Stone Fireplace

The Fireplace

Enjoy our latest short story about this fireplace…

He couldn’t believe the pain. He glanced at the old stone fireplace with an aching glance and began to think of what he would need to get a fire going.  The fireplace looked like it suffered years or even decades of neglect and weathering in these ruins.  But the only thing that mattered was it’s use again a fireplace.

He slowly realized that this was a critical moment of his life.  But, he was so tired.  Every muscle and tendon ached with pain like his stomach.  His pain-wracked brain would only wander in and out of lucidity like the waves of the ocean pounding on the shore and it was so very difficult to think.

He left Valencia on the eastern coast of Spain what seemed a lifetime ago with a cargo hold of European firearms and the promises of riches to come from trading with the natives of this accursed land. Slowly, with a gathered force of effort he fought back the pain of his wound to start gathering small wood logs and twigs for the cold stone fireplace.

He sighed as he placed another log on the fire. Constantia, his wife, warned him not to go on this irrational voyage. She told him the money was not important. She wanted him to settle down, run a small shop in the city and have a family. He knew better though. Once you had the money, all those things would be easy.

The chances of becoming rich by bringing goods from Europe into Tejas made the risks palatable. Further, if you played your cards right, you could double your money by bringing back exotic animals like parrots or buffalo and strange manners of foodstuffs, and gadgets that the rich courtiers of the king were always looking to outbid each other for.

He envisioned her black flowing hair accented by pearls and gold. Yes indeed, he thought, a man could become exceedingly wealthy and life would be fabulous. The kindling caught flame and passed its blaze to the new log. Together they cheerfully burned and filled the remains of the room with the cheerful glow of dancing flames.

He sat in front of the growing warm fire gnawing on a piece of jerky, trying to keep his mind off of the steady pain in his midsection.   As he glanced at his drying sweat and blood soaked shirt when suddenly he thought of finding El Dorado out here. That mystical city of gold always seemed elusive and yet just over that next hill.  Man’s ability to suffer through living the hells of the desert with its native demons all looking to scalp you for trespassing on their land was astounding.   Greed is a killer.

It was a sudden revelation; he sat on this dirt-covered Stone Fireplacefloor in an old abandoned mission house with an arrow in the gut because of greed and now he was thinking of El Dorado! He cursed and struck the ground with the ham side of his fist. The hot pain in his midsection and a coughing fit of fresh blood instantly reminded him of his reality.   He stared angrily into the fire as he placed his knife in the coals.

The fire and pain conjured up many of the old stories he heard from the sailors on board ship. They would often spend an evening on top of the deck singing raunchy ballads or enjoying the day’s rum rations. Sometimes they would just sit and tell-tale tales of the famous El Dorado under the moonlit sky with the stars seemingly like bright diamonds just out of arms reach. Most of these stories involved the motif of lost men, gold paved streets and diamond-encrusted towers. He could only sigh again with a depressed moan that foretold of the darkness that was to arrive soon. Many a Spaniard bought into these tales of riches and adventures and eagerly went to their deaths in this primitive wilderness. He knew he would soon be one.

It was his own fault, he had ignored the warning at the port that the natives where rebelling against the crown in the Northern areas of Mexico. Greed had taken hold of his brain and made it feverish with desire for gold.   He had convinced himself that he only needed to hire only half the guards necessary for the trip. The reports were that the natives were always happy to see merchants bringing goods to the missions in this wilderness. He had convinced himself that nothing was going to happen and the extra gold made would be worth the risk.   What a fool!

Poking the fire with a stick, he instinctively knew that he had to seal his wound. The pain was already intolerable and he could feel the arrowhead creating fresh bleeding every time he moved.   It had to be taken out. There simply was no other option.

By now the edge tip of his knife blade was starting to glow with a life of its own. He painfully chuckled to himself. He thought of the sheer madness of the act he was about to do. He must clutch the slippery blood soaked arrow shaft with both hands, carefully slide it out in one fluid motion, and then press a red-hot piece of steel against the wound before he passed out or bled to death.

Until the moment he grabbed the slippery arrow shaft he never realized that it is possible to actually see pain. It’s like tunnel vision of your sight as throbbing circle the darkness and black begin to creep towards the center of your vision.   The world swam in a thousand colors of purple, reds, and hot white blues. He felt the wet shaft slide out in a flash of white-hot pain and immediately became seized in a wrathful coughing fit with a horrid copper aftertaste of fresh blood.

“First part is done, now to…” he rasped as he reached for the glowing knife.   With a prayer on his lips he thought of Constantia and stretched his shaking hand towards the knife. As he grasped the handle, he could feel his brain swimming and the world went mercifully jet-black.


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