Saturday, July 3, 2010

Flaming Piccolo Petes

We woke up in the morning of July 4, looking for things to do, biding our time until it got dark. We'd be eyeing the box of Sparklers well before noon. What my brother, Tim, and I usually resorted to in the daylight hours was caps--those rolls of paper strips meant for a cap gun, but way more fun to pound out on the curb. We'd sit in front of the house, the caps stretched out on the curb between us. Then we'd search out a perfectly-shaped rock and pound on the little bumps of gun powder, hoping for a bang, or at least a small spark, usually smashing a finger or two in the process.

This quite often brought our older brother, Tom, out. He'd scoff at us, not even bothering to hide his disgust with our small-time explosives. He'd inevitably coerce us into giving up our entire supply so he could rig up something loud and dangerous.

I remember that feeling when they were gone. The acrid smell of gun powder was in the air and all we were left with was a mess in the gutter.

Sometimes we'd hop on our Stingrays and ride up to Piggly Wiggly where our mom was working in the PTA fireworks stand and beg for some money to buy more. Usually, if we were annoying enough, she'd send us home with a couple of smoke bombs or something small and we'd hop back on our banana seats and ride home.

Then after what seemed like an eternity after sunset, we'd gather on opposite curbs of sixteenth street with all the neighbors. The dads clustered in the middle of the road with the boxes of Red Devil fireworks emptied and lined up in order of spectacular danger. The small fountains were usually first. The bargains boxes were full of these, and when they lost their luster for the crowd, a couple of the dads would start grouping them together for more special effects.

And of course there was the Piccolo Pete. It was usually saved for last, because our big brother would pinch it with pliers to give it more whistle and bang.

But my absolute favorites were the sparklers. My mom would hold the burning punk to continuously light our sparklers. I still like to trace my name in the night air. Luckily, I had a short name and could sky write the whole thing before the sparkler burned my hand. My brother would try to get me to write other things, like the inevitable f-dash-dash-t word. There was nothing like a little fart in smoking sparkles to get the festivities going.

It was a little sad on the morning of July 5, as we went outside, pushing up our kickstands and gripping our high handlebars down the driveway. We pedaled past the last night's detritus, knowing we had to wait an entire year for it all to happen again.

But there were always unpounded caps to be found. And if we did a thorough search of Tom's bedroom, we might be back in business...

A safe and sparkling Fourth to everyone.

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