It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
“Well if this house isn’t the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is!” said Grandpa Joe, standing in the open doorway of a big, bright, mountain breezy, A-Frame.
“Don’t listen to your father, Derrick. This house is beautiful! Come here & give me a kiss.” Grandma Georgie pushed past her husband & all their luggage to hug her son. “Now where is that wife and those kids!?”
Grandma Georgie called to her 3 grandchildren & searched the house, clapping and calling.
Grandma Georgie slid open the glass door and trotted over to a line of chaise lounges. “Madison! Hello! Honey?”
Madison pulled the bud out of her ear, but did not sit up or take off her sunglasses, “Hi Grandma Georgie!”
“You look beautiful, just like your mother when she was your age! Can you believe she was a year younger than you when they had you! You’ve grown up so much since last…”
“Thanks Grandma Georgie. Yeah, I’m doing great… Do you have plans for tomorrow morning? Want to give me a ride to the lake?”
“Well I would love to go to the lake…”
“Oh, I was planning on meeting up with friends,” stammered Madison.
“Oh my of course I’ll give you a ride!”
“Thanks Grandma Georgie! So glad you’re here!” and replaced the earbud.
Grandma Georgie slid back through the glass door into the vaulted kitchen. The freezer door was wide open, steam poured out.
“Hello, Augustus!” said Grandma Georgie, though she couldn’t see who was foraging the freezer.
“Oh hi Grandma Georgie,” said a voice from behind the freezer door, the teenage boy not looking around.
“What are you looking for, Augustus? Are you going to start dinner?”
“No. And call me Gus.” The freezer door shut & Gus gave his Grandma Georgie a hug with one arm, the other holding onto a tub of rocky road.
“Hey Mom!” said Mandy, hugging her husband’s mom loosely with one arm, not letting go of Derrick’s hand with the other.
Grandma hugged a second longer than Mandy & Mandy & Derrick exchanged a glance.
“How are you Mom?” asked Mandy, sitting down next to Derrick.
“I’m well. Your father & I have been really looking forward to having a mountain vacation for The 4th of July. It’s so picturesque.”
“Oh shut up, Georgie!” yelled Grandpa Joe from his rocker on the front porch, solid and straight just like the rifle he polished.
“Grandma Georgie! Grandma Georgie!” yelled a bright little voice, all freckles and gap toothed. The little boy hugged Grandma Georgie around her waist, tight and carefree.
“Oh DJ! Hello! Thank you for that nice big hug!”
“We are going to light off fireworks!” said little DJ with spark.
“Oh I love fireworks! Isn’t it fun to let freedom ring!” Grandma Georgie said, kneeling next to and tickling the boy, “The loud bangs are the like the cannons firing in the great war of independence. Freedom is never free. Or quiet.” Understanding flared in the boy and he ran off in flash, yelling for freedom.
“Mom,” said Mandy, “I really wish you wouldn’t talk to DJ about cannons. We don’t like him knowing about wars and weapons.”
“This woman doesn’t know what war sounds like any more than your wussy husband,” yelled Grandpa Joe through the screen window.
“Dad,” said Derrick disparagingly, “Please don’t start with your military career superiority right now; it’s 4th of July for gods sakes!” Derrick left the room holding Mandy’s hand.
After dinner, Grandpa Joe sat and polished his rifle some more.
“You kids ever hear a rifle shot,” asked Grandpa Joe.
“No,” said Madison, Gus & DJ, with the first glimmer of grandparent interest.
“Well here goes. Gonna scare the piss out of your mom though,” Grandpa Joe did not look at his grandkids, but he heard them snicker. He walked to the edge of the deck, took aim and BANG shot his rifle toward the woods.
A sound like a fist hitting a punching bag was heard in the woods, then a loud thump rustle.
“What in the hell did I hit?” asked the rhetoric Grandpa Joe, as he headed off the deck and toward the woods.
“What the hell was that!” panicked Mandy & Derrick as they followed their trail of family toward the timberline.
Propped up on her husband’s lap, long hair loose, face slack, a brown blood flower blossoming from the bullet wound in her belly, Grandma Georgie died, though the sun shining on her still danced.
They all went inside to get help.
Grandpa Joe scooped his wife up in his strong arms, ran to the car and took off. He drove fast and thought about all the times he had carried fallen friends, men he barely knew, to safety.
“They just let you go? Weren’t the police concerned that you just shot your wife?” demanded Derrick. Mandy & the kids sat together on the couch.
“I love your mother more than anything in the world.”
“I know, Dad. Me too… Let’s not let this ruin our vacation… The parade is starting soon, we should all go and forget everything for a while.”
The parade was full of oompah and pomp, high stepping ponies and prancing beauty queens. DJ scrambled for candy thrown by little league teams. Gus punched DJ & took the candy. Madison played on her phone. Derrick and Mandy stood together, holding hands.
Grandpa Joe had a far off look in his eyes, his gazed dazzled by the frolicking music, sparkle of glitter and brass, batons twirling, dancing skirts and flags swirled red, white, and blue. Men in uniform, rifles shining hot in the sun, stopped to do a 13 gun salute. The 13th shot rang though the crowd and Grandpa Joe screamed as if his soul was on fire from the devil of memories, recent, loud and distant. He ran into the center of the parade, people spilled past him, lost in a sea of floats, costumes and foil balloons.
“What if Grandpa Joe never comes home, Daddy?” asked DJ over breakfast the next morning.
“Your Grandpa Joe hasn’t turned up yet, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t.”
“Daddy,” said Madison cutely, “Grandma Georgie was supposed to drive me to the lake today.” Her eyes filled with practiced tears, “I think she would really still want me to go. Will you please drive me?”
“And I want to go to the fair,” mugged Gus.
“That sounds fun, just the thing you need to forget all this nonsense. Of course we will drive you to the lake, Madison. But Gus, if you want to go to the fair, you have to bring DJ. & be nice to him! Your father & I could use some alone time.”
Madison’s skimpy biking was tiny triangle American flags. Tall, tan, young & lovely, she had her eyes set on the stud sunning on the big dock. Madison swam out to the dock like a mermaid, neat and pretty, and the stud offered a hand to help her up.
“You always so good with your hands, Stud,” said Madison, flipped her hair, spun and did a beautiful swan dive into the lake.
He stood and watched for her to surface, hoping her top had fallen off… She must be swimming all the way to shore.
“Hey! She never came back up! That sexy girl never came back up!”
She still hadn’t come up by the time the lifeguards swam out to the dock.
Madison never came up.
“Bye Gus! Bye DJ!” called Mandy as Derrick quickly pulled to the back of the fair grounds’ parking lot. He parked the car and Mandy slid off her shirt, unfastened her bra and hiked up her skirt. Already pantiless, she pulled Derrick’s jeans down, slid over the front seat and onto her husband. They lost themselves in stars and fireworks and their minds waved in the same breeze. They found sweet rhythm and freed themselves to each other.
Derrick started bucking uncontrollably, the back of his head smacking into the seat. He grasped onto his left arm as his jaw clenched, eyes popped, then quiet. Mandy smacked him lightly & opened her mouth to speak when foam pouring from her mouth, nose, into her hands, pink eyes rolled back into her head, blood dripping from her tear ducts. She slumped against her dead husband, their naked humanity creating an early stench.
“Don’t you dare tell mom and dad that I’m entering the pie eating contest,” said Gus, who was already on the stage & towering over DJ.
“I won’t. I promise.”
“Good, they would kill me. Make sure you meet me at the gate at 8:00.”
Gus eyed the blueberry pie and his mouth watered at its flaky sweetness. He could eat an entire pie; he’s done it before. Gus was excited to do it again, in front of an audience. He was hungry to be the best, but what he really wanted was some pie.
ON YOUR MARKS GET SET GO!
Gus gobbled up the sweet center and gorged himself on crumble. His second pie was cherry and he wolfed down lattice. As he was devouring the peach pie’s crust, his stomach rumbled. It boomed. It burst!
He leaked life from mouth and ass, filling his Crocs with shit and the pie tins with liquefied intestine. His nose spilled blood and brains and all the fat oozed from every orifice.
The other contestants screamed and slipped on shit and splashed in gut blood and stage slop. Gus tried to stand up and fell on his face, bursting his potbelly and spraying the audience with the entirety of his innards.
Little DJ explored the fairgrounds from games to vendors to rides. He got caught up in the lights, music and shiny brass ring on the merry go round. DJ left the ride dizzy and star-struck. He strolled and lolled over to the edge of the fair where big field with tall green grass was spread out. A bonfire blazed brightly, but no one was watched it. DJ wanted to get closer to the fire. It was big. It was bright.
DJ pulled a small rocket firework from his fannypack. He hadn’t had a lighter or matches, so he had been saving it. He stuck the fuse in the fire, the whole rocket ignited and blew apart in his little hand, sending fingers flying. Little DJ was knocked off balance and stumbled into and atop the huge bonfire, his nerves ablaze, a supernova, red giant, dead star. Little DJ crumbled into a pile of ash, cowlick, freckles and all.
“A little boy on the fire sure does kick off lots of heat,” said Grandma George, coming out from around the bonfire, eyes ablaze & dancing in firelight.
“I’d never let you get cold, Georgie,” said Grandpa Joe, holding his wife’s hand in his, as he had cherished awake, asleep, in his dream and in live.
“That kid of ours, he was cold, only hot for that wife of his, who gave him cold babies and not much else,” said Grandma Georgie, her filled with sad, hot tears. “That baby, though, he sure is burning bright.”
“He would have turned out fat & horny and weak, because somehow that’s the kind of kid we made. But it’s not about them anymore Georgie, it’s back to being about us. Happy Independence Day!”