by Joseph S. Pete
Marty heard you could make a million dollars in 10 days.
He heard you sold pallets of fireworks, not the cheap sparklers but the high-end aerials, the week and a half leading up to the Fourth of July. They lined up outside the door nearly round the clock and snapped up so many fireworks, you could rest easy the rest of the year.
It wasn’t like he had many options as an ex-felon.
Fireworks stands were disreputable enough, where no one cared how squalid one’s background was.
The help was generally fresh-faced teens and many college kids back on summer break, but the operators were all shady as hell. They all had records, for theft, forgery, check deception, drug dealing, armed robbery and worse.
Customers asked no questions. They just wanted bang for their buck. The cash registers filled up. So much of the business was cash, it was easy to duck taxes.
Big cash windfalls meant it was a cutthroat business. Competitors would slash your giant inflatable King Kongs, deface your billboards, and even bribe cops to pull over people driving out your lot with out-of-state plates.
Jack from Crazy Jack’s narced on Marty after he appeared in a newspaper article about all the fireworks tourism in the lead-up to the Fourth of July to the state where anything was legal. He left the reporter a virulent voicemail complaining about how he featured a felon in a story about Independence Day, and that such a proud American holiday deserved better.
The reporter called Marty to ask about it, said it wouldn’t change the story one iota, but he thought he’d let him know… as a courtesy.
Marty thanked him.
After midnight, he drove his truck over to Crazy Jack’s just off the highway.
Serves you right for not being open 24 hours, he thought.
Using a tire iron, he pried open a loading bay in the alley. He strode through the pitch black in search of an electrical outlet, which were few and far between in a pole barn. He bumped into a stack of mortars at the end of an aisle, knocking the boxes asunder.
Oh fudge this, he thought. He knew he’d probably set off some silent alarm and had to speed this up.
He ran back out to the truck, found a rag that he stuffed into the gas tank, and jammed it into an empty glass Coke bottle. Marty lit the makeshift Molotov cocktail and hurled it into the fireworks store.
It started with a few pops that deepened into booms. A crescendo of explosions ripped the roof clean off, as fireworks lit up the night sky.
Like one of the hayseed customers he detested so much, Marty gaped at the bright colors that erupted across the darkened empyrean. It was a symphony of reds and oranges and blues and purples and greens.
Marty started most intently at the green.
Green, green, green. His biggest rival reduced to cinders, he could see so much green.