Monday, July 5, 2010

the last firework

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.

phump...flash...BOOM!

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.

96 comments:

Brian Miller said...

up until the bomb drop, this was our night last night. the dislay at the country club was pretty spectacular...the rest came from the growing unrest among many in our country...perhaps a bit exaggerated at this point...but what would it take to be willing to shed blood? i dont think i want to toknow the answer to that question...

jinksy said...

You lulled us into a false sense of security - lets hope that's not what the world is doing at the moment...

Tabor said...

This is such a scary thought. I hope it never happens.

Daniel said...

I was with you on that blanket right up until, well, you know. Something wonderful and pure then turned into something else. Like you, I don't want to know.

CM said...

I knew it, I just knew it was going to take a twist!

Good job, so descriptive. The seperation of classes at the country club...so true.

Alan Burnett said...

Chillingly atmospheric Brian.

Deb said...

I sit here with tears. My son, who has a baby daughter, and I were recently discussing this same topic. Frightening, scary, cause of sleepless nights. I worry for my grandchildren.

Susan Deborah said...

The juxtaposition was scary and spin-chilling. What is being safe then?

So many questions arise and I shudder but I know hope is always lurking there, waiting, to catch you by surprise. She knows that it will the be the last thought on anyone's mind at that time, but she "hopes" against "hope."

Joy always,
Susan

Travel & Dive Girl said...

Well done.

Valerie said...

How quickly does the moment turn, how insecure the people, but hope, yes hope, in its many ways, will always spring eternal. I often think this passage was written for times such as this.

Eva Gallant said...

That one left me speechless.

TALON said...

A terrifying idea, though not an unrealistic one either which makes it much much more terrifying. The fireworks and the bombs - not as different as we'd like to think. You struck a chord with this one, Brian.

Tracy said...

This was really cool for me at first because we watched fireworks on a golf course this year, too. The rest of it just scares and saddens me. I hope it never comes to this. People need to get a grip.

Just Be Real said...

Sadly the world we live in, this is so a possibility. Although, having the trust in God, no matter the outcome of the world He is in control and has His children in His arms. Love the line that the sun yawns once more. Blessings to you Brian.

LadyFi said...

Oh wow - what a surprise ending! Very dramatic.

Cheryl said...

Brilliant and entrancing and frightening and thought-provoking and way too much to digest in one sitting.

TechnoBabe said...

Your view of the fireworks was clear just as your view of life is. It is not such a stretch of the imagination that a bomb could be in our future, in this country.

Mrsupole said...

Hi Brian,

If I might say so, I think I am starting to have an influence upon you. You are beginning to sound just a tad like me about some of these warnings. I do like yours. And they are scarey thoughts, scarey that there are people out there who would be willing to do this, but even more scarey is the thought that there are people out there who are able to do this.

Let us pray they are never able to do this.

God bless.

Mmm said...

what a really profound muse on war. that is so true about selfish aims of men. I love how you tied the whole story together. It actually left me with goosebumps by the end. Another great job, Brian. What a writer! And, i note, others are noting it too. Look how many you have following you now. whoa.

Funny, but I have been thinking how every 4th we celebrate with images of America, the ideal, but so much of that America rests in the past. how much of today do we really look up to? It seems to me, more and more, regardless of one's leanings, almost everyone feels America's best days are behind her and we are in the process of self destructive decline. Where will it all end? A decay of society and a widening gap between the richest of the rich and the poor usually leads to civil unrest and eventually anarchy and civil war.

lakeviewer said...

Yeah, you knocked me off my perch too!

william said...

BRILLIANT STORY, FIREWORKS ROCK MATE, HAVE A GREAT DAY.

Steven Anthony said...

You have a way with words, brings me right into the story.....love it ;)

Tom said...

dreading the next big attack, but hoping it's not as bad as what you describe..good entry, and happy 4th!

island of peace said...

brilliant and scary.

Deidra said...

amazing!

there's always that little bit of me that wonders at the fourth of july about what all of the fireworks and booming and flashing are really about...vestiges of war that we truly (most of us, anyway) know nothing about.

i've got to say that what sticks out to me the most here is the separation...those who belong to the club and those who don't. it's everywhere and it's behind all sorts of stuff that turns out bad, isn't it?

natalee said...

that was soooooooooo scary.....what a twist...!!!

Magpie said...

Too scary, Brian. You did have us all safe and sound, warm with the glow of your happy Fourth of July celebration...then BAM! Point well made!

Lorenzo said...

Quite a chillingly effective twist to the story ... from fireworks to war.

Pete Marshall said...

bri its not often i get time to stop and read, what with everything going on..but somehow i ended up here today. This is what i love about your work, the twists, the turns, the way you capture things, & the way you make me think...this really was good. I admit I am just a poet on a walk in life but you my friend can be so much more..well done

adeeyoyo said...

I'm speechless, Brian! Shocked and stunned by your beautiful story turning on its head - brilliantly done! But will world leaders take heed?

Ed Pilolla said...

these are such important questions and props to you for raising them. we go to these festivals like everything is just fine with our country and world but we all know just what you articulate: something is rotten and unaddressed. and the stakes are higher than they've ever been in history. true patriots are not happy with the direction things are proceeding in this country and world.

dirt clustit said...

"click clack moo"

AngelMay said...

Brian, you are not the only one to think of devastation during fireworks last night. I pushed the thoughts from my mind but, of course, they hold on with sticky fingernails and refuse to leave. This is the way to approach terror - if you must tell it. Everyone all safe and secure...and then....

Well done. (If unsettling)

Bachelor said...

Very thought provoking...but I tend to agree in some fashion with mmm.

PattiKen said...

Wow, wow, wow. Like others, here I was, thinking what a lovely family outing, until BOOM! You've done it again, Brian! Fantastic!

A.Decker said...

Growing unrest indeed. Nice job.

Claudia said...

Brian - had to read it twice - with a walk in between..
It's a scary thought and I hope nothing like this will happen ever again. But I agree with you - the political problems - the economical crisis - we have them here as well. And our leaders doesn't really seem to know what to do - hope no one will think of this as a solution!

She Writes said...

I have had moments flash before me like this.

Hauntingly told, Brian.

buffalodick said...

I never compared the two...

Baino said...

Whoah definitely wasn't expecting the bomb drop! Nice work.

Raven said...

I agree with Tabor, this is such a scary thought and I pray it never comes to that. Another powerful piece, Brian. Well done.

Maggie May said...

I was just at an ordinary firework display, sharing it with you........ then WHAM.... it turned into something else. Scary.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Madame DeFarge said...

I like the twist in this, draws you in and then gets right where it hurts. Very moving.

Dianne said...

I missed this one.
yikes

the cost of war
and all in a millisecond....

this should be published Brian,
in many many publications.
Now.
Dianne

heartspell said...

Beautiful, lovely, though tainted with the societal divisions, then tragic, in-the-blink-of-an-eye annihilation... so sad I can't breathe. Great turn of events and so well done. Heartspell

JeffScape said...

Should have used the picnic blanket for some duck-and-cover action.

Er...

sheri said...

wow, brian-that was us...all except for the nuclear bomb part ;) i read this in awe and i felt the finality of hope ebb away as i realized it really was over. this was so well written but i hope that you're wrong!

Mama Zen said...

Amazing writing, Brian.

Maha said...

Beautiful story. I especially loved the last part.

secret agent woman said...

This brings back memories of school bomb drills when I was a child on a Naval base.

Little Ms Blogger said...

I have to admit, I was more interested in the portion that had to do with your life and your family.

Everyday Goddess said...

wow, i hadn't considered that possibility, but now, oh man!

Velvet Over Steel said...

Wow, I thought it was your families story.. until the bomb. Glad you guys had a good time and the story.... is hopefully exaggerated, but... you never know what some are capible of.
My heart is still racing!! More great writing, Brian! ~ Coreen

ModernMom said...

You caught me off guard. How scary that a night of joy could turn like this...trutfully, I try not to think about it:) You are a brilliant writer.

Respectfully Yours said...

Scary stuff. Great post.

SuziCate said...

Wow, all was a splendid fireworks display with beauty and happiness and then WHAM...was not expecting that! Your talent never ceases to amaze me!

Warm Coco said...

Ack,
There's a lump in my throat...

Kat_RN said...

I like the happy begining, if we don't watch out, the ending will be true.
Kat

Luisa Doraz said...

I believe we need to cherish EVERY moment. :)

Caty said...

The whole thing was perfectly done, from the separation of the classes, to the description of family fun and security, and then onto the bomb exploding...Wow! I felt the real fear of it happening. We are always worried about outside terrorist attacks, but what about those unhappy folks inside our country? very scary thought...hope it's nothing I ever witness.

Bonnie said...

Chilling ... and all to possible. You have a highly combustible situation there with so many ill-informed, discontent and armed with all sorts of different weapons.

Your scenario is much more probable than we would like to think.

We hang by a thread.

gayle said...

Scary!! We never know when we are having a great time when it could change in a minute!!

The Muse said...

if we cannot write about the things that cause us to fear...we cannot then fully grasp the infinite joy of what life really is...
well done, indeed.

Joanna Jenkins said...

"the sun yawns once more before bed" Awesome.
jj

ds said...

Very clever. Lulled into the security of memory, of family, then KA-BOOM! Yes, let us hope that your scenario remains fiction. Masterful fiction, but fiction. Please.

The Urban Cowboy said...

You painted such a sense stimulating, and thought provoking story. Simply awesome...and unfortunately, the mushroom cloud enveloping our capitol is the goal of some.

Help! Mama Remote... said...

As I sit here with my mouth open. Again you leave me speechless.

tracyhsays.com said...

Well...you got me. I was expecting a lightning bolt or a bunch a crazy kids pulling a prank, but....WOW! What a twist, and a fabulous ending thought. Bravo!

Rally On!
Tracy H

william said...

brilliant story mate, glad all went well.. unrest only grows amongst unhappy people, sometimes we cant blame them considering the decisions they make on our behalf.

Cindy said...

Such a warm nostalgic mood and then you punch your reader in the solar plexus. Good stuff Brian.

slommler said...

Oh my! I imagine this is exactly how it will be too! It is so scary to think about!!??!!
Hugs
SueAnn

Lorraine said...

oh God

Birdie said...

Beautifully written Brian, even though scary end ...

Pauline said...

you are a master of killer (no pun intended) endings! jinksy remarked in her comment that you lulled us into a false sense of security - I think that's what is happening to those who think your ending is exaggerated...

this little piece sounds like an Armageddon movie

morganna said...

Yikes. Good job with the twist. The level of unreality/disconnect in some people's heads right now is really scary. I hope it doesn't go as far as this. (and it sounds like you all had fun at the fireworks, too! nice :)

Jessie said...

jinksy nailed it, "you lulled us into a false sense of security..."

well stated.

smiles,j

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Crystal Jigsaw said...

Every day means so much. Wonderfully written as always. Apologies for my absence of late.

CJ xx

Syd said...

I hope it doesn't come to this but it isn't farfetched because there is so much anger now.

Barbara said...

We felt so fortunate this year to be able to enjoy fireworks. So many cities had to cut them entirely. Yes, things are really tough for a lot of us.

Nancy said...

Fantastic view of what is happening in our country. It is an unlit match.

Fragrant Liar said...

Celebrations always bring out the crazies.

Tina said...

You had me lulled into such a sense of security as you described what I've experienced before. (Only it's a public course, so we were minus the rich folks). Then ka-bow you blow me away and leave me pondering. Perhaps we should just start over...and do it right this time. Great, thought-provoking piece.

drybottomgirl said...

You captured the fragility of life, normal and flowing one minute crazy with devestation the next. May we never have to find out just how fragile....

signed...bkm said...

Great story, what we forget and need a reminder as you have done here, is that this has already happened to many families throughout history...let us all be thankful for each day...bkm

rel said...

Brian,
I loved your detailed description of the evening it really is superb.
The bomb? Well I'm glad it was not that well detailed. Sometimes in the day to day lives of man there is a cynacism about the selfishness that abounds around us. While I refuse to excuse it, I prefer to revel in the beauty of the present moment since that's all any of us really have.
rel

Okie said...

intense. very nice.

otin said...

Now this is right up my alley! Blowing things up and a sad ending! WOOHOO!

Pastor Sharon said...

your stories just keep taking our breath away.

Bernie said...

This was awesome though the ending left me sad......so enjoy your writing Brian......:-) Hugs

chiccoreal said...

Dear Brian: This story is pure poetry; absolutely brilliant. Your use of adjective described such artistry. The plot too, unexpected at the end; totally rivetting. Amazing words! I particularly love this line; "the cloud knurls in on itself as it expands, burning a hole in the night, turning an angry red and purple". So very visual your description; Masterful! ps I love your family-themed mags they are so rich with emotion and so very observant of those special domestic mise en scenes. I am in AWE-struck by your amazing talent.
Thank-you!

AmyLK said...

Completely unexpected! But at least the first part was a lovely evening. Until the bomb dropped. So happy it didn't in real life!

Pat said...

Well, shit, Brian, I almost want to smack you! While I'm reading your wonderful story, I'm thinking how you paint such a wonderful picture. I feel like I'm sitting or rather, lying right next to you and your family, gazing up at those beautiful fireworks, feeling the loud vibrations in my chest, going ooh and aah over the beautiful color combinations, and then you go and put that ending on it? WTF?! Talk about a twist! You are evil! I was having a good time there! Now you scared the bejesus out of me! Thank you for that!

(Well written my friend.)

moondustwriter said...

... down to the youngest would not be spared.

Touching and jarring

Mighty M said...

Love the firework monster!

Goofball said...

oh man, you suck us in the story with the wonderful descriptions and images. I was already jumping up and down of excitement for the 4th of July

what a shocker at the end. Well done. Hopefully fiction forever!!!