After the Smoke Clears


When we returned home from watching some official local fireworks, the air in our subdivision was filled with smoke and the unmistakable aroma of saltpeter. Despite my town’s alleged “zero tolerance” policy regarding illegal fireworks, their use has been quite prevalent for the past two days. I’m cool with that, because I was once young and stupid myself. 

I had this friend—let’s call him Fred—who seemed to have access to all manner of explosive fireworks. Back in the day, he could get me bricks of firecrackers, the kind with Chinese characters on the product label, as well as bottle rockets, Roman candles, and of course, the coveted M80’s which were reputed to have the force of a third of a stick of dynamite. Now who wouldn’t want those?

Fred almost got his manhood scorched by an errant bottle rocket once. The things are so unpredictable, anyway. To the best of my recollection, I had lit the bottle rocket that went after my pal. We had been using an old coffee can as a place to set off packs of firecrackers and launch one or more bottle rockets at a time. Pretty much the same as always, I staged my little pyrotechnic specimen in the can, pointed away from me and with the fuse hanging over the side of the can. I lit the fuse. After a few seconds of mild hissing, the little bottle rocket shot off with a loud PSHHHHFFFFT, heading straight up before hanging an unexpected curve, not unlike that of a heat-seeking missile, and shooting directly into my friend Fred’s crotch.

In less time than it takes to exclaim “Oh shit,” Fred made a graciously swift backhand sweeping motion across the front of his family jewels, sending the bottle rocket about three feet into the airspace beside him before it went off with a loud BANG. Fred just stood there, looking at me as the smoke cleared. Upon having just witnessed his close call, I took immediate action and began laughing like an idiot. 

To be sure, there were more incidents such as this one, but Fred and I lived through them all, with our respective appendages and organs present and accounted for. If you are reading this, I hope you had a pleasant and safe 4th of July. 

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