I love looking at fireworks, but I’m not a fan of booms, shrieks, whistles, and crowds. But fireworks are better in person than on television. My preference would be to watch from somebody’s lawn or well-placed apartment balcony, with earplugs in, if necessary.
Point of Sale
by Marian Allen
Do reject the devil, and all his works and all his ways? they had asked at his confirmation service, back when he was a teen. He was supposed to answer, I do. He had said it, and he had meant it.
Robert was an ambitious man, and he had often been tempted to take the shortcuts seemingly taken by so many. So far, he had resisted. So far, his soul was his own, and his success in the business had been due to hard work, diligence, luck, and (possibly) blessings from above.
There were no blessings from above last night, though. Not for a fireworks man, anyway. Last night, the heavens had opened up, and so had the warehouse roof. Today, he was faced with a major event and thousands of dollars worth of waterlogged specially crafted sensations.
“Too bad you’re not Gandalf,” his youngest son had said over his breakfast cereal. “Then you could just shoot the fireworks out of your want and stuff.” The boy hadn’t yet grasped that one of the country’s biggest display of the explosive art was going to be considerably diminished.
Oh, he could rush in some moderately spectacular back-ups from other storage, but these had been special; these had been on the cutting edge of his abilities, and would have put him solidly in the pantheon of fireworks greats.
So now he stood in the warehouse, watching his technicians sort the ruined from the probably ruined, conscious that what would have been tonight’s triumph would be, instead, a makeshift, make-do, disappointing pop-off. It would still be impressive, but it would be no better than last year’s, and he counted that as a failure.
“I can fix this,” said a voice in his ear. It was a familiar voice, and came from the devil that habitually perched on his left shoulder. “A snap of my fingers, and everything’s dry and ready to go.”
Robert chuckled grimly. “The best ones are completely ruined. They’re practically just mounds of paper and chemicals.”
“I can fix it,” said the devil, snapping his fingers to show how easy it would be – for a price.
The equally familiar voice from his right shoulder said, “You know better. No doubt, he’ll keep his part of the bargain, but you’ll be expected to keep yours, too. Eternal damnation is nothing to walk into blithely.”
“Blithely?” said the devil. “This isn’t just some little thing! This is The Rain of Fire Festival! This is the kind of event that makes or breaks a reputation!”
These were old temptations and, compelling as they were, Robert had learned to resist them.
“Next year will be all the better,” he said, and felt the angel’s tiny hand pat his right shoulder.
“But this year!” said the devil. “Think of the people who’ve traveled hundreds – thousands – of miles for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Think of the children who won’t be around for next year. How can you be so selfish?”
“Selfish?” Robert echoed. The devil had used that one for the first time a few months ago, so it had time to sink in and roll around.
“Thinking of yourself and not of others. Putting yourself above the pleasure of a whole heap of people. Tonight could be a soul-lifting, life-changing experience for more than one spectator, you know.”
Robert listened carefully but, after a brief silence, the angel said, “I got nothin’.”
Another moment of watching a prize piece disintegrate, and Robert said, “Done.”
The devil said, “Your soul, for all eternity, tonight, in exchange for undoing the storm damage?”
The devil howled in glee. “Done and done!”
Reality wavered, and solidified into a scene of excited industry, with workers inspecting and loading a warehouse filled with intact fireworks, shifting them from storage to the staging area for the night’s display.
Robert immediately regretted his bargain. It was, after all, just a fireworks show, and eternal damnation was forever. The deal, once made, was obviously one-sided, and he’d taken the short end of the stick.
It was done, though, so he threw himself into preparation, overseeing the placement of each piece, double-checking and triple-checking the timing, then checking it again.
Darkness fell. The growing roar of a massive crowd of people talking amongst themselves reached Robert and his technicians, far away as the staging area was. They heard the announcer welcoming everyone to the show. They heard Robert named and applauded and cheered. Robert’s cell phone rang, and the announcer said, “Go!”
It began. It started with some rockets, alternating with Chrysanthemums, Brocades, Fish, and Crosettes. There were seven Peonies of different colors all at once. Pearls, Stars, Strobes, and Willows. There was a jungle of Palm Trees, with a Time Rain and Bengal Fire above them. The finale was a combination that simulated a dragon, complete with fiery breath. It truly was a masterpiece of the art.
The final boom continued and echoed long after the light had faded. Then Robert realized it was cheering and applause; it was the crowd, roaring itself hoarse in appreciation.
Assistants and technicians and grunt-workers cheered, too, slapping Robert and one another on the back, massive grins glowing in their shining faces.
Was it worth it? Ask me in a thousand years. Tonight, it was worth it.
“Okay,” said the devil on Robert’s shoulder. “Okay.”
Robert waited for his change of venue. And waited.
“Okay,” said the devil again. “Okay, that was a Mulligan. What you got in mind for next year?”
MY PROMPTS TODAY: The Works