On Saturday night, we attended a sixty-fifth birthday party for our brother-in-law. It was a fun shindig because it happened at a wooded, eighty-acre parcel of land my sister and brother-in-law and her adult children bought a year ago. It has a collection of outbuildings and power pedestals for campers to plug into.
With a double garage that serves as the cook house and shelter if weather is bad, an outhouse, fire pit, deck, gazebo, umpteen chairs, plenty of firewood, and assortment of quads the place is well outfitted. A series of trails through the bush provide a path for walkers or off-road vehicles. Though it was a bit scary this spring when one wildlife camera picked up a black mama bear and a pair of cubs. Eek.
Things like ladder ball, motorized toys, a wading pool, and a trampoline ensured that everyone had something to do. A second fridge loaded with refreshments ensured no one went thirsty.
It was nice to simply sit for several hours visiting with family and friends. To watch the play of the fire as conversations got mellower and the youngest kids went to bed. To grow comfortable with the darkness and to light one’s path to the toilet with an iPhone. To be grateful that this family shares this property with all of us.
But, for me, one of the best parts of the night was the fireworks display that Matt did. We first saw his handiwork last year at another birthday party at The Pines. It rivaled what many small towns do during Canada Day or during their annual fairs, whether for duration, variety, or complexity. It was extraordinary. So naturally, I was excited to see what he planned for this party.
It was magnificent. Unfortunately, we never saw the finale. Before 11 PM and about ten or fifteen minutes in, a huge black pick up truck screamed into the yard and parked just steps away from where we were all sitting. He left the truck running and blinded us with his LED power bar lights. An agitated guy jumped out, ranting and raving, screaming and swearing about the fireworks. His posture, volume, words, actions were aggressive and frankly, scary. One never knows who’s unhinged and who isn’t.
His anger and outrage was disproportionate to the perceived ’crime.’ It didn’t matter to him that a fireworks permit was in place, that there was no fire ban in effect, that it was before 11 pm Saturday, that a baby was sleeping in a trailer mere steps away. He was pissed off that he had to get up in the morning and the fireworks were too loud. Then he asked how we’d like it if he fired off his twelve-gauge rifle. Explaining and apologizing did nothing. His fishtailing truck cut ruts in the ground and driveway.
The next hour was spent reliving, replaying the incident. What could and should have been said. What would have inflamed or defused the situation. How lucky it was that he didn’t hit any parked vehicles or a person walking in the dark. What were the odds of future vandalism or sabotage? Where the cameras should be placed to catch any retaliation. How good the finale would have been. How, with men of all ages and sizes present, it was my sister who approached the truck and tried to de-escalate the situation. How it scared the kids who witnessed the outburst.
Hell, how it unsettled us all. It reminded me of my youth, attending keg parties in the bush when in the wee hours a cop car or a group of troublemakers crashed the night. It wasn’t fun then, and it’s less so now, especially since it seems more people are teetering on the edge of reason and are likely armed or high or both. And the irony is, that a calm and civil request would have been respected. Instead he chose a sad and troubling way to express displeasure, from where I sit.
Hazel Anakas first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.