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The Friendly Flame

Freddy was a friendly flame. He came from a family of good flames. They were not like some bad flames that Freddy knew. They never started forest fires or burned down people's houses.

One evening at dinner, the Flame Family was licking away at their favorite logs. Freddy's sister, Fran, was telling how she had been working hard all day, cooking the food for a big banquet.

Father Flame had come home just before dinner. He had been halfway around the world, helping to run a jet plane. Freddy's mother and his big brother also had been working hard all day. But Freddy was too little to have a regular job. So he had nothing to tell about at all.

Freddy was unhappy. He wanted to have a job to be proud of. He asked his mother if he could help her at the bakery. But she said, "Just eat plenty of logs, and soon you will be big enough to have work of your own." Freddy thought he was big enough. So one day he set out to look for a job.

After a while, Freddy came to a car stopped by the side of the road. The hood was up, and a man was looking inside. Freddy watched while the man closed the hood and got back into the car. He tried to start it, but nothing happened. Freddy leaped into the spark plugs and tried as hard as he could to help. But he just wasn't strong enough to get the car going.

Poor Freddy. What could a little flame do? Sadly he went on down the road.

In a yard Freddy saw some people who were going to have a barbecue party. But their lighter wouldn't work. They could not get the charcoal burning. "We don't want to eat raw hamburgers!" cried one of the children.

Freddy hopped into the barbecue grill, and a tiny tongue of flame leaped up. The people shouted with surprise. Freddy was trying to get the fuel lighted, when some other flames heard the commotion. They jumped into the grill and rudely shoved Freddy out.

Soon the coals were glowing brightly, and delicious smells of cooking hamburgers filled the air. Everyone was happy except Freddy. He wanted to cook the barbecue all by himself. And now the big flames wouldn't even let him share the job.

He slouched along the road, not really looking where he was going. He stumbled onto a dried leaf. Freddy was such a tiny flame that he did not really burn the leaf. Instead, it just smoldered. Suddenly a puff of wind lifted the leaf and Freddy up into the air. Freddy had to hold on tight to keep from being blown out.

For miles and miles they drifted, high over the town and into the nearby forest. At last the wind died down and the leaf settled gently into a small clearing in the woods.

There, sitting on a flat rock, a boy and a girl were crying. They were lost. Their parents had taken them on a picnic and they had wandered off. It was getting dark now. And it was getting cold, too.

Suddenly the boy noticed a leaf at his foot with a glowing spark in the middle. He made a little pile of sticks and dry leaves. He laid the smoldering leaf on the pile and blew gently. Freddy flamed up a little bigger. But no matter how he tried, he couldn't get a real fire going.

The boy and girl began to cry again. Freddy felt like crying, too. But flames are not allowed to cry. If they did, they would snuff themselves out.

Suddenly Freddy got an idea. He began to move along the dead leaves. As he moved, his tiny flame glowed. The boy and girl watched the moving flame. He moved around them in a circle. Then he started off into the forest. Freddy remembered something he had seen while he was flying through the air on the leaf. And now he knew just which way to go.

The boy and girl followed the tiny glow. Freddy blazed a trail for them for more than a mile. Suddenly, in the distance, the children heard their parents calling. Soon they were all together, laughing and hugging.

Now Freddy danced happily home through the forest. What a story he would have to tell his family tonight!



©1972, 2013 The Silversteins