I have a couple of jars.”
“Let’s go... we
can go all over the neighborhood to get them.” Gary looked at Billy then looked again at all the small
green flashes to and fro.
The two boys went into Billy Thompson’s house, and in a few
minutes came out with two glass jars, and began to catch the glowing beacons
here and there. Sometimes they
caught one and accidentally squished it.
Other Lightning bugs were fortunate and got placed inside one of the
boy’s jars. Billy Thompson had two or three bugs in his jar, and Gary Mitchell
had about the same. It began to be
a contest on how many bugs the boy’s could catch. Soon the territory for Lightning Bugs began to shrink as the
boys wanted more of the coveted bugs for their jars.
“We could go to the edge of the woods.”
dunno... my mom says that the
woods are kind of scary, especially at night Gary.”
“I know... but there are a lot of Lightnin’ Bugs. We could catch
enough to make our jars
glow like flashlights.” Gary
But I ain’t goin’ into the woods.” Billy Thompson asserted.
“Don’t be such a pussy Billy, I’m going to catch more bugs
Billy Thompson perked right up. “I ain’t no pussy Gary, and I already
have more Lightnin’
bugs than you anyhow...”
The two boys went walking down their street towards the edge
of the local woods behind their neighborhood. They caught a new Lightnin’ bug here and there, and then
Gary pulled out a couple of bent cigarettes. “Hey, when we get into the woods we can smoke these.”
“I don’t have any matches Gary.” Billy Thompson failed.
worry Billy, I have some.” Gary triumphed as now Billy would have to go into
the woods to smoke.
Billy Thompson and Gary Mitchell came to the edge of the
road where the woods stood darkened and almost had a haunt about them. The boys looked both ways to see if any
cars were coming.
let out. “Don’t let anyone see us
going into the woods.”
Billy and Gary ducked down behind some large hydrangeas
which were in full flower. The
boys tried to keep as motion-less as possible. A car sped by without a thought of two boys hiding in the
“That was close.”
Billy said. “We could have been seen.”
Billy, I thought that was Mrs. Schnieder.”
“Couldn’t have been, she don’t have no car like that.” Billy
spoke scornfully “She has one of
those old Meteors and hers is a four-door anyhow.”
guess you’re...” Gary stopped in
mid-sentence and looked up a ways in the distance of the road.
Some older boys were crossing into the woods. Billy and Gary could make out
silhouettes as some of the local High School kids. The silhouettes sauntered across the road and walked up into
the woods. Some of them looked like
they were carrying some sort of cans like gasoline cans, and Billy and Gary
could hear some of them laughing;
one of the boy silhouettes was smoking, and took a final
drag-then-flicked the cigarette into the woods’ side ditch of the road. Gary and Billy could see the glowing
orange ember of the cigarette as it whirled in the air then disappeared.
“We have to be careful Gary.” Said Billy.
we’ll be okay if we stay down this
way.” Gary Mitchell acknowledged
“I think that one kid was Dave Cross.” Billy anticipated fearfully
“He’s like the toughest kid in the
don’t like us kids none. I heard
he put one kid in the hospital a month or so back.”
“That ain’t true...” Billy Thompson grinned. “I heard
he killed that kid and
he got away with it.”
Billy and Gary were torn between fear and wanting to go
smoke their cigarettes in the woods as they huddled around the large
hydrangea. Then from what seemed
to be out of nowhere a shadow walked up and touched Gary Mitchell on the
only me...” The shadow spoke.
Birdie, “ Billy said.
Birdie Sullivan had seen the boys coming down the street
towards the woods, and her curiosity about their business got the best of her,
so she came down to stick her nose in their business.
“What are you boys doing in the hydrangea bushes?” Birdie Sullivan
asked. “You gonna go into...”
woods... “ Gary interrupted now that his breath was back. “We saw some of the high school kids
and didn’t want to go into the woods until we knew the coast was clear.”
Were there some girls with them?”
don’t know. I don’t think so.”
Billy said. “One of the kids for
sure was Dave Cross.”
Birdie swooned and glowed.
“He’s so cute. He was just
over to see my big sister and then he met up with a bunch of his friends.”
“Yeah, then that’s who we just saw going into the woods up
the road a ways.” Billy spoke.
The Lightning bugs were beckoning the three to come into the
woods. Little green glowing
beacons here and there were getting more pronounced as the Sun was now fully
set for the night. Gary Mitchell
looked around and saw the road was clear and the silhouettes were now gone out
“C’mon you guys, lets go.” Gary said.
“Let’s get over on the other side of the road.”
Billy Thompson and Birdie Sullivan followed Gary across the
road and up a short embankment into the woods. They found an opening in a small thicket and sat down. The boys
put down their coveted jars
with Lightnin’ bugs. Birdie
Sullivan picked up one of the jars and watched the Lightnin bugs randomly
glow. The boys got their crumpled
cigarettes out, and attempted to light them. Birdie Sullivan held one of the jars close to her face and
looked into Billy Thompson’s eyes.
“You know why the Lightnin’ bugs glow don’t you Billy?”
Birdie spoke in a now sultry way.
Uh... I don’t know Birdie.” Billy quailed. “I’ve never figured they’d done
anything else but glow here and there.”
“You’re so silly Billy Thompson. Both of you boys are silly.
I don’t know Birdie. I just like
to catch them and watch them glow.”
“Both of you boys are so silly. You really don’t know do you?”
Both boys spoke almost simultaneously.
Mitchell questioned. “Do you want
some of my cigarette?”
Gary... I want some of
Billy's.” Birdie looked towards
ain’t going to give you any of mine Birdie.” Billy Thompson stood his ground. He knew Birdie Sullivan
was real pretty and at the same time
I’ll have some of Gary’s” She suddenly took Gary Mitchell’s
smoldering cigarette and drew from it.
“See I can smoke too.
Better than you guys.”
Birdie then eyed Gary Mitchell... “Gary, you still didn’t answer
me on why the Lightnin’ bugs
“Because that’s how they signal for a mate Gary. You know what
a mate is... don’t
you?” Birdie Sullivan
“People want to kiss... Like...” Birdie Quickly smooched Billy
startled Billy Thompson exclaimed while he sloshed his mouth with his sleeve in
an act of cleansing himself. “why
did you do that?”
“Because I’m glowing...” Birdie said, then looked to Gary
Mitchell. “Gary, I’m glowing for a
Gary Mitchell made a very crinkled face in disgust. “Don’t go tryin’
that with me
Birdie. I... I...”
what? What are you going to do to
stop me from glowing Gary Mitchell?”
“No. I don’t
Gary Mitchell was quickly interrupted with a quick kiss on
the cheek. He jumped up and ran
off into the woods to get away from the obviously love sick Birdie Sullivan.
“Gary, come back!”
Billy Thompson hollered out.
But now he was alone with the often times predatory Birdie Sullivan. He sat at a distance, and finished a
few more puffs of his crumpled cigarette.
All the while, he was pondering how to get away from Birdie Sullivan
before she could ponder how to get Billy Thompson to kiss her, or worse, to do
that ‘Make out’ thing he’d heard her repeatedly talk about in school, and over
most of the summer now.
Billy and Birdie sat for a while, and looked at the
ever-darkening woods and up to the sky where some stars dotted in between the
patches of shadow the tree tops made.
“It’s a really pretty night Billy,” Birdie spoke as she looked
“wouldn’t it be a nice night for a fire here in the woods? It would keep some of the bugs away.”
it’ll keep the Lightnin’ bugs away as well Birdie.”
“Billy I’m still glowing...”
A yelp could be heard out in the woods. It was the voice of Gary Mitchell,
now there were other voices. Billy
Thompson had a shiver come down his backside as he knew Gary Mitchell
had now run into the older kids.
“That’s Gary’s voice Birdie, we have to go down and see what’s
wrong.” Billy Thompson said to Birdie.
Billy, don’t worry about Gary.
He’s not bothering us anymore.
Don’t you want to make out with me here?”
“No Birdie... I
don’t want to do all that ‘kissy-face’ stuff with you right now. It sounds like...”
Another yelp from out in the darkened woods...
“Birdie we have to go down and see what’s wrong with
Gary. If it was you, we’d come
down to save you too.” Billy said.
just want to see if my sister is with them... “ Birdie pouted, “I know all
the boys want to see my sister.”
spit then flicked away his cigarette.
“It ain’t that at all Birdie.”
Billy Thompson got up and cautiously started towards the
yelp and other voices out in the distance while Birdie followed closely.
“Billy... do we really need to do this?” Birdie asked as she started
comprehend the gravity of the situation.
we don’t go down there and see if Gary is alright, then what?” Billy said, “Hear about something
in the morning when his mom calls
“I guess you’re right Billy.” Birdie spoke in a disappointed
voice. “don’t you think I’m beautiful Billy
do Birdie, but now ain’t the time for that ‘make out’ stuff you always are
always talking about. We gotta see
Another yelp in the distance, and now Billy and Birdie could
see the glow of a campfire in the distance. They both ducked down.
put a finger to his lips as a gesture to Birdie to keep quiet. “They’ve got Gary.”
Billy Thompson could see that Gary had found trouble. Gary ran off from the
lesser evil of
the love-sick Birdie Sullivan to now being held by the scruff of his shirt by
Dave Cross. Billy and Birdie slunk
their way closer towards Dave Cross and the rest of the High School kids. Dave Cross and several other older boys
now shoved and pushed Gary Mitchell around in between them. Billy and Birdie were quietly watching
them from a bush back in the shadows the older kid’s campfire made.
“Whaddya think we can do Billy,” Birdie Sullivan
whispered, “Dave Cross looks like
he ain’t too happy with Gary.”
much we can do at this point.”
Billy whispered back, “let’s see what goes on here.”
Billy and Birdie watched as Gary was shoved around while the
older kids laughed at the situation.
Gary was really scared and was almost in tears.
“Don’t beat me up Dave!” Gary Mitchell moaned,
“I really didn’t mean to come over to your campfire.”
ain’t supposed to be out in these woods.
Don’t your Mama know where you’re at?”
“I was catching Lightnin’ bugs with Billy Thompson.”
Thompson kid is trouble, you know what we do with trouble?”
About this time one of the other kids grinned and took a
small can of gasoline and sloshed a little on the fire.
The fire heated up enough to scare Gary Mitchell with
thoughts of being thrown into it.
“Don’t throw me into that fire! Please... I
won’t tell no one ‘bout your place out here in the woods.”
know you won’t you little twerp.”
Dave Cross snorted with a devilish grin.
Again, one of the other kids sloshed a little gasoline into
the central campfire, and again a hellish whoosh of heat and light lit up the
scene. The flames of the fire
would radiate light and shadow all around and Gary Mitchell, as scared as he
was, saw two pairs of glowing eyes watching him from a distance.
“There’s something watching us over there!” Gary shouted.
nothin’ but some raccoons or opossum or somethin’ like that you little
twerp.” Dave Cross laughed, “do
you think they’re comin’ to save you tonight?”
there’s something watching us over in those bushes. Help me!” Gary pleaded with the darkness.
From behind the bushes Billy Thompson and Birdie Sullivan
watched Gary Mitchell as he was getting roughed up by the high school
kids. And they were the
glowing eyes Gary was watching.
The two were as scared as Gary Mitchell, and now understood
why Dave Cross had the reputation as the local tough. Their inability to help Gary as obvious. The laughing and
gasoline-induced flames of the campfire kept the general ruckus of the older
kids going as they kept shoving Gary Mitchell from one to another.
Cross suddenly shoved Gary Mitchell towards one of the
other kids who as about to throw some gasoline onto the fire, but wasn’t paying
attention. The kid turned in time
to have Gary Mitchell slam into him and divert the spout of gasoline towards
Dave Cross, and accidentally doused him.
From what seemed to be out of nowhere Dave Cross suddenly
caught fire from his boots upwards.
He was first looking in horror as the fire began to engulf his legs then
his chest and as the fire overtook his vision he turned and ran towards the
darkness. His burning body became
light and shadow through the woods as he ran screaming. The other kids around the campfire,
began to run after him as Dave Cross now was screaming through the woods as a
Gary Mitchell instinctively ran, and as he ran from the
older kids he was grabbed by the arm by Billy Thompson. The two boys and Birdie Sullivan hid in
the shadows. Gary was scared to
“Those guys were going to beat me up.” Gary huffed fearfully. “They
set me on fire.”
were watching, and didn’t know what to do.” Birdie Sullivan said,
“We thought those guys were going to throw you in the fire for sure
that Cross guy accidentally got covered in gas when he threw you towards that
other guy with the gas can.” Billy
spoke. “I’ve never seen...”
A burning cross?” Birdie Sullivan grinned devilishly.