Winner. Illegal fireworks next door cause Jody to launch fireworks of her own.
| A FIERY DISPLAY
Winner of Writer's Cramp, 2021/07/04 "Winner and New Prompt - Due Mon. July 5th"
Whoosh! Boom-ba-boom! Ka-pow!
A sonic boom shook the house and thunder rattled the windows, jolting Jody from her novel. Down the hall, baby Anne erupted into a fit of frightened screams. Mullet, with a yelp of terror, pitched off his chair and dove under the sofa where he lay quivering in terror. Flashes of red, green, and blue light pierced through the slit in the curtains.
Jody ran to grab Anne, cuddled and soothed her, then dropped to her knees and crept to the window, shoulders hunched against the barrage of noise and light. She spread the gap between the curtains and peered over the sill.
Oh. Not World War III after all. Just her neighbor setting off fireworks. Stupid idiot, didn't he know fireworks were carefully controlled in Fairfield ever since that little boy burned off his hand in the 60s? She grabbed her phone, looked up a number, and dialed.
"Fairfield Police Department. What is your emergency?"
Jody tried to talk over Anne's cries and the rumble of fireworks. "Listen! Can you hear that racket? My neighbor is setting off fireworks. Isn't that illegal in Fairfield?"
"Yes, ma'am, it is. But all our officers are tied up with an accident on Highway 37. If I could just get your particulars, we'll send someone around just as soon as we have an available unit."
She gave her name, address, phone number, and the name of her neighbor, John Shandrow. No, she didn't know him, and no, she thought he was single, and no, they had had no previous conflicts or confrontations.
"You might go over to talk to him, if you feel safe doing so. Otherwise, I suggest you just wait in your home until an officer can come. Might be tomorrow morning, ma'am." The dispatcher hung up.
"Oh, sure, wait until morning for the police to come," she fumed. "What good is a police department that can't protect its citizens from illegal idiots shooting off illegal fireworks at illegal hours of the night and disturbing the peace and making my baby cry and scaring my dog. I'll go over and talk to him, all right."
Wrapping Anne in a blanket, she stomped out the back door and over to the chain link fence separating the properties. She waited for a pause between explosions and called as loudly as she could, "Shandrow, you ignorant bastard, stop shooting those things off and get over here!"
He must have heard, for he ambled out of the dusk to join her. "Howdy, neighbor!" He frowned at the noisy bundle in her arms. "Oh, sorry, did the noise wake your baby?"
"Of course it woke the baby, you nitwit! And terrified the dog. And damn near gave me a heart attack when all that noise started up." Mullet nosed open the screen door and ran up beside her, echoing her anger with bared teeth and fierce growls.
"Sorry 'bout that. We're kind of isolated out here, and it's not all that late. I didn't think I'd be disturbing folks."
"You didn't think all that noise would disturb-- Is that a ground fire?" Even as they looked, the dried grass on top of her compost pile flared brighter.
Shandrow clambered over the fence. "Where's your tap? Do you have a garden hose? Call the fire department!" Jody pointed to the hose and fished her phone out of her pocket. Anne had started wailing again at Shandrow's snapped questions, or perhaps from Jody's reaction on seeing the fire, and Mullet was dancing around the compost and barking. Finally she got through to Fairfield Fire Station.
"Sorry, all our units are responding to a multi-vehicle fire and accident on Highway 37. We'll pull a truck off and send it out as soon as we can. Work to contain the fire, and keep safe. We'll have someone on scene soon." Wonderful, her tax dollars at work.
By then, her neighbor had reduced the fire to a smoky smudge. He was dousing the last embers when she came up behind him. "You bloody idiot! You inconsiderate--" she had just launched her tirade when he turned in surprise, hose in hand.
The shock of cold water hitting her belly almost had her lose her grip on Anne. She did lose her grip on her temper. With a shriek of fury, she put her shoulder down and charged, catching him so hard in the ribs that he tumbled over, spraying water as he went. Mullet thought this a wonderful game, and snapped at the water in delight, running around and barking with excitement. Grabbing the hose with one hand, guarding Anne with the other, she turned the spray on Shandrow, drenching him thoroughly.
She only turned off the nozzle when she realized that he was laughing. They were all soaked except the baby, who had somehow gone back to sleep. The ridiculousness of the situation struck her, and she began to giggle.
"That'll teach you not to set off illegal fireworks, buster!"
â€śIt will! It will! Mercy! I surrender!â€ť Shandrow rose to his feet and they stood face to face, dripping in the dark, laughing like little kids. She realized that this was her first real laughter since her divorce was finalized just after Anne's birth.
â€śLook, Ms. Harlin -- can I call you Jody? -- Jody, how about we go dry off, then you can come over for drinks on my patio. Baby and wet-and-toothy are welcome to come too. No more fireworks, I promise. Iâ€™ll save the rest for July 4th. â€ť
â€śThis is Anne, and that is Mullet. Thank you, that sounds fine.â€ť She studied him with interest, for the first time noticing the drape of wet clothes on a slim, well-muscled body. For an inconsiderate nitwit, he was actually sort of nice. Her shiver was not entirely due to her own wet condition.
There might be fireworks after all.