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Prompted By Fireworks

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This is a short story, as I have never been big on fireworks, actual or metaphorical.

But, whether related to this initial aversion or not, I have always been reluctant to embrace metaphorical fireworks either.  Just something too ephemeral and excessive for my "all things in moderation" view of life.

As to the former, I just thought they were too damn loud and scary.  (I may be part dog in that regard.)  As a kid, I didn’t mind watching them go off silently — such as in the opening of Jackie Gleason’s “Honeymooners” show —  but the noise scared me to death.  My most vivid recollection of them when young — and no doubt Freud would consider this the root cause — was one year at the 4th of July carnival that the volunteer fire department in my hometown always sponsored.   Having gone to the carnival, as usual, during the day, I expressed an interest in also seeing the fireworks, even though they did not go on until right at the end of the last night – – the proverbial climax.   My parents were going to a party that night but they agreed that, if I went to bed at my bedtime, they would wake me up when they got back and we would go.  They did, I did, and we went. And I was soon holding my ears and howling to go home. I just never thought they would be THAT loud.  From then on through my childhood, I avoided the fireworks night at the carnival. I thought that watching the bonfire the night before — rumored to be made from all the cases of beer the firemen had gone through in the past year while viewing stag movies at their weekly “meetings” — was much more exciting.  Again, let’s get Freud to weigh in on that one….

Anyhow, over time, I made my peace with real fireworks, and in fact even enjoyed the Grucci displays over the East and Hudson Rivers during my years in New York — miles away from where I was standing, of course.   But, whether related to this initial aversion or not, I have always been reluctant to embrace metaphorical fireworks either.  Just something too ephemeral and excessive for my “all things in moderation” view of life. And the fact that I have spent most of my career as a lawyer in risk management positions, whether cause or effect, has only deepened my suspicion of all thing fireworks-y.

And, as to the obvious metaphorical issue of erotic fireworks, while I very much look forward to reading others’ supercharged stories on the topic, I will simply demur as to my own experiences via the old “Gentlemen don’t tell” escape hatch.

Profile photo of John Shutkin John Shutkin


  1. Laurie Levy says:

    John, your story really resonated with me. When my son was 4, my husband and a friend took their young boys to a fireworks show in the Northwestern University football stadium. No matter how well my husband covered our poor child’s ears or how much he attempted to make a game of anticipating the booms, he cried until they finally gave up and came home. Hope we didn’t create a long term aversion for him. I never asked. One advantage of wearing hearing aids is that I can remove them on the 4th. Never liked the noise either, although the spectacle is beautiful.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    We took our oldest to fireworks at too early an age and it really frightened him. We had to go home. They can be really frightening, as they are so loud and bright. I often have to close my eyes at the fireworks that I describe, as they are too bright for my sensitive eyes. Poor little Johnny.

  3. Foul, I say, John, foul. You start with the tease of a great gif as your principal image, and then. . . . Not. Ironically there is a dark side to the bright displays and it’s almost as if this is a Subject Not Discussed in Polite Company. Fireworks are explosives. Celebrating explosives is, well, “ridiculous” is too tame. Perhaps those like you who see the light and focus on the dark are the ones who have it right.

    • John Shutkin says:

      Thanks, Tom. I think there is a bit of self-selectively here in that Retro writers are likely to be fairly introspective and more honest about the “dark side” of things; or at least I would like to think so. Anyhow, having failed to invent wheels for suitcases, I continue to ponder how to make Scotch lite (all the buzz; none of the calories) and now silent fireworks.

  4. Marian says:

    I can relate, John. While I was battling mosquitoes, my younger brother was alternately covering his eyes and ears while crying. I wish we had been taken home.

  5. Suzy says:

    I have to agree with Tom that it was so wrong to have that fabulous gif for your Featured Image and then write a story about not liking fireworks. However, I got lost for a while watching the gif (that was before I learned what it was called by reading Tom’s comment). Glad to hear that you at least enjoyed the Grucci fireworks in New York! So far no stories on metaphorical fireworks, but yes, we can still hope.

    • John Shutkin says:

      I was pleasantly surprised when I downloaded the gif — yeah; I actually knew what they’re called — and it worked on the story. Imagine the possibilities for Retro, like the gif I just saw of the Lincoln Monument statute giving Trump and Melania the finger with both hands. And here’s hoping for some metaphorical fireworks stories. If not, we’ll have to have some metaphorical earthquake stories — i.e., “the earth moved” — from you Californians.

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