Feb. 11, 2020

"What You Heard"

This kid’s dad had black powder from god knows where and he had stolen it and funneled it into a 5-inch threaded pipe. It looked like a mess, all wrapped in duct tape, but anyone could tell it was going to go off like a bomb.

It was summer. I met him at some field across town, way out of earshot of our parents. He chose the spot because it bordered on this big forest preserve and no one went out there. He was in the middle of telling me about how he attached the cap when he got this crazed look and just took off toward the center of the field. 

I heard the flick of a lighter, the whistle of a fuse, then a deafening blast and a strange sound from him, like air leaving a balloon. Laying there on the grass, with the smoke floating off him, he looked like a half-sunken log in a swamp. I’d see as I got closer that one of his hands was just gone and the other was jammed under his body in a way that didn’t make much sense. His shirt was hiked up and tangled, and I could see into his chest like the back of a watch.

I went looking for help and eventually found a man sitting on his porch doing nothing at all. I explained what happened and he just stood up and told me to get moving. He stayed real calm like that until we got closer to the field and heard the yelping. Our town always had problems with coyotes, but they were something else in the summer. They’d chew through a garbage bag for a lemon rind. By the time we got back to the kid, a pack of them was already busy pulling him apart.

I don’t remember much after that, but the man managed to drive away the coyotes before they could finish the job. The kid stayed in the hospital for a few months and then they moved him out of town in a covered car. No one ever saw him again and I don’t care much for the gossip. I can’t figure how it matters. I see the new fences around every backyard. That’s enough for me.

As for the bomb, it was the loudest I ever heard. Even all these years later, I get in a mood and replay the sound in my head. Sometimes, I think I can even smell it on the air, especially when it starts getting warm. They say people three towns over reported the explosion. I don’t know whether I’d chalk that up as a victory. I don’t think that’s for me to decide.
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