My hands shook as I held the match box. I could feel all the eyes in the Barn on me. Could hear my breathing loud as thunder.
I struck the match against the box; no light. Struck again; no light. On the third try, it lit. I warmed the cigar with the match. Once it burned out, I used another still to warm the tobacco. With the third match, I placed the cigar to my lips, held the match by the tobacco’s end, and puffed.
Gray informed me of the Hot Ash competition about a week or two before Rope Camp. I remember standing by the door of the Craft Room, the words “Hot Ash” coming out of his mouth, and immediately banging my head against the wall.
I was already going to be in the Roperlesque for two acts. I suspected I would also be bootblacking. And now I knew I would be in the competition as well, held in between the acts. Just one more thing to add to my crowded plate for that evening.
When Friday night came, so too did the heavens. All day it rained, in fact. The weather woke me in the morning, kept me in bed through the first class session, invited a friend under my covers for snuggles and dragon cuddles, and permeated the camp’s mood.
I intentionally left all my things in the Pavilion for Roperlesque (rope, my bootblack kit, supplies for the fantasy, and cigar accoutrement) during the early afternoon. As the hour of the event approached, I headed down the hill to help setup for the festivities. When I arrived, Gray turned me away. The event was being moved to the Barn. He walked my luggage across the river of mud in front of the Pavilion, and asked that I spread the word to whomever I passed.
As people hustled to stage the event in the new space, I helped move tables, arranged a few chairs, and generally pitched in as we brought everything together.
Roperlesque was low key, as Gray had intended, with shared alcohol, cigar smoking a plenty, a game of poker in one corner, a rig for the performances in the middle of the room, and one chair on the stage for my bootblacking. It seemed almost the entire camp came out to relax and enjoy the evening.
Just about every bit of my night was unnerving. I performed an ichinawa scene with NYRCherryBondage, an act we had never practiced. I re-created my Dirty Pig fantasy with assistance from Roughinamorato and NYRCherryBondage, another time in front of the crowd. However my heart beat hardest during Hot Ash.
I was the first called upon to demonstrate my service. I had my kit prepared, a towel for my knees, and I exuded calm as best I could.
When Gray called my name, a hush settled in the Barn. I stepped to the middle of the room, laid down my towel, sunk to my knees, and became focused on my demo top. I offered them a selection of a few different cigars. I offered various ways of cutting the cigar. Did they want it warmed? Did they wish for me to wet the end or would they prefer to do it themselves? Butane lighter or wood matches? I specifically catered what I had available to their desires.
When the cigar was prepped and ready, I handed it to the demo top, thanked them, rose, and stepped away.
As the evening grew later, after my Dirty Pig reprisal, Gray called all four Hot Ash competitors to the center of the Barn. Lochai took the microphone in hand, then distributed the inaugural Hot Ash certificates to the participants.
For Most Entertaining Service: NYRCherryBondage.
For Sexiest Service: EmberBliss.
For Best Mashturbation: Roughinamorato.
And the inaugural Hot Ash: poeticdesires.
I smiled, sunk to my knees, and accepted my certificate. I turned and stood before Gray could instruct me to not rise. To my right was MissAmyRed. In her hands was a piece of rope with a cutter attached on the end. She draped the rope around my neck, my Hot Ash medal.
I still have the rope. The cutter is in my cigar kit, but the rope is my new favorite necklace. It is a reminder of that night, of those people, of those moments I will not soon forget.
And, as Gray put it, I am now a dual title holder.
I am, indeed, a hot piece of ash.
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