By Sarp Sozdinler
The first round of fireworks crackled eight past midnight. They rocketed from behind the line of houses opposite ours and popped in the sky like a burnt tree. What started as the sound of clicking fingers escalated into an aerial bombardment in just a matter of seconds. It set off the alarm of a nearby car and woke Dina up.
“What’s going on?” she asked, wriggling in the armchair. A dog howled from one of the neighboring houses.
“Probably some kids down the block,” I shrugged it off.
She snuggled further into her throw blanket and fell back asleep. I closed the lid of my laptop and killed the lights.
The fireworks returned around the same time the next day, with a two-minute delay.
“Do you think we should call the cops?” asked Dina, placing her book on the armrest.
“I don’t think that’s necessary,” I said.
It was only after the fireworks went on for another three days that I called 9-1-1.
“Sir,” the operator said at one point in our conversation. “Have you tried to speak with them?”
“Speak with who?” I asked to make sure.
“Boys,” she scoffed as if it were the obvious answer.
I grabbed my coat after we hung up and stormed out of the house.
“Are you sure about this?” Dina had asked before I closed the door but didn’t follow through with this line of questioning after I told her that everything was fine.
I hurried to the part of our neighborhood where the fireworks had popped from. The streets were dark and where I was headed looked even darker. No one seemed to be outside, but I spotted some artillery shells in the churchyard. A door slammed shut in the distance and a bird hiccupped.
When the fireworks went off the next day—an hour earlier than usual this time—I called the cops again.
“Look, sir,” a new voice said, “I frankly don’t know what we can do about it.”
“You can send out a unit,” I offered. “Talk to people. Ask around.”
The operator sighed. “I don’t know how that will help, sir,” he said. I could picture him shaking his head. “We’re probably always going to be too late.”
The next evening, I was fully dressed in our living room and ready to act in time and have that long-overdue confrontation with whoever was behind this ridiculous act. Dina was oblivious to my suffering, busy sending out emails to her clients. I waited and waited but the fireworks didn’t go off.
“It’s unbelievable,” I said to her later in bed.
“There’s always tomorrow,” she said, turning her back.
On the second night of my wait, the fireworks came back but in the opposite direction of their usual southward trajectory. By the time I reached the crime scene, everyone was gone. There were the empty shells again but no extinguished cigarette butts or empty beer bottles around that would’ve given away any hint of the perpetrator. Maybe the operator was right after all.
We spent the weekend at my mother-in-law’s. We ate casseroles and laughed at each other’s jokes and exchanged our election predictions.
“That was fun,” Dina later said as she buckled her seatbelt.
I agreed with a nod and roared the engine.
On our way back home, all I could think about was the fireworks. I wondered if they’d gone off again in our absence. I tried to imagine what reaction the neighbors might have given, if at all. They didn’t seem to be bothered by the goings-on and I felt very much like the only person out there who’s giving a damn.
As we took the turn for the bridge, first came the sounds. Fingers clicking; balloons popping; bombs going off. The night sky shone with colorful wounds. A dog barked again from one of the houses. Dina and I made eyes at each other in the car.
“It doesn’t look so good,” she said.
Our windshield burned brighter and brighter.
Sarp Sozdinler (he/they) is based in Philadelphia and Amsterdam. His work has been featured or is forthcoming on The Masters Review, HAD, X-R-A-Y, No Contact, Epiphany, Passages North, The Offing, and elsewhere. Some of his pieces have been selected for anthologies and at literary contests, including the Waasnode Short Fiction Prize judged by Jonathan Escoffery. More on @sarpsozdinler or at http://www.sarpsozdinler.com.