Hanging Around the Fire Pit

by Brice Carroll on April 1, 2009 - 10:42am

QUEST Vol. 16, No. 2

During cool spring and fall weather, friends and neighbors gather around Tom’s fire pit down by his lake dock almost every Friday night. Some arrive by car, some by boat and some, meaning me, by wheelchair.

It’s always a treat when Rodney arrives on his pontoon boat, because we know he’ll put on a show for us when he leaves. It’s shallow around the dock, except for a deep channel. When Rodney leaves after dark, he always wanders out of the channel and ends up stuck in the mud. And we, of course, always yell encouragement from the dock. Loud, boisterous laughter can be encouraging, I think.

For some reason I get a lot of hugs when we gather at the fire pit. Fortunately, only the women are huggers. If one of the guys ever does try to hug me, I pity his toes. My wheelchair is heavy, and I know how to use it.

I’m not sure why I’m so huggable. Could it be because I’m strikingly handsome, because I’m very charismatic, because I have a sparkling wit, because I’m very manly, because I’m just warm and cuddly? My guess would be yes.

As a matter of fact, one evening we were sitting around the fire and one of the ladies looked at me with wide, excited eyes and said, “Brice, you are smoking hot!” I smiled humbly and said, “I know, I’m sure you’re not the only woman who’s noticed.” She replied, “No, you dummy, look at your shoes!” I looked down and realized my feet were too close to the fire and my shoes were smoking.

Along those lines, one day my wife, Sharon, said I get better looking every day. Then added that in 20 years, I’ll be halfway decent looking. I just smiled when she said that because I know it won’t take that long. I’m almost halfway decent looking already.

Tom has a chocolate Labrador, Ace, which sometimes visits. He is a good dog, except he’s a water hazard and a thief. Someone is always throwing a ball into the lake for him to retrieve, which is fun to watch. But it seems he always wants to shake the water off of himself and onto us after each retrieval. You’d think we’d learn, but he’s sneaky. And his coat holds a really surprising amount of water.

Also, if anything is left on the table, he’ll run off with it. Not just food, but anything. One time he even picked my pocket. Well my wheelchair storage bag, anyway. I was visiting with one of the dock people and barely noticed a tug on the wheelchair. I looked up and saw Ace running off with my cordless phone. Fortunately, he was apprehended before he reached the water.

We always have good music playing on the dock’s music system, usually way too loud. I told a friend I didn’t understand why it had to be so loud, and that someone might not be able to hear some of my deep, insightful, intellectual statements on some important subject. He said, “Apparently you do understand why it’s so loud.”

Sometimes there are mild disagreements over whether we should change from one type of music to another. Usually it’s over classic rock, new rock, soft rock, country or elevator music. Well, only once over elevator music. Only one person liked that kind of music. Everyone else was tolerant of his preference and proud of him for standing his ground. We even assisted the elevator guy when he/we decided he wanted to take a refreshing, cold-water night swim in the lake. For some reason he never came back after that. We just assume he’s enjoying a soothing, relaxing, dry elevator ride somewhere on Friday nights.

Sometimes the music will grab someone and they’ll do a little impromptu dancing. One night, two women had a pole dance competition. Well, sort of. They each tried to swirl around the rough wooden posts that held up the roof of the boat slip. One half of each post was over the dock and the other half was over the water. Both made it from the dock to over the water, but neither quite made it back to the dock, ending up in the water. The tie-breaker was who had the fewer splinters in her hand. The winner was Jennifer.

She’s married to Scott. We have two Scotts in the neighborhood, so we call him by his last name. Even Jennifer does. It would feel strange if my wife started calling me “Carroll.” Though it would feel very natural if she started calling me “Mr. Carroll.”

It would be even better if she referred to me as “Mr. Carroll, sir,” although that can backfire. I once was introduced to a new couple at the dock and told them to just call me what everyone else does, “Mr. Carroll, sir.” The woman asked, “Why do they call you Mr. Karo Syrup?”

Now guess what my neighborhood nickname is?

Brice Carroll lives in Hot Springs, Ark. He has limb-girdle muscular dystrophy.

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