#191 Pyrotechnicians

by Matthew Brennan

We started making fireworks for money, but mostly for fun. I’m a chemist, my brother’s an engineer. But he’s also a performer; I’m also an artist. I understand the world by color, fascinated by its chemistry. He builds the rocket mechanics, designing each show, while I compile the compounds that, ignited, detonate into color.

Preparing for July Fourth, we argued. I’d built some new fireworks, but our clients wanted that rapid-fire finale. Begrudgingly, I stopped production on my invention and built the show he’d designed, tucking the two I’d finished into a corner.

Today’s our big night. A computer runs the show, but we still light the first rocket by hand. Tonight, it’s my turn. Striking a match, I light the fuse, watch it vanish upward: it’s one of my new fireworks. It goes higher than the others, explodes to rain golden light like a chandelier, each smaller fire its own component, trailing fiery dust before brightening into a final bulb of light.

I smile. I know my brother’s love for patterns, and before the match burns out, I know the show’s end. I can see the finale’s rush of chaotic color, fading toward darkness, then one last pop and a tail of light climbing up, holding the audience in suspense until a ring of light erupts across the sky, the last firework of its kind, points of light rocketing back toward earth. And I hear the future reaction to this finale: a chorus of tiny voices singing, “Whoaa!”

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