It was the 4th of July and the heat was so intense that the birds didn’t sing and the crickets didn’t chirp. I didn’t realize that I was living in a small town until last year and I only learned this fact when my friend and I both got bikes. We turned a right, then we turned a left, and eventually we found the interstate. When your world is small and you don’t step outside of it, you don’t know how small it is.
My friend knocked on my window.
“Andy, I’ve got something to show you.”
I put my clothes on and left without telling my mother goodbye.
“Do you have any cash?” David asked.
“Yeah! I have five dollars.”
David pedaled towards the interstate, but before we got there, we saw a wooden wagon harnessed to a tired looking horse.
A figure had his back to us. He was leaning over until he suddenly stood upright. Then he turned around and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. His face was gaunt. He smiled at us through wooden teeth. It would have been easier to look at a skeleton.
“Good morning boys. I haven’t quite setup shop yet, but you are welcome to buy any of my fireworks.”
I looked at the sunburnt sign next to the tent. REVOLUTIONARY FIREWORKS was written in drippy blood red.
“Do you have anything for sale under five dollars?” I asked.
“Oh, that isn’t much. Let me see if I have something in the cheap cannon fodder variety. A soldier in the colonial militia is only one dollar.”
I gave him a bill and he handed me the firework. “When you light his head, just be sure to run.”
I didn’t like how he said that.
In the evening, a fog rolled in. We went down to the creek with the rest of the town to escape the heat and avoid setting a fire. David pulled out his lighter and lit the head of the colonial. We waited but nothing happened. The soldier smoked and his uniformed singed down to his boots, but he was empty on the inside.
“I want my money back,” I said. But no sooner had I spoken, than a volley of gunfire rattled through the bushes. Revolutionary soldiers rushed upon us with bayonets fixed. They stab whomever they could. Perry Nelson, a WWII veteran pulled out his German Luger and began shooting the colonial militia like he was back in Normandy. It was impressive to watch, but his bullets didn’t do anything, despite striking the enemy several times. One of the ghosts snuck up behind him and got him through the back. Nobody was safe and the only thing I could think of was to hustle back to the man who sold me the firework. The gaunt pyromaniac was reclining in his rocking chair when I found him again.
“What did you put in that firework?” I asked.
“Souls,” he replied.
“Well, we need something that can kill souls,” I said.
“Okay, I have just the firework for you.” And he handed me another soldier, but this one was British.
“These souls don’t like the colonialists.”
I gave him a skeptical look.
“That will be one thousand dollars,” he said.
“This is extortion!” I cried.
“No, it’s good business.”
“Where am I going to get that type of money?”
David and I walked away from the firework stand without hope. Nobody had that type of money in town. But I did have one thought; it went against my moral judgement.
“The church,” I said.
“If we steal from God we are going to hell,” David replied.
“Well, we will be using it to fight the forces of evil. I think God might approve.”
I knew where Father Nelson kept the offering. It was in a pink piggy bank above his desk. He had to buy a new one every year. I broke it open and there was just enough money.
I got the firework from the stand and David lit it. From far away I heard the sounds of the British Grenadiers. Flutes were playing in response to periodic gunshots. Then a volley interrupted the noise and there was silence.
“I think the British wiped out the colonials,” I said.
But then the British army started marching through town. We ran back to the firework stand.
“Now you need something that will get rid of the British. Harry will do the trick,” the seller said. “You will owe me big on this one.”
He gave us an enormous brown firework. “It will only come out during the full moon. You lucked out tonight.” I looked up at the sky and the moon was big and bright.
I lit the firework and heard horrible howling. The night was filled with screams.
The next day, not a single soul was alive, except perhaps the owner of Revolutionary Fireworks, but he wasn’t quite human.
“What do we owe you?” I asked.
“Your lives and every day after it,” he said.
“Bullshit!” I yelled. And I grabbed a handful of sparklers and lit them, throwing them into the firework stand. The noises of hell and damnation erupted. It went up in flames and the revolutionary war began all over again.
We lost our family and friends that day, not to mention a never-ending lack of peace because of the full moon. But that is the price for battling the forces of evil.