I have a younger brother, Keith, as those who have been reading my blog may already know. He is the salt of the earth, the sort of guy who would give you the shirt off his back, take the tiger by the tail and get ’er done! Now, doesn’t that description conjure up for you, in all its quadruple cliché glory, the image of a comic- book- cover super hero? Bare- chested, perspiration drying his fore- arms into salty deer-lick delightfulness, he flings a huge sabre toothed tiger in wider and wider concentric circles over his head, clearing the vicinity for a mile and a half of any imminent danger as he “gets ’er done!”
Yep! That’s him alright! This brother of mine who single handedly accomplished what no one thought would ever happen in their lifetime. He got the discharge of fireworks banned in Middlesex Centre, in Middlesex County, in Ontario, Canada, on all but three dedicated days of the year. The problem is that my brother is still dedicated to fireworks on every day of the year.
On every fireworks’ worthy holiday for decades, the people in our neighbourhood had always been free to let off their explosives at random, on the Friday, Saturday or Sunday or perhaps even the Monday, of what were traditionally celebration worthy weekends, with nary the blink of an eye on the part of the authorities. This freedom was widely capitalized upon by all township residents and their kin, but none more especially than my kin— the Stephenson family, the kids and grandkids of my parents, Bill and Jean.
I should let you know that my brother Keith is to fireworks what Liz Taylor was to husbands. Always treading in the danger zone, she never seemed to be able to get enough of them— the more the merrier! In fact, if she liked them well enough, she would even try a good explosive one a second time round! Well, that’s Keith with a sex change and a change of habit. Somehow, that just isn’t what I meant to say at all! It sounds like a B grade movie about confused nuns or something.
Anyway, when other people feel particularly stressed they might stop for a box of butter tarts or something at their favourite bakery. I know this because of the number of butter tarts we used to sell on Mondays at our own bakery― to exhausted folks returning home from work in London. Keith, on the other hand, always deals with Mondays in his own special way, by wheeling around to a fireworks distributor for a box of Festival Balls or Screamers, whenever they are available for sale.
These he brings to family meals as his own personal hostess gift. For example, there was the one he let off for Rolly’s and my anniversary once, on a snowy November the eighth. Straight off the side deck with a 30 second warning— “Hey guys! Come out here quick!” “Pow! Pow! Ka-Pow!” I was gob-smacked, as the Brits say! Thinking only that he had caught sight of a wild turkey or a browsing deer on the lawn, when he yelled for us, we popped our heads out of the sliding door and nearly lost our hearing…let alone our bladder control!
Other family members have been just as dynamically engaged by Keith’s whimsical sense of fun! Letting off a few “little” impromptu noisemakers in front of a town- dwelling sister’s home was meant simply to whet our appetites for the next country blow out. Fortunately, her understanding police officer neighbour was home at the time, and able to alert the force not to send the swat team round when cannon-like retort echoed off the town water tower only a few hundred yards away! (He was probably willing, as well as able, as the potluck meal of family favorites, soon to be brought to the table, smelled mouth-wateringly delicious, even outside!)
I do have a habit of rambling on sometimes, but back to the point I was initially aiming for― my brother being limited in his freedom to discharge fireworks in our Middlesex Center back yard anymore. To put it mildly, aiming wasn’t being done particularly well on that evening, the night of my brother’s last epic blow out.
I don’t remember all the details, only that Keith had brought along an entire trailerload of explosives and that it was either the week before or the week after the July 1st holiday. The gathering was very large with family and friends, and friend of friends as well. There was a terrific variety of amazing pyrotechnics, very well planned out by Keith. But then a large cardboard carpet tube was called into play as a rocket launcher to aim bangers and screamers higher and higher— far over the trees at the back of the property and well into the view of the village! At an altitude high enough to be amplified many times over by the echoes booming between the hill that we reside on and the opposite one— Poplar Hill! There were enough screamers to recreate the sound of the first Beatles’ concert and enough bangers to put a door knocker factory out of business that night! Meanwhile a length of aluminum downspout was requisitioned to try to add a synchronized explosive display to the show! Unfortunately the choreography soon fell apart as tired arms lost their strength, and the elevation of some projectiles diminished— from time to time, simply skimming over the paved road beside our property! The explosions were then complimented by the beautiful syncopation of frequent horn honking by both approaching and passing traffic! “Honk!… Honk! Honk!… Honk… Honk! Honk!” Delight or Flight? It was a little hard to tell what Keith’s symphony should be called! As with geese flying overhead, it is oft times difficult to discern their mood.
An hour or so later, and after several slow drive- bys, by the local police, the very last percussion was cussed by the residents of Poplar Hill who had sadly, not been invited. The chairs were folded up, the fire was dampened down, and the last of the stragglers leaned upon their open car doors as they looked up at the clear starry night in awe of the moment. All was silent and then Kaboom! Kaboom! Nanananananananana! (Well you try writing that last bit!)
Apparently, the last of the trailer’s treasure trove had, earlier in the evening, been looted by a few booty- seeking boys who wanted to play the Sorcerers Apprentice! Sadly, just as Mickey Mouse, in the movie Fantasia, couldn’t hold back the flood once it was unleashed; neither could those young aspiring pyrotechnic wizards, or even my brother Keith, the Firework’s Sorcerer. It was inevitable! Shortly thereafter the township council passed a new bylaw forbidding fireworks on any other evening than Victoria Day and Canada Day between dusk and 11:00 PM, and New Year’s Eve between dusk and 1:00 AM. To do otherwise could only happen with the most stringently controlled and expensive permit. Sadly the Firework’s King has had to move on to greener pastures— much to the relief of the dairy farmer across the way from us. Apparently,our local McDonalds like to make their milkshakes on site!