Burning In The Night

The hum of the crickets was deafening to the point of being a comfort, taking away any anxieties that a prey might have in leaving a noise for their predator to detect them.

Roger shifted his grip on the blow torch, which was feeling less and less tame in his sweaty palms. He was in a mood of heightened anticipation, almost to the point of optimism.

“It’s funny how in the dark all our planning seems like it might actually work. I mean, this is stuff I usually just write about and throw out, but here we are just waiting for Bogues to get nestled into his spot down the road and give us the go ahead…. it almost GO TIME baby! Fina-fuckin-ley!”

“Yeah” replied Dave, too deep in his own thoughts to offer anything more tangible. He wasn’t the craziest about their small group’s grid down tactic, and thought they should just keep doing guerrilla gardening style acts and let the system implode on its own—why accept the risks of downing the grid when you could just be a bit buddhist about things and let it happen on its own? No, he was just along for the ride, albeit with some reluctance. He let his mind be preoccupied with his own peculiar interests: he wanted to test out his tree rotting theory on some obnoxious pines behind his parents’ house, and if he could do it with a silenced drill in the night—no one would ever know . Should he ask if such a tool existed, or should he just rig his own muffler on his DeWalt?

But now Dave was waking from his daydreams, and the reality that they were here in some hot summer brush plotting to bring down an interstate, long distance electricity tower was unnerving. Was he so shallow that he was doing this out of peer pressure? No, he believed that the unity of their group was important, and that it took such unified acts as these to make it concrete. He sighed, thinking to himself “you can choose your friends, but you can’t always choose their thoughts on stratagems.”

Meanwhile, Roger was suffering from time elasticity, and it seemed to him an awful long while that they were waiting in those bushes. He couldn’t take waiting any longer, so he barked out an order to Dave to go set up the tanks. He wanted them to be placed by the tower leg furthest down the slope, and didn’t care that Bogues hadn’t messaged with the go-ahead text yet. “What’s the big deal? We aren’t starting, we are just setting up.”

“Dude, just keep your voice down. I know we’re in the middle of nowhere but you never know what kind of weirdos… like us for example, are out doing a moonlit bush walk with their dog or somethin. I’ll go ahead though.” Dave then took the extra effort to drag the tanks through more brush to get down to that far leg. Roger had wished for him to just go under the structure, but Dave liked the concealment of the bushes. The rustling became too much for Roger to bare.

“Speaking of being quiet” Roger whispered loudly, “you’d be a lot quicker and quieter if you got out of there and just went underneath.

Dave shrugged and saw the logic in this, and thought to roll the tanks down the gentle slope, so he laid the oxygen down first and started to roll it in a straight line for its destination to the far leg of the tower. This too made Rogers nervous, but before he could say anything…

“CLANK!” Dave had misjudged the width of the opening between the adjacent leg and a supporting steel angle, and the tank turned perpendicular and came to a halt, leaving both of them standing there tense as freshly tuned piano strings. The crickets had seemed to defect on the side of silence, and Dave and Roger now felt intensely vulnerable and naked in those awful moments when it seemed the metal was still reverberating, just to spite them.

“God fucking damn it man.” Roger said angrily.

“Well maybe if we got normal sized tanks instead of these clunky large fuckers you could have walked over there by yourself with them on your back, and I could have been a second guard down the road instead of being here, already nervous enough to shit myself.” They had had this argument before, but Dave already knew Roger’s reply. Roger had said that buying more portable tanks might expose them to some economic activities surveillance type radar, whereas “borrowing” these industrial sized burn tanks from his uncle’s welding dock would be much less conspicuous.

“You know why these were the best option,” Roger said. “Besides, now that I see how thick these polls are, we might need more fuel than those little ones could’ve provided.” This was one of the many weak points in their plan: the length of time the burns might take; what sort of metallic alloy the towers made out of; what temperature would they burn at as opposed to just heating up and getting flexible and melty. Biggest of all: was collapsing this tower even going to take the grid down? It’s these very type of doubts that stay the vast majority of attempts towards revolution, and Roger, Dave, and Bogues knew it, which is why they had decided to roll the dice rather than live with regret. “We must try to do something while atmosphere still fills our lungs,” Roger had said in a poetic attempt. “This is for our grandchildren what our grandparents did not give to us.” Bogues had then pointed out that he hadn’t even been with a girl, so he needn’t be worrying about his own grandchildren.

It was Bogues they were now waiting for, to make sure that the noise had not been heard as far away as his location. Dave went for his phone to call Bogues but Roger pushed his hand down, fearing that Bogues may have forgotten to silence his ringer or might still be getting set up in his nest at the t-section a quarter mile away. Dave started to hope that maybe Bogues had heard his bang, and that they would have to abort this insane mission, when the text came from Bogues: What r u up to. This was the green light.

Roger nodded to Dave to call Bogues. “Nothing’s wrong. Well, maybe. Did you hear a noise before?” he said to his phone. “The tank banged against the tower.” He wiped sweat from his eyes, but you could only tell by the faint glow coming off his dimly lit phone. “Well, even though you didn’t hear it, do you think it was still too much of a risk?” The moon came out again from behind a cloud, and now the shadows from the trees were stretched longwise. Roger was leaning up against the acetylene tank, his left hand palming the cap and spinning it clockwise as he listened in on the conversation. “Alright, fine we’ll do it. See you in prison.” He ended the call and returned his phone to a pocket, and motioned to Roger to waddle over the other tank behind him.

Without any other incidences the tanks, tubing and torch were all connected and Roger had the striker held up in front of his goggles. “I guess just keep track of time and just make sure that the tarp doesn’t fall or blow into me while I’m cutting. I fucking hate irony when it happens to me.” He was referring to the black quilt Dave was holding, meant to muffle the light from the burn but at an obvious risk of accidentally catching fire and exposing them to the night. Dave nodded and tightened his grip, as Roger plucked the little flame out of the striker and began his work, his life’s work.

 

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