In honor of the Fourth of July, here’s a brief passage from my upcoming novel, NOT KNOWING, in which Meg’s archaeology students celebrate the holiday on site at Kawilkan, in the middle of the Belizean jungle.
Saturday would be the Fourth of July. The students had purchased some fireworks in Santa Cruzita and now they were begging to set them off.
“We have to celebrate Independence Day,” Ashley said, following up with a vivid description (with gestures and sound effects) of fireworks displays in her hometown and some even more spectacular displays she’d witnessed in Beaumont on the banks of the Neches River while listening to patriotic music played by the Symphony of Southeast Texas. Of course I’d finally agreed, warning the students to be extra careful.
“You can never be sure of the quality of fireworks,” I said. “I don’t want you to blow anything up. Especially not yourselves.”
Sarah had bought several packages of frozen wieners at the supermarket in Belmopan, as well as a yellow plastic container of mustard and some chutney that she claimed would be just like sweet pickle relish. Elodia and Seth had collaborated on making buns. And since it was a Saturday night, I’d okayed the beer as well, although I insisted that those who were setting off the fireworks must abstain until after everything had exploded.
Pacál said he’d had some experience with Mexican fireworks and volunteered to assist Brad in orchestrating the show. He read the name on each item and explained what they could expect from it. “Provided it really is what it says and provided it works at all.” He was obviously enjoying his role as cultural ombudsman. They cleared an area and agreed on which direction they would try to aim the fireworks.
They started off with a bundle of firecrackers. The spectators complained that they were pretty pathetic, not making nearly enough noise. I felt otherwise. I didn’t want to admit how much I hated fireworks. I remembered that one New Year’s Eve when Rick had gone with me to Charco Seco to meet my parents and how ashamed and angry he’d been at the way he freaked out during the fireworks display. None of the fireworks at the Kawilkan Fourth of July celebration were particularly loud or spectacular and a few were outright duds. But all in all they provided enough entertainment to satisfy our crowd. I was glad when the noise stopped.