[I’ve started writing scenes for my next book, Taste of Magic. I don’t know if this scene will actually make it into the book, but I like it too much to just toss it so I’m posting it here for your enjoyment.]
It was a fine Fourth of July weekend, and Patton’s neighbor was hosting a party in his back yard. Patton usually didn’t participate in neighborhood things, but since they were kind enough to invite him, he figured he should at least drop by. He showed up with a case of beer and some chips.
They had done up the yard pretty nicely. Tiki torches were set up around the patio, there were several tables piled high with cookout food and snacks, and coolers were scattered here and there full of adult libations. Over in the corner a grill was flaming away, turning out a steady stream of charburgers and tube steaks. Children ranging in age from toddlers to pre-teens were playing some sort of tag game in the yard — any excuse to scream at the tops of their lungs. The adults were mostly hanging on the patio, frequently visiting the coolers for refills. The only people who really seemed to be working were a couple of the young moms who were kept busy refueling the rug rats. Patton estimated their fuel mileage was only about three laps of the yard per cup of juice.
Good times were being had by all.
As the sun went down the tiki lamps were filled with oil and lit, as were numerous citronella candles placed around the yard to keep away the crop of mosquitoes. The stereo had Elvis singing Burning Love when it happened. A couple little tykes flew to the juice table to top up their tanks. One of the busy moms put down her glass of wine and reached under the table, bringing up a clear plastic bottle partially full of amber liquid, which she opened and poured into two plastic cups. A third tyke came buzzing past with his arms out. One of them clipped a nearby tiki lamp.
“It’s coming closer, the flames are reaching my body,” sang Elvis.
The tiki lamp started falling. The mom pushed the kids away, knocking over one of the cups in the process. The lamp hit the table, and the liquid in the cups burst into flame. The entire table was ablaze in seconds. That plastic jug lit up like a giant torch, which made sense because it contained lamp oil, not apple juice. Kids started shrieking, and running everywhere even faster than before. Parents were screaming at their kids, and some wit tried to put out the flames by pouring his beer on them.
Fortunately the host had a fire extinguisher near the grill. A few quick shots and the fire was out, replaced by the smell of chemical-laced citronella and toasted plastic and a layer of that white stuff from the extinguisher. Everyone was still trying to catch their breath when a sheriff and a fire engine pulled into the driveway. Now the stereo had Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams singing “Too much, too little, too late to ever try again.”
Patton went over to thank the host for a wonderful evening. “You know it’s a good party when the cops arrive!” He received a glower for his quip, and didn’t think he was going to be invited back.