a screaming comes across the sky.

fireworks distributors have started giving their products catchy names and more appealing packaging, betting that the same thought process that casual drinkers use when selecting a bottle of wine is relevant with their customer. so tanned blondes with camouflage bikinis seductively show off rockets on shelves beside pimped-out tanks, motorcycles driven by biker dogs, and race cars with flames issuing from the exhaust pipes. names like uncle sam’s answer, loyal to none, and cruel mistress speak to their target consumer.

i’ve noticed this progression toward better marketing and sharper graphics, as it’s become a tradition, during the holidays, to go over to a high school friend’s house and shoot fireworks. each year, on his drive from alabama, he spends more money than the previous, ensuring that the displays improve. fear, perhaps, has always compelled me to take an ancillary role, limited to standing next to a heater with a sparkler dancing in my hand, until last week when i became a more active participant in the seasonal spectacle.

he and i lined the yard with pyrotechnics, lit them quickly, and ducked for cover. our family and friends looked on from the relative safety of the driveway and delivered the requisite ooohs and aaahs as they exploded with brilliant bursts of color. ash rained down on us.

for the finale, a block the size of a car battery fired successive blasts into the sky for upwards of thirty seconds. the last few streamed toward the ground, resembling palm trees.

our show lasted from eight until nine thirty on christmas day, yet we received a complaint in a neighborhood newspaper. a man wrote to the editor to say that not only had we annoyed him, we’d also rudely awakened his children. he wondered if we were breaking any laws, but didn’t provide any details, so the editor wrote, depending on the time, the kinds of fireworks used, and the location, it was possible that we were breaking state law or could be fined for noise violations.

obviously that man reads this blog, so let me direct a few sentences to him. your children, who you put to bed at seven thirty on christmas day, woke up hearing fireworks in the distance. they went to their windows and watched for an hour and a half, mouth agape, as the sky lit up. for that time, they were the happiest people in guilford county, but i completely understand how their incessant chatter about the amazing girandoles (their word, not mine — fucking educated brats) could be particularly annoying to you.


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