Blue Flame


An Eleck Vignette by Aaron Veenstra

Ann Arbor, Michigan; April 30, 1997

With the sound of scratching pencils in the background, Bridget approached the desk in the front of the midsize lecture hall. She carefully sorted her papers into their predetermined piles, gave the instructor a polite smile and quietly made her way to the hallway.

As she heard the large, metal door click shut behind her she took off running down the hallway. "Yes! Yes! Yes!" Her voice echoed in the all but empty cavern. Dropping the heels of her flats, she slid around a corner, nearly slamming into another young woman.

"Oh! Hey, Bridget!" The girl recognized Bridget, and vice versa, but she couldn't remember from where, or the girl's name for that matter. "What are you so excited about?"

"I just finished my C++ exam; last one of the year!" Had she been in Bridget's orientation group at the beginning of the year?

"Hey, great! You on your way back home?" Physics lab? "Man, I'd love to be spending the summer in L.A. instead of Traverse City." How would she know where Bridget was from?

"Actually, my advisor asked me to stay and work on some of the summer kids programs, so I'm doing that as workstudy. And I'm staying with my sister, which should be a lot better than the dorms."

"Oh, yeah? Well, watch out for the guys in the apartment across the hall." Across the hall? "They have what you might call one-track minds." Her sister's roommate from last summer!


"Not in a good way. There was this one guy, Chet, that was a total jerk. He spent all summer hitting on Molly. God, he even sent flowers over once." Chet? Wasn't that Molly's new boyfriend's name?

"No kidding." Bridget trailed off a bit, curious about whether the two Chets were one and the same. "Well, I better get going. I have a couple papers to turn in before I get home."

"OK. I'll probably stop by Molly's before I head north; maybe I'll see you then." Bridget waved as the girl, whose name she still didn't remember, walked toward the stairwell.

"You have to call him, Bridget." Molly, the consummate older sister, sat on a faded green couch across the room as Bridget fingered the keypad of their telephone. "He's gonna figure it out one way or another."

"I don't think I need relationship advice from you," she said callously, quickly wishing she hadn't. Better try to explain myself, she thought. "Considering what I learned today."


"I talked to... ah... I can't remember her name. She lived with you last summer. Anyway, I ran into her after my last exam and she filled me in about Chet." She emphasized his name, as if it somehow had a different connotation now. "Dating frat boys from across the hall these days?"

Molly raised an eyebrow, giving her sister the benefit of the doubt. Bridget'd been under a lot of stress since deciding to stay in Michigan for the summer, leaving her boyfriend back home somewhat in the lurch. "God, Bridget, are you calling or not? 'Cause if you're not, I need to call Mags and tell her not to hand out personal information about me."

Mags! With the name suddenly back to her, Bridget jumped out of her anxiety. "Yeah, yeah, I'm callin'." She grabbed the cordless receiver and made her way into the kitchen, dialing with one hand as she looked for a Jiffy Pop with the other.

The phone rang, waiting an eternity between rings. Holding the Jiffy Pop over a bowl she ignited her right hand and waited for it to start popping. "Hello?" a distant voice on the other end finally asked. "Bridget, that you?"

She was startled again, certain that her boyfriend had no telepathic abilities. "Yeah; how'd you know?"

"We got a caller ID box and you're the only person who'd come up as 'Michigan Call.' So did you finally get a plane ticket?"

"Well, that's kind of why I was calling." The Jiffy Pop began growing, spiraled aluminum rolling back to a repetitious percussion. "See, the thing is... um... it's just that... I'm not coming home this summer. Carlos?"


"I'm staying here in Ann Arbor, doing some stuff with the kids programs they run in the summer. It's a workstudy thing, so I get paid and I get credit." The aluminum dome was growing now, kernels expanding to their inevitable conclusion. "Plus, I'll be here for the Art Fair and the museum is having some cool exhibits, too. And... are you gonna say anything?"

Bridget's hand burned a bit hotter as the popping reached its peak. The bursting of each individual kernel was indistinguishable from the next. "I," Carlos began, popping holding steady.

Without warning, the foil dome burst open with a bang, spilling charred popcorn all over the counter. "I hafta go." Carlos hung up the phone, leaving Bridget in a deadened silence.

Copyright © 1997 Aaron Veenstra, all rights reserved.
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