Chris thinks back. “Because I hoped it would make Iris and me friends.”
“And what have you been doing after you got out the stick?”
“What do you mean?” The kid knows his father well enough to realise he's not making small talk. He's going somewhere.
“You took out the church. And I know you've been prying for a tea light.” Chris shrugs his shoulders, so what.
“Why did you do that ?”
“I don't know. I thought it would be more fun.” The boy tries to wriggle himself off his father's lap, but Collin holds him too tight for that. “Now listen to me, Chris” The boy sighs. There's no escaping a serious talk now. He finally looks his father in the eyes.
“When you got Iris, you said you'd do all you could to become friends, right?” A distinct nod.
“And when you took out the Iris incense you said the same thing: all would be for your friendship with Iris. But that's not what you did.”
“No kid. Why did you take out the church?”
That's an easy answer, because it would be more fun than just burning the stick in the holder.
“And why did you put the steeple on?”
“For the same reason.” Dad simply doesn't understand about life, Chris thinks.
“Yes, but I saw you measure it and you knew it wouldn't be right. But you put it on anyway. That's how greedy you were for fun. And what happened?”
“The fire went out. But we lit it again.” Chris added the last tag in a hurry, to stop his father from commenting. But there's no stopping him.
“And why did you blow hard into Iris' ear?”
Chris' face tightens. So Dad had seen it.
“Well?” Collin says it with a slight laugh in his voice, to coax the child to be open.
“Because I thought it would be fun.”
“Aha.” Collin inhales. Searching for the right words, so Chris will understand. “So two times already you almost spoiled what you want most. You want to be friends with Iris the Dog, and you wanted to enjoy seeing Iris the Stick burn. But your greed for fun almost spoiled it.”
“Yeah, I know, the flame died.” Chris doesn't mention the dog, but Collins knows that he understands the parallel. “A stick can be lighted again. But Iris may remember all the times you upset him with your 'fun'.” Collin bends forward again. “He may not be willing to light up the flame of friendship again.” Chris is used to his father's figurative speech, he understands. “Do you want to lose your friendship over some cheap fun?”
“No Dad.” Chris is getting bored. But Collins has more arrows to shoot. Asks the boy why he had popped the ashes from the incense stick.
“That was not for fun! I was afraid it would burn too fast.”
“And it didn't. But your action almost spoiled something else. And all for nothing as I told you s... Ho!”
Chris has managed to slip off his father's lap, but hasn't escaped his hold yet. He faces his father, with a silent plea to stop the sermon. But his father wants to finish his point. “I just want you to realise that either fun or fear can spoil what you have. Or what you hope to get. Just listen to your old man. And believe me that Iris will be your friend soon.”
The talk is over, and the two look at the incense. The stick is a lot smaller now. “Now Chris,” Collin signals him. “Now you can put on the spire.”
“Why now? ” The child is surprised at this sudden twist.
“Because now is the time for it. You can have fun, but don't force it. The right time will come to you.”
It is doubtful whether Chris heard that. He already tottered over to the church and now places the spire over the burning stick. He keeps looking at it for some time, with something on his mind. Collin, pen on his paper, notices the lack of joy.
“What is it, Chrissie?”
'Chrissie' turns around. Explains how he had hoped to see the smoke come out of the church windows once the steeple would be closing up the tower. But this incense doesn't produce a lot of smoke.
“And what were you thinking?” Collin hopes to pursue his metaphor.
“I was thinking of lighting a different kind of incense. I know the lavender one smokes a lot better.”
One corner of Collin's mouth twitches. “And are you going to?”
The boys face turns thoughtful. He shakes his head. “No. This one smells good. The other one might make your eyes burn. Or those of Iris. ”
Collin's grin broadens. “Good for you. It may not be as you expected it to be, but at least you give it a chance to show itself. So you can love it for itself. And maybe , maybe ... it turns out better than your dream.”
The boy smiles back at his father. Maybe... his father knows more about life than he, Chris, gave him credit for.
“Now, do you still want to trade Iris for Uncle Robert's dog ?”
“No Dad, I'm sorry I said that.” He walks over to embrace his father, to show that he really is sorry about the remark. When they are through hugging, Collin holds him at arm's length. “In the middle drawer of the kitchen cabinet, you'll find tea candles. And when it's burning, you may turn off the light.” Chris almost trips over his own feet for joy, while speeding to the kitchen. Collin shakes his head laughing. Should he tell the boy that if you stop trying to control your life, it will reward you with some unimagined surprises? No, he thinks, his boy will find out for himself.
JoAnne Lakefield. To 'Behind the Scenes'