John, Chris, and I had talked about it, we knew what we were doing. First, though, we wanted to make sure that our sister agreed too. And we knew we had to act quickly, if we were to dissuade our father. Much as we loved him, and admired him, we knew that once he had decided upon a particular course of action, persuading him to change his mind would be difficult.
Chris’ support was invaluable. Already, we knew that our father had appointed him as the principal overseer and custodian of his literary legacy. John’s moral stature, as the priest of the family, was something Father would respect too. I knew that my influence would be much more limited: whereas my sister possessed an empathetic connection, to both my father and my later mother, that would be invaluable.
It was a bad decision, my father’s sentimentality at its very worst. He could be excessive in this regard at times. He was never embarrassed to shed a tear, or to embrace his sons, even in public. This familial affection was in strong contrast to the prevalent portrait of him as a curmudgeonly writer, an outmoded academic content to dwell in his ivory tower, standing aloof from a world in which every sign of ‘progress’ or ‘innovation’ was greeted with suspicion, even derision.
I could imagine the defence he would mount, when we voiced our sincere objections to him; reservations that we would express only out of an earnest desire to protect him from ridicule. He had so many detractors, after all, in the world, jealous of his genius; and in some respect his devotees - the ones increasingly-known these days as ‘fans’, a word I suspect my father detested - were even worse. They would certainly spot the meaning of that curious name engraved on Mother’s gravestone, straight away.
I could picture him shaking his head, and waving his pipe in our direction. ‘No, Michael, I will not listen. Your mother knew the stories of my legendarium, long before anyone else had heard them. She may have been less familiar with their later iterations. She certainly never understood the attention I was later afforded by so many of those who seem to regard me as an author of something tantamount to holy writ, at least in their own eyes; I don’t pretend to understand it myself. But she knew the love which I bore for her, and the sacrifices we made for one another, not least in the days of our youth; and she knew the person with whom she was identified, in terms of the greater story. She also knew which character within the tale represented me. But the story has gone crooked, and I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos.’
Thus, I imagined, he would respond to our entreaties. Our sister might hold the key to persuading him to our position. But to my surprise, when we spoke to Priscilla, she firmly took the side of my father.
‘John, Michael, Christopher,’ she said, addressing us from eldest to youngest brother, as always she did when speaking to us as a group. ‘Father is right. I know you show these concerns out of love for him. You do not want the memory of our mother tarnished, either. But his mind is quite made up. And when his time comes, he has told me what name he wants carved on the headstone, beneath hers. This isn’t for the fans, for anyone who might come afterwards. It isn’t for us. It’s for her - the girl he remembers who danced for him amongst the hemlocks, long ago. So let him have his way.’
And so we did. Nothing more was said. And when not so many months later we gathered at his graveside, we read together the inscription, suitably updated, in an Oxfordshire cemetery where one of the greatest writers of the 20th century now lay at rest with his beloved wife, our mother. Upon the headstone, besides the roses, were these simple words:
Edith Mary Tolkien, Lúthien, 1889-1971
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Beren, 1892-1973
I didn’t choose the names for this challenge: but as soon as I saw the opening sentence with which we had been charged to begin, I knew exactly what my story would be. My imagined ‘discussions’ between the children of J.R.R. Tolkien are entirely fictitious; but their names and relationships within the Tolkien family are not. The line beginning ‘But the story has gone crooked...’ is a direct quote from a letter of Tolkien to his son Christopher, written in July 1972. And at Tolkien’s behest, the names of the protagonists of his great love story, the Elf-maiden Lúthien, and the man Beren, were indeed added to the headstone that still stands on their grave in Wolvercote Cemetery, Oxford. Requiescant in Pace.
Then we did what needed to be done. Washed are hands of the thing thoroughly. Erasing any possible traces that would lead to the mention or discovery of a place. We all knew the way there from a different angle. That none of us had used in the company of another. Including ourselves. We could confidently trust one another not to divulge the plan outside are triumvirate. AKA air our dirty luandry. Because it would only result in one’s own demise. And bring no mention of the other two in the process. We knew not the others real names. Or whence from where thy came. But we could all agree on one thing we would go to any lengths keeping our secret a secret.
Three strangers saved each other from undue horrors. At a place each found themselves by accident at the same time six years prior. They had grown into best buds in that time. Meeting at the spot they first met incognito every time since. For shits and giggles. They each had wish to escape some camp monotony. Of all that hardcore thespian/band/dance camp crap. That’s gotten to an extant one could see it’s out of the many less than adult camp directors scope and control. This year six. To create and cast a broadway caliber summers night dream show. To play out on one big stage yet built for and by a couple hundred pre teen/teen suburban wannabe stage, film, and rock stars. In just under six weeks. No way all three agreed.
Completly disregarding three other older slightly smaller stages. That most all are familiar with. Having previously been part of a production that made use of them. It made no sense not to use them as well. In case we run out of time to build the new grandiose outdoor theatre/stage had in mind. And creating three separate short stories to derive three intimate productions from. That tie into each other in a forth. Time permitting. Is far easier than starting from scratch on a expensive blockbuster set to take place on a yet to be constructed mega stage.
So just to be sure our plans wouldn’t be denied. We prayed someone would cause something to happen to the lumber and gear that had been delivered the day we arrived. That would encourage the directors to feel what we each proposed separately to our individual camps director a good idea worth looking into further. Because once a thespian/rockstar/dance god has their foot in the door. There’s little one can do to deny their youthfully exuberant charms.
"Fire?" "Fire?" "Fire?"
"What hear of fire have any to tell?"
As if the devils no not such a thing exist. "Should I be scared”
The three bastards dared to say. Here in the burners infancy.
Then the heat from said blaze blowing to and fro now so intense. Washed over each of their faces on the back of strong winds. And It became apparent the danger was quite real. Even more so when the sounds of shrieking children drowned out that of anything else. It was all said and done in no more than twenty thirty minutes. By the time the fire trucks arrived ten minutes later. Nothin has was left of two out buildings but the charred remains of the bodies and the footings of the former structures. Black smoldering coals and the melted fat from corpses occasionally flaming up hot and burning out fast. Smoke and the smell of sizzling fat inundated the area. Conjuring up terrifying memories for some of the children that witnessed their peers burning to death from less that ten twenty feet away for some.
“What happened?" An accident by all accounts was the seemingly most obvious answer. A spark or something else caught the building materials on fire. Much of which was flammable paints and solvents and stains. Also tons of craft paper and stuff for set design. That got so hot so fast it caught two adjacent old wood buildings also filled with much found flammable. And the hot dry air and windy weather thats found common in the area come summer. Created a tinder box out of the old wood structures. That burned up faster than flash cotton. The forty children never made it out of the beds for the most part. None was injured in the fire that didn’t also lose their life as well. No wounded other than those who were trying to fight the blaze were attended to by the fireman and paramedics. For the scars John, Chris, and Gaylord would wear the rest of there lives. Would not have benefited from a little TLC.
Before their parents will arrive to take them home later that day or the next morning the trio met at the place of their first introductions to each other. Nowhere special just a secluded rock outcrop a short stroll away. In between the three separate-ish camps. That had plans to combine into one legally. But had yet to do so. The three each attended a different camp for the last six years. Becoming very close friends in that time. In secret to anyone else for the most part. Though not for any insidious reasons. It just happened that way. They never wrote each other hardly called on the phone. Until they got older. And then only after taking great care not to make such a notable occurrence.
That afternoon is when things got really weird for the three. Or so they all agreed. None among them took blame for starting the fire Though all said they were eager to be the first among them to do so. And had set out to do so with containers of kerosene they had each stashed and lighters or matches to start the show. As they called it. The greatest show on earth on would explain jokingly. Explaining he was trying to lighten up the situation is all. With a bit of humor. Before adding the reasons for which they’d never made it to their stashes to start the fire. For whatever reason. Their Suspicion now fell on one the other. For how much did they really know about one the other. But first names and some old phone numbers. Never met their families or siblings. Didn’t discuss religion. None mentioned they were into any sporting teams. All they did was talk about their dreams. Which in general were grand fictitious fairytales. As extraordinary or terrifying as they could imagine. Yes they not being above writing scripts for slasher films or ones with grand displays of war atrocities. Could seem to have the potential to imagine any kind of sine full treachery. What next for these three......
John, Chris, and I had talked about it. We knew what we were doing. We didn't have the chance for questions. We just knew it had to be done. I saw the fear in their eyes, but I was strangely calm. Hoping the outcome to all of this would be what we want. He took a breath and held my hand. Smiled at me before saying, "I hope we dont land." I took my breath before I gave it to grace. And Chris just stood there saying his prayers. We were three people with a death sentence...and off that bridge we jumped, hooked like fishes.
John, Chris, and I
John, Chris, and I had talked about it, we knew what we were doing. First we would get everyone out of the building, we didn't want any casualties. Then we would spread the gasoline, the fire needs someway to travel. Then we would burn it to the ground. There wasn't supposed to be anyone inside, we had planned it so carefully. There were 15 casualties in total, including John and Chris. I can't sleep anymore, I just don't understand what went wrong. We talked about it for weeks, months even, every single last detail. We knew what we were doing.
John, Chris, and I had talked about it, we knew what we were doing. First it felt as if we had wandered in uninvited. After a few steps we knew this would either be the greatest moment of our lives, or the end to us all.
A sudden nod to Chris as he peered around the corner. Not a single disturbance. The electricity ran through me with giddy excitement. John brushed his hand through his coarse hair, "You gotta do it". A few pieces of grass and clung to his unkempt head, his legs shaking as if it were mid winter.
I eased my hand up, grasping a soft corner of our prize only to feel the sharp pain of leather on my skin.
"You dirty sons of a bitches!"
Mr. Klausman had thwarted my hand away with the swiftness of a fencer. "That pie ain't going to feed your worthless bellies, scum!"
We bolted for the fence line and ran to Hervis' Burrow as fast as the wind blew.