JJ watched the fire, the pulsating red coals down in there, below the wood. Camping in Maine on the road trip with Lila. A beautiful night, high fifties, perfect weather for this perfect campfire after a sun soaked day. Stars out, not a cloud in the sky.
JJ was uneasy.
In fact he was downright irritable. Earlier, he had watched Lila as she ate a lobster. (Not Lobstah! JJ saw the t-shirts. People who bought a t-shirt with the word “Lobstah” on it? Morons.) JJ looked at Lila as Lila gazed at the picturesque Maine harbor. Revulsion at her chewing. He noticed the age in her face, the lines around her eyes, and the way her throat moved when she swallowed. He watched her crack the shell of the poor little prehistoric monster on her plate, her fingers dripping with butter. She was really enjoying herself! All that moist ripping and relishing of juices. Brutal! Who the hell was this woman?
“Eat it, JJ,” she said. “Just do it.”
He had started to. And the tail meat was good. Except there was this brown goop that clung where the tail met the body, soiling the nice white meat. It was persistent, the clinging of this brown goop. It wouldn’t rinse away and it just smeared when he tried to flick it off. He couldn’t ignore that. Shit? Guts? Brown effluvium from any body; crustacean, mammal, or other; should never be eaten. Seriously.
“It’s okay,” she said. “It all tastes like the sea.”
But he couldn’t eat any more of it and she shook her head as if he had left his cap on during the national anthem.
And now in front of their perfect campfire on this perfect evening he couldn’t shake that peevish feeling. What’s the big deal? Except that Lila had moved on and was toasting a marshmallow with the focus of a chef working some delicate morsel over the flame. The tip of her tongue stuck out in concentration and the light gave her face a glow and god, yes, she was beautiful. It just annoyed and shamed him all over again.
He got his own stick, impaled a marshmallow, and shoved it into the flames. The mallow caught fire and sizzled as the flame worked around it, leaving a black flaky shell.
“JJ!” she said.
“That’s the way I like it.”
“Okay,” she said. “Look at mine.” She showed him the golden swollen orb on the stick. She put her head back and dramatically lowered the mallow into her open mouth like an eager fire eater. She closed her mouth and removed the stick, molten white mallow coating the point, and she moaned with delight. She savored, smiled, and then said, “You’re going to have a hard time matching up with that tonight.”
To JJ, she looked grotesque in the firelight, like some ravenous wood goddess devouring bits of men as they were forced to watch. “I’m going for a walk,” JJ said and started away into the dark.
“That’s my last try tonight,” Lila said and threw the stick toward the fire. It clattered on the fire ring and bounced away. “Come back when you’re done being a dick.”
“It might be awhile.”
He walked away from the firelight and was fully wrapped in the dark.