The tent was pitched at the fringe of a soybean field that was an agricultural barrier between Mitchell's house and mine. The tent was canvas. A single wooden pole--two halves that screwed together--held raised the top-center of the tent high enough for even adults to sit up. The tent had no windows, just a single doorway. Mitchell's father drove moving trucks, and he'd given us each a packing quilt that we could use as improvised sleeping bags.
We were sitting outside. It was past midnight, and the sky was clear; the Milky Way seemed to stretch toward what Mitchell liked to refer to as infinity, a term that I was less sure of than he apparently was. At the far end of the field, the terrain sloped gently downward toward the highway that ran through town. The other sides of the field were bordered by dense wooded areas in which we had spent much of our free time exploring and improvising small forts in which we occasionally slept.
The air was warm for so deep into the night: close, humid. Mitchell had pilfered one of his mother's Winston cigarettes, and we passed it between us, each drawing a small breath of filtered smoke. Months earlier we had tried a Lucky Strike from a pack that Mitchell had stolen from the Woolworth's. The Winston seemed less harsh to me.
"Another car," Mitchell said, gesturing toward the highway. "I wonder where people go so late at night."
"Work, maybe," I said. "Or home from work. Doesn't your dad drive a lot of late nights?" I handed the Winston back to Mitchell.
"Sometimes. Things are quieter then, he says. Easier to drive." He held the cigarette toward me.
"Nah," I said. "Hurts my throat."
He took another puff, looked the cigarette, then ground the butt into the dirt between his feet. "I don't think I could do this all the time," he said. "The smoke makes me a little dizzy."
I lay on my back and stretched out. We'd trampled some of the soybean plants, and they formed a comfortable cushion. Mitchell stretched out, too, and we both stared up into the sky. There was no wind. If it weren't for the occasional car on the highway, there would have been no sound. We lay still. Mitchell coughed and spat the phlegm off to one side. Directly above us, then, something that burned fell through the sky. It was gone so quickly, I wasn't sure of what I'd seen--or if I'd seen anything at all.
"Jesus Christ," Mitchell whispered.
I coughed and blinked. The first breeze of the night pushed through the bushes, carrying the scent of soybeans across my face. When I woke up at sunrise, I saw that neither Mitchell nor I had moved from where we settled.