Today is my first overnight camping trip, just grandpa and me.
"Brendan, will you be afraid?" he asked.
"No," I told him. "Grandpa, I'm almost eight years old." He gave me an awesome high-five. For an old guy, he's kind of cool. My mom and dad didn't want to come. I wish they would have.
"They still need time to work things out," Grandpa said.
"I hope soon," I heard him whisper. It's almost a whole month now since I went to live with my grandpa.
"Do you think we'll ever live together again?" I asked.
Grandpa took a long time to answer. "Yes," he said. He couldn't look at me. I think he was angry with his son who used to hit me a lot, and my mom, too.
I looked up at the moon. It wasn't smiling. I think it was sad like me. "Stop worrying so much, Brendan," grandpa said. "You're just a little boy."
"But I can't stop thinking about them," I said back. "I want us to be happy again, like before."
"Come here," grandpa said. "I want to tell you something." When my dad called me, I ran very quickly. If I came too slowly, he would slap me. Not my grandpa though. He loves me too much.
"You might hear a lot of noises in the woods tonight," grandpa said. "This is where animals live. Night is when they walk around. Like when you and I go hiking, except we do it in the daytime."
I looked up at him. He had a cap on, the one I got him for Christmas last year and his heavy bush jacket. "I'm not afraid when I'm with you, grandpa," I said. Then it was time to set up our dome tent. I helped push bamboo poles through the right places.
"Please don't stand on the tent walls. If you get a hole in the side, rain will come in," grandpa said. After it was finished, the dome tent was higher than me.
"Grandpa. Are we going to make a fire now?"
"Don't you think it's kind of late? You must be tired. Besides, we can make a fire for breakfast."
"No. I want to see the fireflies. Tonight, okay?"
"I don't think they're around this time of year."
Sometimes I have to be patient with grandpa, like right now. "Let's have a fire. Please."
"Alright, a small one. For a short while anyway," grandpa said. The older man looked fondly at his grandson; such a little guy with a packsack full of concerns.
"Thank you grandpa," I said back.
"First, we put our sleeping bags in the tent. Then a blanket for each of us to keep warm, right?" grandpa asked.
"Yes grandpa," I said. I even brought my daddy's old 'Star Wars' pillow. Grandpa had a really huge pillow.
"Are you warm enough, Brendan? I could get you a sweater to wear under your coat, if you're cold."
"You better not tell me you're cold later."
When grandpa's voice growls like a lion, it makes me shiver. It sounds like my dad's voice when I used to do something wrong.
"I'm sorry Brendan," grandpa said. "Did I frighten you?"
"Yes," I said in a low voice.
"I'm sorry. Help me get some firewood, okay."
"Yup. Grandpa, I hear a noise." So I growled loud as I could, "Are you a monster hiding behind those trees?" I yelled.
"You watch too many cartoons," grandpa said. "It must be a deer. It's just curious and wants to get a closer look at our campsite."
"Yes, I see it" Brendan said. It was a deer, with antlers. "Will he hurt us?" I asked.
"No," grandpa said, "He's eating apples from that tree."
Then I moved and it ran away. Now the sky was getting really dark.
"Are you sleepy?" grandpa asked.
"No. I have to see the fireflies first," I said.
"Well, I'm not going to argue with you," grandpa said.
"Let's make a campfire, now. Please."
"Okay," he finally said.
I helped him get the firewood. After I watched him light the small pieces shaped like a teepee, then he kept adding bigger pieces. Soon, the flames were like dancing fingers. They made shapes above the fire. And chased away the darkness.
I was warm with my hooded jacket. My gloves and baseball cap helped. "Grandpa, watch. The fireflies are going to come. You'll see." He didn't believe me, until I saw the first one. "Look!"
He looked around.
"Look! Look!" More came.
"Where are they?" he asked.
"Right there. They're making circles." Another one zinged by.
"Brendan? Are those bits of fire your fireflies?" grandpa asked.
"Yes," I answered.
"They're just bits of wood burning," grandpa said.
"Not," I said back.
"Why do you think they're fireflies?"
"Because they light up the sky."
Then grandpa brought me close beside him. He put his arm around my shoulders. "They're just bits of wood and fire," he said. "Then the wind blows away the leftover pieces."
"No! No!" I said. "They fly around and around making family circles."
"Who told you that?" grandpa asked.
"My dad did. He made a campfire last year at the lake. He said the fireflies make a circle. Like a family holding hands." Then I looked down. A couple of tears fell down my cheeks, "So everyone can be together."
Grandpa got really quiet. He collected more wood and built up the fire. Now it burned even more brightly. I just watched.
The stars began to look like Christmas lights in the sky. I think they wanted to be fireflies too. An owl hooted on the other side of the small lake. His funny sounds came scooting across the water. It was neat. Then grandpa sat close beside me.
Together we watched our fire burn until the tall flames fell down. When the wind blew on them I saw the fireflies come again.
They spit and hissed and danced. Then flew around in all directions. Some of them made huge circles. Some made little ones. I made a wish for my mom and dad. I wanted us to be a family again.
"Will you give your dad another chance?" Grandpa's words came out of the darkness. "I mean, if he doesn't hit you anymore?"
I knew the answer right away. "Yes," I said. Then grandpa and me stayed up late, talking. And we watched more fireflies making lots of family circles.
* * *
Richard L. Provencher 2007
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: email@example.com re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.