The fireworks display
The old man looked at his clock on the wall. It was time to get going. He stood up slowly from his comfortable chair, taking his time as he always did, before walking over to his front porch and grabbing his coat and putting it on. He did up his coat and took out his hat and gloves from the pockets before putting them on too.
It was a cold clear night outside, perfect for a fireworks display, but he wanted to ensure he would stay warm. He stepped out of his house and started walking towards the playing fields by the local leisure centre. He noticed a couple of others wrapped up leaving their homes as well. Some held torches to help them see in the areas where the yellow street lights didn’t reach, others had a sneaky hip flask of something strong hidden in their pocket to help warm them up from the inside later.
He joined the small group of people and walked out of their street onto the main road. The small group was soon joined by more groups, leaving their small side streets onto the main road. The groups moved closer together, until they converged into a crowd, all heading in the same direction, parents in the crowd holding their children’s hands tightly so they didn’t get lost.
They all headed towards the gate to get into the playing fields. The volunteer stewards prevented people from continuing until they had paid the entrance fee. There was always a short wait here while the people heading in dug deep in their pockets for change, hampered by the thick warm gloves limiting their dexterity.
Once through the narrow threshold the field opened up. On the left was the beer tent with its queue already starting to form outside the entrance. Straight ahead was where the fireworks would happen, with a barrier preventing onlookers getting too close to the firework display. On the right was the bonfire, towering overhead, but not yet lit.
He had got to the field in plenty of time to ensure he could find a good spot so he could see both the overhead fireworks and the ground based fireworks as well. Over the next half hour the field filled up, with the queue for the beer tent so long it was now indistinguishable from the rest of the crowd.
He looked at his watch. It wouldn’t be long now before it started, but there was no PA system or music, it wasn’t needed. The fireworks would start when the organisers were ready. There was a buzz of excitement in the crowd, with people talking to each other describing their favourite fireworks and the sounds they made.
All of a sudden, out of the corner of the field there was a loud whoosh. At once, the entire crowd stopped talking and turned to face the direction of the fireworks. The first firework had been lit and had launched high into the sky, leaving an orange trail in its wake. Everyone’s eyes followed the trail lighting up the sky until it faded away. Where did it go? Was the firework a dud? But then there was a huge flash of bright white light, followed shortly after by a thunderous BOOM, shaking the air around the crowd. The light spread in a circular direction into a cascade of smaller lights, before they changed to a blue colour before fading away completely.
The crowd cheered. The display had begun.
The next set of fireworks quickly followed. This set shot into the sky one by one, straight after each other, not as high as the first rocket but the quick succession of smaller booms was just as impressive. Once each had reached its peak it exploded outwards, before making a crackling sound as it fizzled back down towards the earth. The sky went from darkness to light, to darkness again as the sequential fireworks appeared and disappeared from view.
The crowd had warmed up now, begging to make ooh and ahh sounds to each firework without any prompt, just happy to experience the fireworks, however brief they were from launch to explosion to fading away.
The next set of fireworks were like traffic lights in the sky, changing from red to yellow to green as they fell after the explosion, almost seeming to reach the ground before they faded away again.
Next came the whistling fireworks, emitting a high pitched screech as they shot up into the sky, with no need for a bang as they burnt their gunpowder on the way into the air.
A series of rockets followed next. They ranged in height and power, exploding in different areas of the sky, with a range of different colours, from bright blue and red, to brilliant white and orange.
The next set of fireworks were like continuous fountains of light, pouring from the ground before gravity took its hold and the light tumbled downwards again. The children tried to rush to the front to get nearer the barriers for a closer look, but parents held on tight to the gloves and mittens, preventing them moving from their point in the crowd. Some parents lifted their children so they could see above the sea of people in front of them.
All went quiet as the fountains finished. There was a slight delay, people not sure if the display had finished or not. The organisers deliberately left a small gap to help build the tension before the finale began. The old man knew this from years of experience, but not everyone had been going as many times as he had.
People started talking quietly to each other, before three whooshes one after the other, making people stop talking and start cheering. The three rockets went in different directions, the first one to the left, the second to the right and the third straight up. First the one on the left exploded in a large circle of white, followed by the one on the right in red, then the central rocket exploded, louded and larger than the other two in bright white. The three fireworks seemed to last longer than they should have any right to, hanging in the air in unison before fading away slowly.
Then, just as the display had begun, a single rocket launched upwards, leaving a much larger orange trail behind it than any others from the night. This rocket went even higher than any other before it emitted a huge boom, lighting up the sky, but then it exploded again into three other circles of light, almost making the night seem like daylight for a few seconds, before it too faded away, leaving darkness and silence once more.
The crowd waited, hoping for more, but secretly they knew that this was the last firework of the night and the end of the display. The old man started clapping, a kind of muffled clap from the thick gloves he was wearing. Soon others joined in, making the muffled clap louder and louder, before the kids in the crowd started cheering along too.
The crowd had almost stopped clapping and cheering, but then suddenly the bonfire burst into life, glowing slowly in the middle before the fire quickly spread outwards to its edges. The crowd cheered and clapped once more at the light and the heat being given off from the fire.
Many people turned to start making their exit now, leaving the field and making their way back to the warmth of their homes. The man stayed for a while. There was something about watching a fire burn. Something primal. He stayed and watched as the fire burned and popped as it caught bits of sap trapped in the wood. Watching the flames dance and move from side to side in the gentle breeze. He looked above the fire, seeing the smoke lift high into the air above it, spreading out in all directions in the sky.
Despite the numerous layers and the heat of the bonfire, he was starting to feel chilled now. He turned away from the bonfire and made his way to the gate, able to leave quicker than he had entered with the crowd thinning out and the stewards happily waving people through.
He got home and took off his gloves and hat and poured himself a whiskey to help warm himself up from the inside and sat down in his chair. He was alone in his home once more, but he remembered back to when he was part of the crowd and part of the communal excitement and amazement of the fireworks. He stood up slowly and headed up to bed.
That night, his dreams were full of memories of previous fireworks displays. Previous firework displays he had not had to spend alone. Thinking of friends and family that were now together, seeing the fireworks from a different angle, looking down at them rather than up. He slept with a smile that night with memories of a happier time.