“Let’s do this!” Jimmy howls. He sets off the firework and it boomed against the sky, seething red, white and blue stars over Hazel Dell.
“Whoa, nice one, Jimmy!” Trevor said, lighting the roman candle. Balls of fire stacked up over the yard…
The neighborhood thundered with the heavy fireworks, all over town, like an artillery barrage Dogs howled. Someone cursed them. Jimmy and Trevor laughed and passed the Red Bull Jack Daniels mix and set off two more…
“I love it when the dogs howl!” Jimmy chortled. “You know it’s really cutting through!”
“It is,” said Dave, the old guy who lived next door. He came out chewing an unlit cigar. He was wearing a watch cap and a red terrycloth bathrobe and unlaced tennis shoes.
“Excellent look, there, Dave,” Trevor said.
“Woke up kind of suddenly. Got dressed that way too.”
“It’s only one night a year, old man,” Jimmy said.
“It’s on July Fourth too,” Dave said, looking at another firework. “That one’s pretty. I like fireworks, in the right place. There’s a theory that neighborhoods could arrange a park or some place a fair distance away for this stuff…”
“Why?” Jimmy snorted. “We like it here! It’s patriotism!”
“Patriotism?” Dave asked, music over another colorful burst. “You ever serve in the military, Jim? Oh wait, you didn’t, no. But Mr. Grange did, down the street–three terms in Vietnam. He has trouble sleeping. Especially tonight. Slim Gomez, on 78th–he served in Iraq. He has PTSD. He has to leave town otherwise he gets flashbacks on a night like this.”
“Oh boo hoo, has to leave town!”
“Not easy for him. Lost his legs, no family to help him out. Doesn’t drive. Not a lot of traveling money. His dog, too–it can’t deal with this stuff. It was a war dog, see. It got caught in some bad stuff and never got over it. But then my dogs can’t deal with it either. Hours under the bed crying.”
“They’re just dogs, man!”
“Sure. And they’re the only close friends I have. Laurie Pascal–she’s eighty-nine. Sleeping comes hard to her. And she can’t get out easily, trust me. Her and a lot of other elderly people…Dana Kellaway–her grandchildren are terrified by this stuff. She can’t afford to leave town either–she works tomorrow.”
“Lotta children love it!” “And a lot of children don’t, especially small ones.”
“We don’t ****ing care, Dave!” Trevor said, lighting another Big Boy.
“I know you don’t, Trevor. Why should you? It’s not about you, right? So why should you care?” With that, Dave lit his cigar on the fizzling fuse of the firework, and walked to the house, puffing it…