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Burning Holes in Clouds – James Bassett

Childhood afternoons we lay on the hillside, staring up at the shifting white cottonpuff clouds of summer, pretending our eyes held magic and we were magic and we had the power to burn holes in clouds by simply staring. Of course it was only the wind whipping the ever-changing clouds, building billows, blowing swirls and rending them apart into feathered wisps, but our young imaginations were too expansive to be constrained by such trivial truths, and so every day we would tumble into the grass and lie giggling and pointing at the shifting shapes above us as we pretended we were burning holes in clouds.

Who ever would have thought we might one day succeed?

As that great scrap of sky and cloud, still emberglowing at the edges, peeled loose and fell drifting earthward like a duvet loosed from the clothesline by a sudden gust, we whooped with delight and awe.

And then you with characteristic abandon leapt up, shimmied up the nearest trunk, scrambled high through branches until you touched the sky, and, reaching out, you pulled yourself up, and with hands and feet on windblown billows and bumps and knobs you climbed the cloud. With a joyous β€˜Come on!’ shouted back to me you clambered through the hole and disappeared.

But I, ever timid, remained rooted where I was, watching in uncertain agony until the windblown wisps grew back together and the hole burned in the cloud was gone. Vanquished, ashamed, I tremulously picked up that piece of cloud and sky and took it home with me to hide away.

I never saw you again.

Nor did I ever leave our earthbound town. My little life is here, where it always was and always will be, simple and safe. Yet every now and then, in secret, I unfold that ragged sheet of cloud, creased and careworn now with long decades, and wonder what my future would have held had I had your daring.

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