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Friday, July 3, 2009

Field of Streams

Homeward bound from a Fourth of July picnic, we passed down the main street of our small town. The journey was slowed somewhat due to the unusual traffic, but the tractor soon turned off and we had the road to ourselves.

As we approached the Municipal Complex, the kids, excited by alarming and possibly disastrous situations, noticed a mob outside the fire station who both appeared to be hard at work placing letters on a large sign by the road.

“Look, Firworks!”

Nothing says small town like a budget without enough spare change to buy a vowel.

Boys are natural fans of pyrotechnics, particularly the pyro part, and I’m always on the lookout for fresh air opportunities, so we whipped a U-turn at the abandoned gas station and came back to join the crowd.

The public parking places were occupied by the fire truck and a wheelbarrow, so we parked the car in the Fire Marshal’s yard, and struck up a conversation with the boys’ Scout Leader. It seems the Town Council had a son who got them a good deal on fireworks, so a Fourth of July blowout was in full swing.

At the time, we didn’t realize the importance of the word “blowout.”

The kids, with a genetic instinct for finding free food, headed toward a table dripping with slices of watermelon. An unlimited supply of a fruit that’s 90% liquid. There’s a good thing to have on hand when the yard is full of free-range kids and the bathrooms are locked up.

In the fenced pasture across the road, the fireworks launch squad strode into view. The crew chief carried a cardboard box full of bottle rockets and a disposable lighter. His wife wore blue jeans and a motorcycle bedecked tank top that didn’t leave much room for the handlebars.

Son Two materialized out of the twilight. His cheeks were sticky and there was a misfired watermelon seed stuck to his chin. “I have to go to the bathroom.”

Across the street, the launch chief sorted through the rockets like he was searching for the half inch piece in his socket set, and carefully arranged a bouquet of bottle rockets in a soda bottle.

“It’s about to start. Can you wait?”

Son One appeared beside his brother, wearing a pained grin and dancing a familiar jig. “You, too?” He nodded just as the first rocket took off with a sizzle of sparks.

Both boys disappeared. Nothing comforts nature’s call like a lit fuse.

The fireworks display proceeded with random showers of red and gold sparks, interrupted now and then by an unmotivated dud rocket that bailed on liftoff and headed back to the picnic table that served as Ground Zero. Once, the launch team was visible through the gloom and gathering smoke, stamping out embers in the tall grass of the pasture.

Son One appeared by my side, clutching another slice of watermelon like it was a football and I was the defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers. “They set the bench on fire, but they put it out with a juice box.”

I’d had a slice of watermelon myself and the juice box reference made me think fondly of indoor plumbing. I squinted at him. “Don’t you have to go to the bathroom?” Across the street the launch crew ducked as another dud rocket zoomed in low over the pyrotechnic staging area.

“I can wait.”

Stephen King never came up with a scarier line.

He dashed away, weaving a path around knees and ankles like an Olympic skier on a timed run.

Suddenly, the grand finale accidentally erupted. The entire area lit up in a patriotic display of billowing smoke and crackling fire. The picnic table and the box of fireworks were ablaze and nearby portions of the pasture showed signs of imminent ignition. The fire truck swept out of the driveway and across the street where it made short work of the ambitious embers.

As the excitement died down and the crowd drifted away through damp ash flakes floating in the air, both sons appeared at my side, eyes alight, wearing Junior Firefighter stickers. They smelled like bacon.

“This is the best Fourth of July ever!”

“So, where’d you get the stickers?”

We heard a blast from the fire truck and turned to see the driver give the boys a wink and a wave.

“What’s that all about?”

“Well you know how you always tell us to use our natural resources wisely?”

I’ve been a mom long enough to know that when they remind me what I’ve said, I wish I hadn’t said it.

“Well we don’t have to go to the bathroom anymore. AND we helped put out the fire!”


JLC said...

LOL! Awesome!

the Bag Lady said...

Amy, this one was a p*sser! (and me without my Depends!)

Anonymous said...

That was hilarious. Smart kids you got there. Very...resourceful.


spamwarrior said...

That was so cute!!!

Unknown said...

Absolutely classic! Although it's chock-full of great lines, my fave has to be about the motorcycle tank top with not enough room for the handlebars. Snort!

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