Monday, July 1, 2013

Nurse the Hate: Hate Fireworks

As the mortar left the shell, it was painfully obvious that the trajectory would make an impact with the oncoming car.  While this would be bad, in fact, probably “really bad”, the real fear was that it would skip under the oncoming car and explode under the gas tank.  As anyone that has even a cursory interest in such television shows as The A-Team or Starsky and Hutch knows, an explosion under a car will result in that car’s gas tank exploding as well, and probably in slow motion.  These were all outcomes that we did not foresee when we modified the “Brilliant Dragon Flower of Sunshine” specialty mortar shell only moments before.

I had traveled to Erie, my old hometown with Mr. Kissel, a fellow pyromaniac that also enjoyed bringing chaos and a certain unpredictability to normally sedate holiday get togethers.  I had hit a real fork in the road at this time, as most of my friends had really begun to “slow down” as they say, and I had alarmingly begun to “speed up”.  I believed at the time that most boundaries were self assessed (which I also believe now) and they were all foolish and unnecessary (which I no longer believe after some rather disastrous incidents requiring written explanations and monetary compensation).  There are times you are at the exact right place at the right time.  Unfortunately, this is rarely the case in real life.

It was the Fourth of July.  We had been at a party earlier of some friends who had recently married.  This was the first time the new Bride really had a chance to understand who she was married to, and from my vantage point it chilled her to the bone.  In what would be a watershed event not only in their marriage, but also in many friendships, she weeded out the desirables and the undersirables amongst his peer group for future gatherings.  I did not make the cut.  Strangely enough, neither did Mr. Kissel. 

It may have been when we blew up their plastic Xmas decorations as horrified children looked on.  It may have been when her husband insisted on shooting the homemade cannon, the explosion causing a flame the size of a Volkswagen with a report that was heard at the State Police barracks nearly 12 miles away.   In my mind it was the site of her husband slinking off into the woods when the State Police cruiser crunched down the gravel road of their neighborhood.  As the searchlight scanned the woods, we elected to hop into a relative stranger’s truck to go to “another party down the road”.  Surely, they could sort this out without our input…

I had begun to amass some financial independence, and with that came some real options when it came to celebrating our Nation’s Birthday.  I had a relationship with a Fireworks Store, in particular with a man named “Sleepy” that managed one in Sandusky.  Like all good clerks in the fireworks game, Sleepy was missing teeth, a finger, and a coherent speech pattern.  If I had to guess, I would think he lived in New Orleans in the off-season, probably washing dishes and dealing meth.  I had an arrangement with Sleepy where I took care of him, and he let me fill my trunk with anything I wanted from the shelves.  It was a beautiful arrangement.

The problem becomes with anything that is free, you soon start to tire of it.  It has lost its value because you can always get more without any real sacrifice.  Soon, lighting off “Uncle Sam Fire Show Commando” wasn’t fun as just a normal firework.  What would happen if you cut the tube in half?  What about if you taped that onto that?  What if we doubled the gunpowder in those?  Imagine any cautionary fireworks video you have ever seen, but then double it and add a couple cases of Canadian beer.  As the evening drug on, I became known as “Dr. Von Braun” with Mr. Kissel always nearby to light the wick and compliment me on my handiwork.  It was, of course, madness.

There was no real “party” at the second location.  There were five people, all of them horribly intoxicated.  A second rate stereo blasted “Highway To Hell” with the distorted speakers breaking up.  Julie, the wife of our host, went inside the rented townhouse, the screen door broken and left dangling on a  hinge.  The ill-fated mortar we had launched skipped under the oncoming vehicle, bounced underneath and exploded in a sea of red, yellow, and orange with screaming whistles in every direction like frightened birds.  The car never even slowed.  Maybe they were unaware of how close they had come to exploding in slow motion, or perhaps they had sized up the situation as they careened by and realized a confrontation would have resolved nothing. 

Kissel and I looked at each other with a look of “Holy shit!  That was almost really, really bad.”  It was only a split second later when I saw it out of the corner of my eye.  He must have been “inspired” by the near disaster he had just witnessed.  It’s hard to even guess at his motivation.  But it happened.  That was when one of the other party guests calmly launched the “Apocalypse Tomorrow Beauty Swan” rocket, aiming it perfectly into the open doorway of the town home.  The red of the explosion looked very out of place in the modest living room.  I remember seeing Julie’s silhouette as she dove for cover from the living room into the kitchen.

It was maybe the best 4th of July ever.


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