Bonfire by Will Waller

Enjoy an exclusive guest post from Will Waller, author of “Torch,” featured in our new anthology ON FIRE, out now.


Toward the end of college, my friend Leon and I were in the habit of, probably illegally, having frequent bonfires on campus in a secluded circular parking lot located about a mile into the woods. We would construct sensible, easy to light and easy to kill fires with whatever wood was handy, talk about fairy tales and neglect our schoolwork as long as was possible. Sometimes, we read Poe. Once, he read Tolkien. Usually, there were s’mores. There was rarely any need to plan things. We lived upstairs and down the hall and downstairs and up the hall from one another. He generally kept kindling on hand, and I could stock up on chocolate and marshmallows anytime. We both knew what we were doing handling fire, but when we threw our friend Jeff a birthday party, we set the biggest fire North Campus had ever seen, and things got a little out of hand.

Our bonfires were usually made with one medium log, with several large sticks stacked in a crisscross pattern around it with the spaces filled with many balls of newspaper.

Jeff’s birthday bonfire was built by committee, with seven five-foot logs in a teepee-shape that took an hour to get lit, but once it was, it burned all night. The canopy was fifty feet up, and the circle was large, concrete, and topped with gravel. The fire was so high and so hot we had to stand ten feet back just to keep from burning, and the smoke moved through the trees and up the hill as an invisible haze that nonetheless set off nearly every fire alarm on campus. We couldn’t leave, because who would watch the fire, but then again, we couldn’t have put it out if we’d wanted to.

No one caught us, even though the whole campus smelled like really peaty whiskey for several days after that. Then again, we all drank a lot of really peaty whiskey after that, but that’s another story.


That other story is this, from Torch:

“Back to the photos.

You forgot you don’t take pictures of yourself, and nearly every profile picture is a 90’s anime character, a landscape shot from home, or tags. You appear in your own Facebook history as a dark-coated specter haunting the backs of other people’s photos, red-eyed and shadow-cast. Most of those are college photos, and what kind of grown man only has stories about college? What kind of grown man doesn’t have stories about college?

On the other hand, sure, share your all-nighters wandering around campus with music blasting in one ear, your own tone-deaf renditions assaulting the other, while embarrassed skunks and frightened deer ignore you passing by. Share your friends’ Avatar the Last Airbender marathons in the dorm loft. Share the finals week Zelda speedruns or the bonfires or the crooked backgammon board at the Speakeasy/Burlesque Club/Formal Society party—the same weekend when Eric bet you a hundred dollars he wouldn’t throw up in your sink and you made a hundred dollars, when Em got lit off the Digimon Drinking Game and tried to get you both to have a threesome, and you left her with her girlfriends instead. You were drunk that night, but packing your car with the Speakeasy party equipment took just long enough for you to sober up in time to drive everyone to the all-night diner one town over for bad avocado burgers and jalapeño poppers, and so that guy that finally graduated last year and his new New York friends could ignore you, and talk about the massage classes they were all taking until they finally felt like starting law school. You even talked.”


Will Waller is an author of speculative fiction, scholarship, and experimental writing originally from the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York. After two years in San Francisco spent working as an editor for Eleven Eleven Journal, he relocated to St. Louis to found The Fantasist Magazine. His writing focuses on memory, music, and the weather, and has been featured by Bay Area Generations, Heavy Feather Review, Rivet Magazine, and the On Fire anthology of Transmundane Press.

ON FIRE is available now: Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and the Transmundane Press store.

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