excerpted from “Independence Rainbow
by Jane Liddle
{from e-Issue #3}

 

Deedee drove, the Buick drifting a little to the left every time she took a sip of coffee or lit a cigarette. Ramona sat in the passenger seat, giggling to herself about a silly memory. The sky around them was turning a cold orange, and the setting sun reflected off the low cliffs like infrared. The windows were down and an endless boogie streamed from the radio. Deedee and Ramona rested their arms out the windows and imagined that they looked laissez-faire and satisfied. The traffic was unremarkable. It was the day after Easter. They were stoned.

Ramona reached into the backseat and lifted a brown shopping bag into her lap and exclaimed in a stream of giddy at the contents. Fireworks, picked up all the way back in Pennsylvania after a tour through a one-room dramatization of an Amish house. Everything in the museum was cute but not appropriate for buying—not for this trip anyway. The fireworks outlet was “intense”—Deedee’s word—and Ramona, who had little sense of practicality and time, encouraged the salesman Owen in showing her the explosions that each firework produced. This demonstration was displayed on a flat-screen television posted on the wall above a door for staff only. “What does Glitter Willow do?” And with a touch of the remote by Owen, a flickering firebug of light shot up in the high-definition sky and descended in a spiral of golden trails to an amplified crackling. So Ramona bought that one, along with an Atomic Swirl, Flaming Astronaut, Komodo Fountain, various Roman candles, and also Independence Rainbow, a beautifully short-fused column of Chinese disregard for caution and human life.

Deedee stocked up on sparklers and enthusiastically supported her friend, since Ramona had never ever set off fireworks before. Watching Ramona roam the aisles of the store in awe, Deedee realized all her favorite memories involved fireworks.  Like when she was a kid and watched the finale with neighborhood friends and everyone’s parents were drunk and didn’t care that they were swearing in sync with the loudest booms. Then there was the time she was at summer camp and was about to be kissed, her first, and fireworks went off at that second, a misleading promise from the sky in terms of what she should expect from earthly romance. And there was the time when she was older and there was a house party where someone set off fireworks in the living room in the middle of a dancing crowd and no one got hurt and nothing got burnt and maybe they were, despite constant authoritative reminders otherwise, invincible after all. Of course there were many nights on rooftops with beers and stars and smells of harmless burning and sounds of sneakers sprinting and the blistered blackened thumb the next morning. And there was just a few weeks ago, when she engaged in a bottle rocket war on the street she lived on, though the war was with the neighborhood teenagers, more than a decade younger than her now, and well, and she ducked behind parked cars hoping to be reinfected with the youths’ immortality.

As they left the fireworks store, Owen, who looked as if he had let all his muscle go to fat not that long ago, got leaning and leery, and asked about where the girls would set them off and if there was a party they were expecting to go to.

. . .

Jane Liddle is a reader and writer living in Brooklyn. Her work has previously appeared in Two Serious Ladies. Her website is www.walnutcabin.tumblr.com. Her alter-ego Daisy Lastings writes wine reviews at www.winejourneying.tumblr.com.