One summer the people of Kalispell had too much paint. Driving into town, I saw a car slap-dashed with yellow—must have been 200 cartoon lemons—and a homemade signboard bolted on the roof: “Dale’s Sales Auto / Lemon Car / No Good.” So that was the first example.
The second was this: I was driving a truckload of fireworks to Sandpoint, Bonner’s Ferry, Whitefish, etc., Shelby, Great Falls, and Fort Benton, then back to Spokane, the same loop I’d taken three days before when I went to put up a dozen fireworks stands. So now I’m back in Kalispell, dropping off their order, and they’ve painted the whole thing with Jesus murals, wow—Son of God with a sparking halo; Messiah with a lamb in one hand, a Roman Candle in the other; one of the Wise Men, Melchior I think, putting Pop-Its in front of the manger—and the Youth Director running things had even more ideas:
“Why don’t you sell some Christian fireworks? Instead of these Red Devils. You could add a sticker so people know they’re Christian Approved.”
“I don’t pick the names,” I told him. “They make them over in China.”
He walked off talking about communists, shaking his head.
Our warehouse was happier, though, calling out test-run firework names, our typically boring and cardboard jobs suddenly not.
“How ’bout the Star of Bethlehem.”
“And the Noah Sees a Sunbeam.”
“Or the 30 Pieces of Silver.”
“Maybe the Cleopatra?”
“That’s not biblical, you idiot.”
“I thought she was married to Moses.”
“What’re you, nuts?”
“What should we call these Piccolo Petes?”
“Little Towers of Babel.”
“How ’bout the Cuckoo Fountains?”
“Just call them Doves.”
“Are you sure she didn’t marry Moses? I thought I saw it in a movie.”
“You think we should re-name sparklers?”
“No, they’re just sparklers. But now with myrrh!”
All of us channeling Byron or something, a bunch of low-wage Shakespeares stopping to sneeze black powder on our sleeves, and forgetting about our coffee break; that afternoon flew faster than any of us knew.
But why stop there? Why not specialize for everyone? Aim fireworks at nurses and doctors, cats and dogs. For the dinosaur lover, there’s the Pterodactyl Rocket. For summer-league baseball teams, we’ve got Grand Slams. For the ambidextrous, try these aerials with fuses on both sides. Everything lasered into segments, everything split. Even for surfers—two distinct versions of the Perfect Wave Fountain: blue sparks or turquoise, Pacific or South Pacific? Take your pick.
Or yes, we could stick to the same old basics: United, Indivisible.
Instead of seals of approval, yes, we could just keep fireworks for all.
Rob Carney’s fourth book, 88 Maps, was published by Lost Horse Press (distribution by University of Washington Press). Previous books and chapbooks include Story Problems and Weather Report, both from Somondoco Press.