The Fifth of July


Susan spun ’round on the sidewalk while winding her arm like so many cartoon characters she’d watched pitch baseballs and dynamite. “Ready, Pete,” she question-commanded her brother. He was looking skyward and pocketing one hand in the other as if he wore a catcher’s mitt. The parachute and capsule Susan was spiraling to launch were remnants from the previous night’s fireworks. The faint smell of gunpowder lingered around them, trapped in their hair.

Susan launched the parachute toward the cumulus cloud obscuring the midday sun, her body following the missile’s trajectory a moment too long. She faltered. One of her incisors cracked against the concrete. She didn’t cry out. Pete was still staring expectantly at the sky when Susan called for his attention. “Get mom,” she pleaded, scarred. The blood pooling on her tongue blurred her words.

All the way back from the dentist, Susan smiled. Pete had opened the passenger door of the Chevy and helped her buckle the seat belt, though by right it was his since he was older, then their mother drove through the Dairy Queen. Susan sucked milkshake into the corners of her mouth, landscaping vanilla ponds above latent molars.

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