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The burnt umber and golden glow of the dying fire reflected in the faces around the pit. The group had dwindled to an intimate gathering of four.  As the crowd had thinned, so had the conversation.  Moments ago the talk was so heavy that it came at you like waves at the point, from all directions.  Now, stretches of comfortable quiet filled of the air, making room for the fireflies.

Through the smoke, across the pit, Sammy sat fingering the label on his beer.  He picked at it gently, but persistently.  Even sitting, anyone could tell Sam was a big guy, a burly man in all respects, except for the shock of wild white blonde hair that sprang from his head without rules.  The tiny motion of beer label tinkering seemed out of place from someone so large. The rest of him sat still and contemplative.

Talk had turned away from the day’s events, and on to what we had been doing with our lives in the year since we last gathered around our family’s old brick circle fire pit.  The waves hitting the shore acted as the bass beat background to our discussion.  It had been a year of transitions for all of us, kids off to school, new jobs, marriage troubles, and for Sammy, the twelve steps that seemed too high to climb.

No one mentioned the small pile of dead soldiers that gathered at the base of his lawn chair, but we all saw it, and we all went on chatting, ignoring their significance.  We each took our turn sprinkling the air with chatter, just enough so that Sammy didn’t have to join in.  If he had, what would he say?  Would he reveal a family secret that none of us wanted to acknowledge?  Would he blame us?  Were we one beer or glass of boxed wine away from following in his footsteps?  The fireflies flitted in and out of the firelight, punctuating my every question.

Without comment, Sammy rose from his seat and walked toward the cottage.  I watched him, as he made his way across the pine needle covered yard and up the steps of my aunt’s tiny porch.  He paused at the door and inspected the porch light.

“What’s up, Sammy?” I asked.

“Can’t you see it?” he answered.

“No.  What is it?”

“Firefly,” he said.  “It’s stuck in this spider’s web.”  With that, and a flick of his gentle fingers, I watched as a tiny light wavered, righted itself, and disappeared into the woods.

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