After the Fireworks

The fireworks had just ended, and we were all left in the dark.  I could still smell the smoke.  There were cars parked along the side of the road where the ground sloped off into the ditch.  There were voices all around, and people would emerge laughing in groups and pairs from the tall grass on all sides and join the crowd of people slowly making their way down the road.  The moon shone down, casting our long shadows on the pavement ahead of us as we moved along at even paces from one another.  People lugged folding chairs and coolers and held their kid’s hands or carried them as they slept against their shoulders.

Around dawn we came to a field with a short wooden fence around it.  There was an open gate in the fence and the crowd was flowing in through the gate.  There was a woman there with a clipboard, and she was checking names from a list as people came through.  She stopped me as I came up, and she said she couldn’t find my name on the list.  I explained to her that I didn’t live around here, that my brother did, and that he would be able to vouch for me.  People continued to pour in through the gate behind me as the woman flipped through the papers attached to her clipboard, looking for my brother’s name.  Finally, she decided to let me pass.  I explained to her that my wife was somewhere in the crowd behind me, that we had gotten separated out on the road.  She nodded and said she’d keep an eye out as she turned her attention back to her clipboard and her list.

I followed some of the people who had passed through the gate, and further on we came into a narrow yard with a ranch house on one side and a barn on the other.  There were fruit trees and taller shade trees in the yard.  There was a door standing wide open in the shadows on the side of the house that faced away from the rising sun.  I ducked into this doorway as the rest of the people kept trudging past.  I found myself in a small unlit room and it took my eyes a moment to adjust to the dark.  There was a bed just beside the door, and my brother was sleeping in it.  I imagined that he liked to drift off to sleep with the door open so that he could see the view and feel the breeze from outside.  There was a fireplace across the room with the last crackling embers of a fire burning in it.  A wooden chair had been placed in front of the fire, and I saw my cat curled up on it.  He perked up as I came in, and his eyes shined in the light.

My wife shushed me from the corner of the room.  I couldn’t see her, but I knew she was there.  She had come in ahead of me.  She didn’t want me to wake my brother.  He had a few hours to sleep yet.  He snorted and rolled over the other way like he had heard us.  It began to rain a little as the morning sun crept into the yard, and the rain pattered softly against the open doorway.  I went to another room of the ranch house and watched from the window.  The rain passed just as quickly as it had started and the drops of water gleamed off the fruit in the trees.

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5 thoughts on “After the Fireworks

  1. The way you typified the mood in the 1st paragraph was nice, like stepping inside a Norman Rockwell painting. But when the people were still walking at dawn it began taking on a forboding holocaust/Twilight Zone-ish feel. The gate and low fence was familiar, but not the woman authoritative-figure checking off people's names on a list. For some reason that made me more mad than if there had been police on the other side of the gate, checking leaving cars for valid driver's licenses, proof of insurance and all that jazz.
    I like the ending. That was cozy and beautiful. I imagine you were sleeping like a baby at that point… or maybe purring like cat.
    Neat one. I enjoyed reading it very much.

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  2. I like this a lot, very evocative. To me it conveys symbolism connected with the sense of belonging, home territory, entitlement. All of it was cozy and trusting with two little checks on freedom: the woman checking names and the wife shushing you, so as not to awaken your brother.

    It tells me that you have wide-ranging freedoms to enjoy, and the controls on them are minor and tolerable.

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  3. But now I have a short dream to relate, nothing much in itself, except that it's about you!

    I'm working in an office with two colleagues, you are one, the other is an unidentified woman, perhaps German. The phone rings: a man asking for you, an English voice, easy-going, relaxed, chatty. I look around, you're not there, so I ask if he wants to leave a message. It's a faulty line, full of strange noises as if from very far away, I can only catch a phrase here and there, so I say, “OK, just give me your number, I'll get him to ring you back.” I rummage frantically for something to write on, signal wildly to the woman, who eventually passes me a pad and pencil.

    Nothing stops my caller's flow, he doesn't seem to hear me asking him to wait till I can write it down. Instead of reciting the numbers slowly, he starts to spell out a string of letters, perhaps his name, but I'm too flustered to write them down or put them together in my head, so I get annoyed with myself – which wakes me up.

    Sorry, Bryan, I did my best.

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