My Father's Garden: Fireworks

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Fireworks, a chapter from R J Dent's novel, My Father's Garden.

Submitted: March 26, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: March 26, 2016



My Father's Garden: Fireworks

by R J Dent



Bonfire Night was always fun.

Bonfires are great and fireworks are even greater.

My father never bought lots of fireworks on Bonfire Night – there were never more than eight to ten in a box, but there were Catherine Wheels, Roman Candles, Fountains, Jumping Jacks, Bottle Rockets, Fire Crackers – and we always had Sparklers.

I don’t mean to sound churlish, but sparklers are not the most exciting type of firework in existence. You light them, wave them around, they fizz and sparkle for a minute, then they die. They’re the firework world’s equivalent to the mayfly. One great (or in the mayfly’s case, not-so-great) aerial incendiary burst, and then gone, done, nothing left but the inevitable fall…

Still, the other fireworks were good. I liked the Bottle Rockets, the Golden Fountains and the Roman Candles.

Every year on Bonfire Night, my mother made us tomato soup, which we drank out of mugs. She also buttered a loaf of bread, so that we could dip bread into the soup if we wanted to. I always wanted to.

After I’d Sparkled for a couple of minutes and watched my brother nearly set my sister’s hair on fire with his wildly-waved Sparkler, I sat down on the garden bench and sipped my soup, ready to watch my father begin the fireworks’ display.

First, he gently hammered a Catherine Wheel to the side of the shed with a six inch nail, banging the nail through the centre of the Catherine Wheel until it was in position. He then moved the firework around in a circle, making sure it spun on the nail.

– Ready?

– Yes, we said in unison, more than ready.

– Stand clear!

I shuffled my feet, but stayed where I was. Everyone else moved back about an inch. My father struck a match and the sulphur head broke off and arced away into the night.

– Oh, for… Pete’s sake! he muttered. He struck another match and this time it flared properly and stayed in one piece. He lit the Catherine Wheel’s fuse.

I stood up and we all waited in the dark as the fuse burned slowly with a bright blue-green light.

There was a spluttering, fizzing, crackling sound, followed by a whoosh as a trail of yellow sparks jetted out of the Catherine Wheel. The Catherine Wheel lurched and juddered, then moved half an inch around the nail. Another spurt of sparks, a fizzling sound, a short explosion that sounded like a bark and the Catherine Wheel started spinning.

We all cheered as yellow, green, blue, purple, red sparks blasted out of it as it spun hypnotically. The whooshing sound changed into a wail. And then, abruptly it stopped and the firework died. The sizzling spark trail petered out and the Catherine Wheel, now looking more like a Catherine Charred Square, stopped spinning and came to a dead halt.

My father pulled the smoking ruin off the nail and dropped it onto the ground at his feet. He stepped on it and then held up another Catherine Wheel.

– Again?

– Yes! we answered simultaneously.

Casually, our father stuck the firework on the nail and held up the box of matches. He rattled the box. We cheered enthusiastically and that set the tone for the next hour; our father as combined ring-master and magician, keeping us entertained with fireworks as we sipped rapidly-cooling soup.

However, the most entertaining incident happened when my father set up the second bottle rocket.

The first one had been quite dramatic; it had been jet-propelled up into the air by a blast of blue-purple sparks. It had careened across the sky and exploded; flowering and then showering the air with myriad silver and gold shapes.

By the time we’d returned our crane-necked gazes to ground level, my father had put the next rocket into its launcher – an empty beer bottle. He repeated the ritual of shaking the matchbox.

– Ready?

We eagerly repeated the ritual cheer.

– Yeah!

And he lit the fuse.

I don’t know whether the rocket was faulty, or whether it wasn’t sitting straight in the bottle, or whether the stick was crooked, or what the problem was, but something was not right. It didn’t whoosh up into the air in a shower of purple, as the other one had done, so I knew something was amiss.

I made my way around the bench, putting it between myself and the rocket of doom. It spluttered into life.

– Watch out!

Everyone stepped back as the rocket started to rise out of the bottle. The bottle tilted over and the rocket was no longer pointing at the sky. It was pointing at my mother’s head.

– Mum! Watch out!

Until that moment, my mother had been oblivious to the rocket. She was ladling hot tomato soup into everyone’s mugs, valiantly trying to keep us all warm against the night’s chill. She heard the warning, looked at the rocket, saw it was pointing straight at her, gave out a strangled squawk that sounded more like the noise a demented chicken would make (not that I actually know what noise a demented chicken makes), dropped the soup tureen and ladle onto the ground and ran shrieking down the garden.

The rocket hurtled after her – hissing furiously.

My mother is quite a scrawny woman and as she ran she looked like an out-of-control pair of scissors; she was still making the demented chicken sound.

– Duck! Someone shouted.

Wrong sort of bird, I thought.

– Go on, mum, you can outrun it.

– Turn and hit it. That’ll stop it.

I studied the rocket and my mother. The rocket hadn’t gained on her – but it would in the next few seconds.

– I bet you a quid it gets her, my brother said.

– That’s cruel, my sister said, laughing.

– You’re on, I said.

– Can I bet too? my sister asked.

– That’s cruel, my brother mimicked.

By now the rocket was gaining considerable ground, or rather, air. It was a foot away from my mother’s back.

My mother’s dress sense is very much her own. She abhors cotton, linen or any material made from natural fibres. Instead she’s a nylon, rayon, polyester, and crimplene champion. If the rocket hit her, she’d ignite; she’d go up like a… well, like a firework.

– Mum! I yelled. Drop to the ground. It’ll miss you. Drop to the ground.

– That’s cheating, my brother said.

– No it’s not.

– You’re not supposed to help her.

– Where does it say that in the Betting Rules Handbook?

– In the what? my sister asked.

With an almighty squawk, my mother tripped and sprawled on the ground by the lilacs. The rocket whooshed over her and disappeared into the night. A few purple sparks drifted down, no doubt melting tiny holes in my mother’s favourite paisley-pattern nylon blouse.

My mother slowly clambered to her feet.

– Good dive, mum!

– Yeah, you could be the England goalie.

– Nah! She let the rocket past. If she’d been any good she’d have stopped it.

– True. Good dive though.

– Yeah.

My mother stared at us and we stopped talking. She looked annoyed; like she wanted to hit someone.

– I don’t appreciate being chased down the garden by a flaming rocket, she said tersely.

– Well, you don’t know what you’re mi–

My mother stared at my father, shutting him up mid-sentence.

My father coughed, shuffled his feet and started rummaging around in the box of fireworks.

My mother picked up the soup tureen and ladle.

– I’m going inside, she said.

We watched as she marched indoors, then we turned to look at our father.

He was holding up a firework.

– Anyone for a Roman Candle?






My Father's Garden: Fireworks

Copyright © R J Dent (2016)


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