A Memory

We probably should have brought Charlie to the doctor, but my aunt, being the head nurse at an emergency room in Kenosha, decided there was not enough blood to cause much concern. There never was.

Somewhere in her thirty years at the hospital she lost compassion for minor injuries.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure if they were third-degree burns, we would have taken him to the doctor.

Family vacations on Washington Island revolved around fireworks. We would relax until it was time to light fireworks, then after the fireworks we’d sit back and relax until it was time to light them again.

From sparklers and bottle rockets, to fountains and Roman Candles, to large rockets and mortars; we lit them all.

People from across the small island would come to Jackson Harbor to watch our fireworks displays, eliciting more excitement than the island’s civic show.

Every year was different. Some of our shows were brighter, some more colorful, some more exciting, and some more dangerous.

The darkness settled around us, our reflections no longer visible on the lake. It was time. This is what I waited impatiently for all year.

The fuse fizzled and ignited the fireworks sending sparks upward, creating an echoing boom as the mortar exploded like nearby thunder following colorful lightening.

Charlie grinned at the crowds approving cheers.

As the cinders and ash faded and drifted to the ground, Charlie leapt to the makeshift altar of rocks to light his prized piece, which was to be the climax of the night. A mammoth firework eight inches in diameter, ten inches in height, wrapped in colorful paper with a dozen connecting fuses that could be felt through the tissue-like paper.

He almost needed help carrying the explosive to the rocks, its weight rivaling that of a small child, a sign that it would not disappoint.

“Hey, the fuse on your big fancy firework went out. What a dud,” snidely remarked Andy, Charlie’s slightly younger sibling, brotherly rivalry making yet another appearance.

“So what, I’ll just relight it,” Charlie answered.

The screams from his throat were almost as explosive as the sparks shooting from the enormous mortar on the beach.

The fuse hadn’t gone out. It erupted as Charlie stepped closer to investigate and showered his arms with beautifully colored glowing embers. Which, by the sound of Charlie’s piercing screams, were much more painful than beautiful.

“Oh come over here, let me look at that,” said my Auntie Dee, or Auntie Sparkles as my younger sister called her due to her love of fireworks. I think I’m related to pyromaniacs, but that’s fine by me.

“Oh, that doesn’t seem very serious to me,” she assessed with less concern as a mother than a trained nurse.

“It hurts, it hurts,” said Charlie as he waved his arm in the air as though hoping the pain would fly away with the ash.

“Put some ice on it and sit down, it will be fine. I’ve seen much worse,” said Auntie Dee.

“Well,” said my Uncle Mike sarcastically. “In thirty years in an emergency room, you’re bound to see something worse.” True, which is probably why anything less than bone jutting through torn flesh was considered a “minor accident” to my aunt.

Auntie Dee bandaged his arm with the meticulousness of a baker decorating a wedding cake and sat back down to watch the rest of the fireworks display.

Charlie reluctantly grabbed a cold pop, rested it on his bandaged arm and sat down on a bench, a little farther from the fireworks than the rest of us. His nervousness showing through the smile he managed to fake as we questioned his condition.

We all knew he was done with lighting fireworks, at least for the night.

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