Playing With Fire

One of the Baltimore friends had spent, or misspent, a youth working in carnivals and small circus’. As a sideshow side job, he’d dabbled in ( his words not mine) swallowing sharp objects and flame swallowing. He said his favorite tricks were cigarette lighting and something he called the Moonshot, where you’d shoot the flame straight up out of your mouth. 

He neither spoke about this part of his life nor offered to demonstrate it when the whole bunch got together. No jocularity was involved in his response to requests. There were enough hell raisers and jackasses in the group who’d get drunk and say, “I can do that!” While the group would be amused by the antics of someone desperately trying to avoid getting burned, our friend had a near-violent aversion to spending time in Emergency Rooms explaining to the staff how this idiot acquired severe burns in their mouth and throat. When requested, he’d laconically reply – “ain’t going to happen.”

Except, one night, he did. He had met the love of his life while working as a Carny. Dolores was an expert in running games and fortune-telling. Her favorite was a fractured gag mentalist routine where she revealed risque items about people’s lives. One night Dolores decided to dust off her old act for the group. After she had left most of us holding our sides from the laughter, she encouraged her husband to do part of his old act. Guessing that this might happen, he was equipped with his props. But first, he cautioned everyone about how dangerous playing with fire was. He lit up, went through a brief routine, and then impressively ended with a moonshot, followed by extinguishing the flames by giving Dolores a passionate kiss.

the party was on the edge of madness, and then our friend Bob picked up his guitar and started singing:

You shake my nerves, and you rattle my brain!

Too much love drives a man insane

You broke my will, but what a thrill!

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire.”

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