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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Estrada

Together By The Fire


Photo Courtesy of iStock


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“Mason, can I tell you something?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“I think that this is the best fire that your old man has put together.”

 

“Great.”

 

“You can really see the fire simmering on the wood.”  

 

“That's cool.”


Mason’s brown eyes continued to focus on the phone in front of him. His finger scrolled through social media posts steadily. The smirks and poses of his friends encapsulated his attention along with custom made skateboards and electric guitars designed with lightning bolts.

 

The brightness of his screen caused his eyes to sting to the point it brought tears. Mason would eventually blink to relieve his vision, but it was only so sparingly.

 

The acrid smell of burning embers wafted into his nostrils. All he heard was the sizzling of firewood and the rips of plastic wrappings.

 

“Let’s have s’mores,” a voice said. “I just opened up the bag of Marshmallows.”

 

“Give me a second Dad,” Mason mumbled.

 

He saw another post from Tony Hawk. He gave the post a like. He wrote a comment, listed the kind of tricks he did, the board he used, and his goal of becoming a professional skateboarder.

 

It wasn’t his first comment, and he knew it wouldn’t be his last. It would take endless persistence for a skateboard legend such as the Birdman to notice him. Hopefully he can be seen before he graduates high school.

 

“Can’t you put the phone down?

 

“Yes, just wait.”

 

Mason ignored his dad’s deep sigh. The orange hues of the fire pit glowed around his phone screen. His palms continued to cradle his phone with every finger adding an additional layer of security on the glass sides.

 

He could feel his palms begin to sweat as the warmth of the fire embraced his bare arms. Occasionally, his nails would scratch on his wrists as red bumps began to form. Yet he remained entranced with the colored lights of concert videos and trick shots.

 

He stopped scrolling when he saw an image of an open job position at Vans. They wanted a floor supervisor. He knew how to supervise. No thief has ever touched his vans shoes at home.


He could get the job and increase his collection of skateboard attire. He could buy a new board. He could win a competition. He could meet Tony Hawk. His dad has always said he should get a job. Maybe he could do something with his life after all.

 

“That’s it, give me the phone.”

 

The phone disappeared suddenly. Mason looked up to see his father begin to sit on a log on the other side of the fire. He wore a forest green t-shirt and khaki shorts. His lips had formed a thin line, and his brown eyebrows were furrowed. Mason stood up from his log.

 

“Dad! Give me my phone back!” Mason said.

 

“You’ve been on your phone for the past five hours Mason,” his father said as he placed the phone next to him on the log. “It’s time you pay attention to what’s around you.”

 

“I have been paying attention,” Mason argued. “There’s nothing to see but trees.”

 

“You’re wrong,” his father said. “You haven’t been looking hard enough.”

 

“It’s not that hard to look at a forest, Adam,” Mason spat and crossed his arms.  

 

He watched his father’s forehead begin to form creases. His hands gripped his wooden stick tightly. Mason raised an eyebrow, waiting for the stick to split in half.

 

“Sit down Mason,” he said calmly. “I will not say it again.”

 

Mason scowled. He slouched on his seat and crossed his arms. He watched his father grab another wooden stick and place a marshmallow on top. He held it out.

 

“Why don’t you toast a marshmallow.”

 

“I’ll pass.”

 

His father looked at the ground as he placed the stick next to him. The cracklings grew louder, and smoke began to fly above the fire.

 

Mason saw his phone on the log across from him. He can start the small talk. He can talk about how their camping tent was able to withstand the wind from last night. He can talk about how many fish his dad was able to catch this afternoon. He can talk about the deer his dad was able to shoot away with a rifle.

 

He can talk about anything to have the phone fall back on his hands.

 

“Don’t you think about grabbing that phone son.”

 

Mason hung his head back and released a groan.

 

“What is so interesting about that phone huh?” His father asked.

 

“There’s just cool videos to see,” Mason shrugged.

 

He watched the size of the fire start to diminish and sneaked occasional glances at his phone.

 

“How can you see videos in the woods?”

 

Mason heard the crunches of graham crackers as his father bit into another s’more. He always nibbled with every bite and vigorously wiped his hands each time. How can he take so long to eat and wipe the chocolate away every time? The chocolate is the best part!

 

“Some guy has cell service near us in his RV,” Mason said, “He had no password and I got myself connected.”

 

“Figures,” his father grumbled. “You have always been so smart with these computer things. Back in my day, all I had was a Walkman.”

 

“Geez, you’re old,” Mason winced.

 

“Well, you’re not going to be fifteen years old forever,” his father chuckled. “You’re growing up and can now get a job.”

 

Mason shifted in his seat and bounced his leg.

 

“Dad, about that-“

 

“There are a lot of options to choose,” his father continued while taking a big bite. “They have open positions at the local bank where you can be a sales associate, or you can be a receptionist for my company. We’ll pay you $17 an hour.”

 

“Dad, I want to work at Vans.”

 

His father stopped chewing.

 

“Vans?” he asked. “That’s the store your mother buys your clothes from, right?”

 

Mason nodded.

 

“They have a part-time floor supervisor position that pays $15 an hour,” Mason said. “I’ll work with customers in the store and be able to get new parts for my skateboard so I can join competitions and become a professional skateboarder-”

 

“Mason,” his father interrupted him. “Skateboarding isn’t going to pay the bills. Why don’t you look for a real career option? You can study business and become a CEO just like your old man. You know that the next generation-“

 

“Must carry the torch of the current, I get it dad,” Mason mumbled with a clenched jaw and a deep regret.

 

There was a silence. His father placed a burnt marshmallow between the two crackers and took a bite. Mason clasped his fingers and faced the ground, shutting his eyes.

 

“You should really make a s’more,” his father said. “I remember how you would always grab two graham crackers and pretending they would be a mouth eating the chocolate. You would always-”

 

“Dad, Can I just go to bed?” Mason asked.

 

He was ready to stare into darkness and drown in his thoughts instead of his slumbers. He ached to snatch his phone and hide under his sleeping bag. He wanted to find another skateboard video, reach out to his secret gang of skaters his father didn’t know about, and live under the false illusion that he can be anything he wanted to be, and his dad would be proud of him.

 

He had every episode of King of the Road on his phone. He loved streaming Zeke and Luther. He loved posting his trick shots and listening to hard rock as the wheels of his board whirled on the pavements.

 

He can share himself with the world, become friends with other skaters who praise him for his skills, and feel that his life isn’t wasting away because he’s not pursuing business.

 

He can do it all….because he has a phone.

 

“Fine,” his father sighed. “Just take my cap with you,” He grabbed his hat from the ground and held it out for Mason to grab. Mason held the hat in his hands and paused.  

 

“I didn’t think you still had this.”

 

The hat was white and had two blue handprints. There were yellow stains and dangling strings along the edges.

 

“Of course,” Adam said. “It’s my favorite hat.”

 

“But it’s so ugly,” Mason said. “How can you still wear this?”

 

“Any gift from my son isn’t ugly,” Adam said. “It’s special to me.”

 

Mason sat down at the log across from him and stared down at the hat. He remembered painting his tiny hands and pressing them down on the cap. He remembered how white his dad’s teeth were when he held it out to him for the first time. He remembered how the hat covered his eyes when he first wore it and how silly he looked.

 

He even remembered his dad wearing it the day he sat on his school’s floor crying. He had been teased by his friends for wearing his new glasses, and he was pushed to the ground where he was waiting to be picked up. His dad found him and held out his hand. They walked to his friends, and his father warned them to not tease him again. His friends ran away afraid, and Mason looked up at his dad wearing the white cap in awe.

 

“You really like this hat that much?” Mason asked.

 

“You worked really hard to make this for me no matter how hard it was for you to get your hands dirty,” his father said. “I was really proud of you.”

 

“And now?” Mason whispered. He looked into his dad’s eyes and held his breath.

 

“I’ve never stopped being proud of you, my son.”

 

Mason continued to look at the cap and held on to it gingerly. The ripped holes and dirt marks made him hold on to it tighter. He took a deep breath. He placed the hat next to him.

 

“Aren’t you going back to the tent?” Adam asked.

 

“No,” Mason said as he watched the fire glow on his father’s face. “I’m going to make a s’more.”

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