Stolen Illumination by Betty Kijewski

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Originally Published in Issue #15, June 2014

My friend steps softly on this earth ; his movements cause no ripple in the energy of a trail-dog barbecue. It is here that the week’s challenges are dissected for recreation by seasonal workers hungry for meat and beer.

He slips along its edges until an opening gives way for him to join the circle. The others at the fire accept his presence, as if he had been there all along.

The fire’s radiance shows a man with each foot standing in a different world. His features too Indian for whites and his blue eyes too white for Indians. His face betrays his right to belong. It was in the time of the hippie that his soul was first beaten into retreat by black robes doing God’s work. The cargo of his cooler loosens his tongue. Bacardi transports his anger from the recesses of his mind, morphing into verbal attacks on friends around the campfire. His ramblings often so incoherent that a road map could not bring you safely to his meanings.

Sometimes, just before the Bacardi takes control, the words he holds so tightly find their way past his lips. The violence of boarding school, the anger of race, the shame of rape. They all travel on a jumbled whisper.

The blue of his eyes is lost to held-back tears, and before this friend’s arms can reach him, he slips back along the edges. Softly stepping into darkness, careful to cause no ripple, he is gone from the fire’s warmth and illumination.