Last night, alerted between downpours by thunderous warning shots from the pending fireworks display on the town land next door, the boy and I trudged through the woods -- down a freshly weed-whacked path through poison ivy and other nefarious plants -- to the field behind the library from which much water flows.
Flashback to February 2006; an observant woman who lives with me is taking a walk around this house, looking at the roof from the yard. "What's that six-foot scorch mark?" she asks the realtor showing the place. There is an ugly black scar spanning eight or ten rows of shingle.
"Hoooo-eeee, they don't make chimneys like that anymore," says the woman, pointing at another house.
"No, no, THAT scorchmark," says my wife, pointing to the scorch mark on this house.
"And it's a whole third of an acre," explains the realtor. "Plenty of room to expand."
"Hey, is that from the fireworks you guys told us are so close?" I venture.
"Shall we look at the cellar?" she asks. "They've just put in a fabulous Be-Dri™ system down there. Bone. Dry."
So we get out there, in the rain, and the fireworks start. Like small-town fireworks everywhere they're half-baked, going off occasionally, sometimes in sequence, sometimes not high enough. A bunch of us crowd under the overhang on the public library to evade both the rain and the falling ash. A couple of big ones explode about thirty feet up. The pall of smoke sometimes fogs our view, but the smell of the gunpowder is nice.
They do two finales, but we've already started back before we realize there's a final barrage. I'm stepping through dense undergrowth cautiously, my comrade ahead of me with the light. Vivid flashes, accompanied by ear-shattering crashes, slam into us and light our way. The boy, wearing earplugs, seems more or less unfazed, or perhaps numbed. The breeze kicks up at our back, and the shadows of trees stand out stark, like tall strangers in the mist around us, and still this last volley continues, BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG, each percussion picking out every stem of oily weed and jagged thorn as we hasten through the undergrowth back to the house.
In the morning there are busted pieces of rocket, shreds of paper, wisps of fuse and string, all of it smoky, scorched, blackened. On the cars, on the lawn, hanging in the trees. There are only a couple of pieces on the roof, which was fortunately well soaked by the rain.