Tuesday, January 5, 2016


If a kid shows courage in the woods, but no one sees it, was she brave?

I was nine, caught up in the raw beauty of the blazing bonfire. The heat on my face competed with chill of night air on my back. My eyes watered from the dusky smoke when the breeze shifted my way. The crackle and pop of damp kindling sent bright orange sparks into the crisp night air, like tiny fireworks. I knew to keep my distance.
My eyes tuned in to the bright light of the flames, making the darkness beyond the fire impenetrable. I could see the faces of the other campers gathered for the sing-along.
Everyone kept a safe distance from the flames.
Except for the kid across from me.
He was part of a loud group that had been disturbing my peace with nightly parties and loud music since their arrival a week before. Just after the sing-a long started, I noticed that his parents had left him sitting there and gone back to their party.
Finding himself suddenly alone, he stood searching.
He stepped forward.
He was wearing those footsie pajamas every little kid seemed to have in the 70s and I could see the white plastic sole of his foot, outstretched, and searching for a place to set down in the narrow space between the singers and the fire.
He threaded his way through; his gaze fixed on his cabin in the distance.
The pace of the music picked up. The neck of a guitar bobbed in time. Everyone clapped along.
The boy squeezed between the guitar and the fire. The guitarist swung his body with the music.
The kid lurched out of the way and into the flames.
Sparks flew up as the boy came down.
I looked for movement from the adults around the fire, but nobody moved. The clapping continued. The singers sang on.
Suddenly, a pair of hands hoisted the boy away from the blaze. His feet scraped a dark trail through the hot red coals. Flames flickered on his synthetic flannel pajamas. The hands beat down the flames and brushed away the glowing embers that clung to the melting vinyl soles of his pajama feet.
I looked down and realized that those hands were my own.
The kid scampered away without a word or a look back.
In his wake, the cool night air washed over me. Music again filled my ears.
I brushed the grey ash from my hands and was shocked that they were not burned. I sat there for a while, mouthing along with the singing. When the music and the fire finally tapered off, I headed to our cabin.
I didn't tell anyone until a few weeks later.
"Gramama," I whispered. "I was a hero!"
We stood alone in her dining room with only my play-dough sculptures watching us from a midst her treasures in the china cabinet. I admired her simple cotton dress knowing that she'd probably made it herself--a skill she'd begun to share with me. We'd just finished another one of her incredible meals and it filled my belly like courage.
I thought she would be proud.
"But Crissy,” she said, “if no one saw you, how do you know you were a hero?"
My throat tightened and I turned away so she couldn't see me biting my lip. I had been brave and fast—that was a hero in my book. No, I thought, it didn't matter that no one had noticed.
Years later, I Googled myself and was surprised to find my name, along with my husband's, in a police blotter column. It briefly mentioned how we had stopped to give aid at a car wreck. Had my grandmother been alive, I might have shown it to her and shared the story of another night when I battled fire, this time with a fire extinguisher and witnesses. I wonder what she would have said.

I can't ask her about it now.


  1. Wow,what a great story, and very well-written - I was right there with you at the bonfire - could almost feel the heat from the flames. Well done!

  2. I love this story so much - the fire is a character all its own. Beautifully done.

  3. You are a hero in my book for sure! Sorry your grandmother didn't recognize you for it.

  4. It reminds me of "Groundhog Day" when Phil saves the same kid every repeating day and never gets a thank you and finally shouts, "Maybe tomorrow I won't catch you!" In any case, a tree still makes noise if it falls and there is no one there to hear it :) You witnessed and so did that ungrateful boy.

  5. Really fine descriptions--of the fire, of the kid, of the confusion of the narrator.

  6. Wonderful story. Your description is so vivid, I could feel the heat of the fire on my face.

    1. Thanks! I can still feel the heat when I think about it.

  7. I wonder if it is a generational thing to deny one's good deeds? Either way, grandma was wrong. Thanks for the story and sharing it on yeah write. Your writing is full of passion.

    1. Thank you. Yes, I also wonder if it was a generational thing. The incident gave me some unexpected insight into her outlook.

  8. Very vivid story! I bet that kid remembers your heroism. How old was he? I pictured him very young with footsie pajamas.

    1. Thanks! I think he had to have been about 5 or 6. I don't think he realized he was on fire.

  9. I suspect the meaning of the word HERO may be the issue. She was and is very proud of you, loves you, and knows you ARE a hero.


  10. Author's note: I'm so thrilled to have been picked as this week's Yeah Write Crowd Favorite.

    It's been a long time since I did any real posting to this blog. I am very grateful to have had the benefit of my friend and mentor, Cindy Reed's editorial input on this post. I wrote Courage when I was taking Cindy's Blogger's Bootcamp.

    Cindy''s currently helping writers like me get our of our own way and become better writers, bloggers and creative people.

    If you have any interest in writing--it doesn't have to be blogging you should check out her writing courses at http://cindyreed.me/online-writing-courses/


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