Peanut Butter, Pine Trees and Paint
When we were young we were boy scouts. We crept about the woods and carried on with our pocketknives and short-sleeved ways. On our path to the Eagle Rank, summers spent adolescent, sash clad in merit badges, brandishing sunburns and festering little snot nosed Tenderfoots. When one day in July left alone at Rockwood Reservations, we worked all day on Mark’s Eagle Project, fingers sticky from sack lunches and tree sap as we toiled, picking up and stacking twigs, weeds, and branches. The knotted, snarled vegetation taken for granted by most, considered a nominal part of the forest until you go in there and try to yank it all out. Our task was no less than to clean the unkempt clutter of Mother Nature’s own outdoor cottage. The park ranger’s perfunctory speech described all this as he pushed untold implements into our eager hands. The unsung virtue of brush clearing—for the health of the Coniferous forest. If the guests of Rockwood Reservations would indulge in such a rarified habitat, it would require our maintenance. We; the Boy Scouts of America, purveyors of fine woodlands everywhere. And then the park ranger was gone.
Reckless with hand-axes and rusted saws, we mingled in litter-treasure beside the highway, when Mark, sweating with a pair of pruning shears (futile against five-foot Virginia Creeper and Honeysuckle), found among the refuse some ancient aerosol can. Its nozzle missing, we pressed the tiny plastic stem and found no hiss of gas at all. The can was years label-less and rusted all around, dented and most likely exhausted of pressure. But it had this telling rattle . . .
Now both the curiosity of the color, of the shape, texture, and composition of this metal slug—this telling rattle—this drew us in a tight circle, back into the woods with our treasure. A young Solomon, draped in khaki and patches, convinced Mark to break the can, resolve the mystery. What widget was inside? We would find out once Mark split said can with his hand-ax. After all, it was Mark’s Eagle badge: it was Mark’s gig.
The axe dropped to the stump where the bent can lay. Solomon hid behind a Jack Pine at the perimeter. A muffled pop let loose and with it a soft cloud of metallic gold paint. The scouts once richly decorated in colored patches were coated in the clean metallic gold. The axe, buried deeply into the stump, a clean metallic gold, Marc’s hand, Marc’s astonished face, the other faces of the scouts, mouths frozen full of peanut butter and Fritos, a perfect statuesque gold, cross-legged little sylvan Buddhas caught unaware, left motionless and blinking, the little metal slug of the spray can unseen, thrown far off by the explosion, somewhere deep in the pine stand, left buried beneath brown pine needles speckled gold.
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