Friday, November 5, 2010

#fridayflash~Burning the Guy

Burning the Guy


Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The orange flames writhed like a beast trapped in a hellish dimension. The fiery wood pile shifted slightly, sending sparks upwards with the thick smoke.

Most of the villagers gathered near the waters edge to enjoy the annual Bonfire Night. It had been a community tradition along the bay for generations and Cassandra King couldn’t even remember what it was meant to celebrate.

Smaller children, their faces aglow, chased one another about the fire. The older youths clustered together in small groups at the perimeter of the gathering; their hoods were pulled up, leaning into one another occasionally for quiet conversation.

Cassandra zipped her jacket up to the neck and sipped her rum and Coke; its ice had long since melted but she enjoyed the drink just the same. She stared at the flames. Entranced. She didn’t feel very social and was content to sit on her plastic chair behind most of the revelers. Besides, she was fully aware that much of the swirling mist was caused by burning plastics, rubber and God-knows-what from items tossed on the pile the past few days.

“Penny for the guy?” asked young Lizzy Bishop, drawing Cassandra from her thoughts. She smiled and placed a quarter in the girl’s outstretched palm. “Thanks!” she said and ran towards the old man tending the fire.

Mr. Donovan was crouched down, his leathery face pinched in concentration, poking at the sand with a long stick. The old man unearthed the foil-wrapped potatoes that had been baking; he took the coins from the waiting youngsters and handed each a potato. The children ran off tossing the hot potato back and forth between their hands.

Old wood and sundry garbage items had been getting dumped at the site for a week. Building lumber, palates, crates, tables with chipped paint and broken chairs had been stacked in a pile that was now over 15 feet high. The hungry flames consumed the village discards. They danced in the darkness and licked at the night sky. The crowd began to chant:

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot…


Words the community had chanted for generations. Cassandra didn’t know the meaning of the words but she knew that they would never find Tom’s remains.

That treasonous bastard.

The entire operation had been devilishly simple. Her husband had emptied out their bank account and was at home packing his bags. Tom was going to drive to the city to pick up his mistress and then head to Vegas. At least that’s what the text messages she had read implied.

Cassandra had emerged from her hiding place in the closet and clubbed him over the head with his aluminum baseball bat. She removed the wad of cash from his pocket, stuffed him in his hockey bag and rolled him to the beach on a dolly in the wee hours. It was easy enough to drag the bag across the sand and remove the small pile of wood and place him in the shallow pit at the bottom. She restacked the wood and added a few bits of her own. She had reported him missing the next day but the police quickly concluded, due to his Blackberry messages and the missing money, that he had fled his marriage.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot…


The crowd shouted and cheered as Mr. Donovan held the straw-filled clothing aloft. It was an effigy to some long dead traitor in a faraway land. Cassandra’s poppy had told her the story when she was a little girl but she no longer remembered the reason for the bonfire. Mr. Donovan tossed the limp rags onto the orange flames. Cassandra jumped to her feet and cheered with the community as the fire raged on.

28 comments:

Marisa Birns said...

Absolutely wonderful! Terrifying, too. So the trick to delicious baked potatoes is blazing fire and a dash of traitor, eh? :D

Bill Owens said...

Very nicely done. After all, why waste a perfectly good bonfire?

Icy Sedgwick said...

Message from England! Weirdly enough, Guy Fawkes was never burned himself - he was hung, drawn and quartered. However, the burning is supposed to symbolise the "purging of evil" from this alleged "traitor". So really, Cassandra has applied the same punishment to her treacherous husband. Fair play to her!

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

Nice one. How devilish.

John Wiswell said...

It seems like a lot of Fawkes remembrance is a celebration of vague anarchism and general discontent. Characters feeling unsure what the holiday is about makes solid sense to me. Is it firm in Canada? Hopefully any ladies in your life are clearer of mind and action.

A Daft Scots Lass said...

Thanx for stopping by. A great story...

Lily Childs said...

If anyone ever manages to get to Lewes in East Sussex for 5th November you'll feel the rebellion, and how it has never ended.

Fabulous recounting, Alan of a bonfire night perhaps more typical than we would like. An excellent and evocative write.

antisocialbutterflie said...

Nice. It is interesting that she is using a holiday revolving around treachery to cover her own (whether justified or not is another conversation). I liked the parallels. Great job.

Eric J. Krause said...

Excellent story! Her story and the story of the celebration worked very well together. Even though she murdered her husband, it was still a fun story to read. (Or maybe because she murdered her husband...)

Alan W. Davidson said...

Marisa- You have that baked potato recipe perfectly! THanks for the kind words.

Bill- Thanks. Words of wisdom, indeed...

Icy- Burn the traitor! I was reading a bit about Guy on Wiki...aparently they didn't get to the hanging as he jumped from the gallows and broke his neck. They did, however, continue on and the corpse was drawn and quartered. That'll teach 'im!

Wendy- Thank you kindly, prairie lady.

John- Ha! I'm sure ladies everywhere are quite unpredictable (Oops! Did I say that! I only meant to think it...) It's pretty much only followed here in Newfoundland. A by-product, I think, of all of the British that settled here. You were right on with the anarchy observation.

Gillian- And thank you as well!

Lily- I actually watched a couple of the Lewes bonfires while 'researching' on YouTube. Large and out-of-control affairs. You're making me blush with all those kind words.

Coyote- True enough...treachery to cover up treachery would make an interesting conversation (to be had at a later date). Thanks very much. I'm glad that you enjoyed the parallel.

Eric- Thanks very much, sir. Yep, she's got a style of her own when it comes to celebrating.

Sue H said...

One way of dealing with an errant spouse! I like the way she had made herself comfortable in 'pole position' to witness his final exit!
Well done, Alan!

David Barber said...

Alan, absolutely loved this one. You took me back to my childhood with the baked potatoes, only we never used foil and ended up eating the charcoal off the spud first. (Best way to cook one though!) Then you slap me in the face with a murder. Excellent writing, my friend!!

Have a great weekend.

theothersideofdeanna said...

Alan, I was entranced from the first sentence and enthralled by the rest. I love how you weave the past and present here, how she can't remember the reason for the celebration so, it seems, creates a reason of her own.

This is a favorite!

Cathy Webster (Olliffe) said...

I think that's the best flash you've ever posted.

Gracie said...

This. Is. Awesome. Good on her. You wove the elements together so well, it's like a poem.

LOVE this story!

Steve Green said...

Excellent retribution story Alan, she should have put the cheating maggot on the top like we do in Enland. :)

Sam said...

Loved this modern twist on a historical story. Bravo!

Alan W. Davidson said...

Sue- Ha! I like that expression...'pole position'. You sound like a regular at the bonfire festivities.

David- Thanks, mate! Imagine you'd be chewing on some sand or dirt with that charcoaled potato skin. Glad you enjoyed the tale.

Deanna- Thank you kindly. I pleased that you enjoyed the story.

Cathy- Stop it! You're making me blush.

Gracie- Thanks for all those kind words, Graceie.

Steve- Harsh! Burning them over the open flames like the old days. Glad you enjoyed the story.

Sam- Thank you kindly, sir.

techtigger said...

nice, dark story. and a great twist on the tradition! :D

A. S. Boudreau said...

twisted and dark.. and very well done!

kathryn said...

Woah. That's some serious poetic justice! And how convenient the cheating bastard made it for Cassandra to dispose of the body.

Fabulous story, as always Alan...

Bukowski's Basement said...

This one was awesome, and as I said on David's blog post, something kinda badass about Guy Fawkes day... Says the yankee. ;)

Kath said...

The cheating husband couldn't have screwed up at a better time for her to dispose of him and, even if she couldn't remember the reasons for celebrating Bonfire Night in the past, this November 5th will have changed that now that it's taken on its own significance to her. I bet jacket potatoes never taste as good again. Brilliant story - I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Laurita said...

...I see no reason why Tom's treason
should ever be forgot.


Excellent story. It was impossible to stop reading with that first paragraph. I love a good fire story.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Angie- Thank you. Let's hope she doesnt make that a tradition with all the guys that she meets!

Amie- Thanks very much!

Kathryn- It's always nice when a guy has a baseball bat and hockey bag lying around...and has withdrawn a lot of money with HIS card...

Ant- Yeah, but I think Jersey must have had its share of burning stuff. Though maybe not as much as Detroit...

Kath- Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Perhaps she will celebrate the anniversary each year with a sparkler. Or more...

Laurita- Yep, this town has seen a fire or two over the years. Thanks very much.

Paula Ray said...

Intense story here. I enjoyed its devilish plot. It truly kept me glued to the screen to see what happened next.

Harry said...

You know you've really pissed some people off when you are already dead and they still go ahead and have you drawn and quartered. Ecellent story Alan!

Lou Freshwater said...

Loved this, Alan. "That treasonous bastard," is such a great line I found myself saying it out loud several times, and thoroughly enjoying myself each time. Let's not think about what that says about me. ;-) Anyway, a great story. Well done.