Word Count 500
Lake of Fire
By Mike Cecconi
If God’s like a genie in a lamp but you only get one wish, I certainly wasted mine early. It felt necessary at the time, but I was just a child, I didn’t know the life I’d have laid out for me, the things I would later need or need undone. I would’ve prevented my dad’s fatal heart attack, of course, I would’ve taken away my brother’s seizures, I would’ve overturned a certain election, I would’ve at least paid my student loans to make the phone calls stop. I was just a child, though, and if I’d thought about it at all, I would’ve assumed I was going to get at least three mulligans in this life, not only the one. But if I had just the one, I used it then.
My dad was a Boy Scout up until just before Eagle, until he discovered women and how much better they are to hold than badges. I was a Boy Scout for three or four months until I quit on the way back home from our first camping trip, in the middle of the car ride, I was done. I don’t hate the outdoors, I grew up scrabbling on the South Side hills looking for quartz, I’m a fan of a light hike, but at the end of the day, I like to sleep in a bed and poop in a toilet too goddamn much.
I don’t remember whose idea it was to take a bunch first-years on a three-night jaunt into the Adirondacks in the middle of July, in the middle of blackfly season, with the humidity around 135%, with no air in the air to breathe, just stickiness and biting things, with a fifteen-mile trek through a swamp to somewhere called Dexter Lake included but it won’t go down as one of their better ideas.
My dad was an assistant scoutmaster and damn if he didn’t basically carry me back to the main campsite from Dexter Lake, the last quarter of the way. Lying there in the tent after returning, a third of my body covered in welts, my legs burning with exhaustion, I prayed to God to get me out of two more nights of it. About an hour after that, the sky opened to thunder, lightning and torrential rain, they pulled up stakes as I laid there too tired to even move out of the rain. A few hours after that, I was quitting in the car as we drove home.
I liked tying knots and walking old ladies across the street but the rest of it, I guess I burned up my only get-out-of-jail free card to escape. I’m sorry to all the people I could have saved if I’d known I only got the one but damnation. Hell is the Adirondacks in blackfly season and thank God for the lightning, I escaped from hell that night. Who knows if someday I’m going back there but that one blessed night, my prayers were answered.