I’ve never been big on secular celebrations of human achievement. It always feels a little premature. I’d rather give this whole “Independence Day” thing another couple thousand years to see whether it works out or not. At the moment, I’m not optimistic.
On the other hand, I do like picnics. I like outdoor gatherings with family and friends (when it’s not scorchingly hot due to climate change) and I kind of like fireworks.
I like the fact that so-called “gunpowder” was invented by the Chinese not for guns, but to create more impressive explosions, which supposedly were useful in warding off evil spirits. By the time the explosive mixture made its way westward, it was referred to as “Chinese flowers.” Soon it would be turned toward more destructive purposes.
As I lie in my bed later tonight, trying to go to sleep while the neighbors shoot off their probably illegal fireworks, I shall try to turn my mind toward the dispelling of malevolent influences and envisioning colorful lights blossoming among the stars.
BOOM! BANG! POW!
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.
The release date for NOT KNOWING is July 20, but you can preorder the ebook now on Amazon. Or join me at Malvern Books at 7 p.m. on the 20th and get a paperback. I’ll sign it for you!