The bureau is burning…

We rock together, fuck-blind as alley cats, melted as Cremesicles on an August sidewalk. OOOH God Baby, my sweet baby, my…God…my love, come to me, into me, on me. Hot, horny, luscious, overdue sex. We are both coming. Coming, Came.

OOOHHH…Shit…holy shit…

The bureau is burning. The flames are leaping to the paster wall. We leap like fire-driven gazelles on a burning veldt from this rented four-poster, second floor up in this ancient, empty B&B. Johnny Cash belts out the song track for this post-coital sideshow: “I stepped into a burning ring of fire.”

The goddamn bureau is burning!

A Druid’s Stonehenge of twelve votive candles; those cheap, aluminum-bottomed jobs, bought a hundred for a fiver at the Super Stop and Shop, a bag of tea-cozy warmers that flame up for a half an hour, morph down to a puddle of opaque molten wax. When we arrived today, as I always do, revved by the Marvin Gaye scratch-n-sniff of sexual healing, and because I am an old scene-setter from way back, I got to work. Shades down, lamps dim, sheets back, the bed table a bottle-forest apothecary of herbal potions and lubricants, bane for two fifty-somethings descending begrudgingly into a midlife hormone drought.

Your body is a wonderland…

I can’t recall what was on the IPod at that moment. Not Johnny Cash; country music, even vintage Man in Black tunes, are permanently banned from our life’s play list, but the burning ring of fire tune is perfect for this moment.

I love you for not saying what the last Mrs. would have said. An accusatory yawp of pure derision is what would have added to those bright, varnish-fueled pools, those hunka-hunka-hunks of burning, burning love. We stared, and  demoed our version of firefighting valor. Each votive a wicked pyre, collapsing down through the ridiculously thin paper plate I’d placed them on. Snapped each flame alive with a wooden stick match. Ahhh, we admired, then forgot, all naked-y jaybird ready…so pretty, so very very pretty…like tiny yellow sunrises risen over our second floor love shack. What followed were the cries and whispers, the strokes, the neck blows, the cock slurps, the clit licks, the clots and gorge, the coos and the cuddles, ending and never ending, pistoning legs, blood pumping heartbeats a mile a fucking minute fucking forgetting everything amnesiacs except the very, very primevally vital business at hand.

I want to give you a baby. I sigh into your taut, excitation-rouged neck. Close my eyes. Your hair, Medusa-tangled, dark mystery. Our rutting is wild and majestic. Soon…soon, I whisper.

Five minutes. Tick-tock. We come, coming. Came. Deep inside, I can feel your pussy contract, sucking air, like fruit squeezing nectar.

Afterwards, we spoon in silken veils of spent ardor. Not for long. Shit!! From the eye’s prescient corner, a lick of light, dancing a bright devil’s tarantella on the chalky horsehair plaster. The flames, the flames. Another platter falls onto our jukebox soundtrack turntable, David Byrne yowls a brave falsetto: Burning down the house…. Tea candles. Votives…whatever the fuck that means. Motive. Motif. Vocation. Voltaire. Solitaire. Geeessh…Who woulda thought: that much world-melting fire from such an innocuous and homely source?

The smoke alarm is screaming!

Fuck!!

In times of great catastrophe, the high blush of mortification. Always wear clean underwear,recalls a mother’s common-sense caveat, in case you get hit by a car. Paramedics won’t treat a hit-and-run victim with skid marks in their skivvies.

The UFO thing on the ceiling, a screaming banshee of finger-pointing. Buwheep, buwheep, buwheep. Idiots and candles, burning down the house. Hah!! I slap at the flames, cringe at singes of molten wax on a chin that only minutes before was buried in your juiced, pink love canal: ridiculous, I blow frantic and panicked at the damned, dooming candles, like some demented birthday boy, as you emerge, my newly flown jailbird, jaybird naked, your opalescent arms cradling a palm-full of bathroom tap water, the look in your eyes if I could bottle it would put heroin dealers and funeral parlors out of business. It has the pelvic punch of bad porn, the mad pretzel screenplay of Fellini, the sad chorus and hillbilly charm of Elvis singing white-boy blues, Howling Wolf at his worst hung-over.

Afterwards, amazingly, you never say the word. No finger points or snidely innuendo. The rolled-up newspaper never swats the miscreant firestarter’s pup rump. I take all the credit for the bureau burner. I am the scene-setter, but still you cannot blame. This is new. After twenty two years of rolled up newspapers on pup flanks, I am reflexively and always guilty of at least something. Candles on paper plates, a millimeter of wax suspended over six coats of varnish on that ancient, tinder-dry dresser. These ghosty plaster walls, dry as bug wings, snake skin, newsprint stuffed to stop the winter winds. Our crazy love made the flames. It popped like a San Andreas brushfire, all creosote and venomous conflagration, and could, if we’d spooned a while longer, if our consuming consummation had lingered, if sleep had come to our sex-emptied brains, killed us as dead as human charbabies

Duwheep, duwheep, duwheep.

Fire out, you pour your palm water onto the smoky ruin, and it fizzles out onto the pumpkin pine floorboards, puddles down the drawer fronts. Duwheep, duwheep, duwheep. The alarm won’t shut up, refuses to get that the emergency is over. I sprint around our tousled bedclothes, wrench the plastic shrieker from the low plaster ceiling, in one fell swoop pull the electric plug on the blatting nuisance. Nothing. Duwheep, duwheep, duwheep! Soon, the firemen will come. Sirens and pickaxes and rubber boots stomping up the B&B’s carpeted stairs. The alarm will not die, will not desist; a disembodied Frankenstein brain, as I waltz around the room, naked lunatic, scratching like Lady Macbeth in full-blown spot-removal hysterics, prying with fingertips, Alas poor Yorick, prying plastic cutlery knives around and around the plastic skull, searching like some bomb-disposal GI Joe for a fissure to pop out the batteries.

Open the windows!

Your voice, a reasoned imperative, lilts without fear behind me. Just as I’m about to douse the fucking blatting brain in the toilet water, it gives one final, desultory fart, and settles to mute, accusatory inertia, a dead bird in my hand.

The windows. You’ve pry them open. Hurled the door wide, and the pungent cloud of wood and shellac-melt dissipates quickly out into the hallway. No firemen clomping on the treads. No angry innkeeper litigants. No curious guests peeking into our musky, panic-strewn love shack. Miraculously, eerily, if we died, we would die alone in this creaking mausoleum.

The bureau is a mess, an explosion in a candle factory, a cautionary tale writ in wax and flame.

How bad is it? You ask, as I pry the tin cups of super-heated rivulets, the flaking black char, the cooling candle skin, peel away the forensics of an amorous scene-setting gone terribly and irretrievably wrong.

Good news, the joke goes…The orgasm was a success, but the dresser died.

I shrug, and grope around my facial muscles for a comforting smile. At least the house didn’t burn down.

Oh how close to that dreary finale was our loving reunion. Johnny Cash tuning his Gibson flattop for another chorus of that old crowd pleaser.

We begin to clean the rubble and the ruin. You scrub the black plaster wall with a snowy face cloth. I use your father’s old boy scout knife to scrape away the congealed waxen detritus, the cauterized pine grooves, like some alien crop circle burned into the bureau top. At least a quarter inch deep in places, it will be a major rebuild job to make it right again. I ask you for an ice cube, remembering somewhere that dried wax cannot stick to chilled wood, but scraping and rubbing works best, and that takes over an hour.

We are still bone naked and skin tired.

But at least the firemen never heard the old house’s bleating call for help, and the innkeeper, who lives elsewhere in this cobbled, cobwebbed town, is content to count his weekend till. Which is sad, because next time it burns, the house, these walls and doors and carpeted treads, it may not be so lucky.

Lucky. Are we lucky?

We work together this way, side by side, me in my green pajama bottoms, you in a pink pajama top; our first real test of teamwork and crisis mettle as new marrieds, and later deconstruct those first few fiery moments.

We pass, you pronounce, a quick and breezy assessment of our shiny marriage’s power and resilience. We can do anything now.

The talk turns to the punitive damages. The bureau top needs complete reconstructive surgery. The drawers are unscathed. I can do it, I tell you, if I had the tools. But I don’t, and, besides, I don’t want to spend my entire weekend sanding down an old dresser. This, I decide, is our time. Fire or no fire.

Fuck it.

We mull the options. Full disclosure? Sneak and run? Plausible deniability?

In the end, we settle on the most honorable and expedient course: A good, whopping lie. Something two writers, in a bedroom, alone, with at least twenty four hours to edit, should have no problem with.

The steam iron, I hypothesize, warming to the script. Yeah, that’s it. You were ironing some clothes, got distracted, the iron fell on top of the paper plate. It burned. Thank god for the smoke alarm. I stare at you. We have to turn this around. Make it not about a couple of old, horny hippies fucking by votive light. Make it about a faulty steam iron and a fire alarm to nowhere. Yeah…make it about their negligence, make it about them being lucky we don’t sue for almost dying in their dusty, over-priced old firetrap.

You smile across at me. We are sitting on the bed, primly snacking on noodles, salad and guacamole. Every once in a while I lift up the Women’s Health magazine covering the deep, blackened scar. As a woodworker, I feel like a triage nurse, and imagine moving on to the next, less mortally-wounded victim.

It’s okay, you say. Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out. Not tonight. Let’s get under the covers. Watch a movie. Fall asleep in each other’s arms.

At this moment my heart falls deeper in love than I imagined it could ever fall. We’re good, real good; our marriage and our works. Passed with flying colors. The flames are cool, the rubble cleared. Tomorrow is another day. We even have a plausible alibi, you and I, and life stretches on infinitely. There will, we both understand, be many more fires to fight, more messes to clean, more tales to tell. The great part is how much easier it will all be when we do it together.

Two-The Afterburn

Bonnie and Clyde had their getaway car; usually some poor sap’s jalopy unlucky enough to park next to the bank. We do it our way: Stay and pray, ignore and deny, until the last minute anyway, which comes on Sunday afternoon of our shiny new marriage’s twice-a-month ‘micro-moon.’ Checkout time in America is eleven AM, the chambermaid’s witching hour. We linger past noon, fuck and dally, finish up the noodle salad, and discuss the optimum time for the candle conflagration’s reveal. My vote is a quick phone call to the concierge across town, with appropriate crocodile remorse, from the safety of a speeding car. We rehearse the tale’s dramatic arc. A leaky steam iron, thought off, plugged to wall, lain on paper plate, distraction, flames. Writers are dangerous people. Ask any dictator. I happily embroider with an urgent call from a distraught relative; perhaps a son jilted by love, stressing the onus of the innkeeper, a nervous, thin-lipped guy named Tim, his callous disregard for the safety of his patrons. Tim, who owns two dottering B&Bs in Newburyport, offered to sell the whole caboodle to us in the parking lot the day before, furnished, and we bit out tongues. Why admit the obvious when a cunningly composed fiction will do? Clearly an accident, ladies and gentlemen of the jury; if the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit.

Cleaned up, the fire ring is actually starting to grow on us, it becomes an amusing memento of our love’s fire-starting passion; the Women’s Health magazine, with its glossy promises of rock-hard abs in thirty days, flab-busting diets, and a dozen easy Kama Sutra positions for busy professionals, no longer hides it’s ashen scar. If it were ours, the bureau, the paper-plate-sized crop circle etched into the old pine top would make a perfect kind of repository for tiny earrings, drill bits and pocket change. !!New!! !!Dresser Caddie!! We should send the furniture maker Ethan Allen this idea, a surefire cash crop right behind your other jailhouse/boredom inventions; DuctTox, a novelty tummy and double chin smoother that comes with an actual roll of duct tape and instructions, plus and a line of caustically humorous greeting cards you dubbed Rejection Section, for recently dumped boyfriends and assholes that owe you money.

It happens like this: Your conflict resolution style, direct and uncluttered, unlike mine, hooded and wing tucked. Our bags are packed, and you disappear downstairs, to find the chambermaid. Another ten minutes, then you reappear in the doorway, smiling.

She was amazingly cool about it. She said, basically, ‘Don’t worry, it happens all the time.’”

Wow. Okay.” I feel the hook carefully lifted from my jaws, and don’t ask what version of the story you used. The day has promise after all. I love you for your ability to engage the enemy. Sometimes I feel like a Quaker pacifist, hidden behind a Bring the troops home sign, out on the village green, under a prosperous blue sky with the other dozen ineffectual wackos. You, on the other hand, don your green United Nations peace keeper helmet and wade right into the crossfire.

On the drive back to the sober house, your parole-mandated home for the next uncertain months, we spot the mini golf. Yes…it’s on the list. Mini golf and/or bowling, right after Rock Skipping Competition and Finish Book. We couldn’t find the bowling alley, and the book has a life of its own, so this will have to do, a quick round of swatting plastic putters around an artificial lagoon. Like a scavenger hunt, when I visit, you make lists on sticky notes. The List, we call it, offering dignity to our shared obsessive compulsion disorder, the chronic Bizzarro World of this enforced separation.

If it’s open, you wanna play?” I ask, slowing down.

Yeah.” You happily nod. This is the commercial artery of the town of Salisbury, Newburyport’s redneck cousin. More like arterial sclerosis; crumbling strip malls, trailer parks, sand and gravel yards, donut shops. On our first weekend together, I noticed and was amazed by the disproportionate number of limousine companies lining the road. Then I saw Salisbury after midnight; dozens of cop cars cruising closing time, like pack sharks trolling for the pale, flapping legs of drunk drivers squinting down the yellow lines, hoping to safely and surreptitiously swim home.

DinoLand Mini Golf and World-Famous Ice Cream, is of course open. Salisbury, on a Sunday afternoon? Fuhgettaboutit! Eighteen holes of !!FUN FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY!!guarded by growling fiberglass Tyrannosaurs prowling the Astroturf in mock Jurassic fury. A fast-moving water hazard, stinking of chlorine, sluices through it’s neon-green geographic center. It’s fun; we giggle, bang our seven dollar balls off of painted fiberglass rocks, find occasional golfing brilliance in the goofy frivolity, fight back our competitive wildebeests. I win, through no fault of mine,or yours, by two strokes. Who gives a shit? We get to cross it off the list.

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