A Sparkling Evening
Fireworks on and off the water
June 6, 2011
I was 16 years old on the Fourth of July evening I sat on the dock at our family’s resort saying goodbye to a girl named Dot. She and her family were leaving early the next morning. I was about to make my move to steal a kiss when her father and a younger man came out on the dock.
"MAYBE I HAD BEEN FOOLISH TO ASSUME THESE TWO MEN KNEW WHAT THEY WERE DOING WITH FIREWORKS.”
“You want to make a few bucks?” her father said to me. “Larry and me got some fireworks we want to shoot off. Could you take us out in a boat?”
“Heck yeah,” I said. A kiss with Dot could wait. My only experience with lighting fireworks was sparklers that mom doled out. These guys had real fireworks.
Fortunately, it was a dead calm evening. I pulled a boat up to the dock and Mike and Larry got on board with two minnow buckets filled with sand and two paper grocery bags stuffed with fireworks. On the beach, a crowd gathered.
About a hundred yards out I anchored and watched Larry and Mike fumble around trying to get their minnow bucket launching pads steadied. They didn’t want a lit Roman candle falling over in their direction. Me neither.
“I dunno, Mike,” said Larry. “Maybe we shoulda’ just brought a five-gallon bucket instead.”
Suddenly, this didn’t seem like a good plan to me. A wake from a passing boat could tip the minnow buckets. Maybe I had been foolish to assume that these two men knew what they were doing
Both men lit cigars to use for lighting fuses. Larry took a big draw to get it burning bright, hacked out a couple of harsh coughs, and stuck it in the corner of his mouth. Then he stooped over the grocery bags to rummage through with both hands looking for the biggest Roman candle.
“Come on,” said Mike impatiently. “Just pick one.”
When Larry tried to reply, his cigar fell from his mouth, bounced off a seat, scattered hot ash on the paper bags and dropped into one of the bags. Larry jammed his hands frantically into the bags to feel around for his cigar.
Wisps of smoke rose from the bags. Fuses, lots of them, would soon ignite and we’d have lift-off. I thought about abandoning ship. Larry had another idea. He picked up both bags and quickly threw them overboard.
Watching the bags slowly sink, Mike sighed and said, “Well, there goes $150 bucks,” and stubbed out his cigar. “Fireworks for the fishes.”
Back at the dock, Mike hollered to the crowd, “Show’s been canceled, folks,” and stomped off with Larry behind him and without paying me my couple of bucks. I let it go, happy I hadn’t been torched.
Mom doled out sparklers to the disappointed families on the beach. Dot and I lit ours and waved them over our heads as we ran down the shore away from the crowd. When they winked out with a pfttt, we kissed in the dark.
That was a better fireworks show anyway.
Paul Sullivan has never met a cabin he didn’t like.
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