TODAY, RIGHT NOW, I FEEL LIKE Lynn Beeman's lips.
I'm sure they were perfectly good lips. I know they were talented, probably still are. I never kissed him.
He was/is a trumpet player and the bugler in our Boy Scout troop. For many years, my closest friend. The thing I'm describing is an event from the very cold winter of '63 when we went camping in the Adirondack Mountains. We slept in open sided lean-to's and didn't sleep at all.
We spent the long first night dragging in frozen stumps and snow snapped branches trying to create a fire large enough to warm us. Temperatures dropped to the lower teens that night. Spooky cold. The half-dozen campfires scattered on the mountainside ushered low clouds of reeking smoke in the falling air.
It was the first experience of Deja-Vu I remember. Maybe dizzy from the smoke, or I don't know what-all, but half way up from the bottom of a snow-filled ravine, dragging a large rotten stump I had wrenched out of the ice I became dizzily sure that I had done this before. Scary sure.
We eventually crawled fully dressed into our sleeping bags and shivered and giggled until one by one most had fallen asleep. Lynn and I stayed awake. I was mad that we weren't having the fun we had anticipated and he was mad that he couldn't roll over because he had his bugle inside his sleeping bag with him. Inside his coat under his sweater, tucked inside the drop-seat Doctor Dentins that his mother had found for him and made him wear. Lynn was wearing a giant red onesie. We laughed at him, but at least he was warm. He knew if he didn't keep the horn warm the 'flagpole effect' would get him.
The scout master came over around six and advised Lynn to warm-up his mouthpiece. It was time to blow Reveille.
Lynn was smart and smartly answered, "Yes Sir!", happily pulling the chrome and brass horn out from his shirt and waving it around for us all to see. He was smart, proud, but at times somewhat given to peacockery. He hopped out of his sleeping bag, stood to attention at the edge of the lean-to, licked his lips and pressed the tassel-wrapped brass mouthpiece to his mouth.
Four dozen scouts woke to the horrible scream that came from Lynn Beeman's lungs as he tore the horn and the skin from his lips.
I guess solid brass freezes quickly in twelve degrees. I guess posing at attention on the frozen edge of day and licking your lips is too much time allowed.
Aunt Rose is dead. They called yesterday. We are mad, sad and raw. Like Lynn Beeman's lips.
We should have called sooner.
North Chesterfield, VA