slipping the fence behind the school we sneak through the woods to capture the fireworks show at the country club, thinking ourselves devious, only to find several families already arrayed on blankets and in folding chairs across the green fairway of fifth hole of the golf course. the boys join in with the other kids, kicking a soccer ball around the short clipped grass, laughing, some chasing them with sparkles, leaving trails of smoke in their wake.
there is a distance between those that frequent the club in their collared shirts and dresses, meant to impress their worth upon each other, and us common rabble. being nearly unemployed for a year in an ever souring economy, regardless of the improvements touted by those in power, daring to cross the border between our worlds becomes an easy decision, and well worth the risk of being caught.
the sun yawns once more before bed, leaving a yellow halo across the horizon as the sky fades to indigo, then black. families gather at their blankets, conversations blending into a hum of anticipation for the fireworks to begin. kids fidget, darting away to check on friends, before rushing back. my son twists his hands up into his armpits, dancing around, calling himself the firework monster, making an odd gurgling cluck.
the report of the first firework sends the young that have strayed ducking for cover in the arms of their parents. chuckles ripple across the small crowd that has now gathered, on the hill across the valley from the country club where the affluent watch from plush seats arranged in neat rows. i imagine the view is much better from where we lay.
the show begins in earnest now, fiery tales twist into the night exploding in enlarging balls of glittery light; blue, green, purple, red and white. the thunder of their explosion carries a few seconds later, rattling our chests. the hill is silent now, beyond the constant barrage of pops and sizzles. intensity builds as they come one right after another.... BOOM... BOOM... sizzle... hiss... whistle... BOOM... eyes wide, each new orb is captured on their surface, before winking back into blackness.
a fountain of sparks jutting into the sky, then crashing down, then up, like water gushing leads the finale. the night rocks in sound and light, stealing our breath with awe, boys wiggling deeper into our chests. BOOM... the world goes dark, whoops and yells erupt from the crowd, elation overflowing in the cool night air.
a brilliant flash, much like a camera only with millions of times the intensity, washes across us from behind, muting the darkness, highlighting the trees until the disappear in the white. everyone turns expecting an unexpected final display, only to find a great cloud rising from where our nation's capital once resided. the cloud knurls in on itself as it expands, burning a hole in the night, turning an angry red and purple.
no one is moving, just staring. cell phones start flickering like fireflies, unnoticed on the edges of blankets, and then a great rush of sound, like incessant children beating on sheet metal pummels us, louder and louder. hands find ears to block its force, mouths curling in screams, unheard. a warm wind sloshes across my face, wet with sweat and i gather my family, hugging them close, whispering silent prayers across drying, cracking lips.
thoughts dance briefly toward who could have done this; some country angry with our meddling, or is this the first salvo of the second civil war that has been brewing the hearts of our nation. this is not some satchel bomb, but something bigger, nuclear. what could be worth such utter devastation? these questions last only seconds as i realise either way, it is the work of selfish men subjecting their will upon another. enforcing the whims of their gods.
memories leak in rivers down my cheeks; my kids taking their first stumbling steps, laughter as we clean cake off our faces on our wedding day, riding a rope swing in the afternoon sun, my son making a terrible joke earlier in the night, annoying then, now leaving me with a weak smile. still i can not look away from the cloud now towering over us, until my vision is gone, though my eyes are still open.
i hold my family tight against me, whispering, until even they pass beyond and i can feel them no more. then i just whisper...
This is a Tenth Daughter of Memory story, for the muse of WAR.