dancing fire

I was the only girl and my Daddy’s darling. We had plenty, and every day of my life was fun!

After school that day I skipped all the way down White Oak Street to Mandy’s house.

Mandy came running, hair tousled by the brisk fall breeze. “Hey” I said, “Let’s skip down the hill to Ginny Henshaw’s and see if she wants to play.” And we did, hand-in-hand.

As soon as Ginny saw us, she pulled on her green cashmere sweater I adored and bounded off the porch. “Let’s go out back and play on the swing set,” she said.

We liked Ginny because she had nice things, too, including a swing set complete with monkey bars for hanging by the legs and side ladders for climbing. You could stand on the top of the ladder and swing over to the monkey bar. We liked to get on top and hang by our legs. We were rollicking on the swing set when I had an idea.

“Let’s do a show,” I said. “We’ll make it up and then invite the Boger boys and Brenda Sue and Matthew to come watch.” I loved shows, anyway, and the day before we had all gone to the county fair and there was a midway show in the evening with lots of acts. There was dancing, singing, acrobatics and a special water show at the end set to music, called “Dancing Waters.”

We got right to work. I took ballet and acrobatics, so I was choreographer, giving Ginny and Mandy great steps including tour jetés on the ground in front of the swing set. Of course, we had monkey bar crossing and hanging by our legs as well. I went to the top bar and somersaulted over to the ground. They clapped. Ginny and I sang, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” and danced in a circle as Mandy worked across the monkey bar hand-over-hand.

Then we remembered the evening before and the beautiful “Dancing Waters” that rose and fell to the beat of the music, and we wondered how we could add something exciting like that for our performance. I usually had the best ideas, but this time it was Ginny who said, “I know. My brother Carlton and his friend spilled a few drops of gasoline on the creek when they were mowing the grass out here the other day. They struck a match to it and it caught fire. It was cool.” They were older than us, but we knew we could do it, too.

So we had our grand finale. Our own “dancing waters.” We imagined tour jetés and hanging from the monkey bars in front of the creek and flames dancing in water behind us. Exciting, but we had to practice before we invited our audience.

We went through our routines, and Ginny went inside and came back with some big old country matches. Mandy and I found the gas can in the tool shed and dragged it down to the creek. We decided to use a lot of gas so the flames would be high and dramatic. Ginny struck the match, tossed it into the creek and, whoosh! Flames were everywhere.

We squealed and began to dance until suddenly fire jumped from the creek to the dry leaves along the bank and started running into the woods. There was no way to stop it. Ginny screamed, “Run. Run. Go home. Go home!” as she slammed the screen door at her house behind her. Mandy and I went racing down White Oak as fast as our eight-year-old legs would take us. When I got home, all out of breath, my Mom was sweeping the front walk.

”Hi, sweetheart. What have you all been doing?” Quivering inside with fear and guilt, I said, “Nothing, just playing,” and hurried by her.

I heard sirens in the distance mingled with the sound of my Daddy’s big Roadmaster Buick coming down the street and turning into the driveway. He hopped out of the car, hugged my Mom, and exclaimed, “Commotion down at the Henshaw’s. Firetrucks. Looks like the woods caught fire.”

Then Daddy looked at me and said, “How’s my darling?” I just sat on the steps wagging my knees back and forth, flashing a big sweet smile because my heart was pounding. He brushed my cheek with a kiss and went into the house.

Ginny hid her pretty sweater because it smelled like smoke and watched the firemen from a window. Mandy and I felt really sorry right off but we never told anyone. Ginny didn’t either. It was always our secret!

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