The Slightest Spark

I’m not the superstitious type—in fact, I’m anti-superstitious—but for her Free Write Friday, Kellie Elmore has invited us to write about this ominous day that comes around at least once a year and sometimes three. So, I “kind of” obliged her; but just barely.

The Slightest Spark


Dale’s old hound dog ambled onto my porch and plopped down beside my bare feet.

I put a foot on his butt and pushed ever so slightly, receiving a barely audible rumbling growl for my audacity.

We have a mutual admiration for one another which we both hide well. I occasionally run him off the porch just for fun, and he responds by standing in the yard and barking at me—one “rooo-uff” every thirty to forty-five seconds—until he thinks I’ve had enough. Even his sauntering away, hair behind his collar standing up, reeks of theatre. I know he loves me.

Today, I leave my foot on his butt just so he knows who’s boss. He puts his head down on the worn porch boards, gives a disgusted sigh, and doesn’t even look up when Catfish Jones rumbles by in his souped-up Vega. Dang fluorescent green and yellow piece-a-crap is uglier than a mud fence. But man is it fast! We still marvel at how he got the V-8 in that little thing.

I look at my wrist, forgetting I haven’t worn a watch in three years. When you work in the woods slinging rigging, watches just get busted or lost. Tried a pocket watch but even buried in the pocket of my Lee 88s it only lasted a week; the pieces are in a jar on the coffee table. Anyway, I figure Catfish is headed to the tavern; it’s got to be close to three, and that’s when the daytimers start showing up; especially on these hot days when we can’t work in the woods due to low humidity and heat. Here in the great north “wet”, low humidity is when it ain’t raining.

Somewhere across the road, a chainsaw whines to life. The dog’s big floppy ears twitch, then he raises his head and stares toward the sound. I get an uneasy feeling, thinking there’s a darn good reason we don’t work in this kind of weather, and it’s called fire. The slightest spark in the wrong place at the wrong time can burn a thousand acres before anybody even sees the smoke.

The chainsaw also makes me think of Billy Staub. He died in the woods behind the house on a Friday just like this one, two years ago. Big tree he was felling barber-chaired and he probably watched it fall on him. He smoked a lot of weed, and the most excited I ever saw him get was when he dropped his lighter in the creek. He stood there—holding a doob in one hand and pointing at the lighter as it bobbed quickly downstream. “Shoot,” he drawled.

While I was thinking about Billy, my eyes started to burn and something tickled my nose. I rubbed my eyes, sneezed, then leaped out of the porch swing. Scared hell outta the dog, and he about killed himself scrambling down the porch steps, as I ran into the house. While I put my boots on, the dog was bellowing at me, or maybe he’d realized what was going on; man and beast alike know the terror the smell of smoke can bring on a hot summer day in the woods.

As I grabbed my hardhat from the peg beneath the wall calendar, I couldn’t help but notice the red circle around the day’s date, and I got gooseflesh. I’m not the superstitious type—don’t even know who circled the date—but a fire in the woods was bad on any day, much less Friday the thirteenth.



  1. Sherry Mashburn said

    Great story!

  2. Lovely interplay between you and dog and memory and just plain hot day here. k.

  3. Hay Charles; Really enjoy’d your article…But the dog’s probubly telling you off by his barking for running him off the porch LOL.. Blessings my friend… Bro pat.

    • No doubt about it, Bro Pat! He was giving me a piece of his mind!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. David King said

    Superstitious or not, it’s the suddenness catching you off guard that does it!

  5. Deborah said

    Very enjoyable short story.
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. rj said

    Nice mix between characters…

  7. “Today, I leave my foot on his butt just so he knows who’s boss” YOU CRACK ME UP!!!!! LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!

    • You know exactly what I’m talkin bout too, Kellie!
      Oh, and, I crackme up sometimes, too!
      Thank you!

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