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All they were looking for was a good time.

Four boys in Maracarsa, Mississippi on a Saturday night. All were white: two had crew cuts and two had long brown hair that hung straight & stringy down to the middle of their backs. They wore red flannel shirts loosely over white t-shirts that were tucked into their blue jeans ripped over the left knee, like some sort of uniform for troublemakers. Their shoes reflected the personality of each of the boys, of course: after all, no one wanted to stifle their creativity.

Cigarettes flew as they walked along the worn path in the woods. It was nine o'clock at night, and all they were doing was walkin', talkin', and smokin' drags. Walkin', talkin', and smokin' drags. Even a complete ho-bag like Martin Chesterquat knew that was no way to spend a Saturday night in July, even in Maracarsa.

Jimmy Davis was the youngest of the group, even if it was only by three months. Fidgety, edgy and immature, he knew the only reason he was one of the gang was 'cause he looked about ten years older than he was and could go in and buy a box a' drags without ever being asked for ID. He would button up the flannel shirt he always wore, run a brush through his long brown hair, put it into a ponytail, stuff the ponytail down the back of his shirt, and just walk in the door. 'Course, he'd have to change stores every couple 'a weeks or so to make sure no one found out he was only 14. He was way tall and big for his age, though, and he could get away with pretty much anything he wanted, including beatin' on the other guys, which he always did when he was really bored. He wasn't that bored yet, but he was gettin' there. He asked one of the crew-cut boys, "Hey, Doc, we got a plan tonight?"

Doc was Robert Broward (pronounced "Bro-ward", as he would constantly remind everyone he ever met), the oldest, shortest, and undoubtedly the smartest guy in the group. He wore a crew cut to please his old man, who was brought up under "strict military discipline" and took way too much of a liking to it. He was 18, a senior in high school. He knew he was probably the only one of this bunch who would ever graduate high school, and he only had one year left until he actually did it. He took one last drag on his cigarette, then stomped it into the ground. One more year, he thought, one more and then I am gone. Then I'll head straight for Jackson where I might actually be able to make a name for myself, instead of ending up an old blind drunk like these guys are gonna be. He wasn't sure anymore why he hung out with these guys, he just knew he always had. He saw the look in Jimmy's eye, and knew he was going to go home with a black eye, which meant his old man would make them a matching set, if he didn't come up with something, quick. Problem was, he couldn't think of anything. He decided to take a chance and actually be honest. "I hadn't thought of anything. You?"

Duke tossed his hair back from the front of his face and held up the cigarette lighter so Doc could light up his next smoke. Duke was Christopher Duke, a 16 year old who knew how to do only one thing well: cause trouble. The others let him hang out with them for one main reason: the youngest son of the wealthiest family in town, he was given a car on his birthday. Granted, it was a '77 Suburban with 200,000 miles on it, but it was a hell of a lot better than walking for hours. Just like they were doing tonight. He glanced quickly at Jimmy, then whispered to Doc, "I don't know either, but we better think of som'in quick."

Rick tapped Doc on the arm, and pointed to a clearing that was just a few feet ahead. He idolized Doc, and would do anything to make the older boy notice him. He copied Doc's look down to the crew cut, talked like him, even used his talents on the computers at school to make the four of them fake IDs so they could buy drags and beer. Tonight, Doc needed entertainment, and Rick was more than happy to oblige. "What d'you think's in there?"

The last thing any of them expected to see in the middle of the woods was this old shack. Moss clung to the roof and walls of the building like mold on an orange. The branches of a nearby weeping willow tree hung around the doorframe, like it was mourning the loss of one of its children. It was too dark to see a lot of the building, but you could just barely make out a rickety wooden staircase that led up to a pair of closed, whitewashed doors.

Three of the boys looked at the shack and saw nothing special. Jimmy, though, saw fireworks. Yeah, this was gonna be fun. "Hey guys," he declared, "you ever see a real house on fire?"

All three shook their heads. The only place anything exciting ever happened in Maracarsa was on television. Jimmy bragged, "I heard that a fire can go from one little spark to bringing a whole house down in five minutes. Wanna see if it's true?"

The three boys nodded. They all heard all the stories about kids in big cities like Detroit who went out and set fires day 'fore Halloween. They always thought it sounded kinda fun. Now they were going to get their chance to see.

Duke threw Jimmy the matches, and Doc handed him one of the beers from their stash. Doc told Jimmy, "Your idea - you do it."

Jimmy took in a deep breath. He wanted to try it, and the idea was exciting to him, but he never thought he would have to do it on his own. He then looked back at the other three guys, who were waving and edging him on. He went up to the building, cracked open the beer, poured it down the wooden steps of the stair case, and lit a match. Dropping the match on the first step, he stepped back to watch his work.

The alcohol in the beer started to burn immediately, engulfing the steps in flames, to the excited cheers of the four boys standing off to the side. The fire quickly spread in the all-wood structure, engulfing the doors and the banisters of the staircase. It climbed to the roof of the building and spread out to consume the walls in a destructive embrace. The wind picked up, fanning the flames higher, and sending a tongue of flame out to touch one of the branches of the willow tree. The small leaves burned quickly, and soon the building and it's guardian protector succumbed to the power of the flames.

The four boys cheered and high-fived each other. Then, noticing they were on top of a fairly high hill, Doc called out to the others, "Come on, let's get out of here before someone sees us." The group ran down the hill in an excited frenzy to get back to Duke's car and really get their evening going.

As the roof of the building caved in, they had never even noticed the steel cross that had graced the top of the building since the days when slaves escaped the plantation for a few hours to worship here in the woods.

All they were looking for was a good time.

End Prologue...[Back to Fiction Page]