“Shall I throw more moss on the bond-fire?” Nicky asks, his little face serious, intent on the job he’s doing.
“OK, just do it carefully,” says Dad-Dad, sighing; this has to be the 20th time Nicky’s asked the same question.
Nicky pushes his sleeves back, takes a deep and serious breath which he releases through his teeth as he chooses the piece he wants from the pile. Solemnly he carries it over to the bonfire in outstretched arms, taking sturdy steps.
“I’m helping keep the flames back, aren’t I?” he looks over his shoulder, nodding and making the curls on his head bounce. “This is important work.” With respect he stares at the fire whilst he throws in his handful of moss, careful to keep his feet on the invisible mark Dad-Dad has pointed out.
“Dad-Dad, can I stand a little closer?”
“Should I watch from here?”
“Yes, don’t go any nearer than that.”
“Because the fire’s hot, Nicky.”
“Why is the fire hot?”
“Because it’s burning the dead leaves and branches.”
“Is that why it crackles, Dad-Dad?” Nicky bends down and selects a twig from the ground.
“I guess so.”
“What makes the crackles?”
“I think it’s the branches when they snap in the flames, Nicky.”
“Why aren’t you sure?” Nicky asks, inspecting the details on his twig, without losing a moment of the bonfire or the conversation.
“Because … um let me see … because, I don’t really know.”
“Why don’t you know?”
Dad-Dad is losing his patience. As Dad-Dad turns, Nicky flings his twig into the fire, poker-faced. He is stands watching the flames hands on hips, his chubby little feet slightly apart. The silence seems to startle him and Nicky turns to meet Dad-Dad’s baffled gaze with a sharp questioning look. A little furrow begins to form in his brow where his annoyance always shows first.
“But, why don’t you know Dad-Dad?”
“I – er, I just don’t know Nicky.”
“Look Nicky, I have no more answers in my head right now, can we have a little break?”
“Why? Did your head get empty?” Worried, Nicky glances around the area where Dad-Dad has been working.
“Yes, that’s right. It got empty. Maybe in ten minutes or so something will pop back in again. Who knows.”
“Oh.” Nicky’s shoulders sag a little and he stares at the ground shoving his hands in his pockets.
“Run along now Nicky, go inside and find Mum-Mum.”
Nicky’s eyes light up, he pulls his hands from his pockets and looks hopefully at his grandfather. “Do you think she’ll have some answers in her head, Dad-Dad?”
“Yes, Nicky, I’m sure she will,” grins Dad-Dad, a naughty twinkle in his blue eyes.
Without a backward glance, Nicky kicks open the garden gate and runs off to find his grandmother.