Fourth of July (2) – 1977

This one is a relatively short story that happened just a week or two before I was transferred from Okinawa to Guam.

There were no plans for a get-together of coworkers this time, but I did go down to Gate 2 Street and get some fireworks, anyway. Pretty much the same things as the year before: bottle rockets, fountains/showers, roman candles: that sort of thing. This time, however, I just figured I’d shoot them off in the driveway and maybe the neighbors would come out with their own, or at least watch while I set off mine, and that is sort of what happened . . . eventually. The thing is, after work, while I was waiting around for it to get dark, I ended up falling asleep. Next thing I knew, it was dark and I was under attack.

I was awakened by the sound of small pops—bottle rockets to be exact—going off at minute or so intervals around both porches and over my roof. I’m not sure how many they sent my way before I woke up and figured out what was going on. Once I got my bearings, I peeked out the window and saw the neighbors getting ready to launch another rocket at my house. I decided not to go out and surrender, but, instead, I left the lights off, grabbed my bag of fireworks, and went out the back door.

Watching them from the back corner of my house, I saw that after they launched a rocket they ducked back around the corner—laughing and talking, though I couldn’t hear what was being said from where I was—so I waited until they fired the next one and ducked back, then ran down the stairs and around the far side to the back of their house, sneaked over to their side, and watched them get ready to fire another one. I could hear them from where I was, this time, and the conversation went something like this . . .

Dad: “I wonder why he’s not responding. Are you sure he’s home?”

Mom: “I’m pretty sure. We heard him drive in, and his motorcycle is still in the garage.”

Dad: “Huh. I don’t think he’s the type to just ignore us.”

Mom: “Maybe he’s sleeping.”

Dad: “Maybe, but he doesn’t strike me as a heavy sleeper. He might be up to something.”

(The above is not verbatim—it has been almost 40 years after all—but it’s pretty close.)

Their son was mostly just laughing as far as I can recall, and while they were discussing what I might be up to and deciding whether to launch another one, I got out a bottle rocket of my own.

– Side bar: As I’m writing this it suddenly occurs to me that, since I didn’t smoke back then, I’m finding it hard to remember how I managed to light the bottle rocket. Best I can recall is I either lit a punk before I left the house (most likely, I think), or I bought some matches, but I don’t remember doing that. –

In either case, I did have a way to light it, and while they were still wondering if I was home or not, I let my rocket go (aiming by hand since I also forgot to bring a bottle). It arced over their heads and popped in the driveway, but they heard the fuse and had already turned around with smiles I could see even in the semi-dark.

Dad: “Aha, he was up to something. He’s behind us.”

I told them how I was asleep at the start of their offensive, and how I managed to get behind them and stuff, and it was mostly just casual conversation after that. We set off the rest of the fireworks in the driveway like I’d originally planned and sat around talking for a little while after that, then they went back inside and I went out for some drinks and to spend one of my last few nights with my then girlfriend.

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R. S. Leergaard

US Navy veteran and writer of stories. Blogger of things.

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