Dick and Jim thought it was a great idea, but Tobias didn’t seem so sure.
“C’mon dude, you don’t even have to do it! You just have to promise not to tell on us for doing it!”
Tobias thought about his friends bursting into flames before his eyes. He could see them flailing their arms as they ran down the street, two balls of flame revolving around each other like tecticles until they fell to the ground, dead. They were going to do it anyways, but Tobias knew they’d make him go home and tease him for a week or so if he didn’t agree, saying things like, “You missed it you pussy! It was the coolest thing ever!”
Tobias nodded and Dick ran into his father’s garage to get the gas as Tobias waited with Jim in the driveway. It was late and nobody was outside. The city was sleeping, which usually meant that Tobias, Jim and Dick were not. Tobias could feel Jim’s hand on his shoulder and looked up at him.
“Don’t worry man, I’ve seen this on TV a ton of times. It’ll be sweet.”
There was a chuckle to his side and Tobias turned to see Dick running out of the garage with a large red plastic cup like the kind you see at parties, except instead of beer, this one was full of very flammable gasoline. Dick stopped next to Jim and handed him the cup, “You’re idea, you go first.”
Jim smiled at Dick, then at Tobias before taking the cup. Jim reached into his jeans and pulled out a small purple lighter. Then, without any hesitation at all, Jim put the cup to his lips and tipped his head back. Tobias could smell the gasoline and gagged a little, but tried to hide it from the other two. After his cheeks were fully puffed out like a chipmunk, filled with gas, Jim held the cup out to Dick and put the lighter to his lips. He clicked it once and the small tongue of flame waited at the edge of his mouth. Then, boom.
Tobias couldn’t be sure how Jim did it because he couldn’t see Jim. For a second, a gloriously slow-motioned second, there was no Jim or Dick, just a giant fireball filling the space between he and his friends. Tobias could feel the heat against his face in stark contrast to the snap of the otherwise cold winter evening. The light was intense enough for Tobias to watch his own shadow dance up the black street. And when it was over, Jim just stood there, smiling.
Dick didn’t take long to repeat the incident, creating his own fireball no smaller than Jim’s. For the next few minutes Tobias watched as his two best friends shot giant balls of flame out of their mouths into the night sky, like dragons belching at each other in the darkness of a cave. It was truly awe inspiring. Then Dick said the magic words, “We’ve only got enough gas for one more shot.”
Jim and Dick were looking at Tobias. Neither of them said anything because they didn’t pressure people with words, they didn’t have to, that wasn’t their style. When Jim and Dick gave you the look that they were giving Tobias just then, it was worse than all the pressure in the world – it was opportunity. They weren’t asking you to be cool, they were giving you a chance to be great. Only a fool skips out on a chance like that. Tobias was no fool.
Without saying anything Tobias took the cup from Dick and the lighter from Jim. He didn’t hesitate or think about it at all, but lifted the cup to his mouth and held the lighter near his chin. As the hard smack of gasoline filled his mouth, he could feel the fumes coming out of his nose while he exhaled. He had to act fast. Tobias clicked the lighter once, nothing. A few drops of gasoline trickled down his throat and Tobias had to do everything in his power not to cough. He flicked the lighter a second time, but still there was no flame. Tobias looked at his friends, both looking at him with encouraging, fascinated faces. He couldn’t let them down… Tobias flicked the lighter one last time as a small squirt of resistance pushed a few drops of gasoline out of his pursed lips.
It happened fast. The small drops of gas that escaped Tobias’s lips crackled to life when they connected with the lighter, like small sparks in the air, but they were enough. Tobias panicked and opened his mouth to scream, releasing the flood of gasoline from his cheeks. His face grew hot and he turned his head from side to side, still able to catch glimmers of Jim and Dick as they watched Tobias through licks of flame, looks of panic on their faces. There was a particularly strong moment of pain on the right side of Tobias’s face, hefty enough to knock him to the the ground. As he landed in the lawn, Tobias was torn between the pressure building on his back, the tearing sensation on the back of his head and the urge to rub his face back and forth on the cool, dew-soaked grass.
A second later, it was over.
Tobias pushed himself up and rested on his knees. Jim and Dick crept around his side and stared at Tobias wide-eyed and scared. For a minute, nobody spoke. Then Dick broke the silence eloquently, “That, was fucking, AWESOME!”
Jim and Dick high-fived and began explaining to each other, in the greatest detail, their roles in saving Tobias’s life. Jim had apparently slapped Tobias in an effort to get him to stop shaking his head and spreading gas around his face, while Dick leapt on Tobias’s back after he was on the ground, grabbed the back of Tobias’s hair and rubbed his face into the lawn until there was no flame left. They really had saved him. Tobias owed them one.
Realizing that nothing could top what had just happened, Jim and Dick went home, leaving Tobias with the same option. When he got to his house he went straight into his room and took off all of his clothes. He set his alarm for school the next day, then packed up his homework so he didn’t forget it. Then Tobias went into the bathroom to brush his teeth, he could still taste the gasoline on his teeth. He closed the door behind him and stared into the mirror for a moment, examining his face. The mustache he had been trying to grow for the last two months was gone. His hairline had also been forcefully pushed back to the top of his head from the flame, creating a straight line from ear to ear across the top of his skull. His skin was a bright red and there were already a few blisters starting under his chin. He was a mess.
“It’s a good thing Jim and Dick are such good friends,” he thought, “I could’ve been screwed.”