Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My August 19th

John Scalzi ran himself a contest on his heavily-trafficked blog, Whatever, last week. In it, he asked his adherents to describe the events of August 19, 1994. To make it short, I didn't win. To make it longer, here's my entry:

It was a bright night, August 19, 1994. Two moons worth of bright, owing to that same mirror in the sky that made Gemini spring into quadruplets. My son was just eighteen months old and I remember holding his tubby body up close to my face while we waved upward. We couldn’t see ourselves up there but we greeted us just the same. The whole neighborhood had spilled all over the street, impromptu barbecues and cheap fireworks going up all around us. We’d gotten the Independence Day we’d missed a month and a half before because the damned city said wildfire risks were too high with the drought.

It was a night of miracles. Every fifth dog burst into life-affirming green flames. Through the neighbor’s window we saw Clinton’s speech for the fifth time that day. Behind dusty slats he declared that our war with Uzbekistan was over and tomorrow was to be a spaghetti holiday. Hell, at that point I didn’t care that he was in bed with Big Semolina. The draft notices we’d just received that day for my only boy and his unconceived sister were now null and void.

Although the celebrations went on for many hours all over the world, the night ended for us when creepy Tommy Marcella whacked the kids’ piƱata, a rainbow colored pony, with his aluminum baseball bat. Stronger than that bat was the half-hour of frustration behind it. Seventeen-kids-and-one-yellow-broomstick-,-brown-where-the-paint-had-chipped-off-the-end’s worth of frustration. Eight and half sugar-jonesing child-hours of frustration and the power of one hormone-squirting, shadow-mustached man-child fell behind that silver and black Louisville Slugger.

The rainbow pony burst. And where candy was expected, intestines poured out onto the cracked grey pavement. The clot of pre-adolescent bodies shattered into its constituent screaming parts, littering the bloody scene with dozens of hyphens in their wakes.

John Butts suggested we make sausage. We laughed a little but the party had gone out of us at that point. But for an occasional shout or crackle of salutes in the distance, the quiet had descended upon us. There were a few lingerers who didn’t know until it grew uncomfortable that good times ever ended. The rest sought their beds, only now realizing that there was work the next day, spaghetti be damned. My joy was mellowed but persistent. In the warm glow of Mrs. Demers’ Scottish Terrier, Poopie, I kissed my wife. I even kissed her husband (closed mouth for Barry, though).

Everything since then has seemed so ordinary in comparison.

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