Becomes One Hundred Stories #24: Burns Forever

This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of three of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man, Becomes God’s Silent Prophet, and Becomes the Meaning Blossom.

Burns Forever

The man said he would not live forever.

The baker said no one lived forever.

The man said he would not do it. He said he had too many other things to do with his life.

The baker said she would not live forever either. She said she had been a baker long enough.

The man said he had his own work to do.

The baker added another piece of wood to the camp fire. Sparks scattered, and the wind blew smoke into the man’s eyes.

The man moved around the fire away from the smoke.

The baker said it would be cold in the night.

The man did not answer.

The night sky was filled with stars. The man looked at the stars and knew his time was running short.

The man told the baker his time was running short.

The baker said the man looked healthy to her.

The man said he was healthy. He said he was healthy, but even if he had forty, fifty, or sixty years remaining, his time was still running short.

The baker said her time was running short too.

The man said so it was.

The baker said that was why the man should become the baker for the town.

The man said he had too many other things to do with his life.

The baker said like what.

The man said it was too long a list to enumerate each one.

The baker said to name one.

The man named one.

The baker said that was not more important than feeding a town its bread.

The man said none of the things on his list were more important than feeding a town its bread.

The baker said then why wouldn’t the man do it.

The man said because the whole list was more important than feeding a town its bread even if each item on the list was not.

The baker said she had her own list.

The man said he did not doubt it.

The baker moved closer to the man. The wind and smoke blew into the man’s face once more, so the man moved again. He moved opposite the fire from the baker.

The baker looked at the stars in the night sky.

The man watched the baker look at the stars in the night sky.

The baker looked at the man and said what.

The man did not say anything.

The baker looked at the starry sky again.

The man said the baker could find any number of people in town who could do the baking.

The baker kept looking at the sky and said none of them would do it as well as the man could.

The man said that was irrelevant.

The baker said the man was the only one she knew in town who could consistently wake up early enough to make enough bread.

The man said anyone who wanted to be a baker could learn to consistently wake up early enough to make enough bread.

The baker said but the man already woke up early enough.

The man said he woke up early enough to do other important things for the town.

The baker said like what.

The man told her.

The baker was silent. She no longer looked at the stars. She looked at the hot coals in the heart of the fire. She looked at the heat dancing in yellow and orange waves.

The man watched the baker watch the hot coals in the heart of the fire.

The baker said she wanted to go away.

The man said so go away.

The baker said she could not leave the town without a baker.

The man said someone would do the job when the town got hungry enough.

The baker said it would be easier if the man just did it.

The man agreed it would be easier. He said it would be easier but he had other things to do, and besides, the easiest solution wasn’t always the right solution.

The baker crossed her arms over her knees and pressed her chin against a forearm. Her brow furrowed. She asked if the man would go with her.

The man said what about her husband.

The baker said what about him.

The man said nothing. The man put meat on the end of a stick and put it over the fire. He put it over the part of the fire where the coals burned hot with little flame.

The baker said she had had enough of baking and enough of her husband.

The man asked the baker if she expected him to watch over her husband too as she wanted him to take over the bakery.

The baker said no. She said she wanted the man to go with her.

The man said it would be easy for him to watch over her husband and take over the bakery so she could run away.

The baker said none of that would matter if the man would come with her.

The man said on the other hand running away might be the easiest thing. The easiest thing for both the baker and her husband and the town.

The baker said and the man.

The man said no. He said that would not be very easy for him.

The baker asked why.

The man told the baker why.

The baker said didn’t he want to—

The man said once would be enough.

The baker frowned and looked deep into the darkness outside the ring of light cast by the fire.

The man watched the baker as she looked deep into the darkness.

The baker said the man wanted others.

The man said he would not live forever.

The baker said she wouldn’t either.

The man said the baker had made her own choices.

The baker said she had chosen to be with the man that night.

The man said it was almost time for the baker to return to town to begin baking.

The baker said time was running short.

The man and the baker came together.

As the baker prepared to return to town to bake bread for the day, she told the man he had been right. She said once would be enough.

The man said once was always enough.

The baker said she had to go bake bread.

The man watched her go away into the darkness.

And the stars in the night sky and the coals in the heart of the fire burned like they would burn forever.

To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.

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