Pyrotechnics

By Karen Schauber

The gravel pit yawns. Its thirty-foot high walls stretch up to meet a cornflower-blue sky crisscrossed with chem trails. Leon and Jory lounge around tracking the jet zigzagging back and forth. The rush overhead is loud and the quarry echos like Thunderdome.

It’s hot in Black Rock Desert, and there is little breeze or movement among the sparse scruff and bush apart from a few errant tumbleweeds. It is the dry season and there is a fire ban. Sun rays bounce off the aluminum bird radiating like pyrotechnics.

The boys make their way toward the abandoned woodshed at the east end of the quarry, picking up bits of discarded lumber and refuse, along the way. Dusk is approaching and easing into a felony is as cool as ice. They hoist the pieces into a colossal heap atop the shed. The stack rocking like a one-legged air dancer.

 It only takes seconds for Leon to set it ablaze; the metal hood of the lighter whipping back and forth like a battle-ready Kalthoff repeater. Backing up several meters from the roaring heat, the boys take stock of their fiery behemoth. The raging inferno only meant to dazzle the pilot above, sparks something grand. Flames billow and curl disappearing ever so slowly into the jet-black sky; the array of stars fan like spray from a glitter cannon.

Before long, the sweet musky aroma of bergamot, clary sage, and Sedona grass, emanating from the swelling brume, overpowers. In the haze, all time stops. It’s like being in someone else’s dream. A dream in which the boys are usually only bit players. But not today.

Jory shrieks, swinging his arms wide, his legs splaying out like a jumping jack, mirroring the dancing fireball.

Leon is the epitome of calm. It is the first time he is in control. His hands rest calmly by his sides; ADHD all but extinguished. He stands at a crossroads; Juvie behind him. Airborne bits of debris and embers whipped up by the flames heighten the spectacle. The path ahead, clear as a wet t-shirt contest.

By morning’s first light, as the sun bleeds across the wide expanse of sky, the quarry is soundless. Embers, exhausted, have scattered like roaches, nowhere to be seen. Tiny gnats searching for blood, mucus, and sweat, swarm, but find nothing. All is parched. The boys are on their own; the pilot and his silver bird have long gone. They unfurl and stretch, their ambitious plan taking shape.

In time they will return with a motley crew and the makings of a magnificent Burning Man.

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Karen Schauber is a Flash Fiction writer obsessed with the form. Her work appears in 40 international literary magazines and anthologies, including Brilliant Flash Fiction, Bending Genres, Ekphrastic Review, Ellipsis Zine, Fiction Southeast, and New Flash Fiction Review. The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings (Heritage House, 2019), celebrating the Canadian modernist landscape painters, is her first editorial/curatorial flash fiction anthology. Schauber runs ‘Vancouver Flash Fiction’, a flash fiction Resource Hub and Critique Circle, and in her spare time, is a seasoned Family Therapist. A native of Montreal, she has called Vancouver home for the past three decades.

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