Risk versus reward

I can, for about $10, own a piece of the sky. I can, with a Roman candle from the warehouse store, catch the eye of everyone for miles; with a mortar, occupy a volume larger than many homes, hundreds of feet up, but just for a second or two– and send the sound of it out in a half-bubble much larger than that, moving tens of thousands of cubic feet of air.

For about $10.

My entire life almost I’ve wondered if fireworks made the ancient people who invented them as nervous as they make me. As a child when I first encountered them, they were the most insane thing I had ever learned of, up to that point: so much risk for so little reason I actually at first could not comprehend. My parents told me they were ok, in the hands of professionals–I think just to keep me from crying.

I went to the library and looked them up, found out they were invented to chase evil spirits away. A long time ago, by backwards people, must have been. People who believed in evil spirits. The show at the fair was just a vestige. Right?

And even back then, I was sure, they had professionals.

But wasn’t it a quieter world, thousands of years ago? Wouldn’t the sound of radio static have sent an entire villages into panic? I decided eventually not: that the residents of that quiet world were used, not to calamity, but to the inexplicable. The world was one continuous explosion, an unstoppable cascade, falling from the sky to their feet. Control, the way we are used to it, wasn’t invented until much later, maybe around the same time as refrigeration.

It’s now, I think, that fireworks make us the most nervous; now, when they are the safest. The seconds before I own the air, that air, it feels like, owns me, waiting for the right outcome at the end of a fuse. Because a fuse cannot be unlit.

Wait, yes it can. That’s lucky.

Still, I like fireworks best when I can see them go off. My imagination does terrible things with them otherwise; some part of my mind wants to hide under the bed–the same part that feels sorry for anyone I see with a tattoo, for just a second. And still I’ve never lit one myself. Call me superstitious.




Shoutout to Nervous Ned’s Fireworks, where the bombs are big, but we’re uneasy.

One thought on “Risk versus reward

  1. radiation says:

    Our hosts understandably don’t allow content from visitors outside their group.

    To comment on a post, tweet and include #radiationComments

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