By The Dawn's Early Light

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

The 4th of July holiday triggers a weeklong neighborhood fireworks celebration. One man plans to take revenge for lost sleep.

July 2, 2021 – Lehi, Utah, USA

Another explosion of light and sound filled the bedroom window.  The bedside clock read 11:03 p.m.  Lyle slid from under the blanket and stomped to the window with the best view of the cul-de-sac below.  He lifted the shades and growled.

“Don’t any of them have jobs?  It’s a weekday.  Don’t they have to be up in the morning?” Lyle said angrily to his wife, who had a pillow over her head.

“How many are out there?” she asked in reply.

“All of them.  They’ve got little kids laying on blankets.  A hundred folding chairs on the sidewalk.  And of course, Jay running around with a lighter.”

Lyle took another look outside and recognized neighbors from the four other houses in his cul-de-sac.  They were all gathered around Jay Christensen’s lawn.  Another aerial launched from the pavement and burst open in red and green showers of sparks.  Lyle looked up to see how far into the sky the rocket traveled.

“They have to be illegal.  You can’t get those at the Lehi Walmart.  Those are Wyoming fireworks.”

“Maybe he’s almost out,” said Lyle’s wife.

“No way.  You know how it goes every year.  It’s like he’s got an infinite supply.  I could take it if it was only one night, but he’s doing it five days before the 4th and five days after.  I need to tell him it’s not right.”

“You said the same thing last year.”

“Yeah, but all I did was stand up here and complain.  I can’t be so passive aggressive.  All I’m asking for is a little common courtesy.”

“You’re actually going down there?  Maybe it’s better to ignore it.  If the rest of the cul-de-sac is having a good time, who are we to stop it?”

“Then maybe I’ll go apologize for not being a part of it,” Lyle said sarcastically.  He pulled on some sweatpants and slippers and stomped out of the room.

The night air was warm.  Lyle shuffled across his own lawn, toward the sounds of laughter and chatter next door.  Jay was the first to greet him.

“Lyle!  How’s it goin’?”

Lyle walked toward the voice.  He got close enough to distinguish Jay’s features in the dim porchlight provided by the surrounding houses.  Around Jay’s feet were dozens of cardboard tubes and boxes, the burned out remains of previous launches.  The air smelled like fire and gunpowder.

“You almost done for the night?” Lyle asked not very loudly.

Jay laughed, shaking his big chest and stomach.  “It’s not that late is it?  I lose track of time during the summer.”

“It’s past 11:00.  I’m sure you’re having a good time and I don’t want to be a party pooper, but I have to work in the morning and it’s hard to sleep when World War III is going on out here.”

Jay laughed again and then leaned over and put a giant arm around Lyle’s shoulders.  “Sorry about that.  We didn’t mean to keep you awake.”

“Not a big deal,” said Lyle.  “I don’t want to interrupt the fun, but I would really appreciate if you could wrap things up.”

“No problem.  How about if we finish up the set I started and then we’ll call it a night?”

“Sure.  Like I said, I don’t want to ruin your fun.”

“You’re not ruining anything.  This is your cul-de-sac too.  How about tomorrow you come down earlier and help me launch a few when we’re getting started?”

“Maybe,” replied Lyle.  He backed away toward his house.  As he walked to his door, he heard calls of “Good night!” from the other neighbors.

“Did you confront anyone?” asked Lyle’s wife, when he returned to their bedroom.

“I talked to Jay.  He said he was sorry and he would stop after a few more.”

“He didn’t get defensive?”

“You know Jay.  Nothing bothers him.  He’d be laughing like a 12-year-old kid even if someone was robbing his house.”


Another BOOM echoed from the pavement outside.

“Just a few more and then they’ll be done,” said Lyle.

He counted launches and waited for silence.  It did not arrive until after midnight.  By that time, Lyle was cursing under his breath and complaining that Jay was too stupid to read a watch.

The next night, on July 3rd, Lyle watched from an upstairs window as even more people assembled in front of Jay’s house for his fireworks show.

“Maybe we should join them.  It can’t hurt to sit there for a bit,” Lyle’s wife suggested.

“No, no.  It’ll only encourage him,” replied Lyle with a groan.

“Maybe it won’t go for so long tonight.”

“I doubt that,” replied Lyle.

The show was still going strong at 10:30 as Lyle complained to his wife about the need to do something.  “Talking to him doesn’t help.  We need to get more drastic.”

“Like what?”

“Let’s call the fire department.  Jay can’t be using legal fireworks.  They’re flying way too high.  He always talks about driving up to Wyoming to get them.  Let’s call and rat him out.”

Lyle found a non-emergency number for the fire department and eventually got through to a real person.  He explained the dangerous situation on his cul-de-sac and the woman on the phone promised to send someone right out.  Lyle was skeptical, but only a few minutes later, a firetruck arrived with lights flashing.

“Oh, this is going to be good.  Come look,” Lyle called to his wife as he stared through the blinds.

The fireman in charge hopped out of the truck.  Before he could take more than a few steps, Jay had already rushed over to greet him.  After a bro hug, they began a laughter-filled conversation.

“Unbelievable!  That guy was probably best friends with Jay in high school,” Lyle said with disgust.

“Jay does have a lot of friends,” said Lyle’s wife.

“Too many,” replied Lyle.

The fireman in charge turned off the truck’s flashing lights and stayed for another half-hour to watch Jay’s next big aerial launch.

“This isn’t fair,” complained Lyle.  “It feels like we’re all on our own.  The only thing left is to fight fire with fire.”

“What does that mean?” asked his wife.

“You’ll see.  You remember how you’ve wanted to visit Wyoming?”

“No.”

“Well, you should.”

On the morning of July 4th, Lyle and his wife got in the sedan Lyle used for commuting and drove north.  They took a right turn to get to Interstate 80 and settled in for the nearly two-hour drive to the Wyoming border.  As Lyle swerved to get around the many semi-trucks on the highway, his wife asked about what he was plotting.

“I wouldn’t call it revenge,” answered Lyle.  “More like a lesson in common courtesy.”

“How will you setting off fireworks teach Jay anything?”

“You’ll see,” replied Lyle confidently.

Right across the state line, in the city of Evanston, sat a bright yellow building called Fireworks Warehouse.  Lyle pulled into the newly paved parking lot and grabbed one of the available shopping carts.  When he pushed the cart inside the store, he paused in amazement after getting his first look at the interior.  Rows and rows of shelves were stacked with brightly colored packages.

“This place is as big as a Costco,” Lyle said to his wife.  “How do they stay in business only selling fireworks?”

“A lot of people like Jay must drive up here,” replied Lyle’s wife.

The couple walked past shelves labeled for aerials and cones.  Other shelves held firecrackers or pre-packaged sets, perfect for neighborhood parties.  No smoking signs hung everywhere.  The whole place smelled of gunpowder.  Professional grade selections cost hundreds of dollars per box. 

“Think about how much Jay spends on this stuff every year,” Lyle mumbled. 

After spotting one of the warehouse’s employees, Lyle waved to get his attention.  “Can you show me where the loud fireworks are?” Lyle asked.  “They don’t have to go up in the air at all, as long as they’re loud.”


The red-haired, teenage employee gestured for Lyle to follow toward an aisle on the far side of the store.  “How loud do you want them?” asked the teenager, who wore a nametag which read Kip.

“As loud as you’ve got,” said Lyle.

Kip stopped in front of a rack of cardboard cylinders covered in menacing looking labels.  “This one’s definitely loud,” said Kip, holding out a tube labeled Atomic Scream.  Under the name was the claim, “The last sound you’ll ever hear.”


“That looks good.  Yeah, I’ll take one,” said Lyle, dropping an Atomic Scream into his cart.

“This one’s good too,” said Kip, pointing to a tube called Thunder Strike.  The package warned that a “Storm is Coming.”

“Yeah, if it sounds like thunder, put it in the cart,” said Lyle.

“And check this one out,” said Kip, holding out a package labeled with, “The Devil’s Whistle – Summon the Demons of Hell.”

Lyle nodded and grinned.  Kip added more tubes with names like Bloody Ears, Jet Engine, and Sonic Boom.  They promised to rip through space and time and blow up your eardrums.  Lyle giggled as he paid for his selections and then piled them into the backseat of his car.  He could already picture in his head the courtesy lesson he was about to teach.

That night, the party around Jay’s house also included a barbeque and music blaring from portable speakers.  Jay switched from Rock songs to patriotic music as the sunset faded and his first aerials hit the sky.

“Enjoy it while you can,” Lyle mumbled to himself from his upstairs window, sounding a lot like the Grinch looking down on Whoville.  “Let’s see how much you like fireworks in the morning.”

Lyle shoved earplugs into his ears and crawled into bed.  He needed a good night’s sleep for the morning’s special operation.

Lyle was still wearing the earplugs at 6 am when his alarm went off.  He barely heard it through the insulation packed into his ears, but he fumbled out of bed and put on sweatpants.

“You better plug your ears,” he said to his wife when she rolled over and asked him what was going on.

Lyle bounded downstairs and grabbed a box of matches.  Then he hurried to his car for an armful of the earsplitting Wyoming fireworks.  He ran right into the middle of the cul-de-sac and dropped his load.  Empty cardboard containers from the previous night’s celebration sat on the sidewalk in front of Jay’s house.

“Time for some payback,” Lyle whispered to himself.

He looked around at the houses surrounding him.  Nothing moved.  The only slight sounds came from a few tweeting birds and distant traffic.  Lyle reached for the Atomic Scream and set it upright on the pavement.  He uncovered the fuse near the base and picked up his box of matches.

With a match in hand, Lyle took another look around.  He was about to shatter the silence.  Would every one of his neighbors stream out of their houses and yell at him for being a jerk?  Was he prepared for that?  He had to live next to these people.  What was he going to say?  The most obvious way to react was to mimic Jay.  Laugh and tell them all it was a friendly joke and part of the 4th of July fun.  If they were smart, they would take the hint and show some restraint in the future.

Lyle had convinced himself lighting Atomic Scream was the right thing to do.  He struck the match, held it under the fuse, and watched a little spark snake into the cardboard container.

SCREEEEEE!  Lyle pressed his palms against his ears, but the sound at his feet was still the loudest he had heard in his life.  For a solid minute, it felt like the world was ending.  Lyle unconsciously backed away from the noise until he was standing on his own lawn.  And then the world went quiet again.

Lyle looked around.  There was no motion from any of the houses, not even a peek out a window.

“Not loud enough for you, huh?” Lyle said to himself.  “No big deal, huh?”  Let’s see how you like Thunder Strike.”

Lyle set up the next cardboard cylinder and lit the fuse.  He automatically backed away this time, but when the first BOOM reached him, he felt it in his bones.  His legs went weak, and he sunk to his knees, holding his ears.

BOOM!  BOOM!  BOOM!  Lyle looked around frantically.  At least one of the neighbors had to believe they were under attack or a gas truck had exploded.  But no one came outside.  By the time the booming stopped, Lyle was itching for any kind of reaction.

“You can’t be sleeping now,” Lyle mumbled as he pulled out The Devil’s Whistle.  “I went all the way to Wyoming for these.  We might as well enjoy them.”

The pitch of the whistle was simultaneously deep and shrill.  It seemed to come from all directions.  It was the first time a sound felt like it could yank the arms and legs off Lyle’s body.  People fifty miles away must be hearing the same thing.

While The Devil’s Whistle was still going, a firetruck sped into the cul-de-sac.  Its siren was blaring but the noise was drowned out by the whistle.  A man jumped out of the cab and jogged toward Lyle.  He looked familiar.

“What are you doing so early in the morning?” shouted the fireman, as soon as the whistle stopped.

Lyle lowered his hands from his ears, completely flustered.  “I uh . . . well . . . just playing a little joke with my neighbors.”

The fireman’s annoyed expression softened as he looked around and said, “This is my friend Jay’s neighborhood.”

“Yeah, he should be coming outside any second,” said Lyle.

“I don’t think so,” said the fireman.  “Last night I got a text from him inviting me down to the lake.  He said he and all his neighbors were talking off in the middle of the night.  Kind of crazy if you ask me, but you know Jay.”

“So he’s not here?  No one’s here?”

“I guess the joke’s on you.  So tell me, are those fireworks legal?  Where did you get them?”

“Wyoming,” Lyle said sheepishly.

“I’m sure they’re against one code or another, but I tell you what, since you’re a friend of Jay’s, I’ll only give you a warning instead of a ticket.”

Lyle was smart enough not to say anything more than, “Thank you.”

“Stay safe and no more fireworks, okay?  And tell Jay hi for me when he gets back.”

Lyle watched the firetruck disappear and then gathered up his firework remnants.

“I’m making your favorite French Toast for breakfast,” Lyle’s wife said to him when he walked inside.  “You teach any lessons?”

“Only to myself,” Lyle replied miserably.  “Stay out of Wyoming and never try to teach Jay anything.”

 

For more stories like this one, including audio versions, please visit 500ironicstories.com


Submitted: June 25, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Aaron Hawkins. All rights reserved.

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