Published: April 29th 2008September 1st 2007
The tiny flame flickered furiously as it bent to resist external control. Its un-rhythmic dance served to tease its master as the glow swooped and swayed, paying homage to the wind. Rising swiftly upward then all but ceasing to exist, the fire defiantly demanded its audience take heed. In response, two burly hands encircled the performer to which it slowed in tentative obedience. The master was in control now. His breath drew the flame into complete submission, enticed into a thin strand of light, which crackled at its success. And then, without warning, the fire was extinguished and the master exhaled in a billow of smoke.
I woke the next morning covered in ash. Peering out the tiny window I could see the silent flakes fall, like black snow onto a world which feared their origin. The sun was just beginning to rise, its light muted by shadows reaching upward from below. The church bells marked the hour and a sleepy Hvar arose to another day on fire.
As I stood at the edge of the balcony, the remnants of the night’s smoldering cinders floated and swirled around me, tracing patterns along my skin and polluting my
tea. My toothless host stood in concentrated silence as we watched the rising sun and envisioned the ebbing glow beyond. After several moments, she smiled at me and nodded, I did the same in return. She then enthusiastically poured more green tea into my blackened brew. I smiled, winced, sipped and smiled again.
From the waters edge the sound was deafening. The tiny plane circled for hours to collect and transport water, sending the tourists into a spin. A fat American stood knee deep, looking out to sea.
“Hey honey!” she called towards the shore. “Do you think the hotel’s on fire?”
He didn’t bother to respond.
“Well, good thing we took out that insurance.”
She flopped forward, displacing small waves up onto the stony beach.
The following dawn, the driver navigated through the smoke. Film crews and news presenters sat stationed along the roadside whilst the locals didn’t seem to notice the haze. The view became a blur of blackened foliage and blackened sea. As we approached the ferry, a line of fire trucks and fire fighters snaked across the port. Their fight was over it seemed. Propped up against my bag, I sat amongst
them as we floated towards the mainland.
At the back of the boat a row of flames ignited. The wind was swift to battle against the glow. A determined huddle fought back until smoke signals eventually rose from their midst. The smoking firefighters stood against the backdrop of a smoking island. Somewhere beyond, a multitude of flames all danced together. The sea breeze orchestrated the crackling crescendo and choreographed each unrehearsed reprise. The man may be master of his tiny flame but it was the fire who owned the island.
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