Daddy has them, he has them, he has them — whole bunches of them and you are going to be setting them off like crazy just as soon as it gets dark. In the driveway.
Danny’s next door and his dad has them too, and Alison gets to come over and watch at your house. She lives up the street with her grandparents in a green house. Her mommy got a divorce.
This one time you got to spend the night at her mom’s place. She lived by herself and you never really got to ask Alison how come she lived with her grandparents did you?
She was one of your best, best friends. She has the longest blonde braids you have ever seen. Her grandparents are pretty strict, just like yours are when you go up to Cambria. Mommy sends you up to their house all the time. On the train. All by yourself.
Those porters make sure that nothing bad is ever going to happen to you. Their faces are one huge chocolate smile aren’t they? Sometimes they call you honey just like Daddy does. Or sweetheart. Grandpa always calls you honeybunch. It’s like his secret name for you.
You sit on that train and dream out the window. Curves. Time curves along those tracks.
That guy that gave you the guitar? That lived next door at Danny’s? The one that was all battered from all the places he had played it? He was a surfer too.
Daddy is home from Hawaii and he and mommy are cooking. This one time you helped him clean the stove for mommy. He said you were a big girl, and the two of you did the inside. It was Angelica’s day off.
Mommy makes fried chicken. She doesn’t really like to cook much but this is Daddy’s favorite thing. He was from a pretty big family in Tennesse. They had horses. Tennessee Walkers.
I think she made that chicken just for him. It always came out so perfect. The two of you are laughing in the kitchen shaking that bag of flour and clouds of it float up into the sky. She’s listening to Sergio Mendes. It’s her favorite music and she dances around all over that kitchen. Because Daddy was back.
That’s your little brother’s favorite breakfast if he isn’t having French Toast. Mommy makes that and cinnamon toast and the two of you sit in the kitchen at the wooden table she has. She always has placemats. It’s not like up at Grandma’s house.
Up at Grandma’s everything is antique and gilded…
But here in the kitchen the flour flies and mommy’s chocolate chip cookies flow together into one huge shape in the pan. Everybody is laughing.
It’s like over at Alison’s moms.
Her favorite song is called “I can’t get no satisfaction” and that is on the radio all the time.
When you and Alison are over there the three of you dance to that over and over and over every time it comes on. Her mom makes better sandwiches than yours does. Alison gets those little boxes of different cereals too. She gets to pick. Potato chips too.
Not like you.
Most of the time mommy is working. Mommy is working too hard to have time for that. She gives you money for the cafeteria lunches. Thirty five cents.
That patch of sliced green pepper stares you in the eye like an evil green dragon. They were trying to pass that off as fruit, but?
They couldn’t fool you.
None of them could, actually.
The whole problem with being a parentified child? Is that you are already older than everybody. Especially mommy.
It’s the Fourth of July and people are coming over to see what Daddy has set up. He always has everything. Everything, everything, everything. He is made out of fun just like Grandpa and Uncle Bud and Denny who gave you that guitar. Sometimes you sit in your little olive green shag-carpeted room and practice the chords he taught you. When you aren’t playing that violin at school. You are in the orchestra. You are something called “second chair” but you can’t remember what that even means now. It was something that got taken away…
You can’t wait till it gets dark. You can’t wait, you can’t wait, you can’t wait.
Because Daddy has sparklers.
Daddy has sparklers like magic and he lights them and places one in your hand and the grown-ups are all sitting around having beer and laughing and the music gets turned up and up and everybody is so happy.
Danny yanks on one of Alison’s pigtails.
He’s always doing stuff like that.
Your brother is too little to hold a sparkler yet, but he’s standing right next to you and his little eyes are lit up like magic too.
“You kids be careful now,” Mommy says. “You be careful with those.”
“We will,” you say.
“Daddy, do another one.”
“Hold your horses,” he says. “Just hold your horses.”
But you can’t.
That’s how much you love him and you love this day and you love the sky as it turns purple into twilight and the evening star comes out and you make a wish like you always do.
Twinkle, twinkle little star, you hum.
Alison’s sparkler twinkles like that too.
Mommy got you a special pink headband just for today. And a dress, too. It’s white and splashed with roses. Pinkly abstract.
Grandpa is the one who taught you about wishes.
Wishes on a star.
He’s the one who taught you how to draw things. He’s the one who held the wishbone.
He’s the one that gave you the bright copper penny that you learned to toss in fountains every time you see one.
That’s what he was…
That’s who they all were.
* * *
“Sparklers” — copyright 2009 — Valentine Bonnaire — all rights reserved.
*Authors note: I want to say thank you to the readers who came here in the comments yesterday. All of you, for what you said. I talked about some music in this piece. Since the piece is posted free in the web, I think that is okay to do. Also because it captures the mood of the times? I’m trying to really give the era with true references and so that is why I am using them. But, if this piece ever gets published in a book? I’d need to get the rights I think. At any rate, being part of a great Writer’s Conference like the one I go to — they will know. I know the best writers in the world, and they are the most ethical people, too. A few years ago Ray Bradbury was giving a talk about writing, and right in this minute that talk he gave is making me cry.
He was sitting there in this wheelchair and he said: “I did it out of love.”
“I always did it out of love.”
This novel is coming from a place like that. Have a very wonderful day today however you spend it!