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The Firecracker War

A novelette by Wil C. Fry

Fifth Draft, May 15, 1989


Every Fourth of July there was a large fireworks display at Seminole Park, in Seminole, Oklahoma. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands of people would come from the surrounding area at 9 p.m. to see the dazzling display. These people would also bring their own fireworks, to expend them before, during, and after the main show. There were never many problems, so after many years of this, the local police department decided it was not worth supervising.
    Geraldean Anderson, commonly known as "Granny", lived on a large acreage a few miles out of Seminole, with her two cats and about 35-40 head of cattle. Granny's five children were all married with kids, and most of them had moved far away. Her oldest child, William, had four kids, and had moved to Bulverde, Texas, right outside of San Antonio. Granny's second son, Jerry, had three boys and was living in East Moline, Illinois. Norma, Granny's first daughter, lived across the highway from her, with her three kids. Carlton, the next boy, had one girl, and lived in Mississippi. Onieta, the last of Granny's kids, born on Christmas Eve, had two kids and lived in Claremore, Oklahoma, near Tulsa.
    These five families made frequent visits to Granny's house, to keep her company, and also to visit with each other. William's oldest son, Rick, at 16, was pretty good friends with Onieta's oldest daughter, Nora, also 16. Their brothers and sisters were also pretty close, and they had spent many of their memorable childhood hours at Granny's house.
    On July 4, 1989, William Anderson and his family was there, along with Oneita, her husband Larry Turner, and her kids. While Granny stayed home to clean her house, the Turners and Andersons rode in their respective station wagons to the fireworks display.
    The day before, they had spent much of their time and money buying fireworks to celebrate their nation's 213th birthday. They had Roman Candles, Fountains, Volcanoes, an assortment of rockets, Black Cats, Lady Fingers, and the new, more powerful G-12 Smoke Bomb. They just sat around talking about these, until the main display started.
    Rick Anderson, and Nora's eleven year-old brother, Larry Ray, wandered down through the park a little, to get a better view, and so they could set off their own fireworks away from the others. From their new vantage point, the two sat and watched the giant, expensive rockets explode overhead, causing loud, awed cries to arise from the audience.
    The biggest one was saved till last, and after it was over, Rick and Larry started laying out their fireworks. Larry picked a Saturn rocket to start his, and he set it up carefully. While Rick stood back, Larry bent over, lit the fuse, and backed away.
    What happened next was almost too fast to see. The Saturn rocket's stabilizer fins had not been glued on tightly enough, and when the rocket shot into the air, the fins stayed on the ground. Larry gasped as the rocked careened across the park, zipping between people and cars. Finally, it crashed into a six-pack of Coors Light, which was sitting in the middle of a group of five half-drunk young men, and it exploded loudly. The beer cans were ripped apart, spraying beer all over the men, and across nearby people.
    The biggest of the five men also happened to be the most drunk. He sputtered and wiped the beer from his eyes while yelling obscenities to no one in particular. He grabbed one of his own rockets, and aimed it at Larry. Just before it went off, he hiccupped , and the rocket went wide of its target. Several people, including Larry, shrieked with horror when the rocket plowed its way into a young girl's back. It exploded, and ripped a hole in her. Larry turned his eyes away, and whispered, "Oh no..."
    The girl's boyfriend grabbed a cigarette lighter and several Roman Candles, and started running toward the drunk man. Larry's father saw this and yelloed, "Larry, Nora, get in the car!", just as the man lit the Candles, throwing fireballs right at the now horrified drunk man. Several missed, and hit innocent people, and one hit the ground, quickly catching the tall dry grass on fire.
    The five drunk men all started pulling out their fireworks, and they prepared for revenge. Rick stood watching all this, and slowly backed towards his family's car, as a lot of other people seemed to be doing. Some of the other innocent people that had been burnt were now crying and screaming, but one or two were also entering the growing skirmish.
    Rick watched as a rocket exploded near Larry's dad, almost blowing his arm off. Rick gasped and started running tward them. He helped Larry's dad get into the car, and as he opened the back door for Larry, a giant of a man ran past, knocking both of them to the ground. A rocket dug into the ground between them and the car, and exploded, almost blinding Larry, and starting the grass on fire. Rick yelled to Onieta, Larry's mom, "Go ahead and take Big Larry to the hospital! We'll take Little Larry with us!"
    Onieta shouted "Okay!", and started the car. She drove off down the road towards the park exit while Rick picked Larry up, and the two started running for the Anderson's station wagon. Rick's dad, William, was beckoning vigorously as he started the car.
    "Get over here!" he yelled. "Hurry, before there's a traffic jam at the—" An explosion cut him off in mid-sentence, and they all looked to see the remains of an exploded pickup burning away. A man ran by, screaming "Cheryl! Cheryl! Ahhh!" He bumped into Larry, knocking him to the ground again. A fireball from a Roman Candle hit the man in the chest, and burned him. he fell to the ground, gasping for air. Rick picked Larry up again, and shoved him towards the car.
    Rick's younger sister, Heather, at 13, yelled, "Oh no! Get out! There's a rocket!" She dove out the open door as the others looked up to see a big rocket arching through the sky towards their car. It hit near the gas tank spout just as they opened their doors, and exploded. Rick shielded Larry with his body as the car ripped apart with a roar and a flash of light.
    They got up and all started running in diverse directions. William Anderson was crawling, because he had been burnt so badly. Rockets and other fireworks were going off all over, and there was smoke everywhere. The grass fires started by earlier rockets had spread, and were converging towards on another. People were shouting at the top of their lungs, some in anger, some in anguish, and some just to find out what was going on.
    Rick led Larry on a helter-skelter path between parked cars, moving cars, wounded people, other running people, and flaming fireworks. Nora, Rick's cousin, and Heather, Rick's sister, tried to follow them, but in the growing confusion, they were separated. Rick saw the woods that neighbored the park, and headed for them. Larry tripped over a rock, but Rick kept sprinting, dragging Larry by the hand.
    At the same time, nora and Heather were running through the same wood, about a hundred feet to the right. They had accidently stumbled upon an ancient trail, and made a lot better time than Rick and Larry.
    "Where are we going?" asked Heather breathlessly, trying to keep up with Nora's flying feet.
    "I don't know or care," Nora answered, "but we've got to get away from that," indicating the noise behind them with a nod of her head. Now handguns could be heard going off, among other explosions, roaring car engines, squealing tires, and screaming people.
    Nora and Heather suddenly came out of the woods, onto a road near downtown Seminole. Nora said, "Hey, we could go into town and call Granny so she could come get us." Heather agreed, so they started jogging towards downtown. A car sped by on the road, and the riders were firing shots at them with a handgun. They dove for cover in the ditch, then resumed their journey, talking among themselves about all the unexpected events.
    Then they heard an explosion and looked up. The Seminole Pizza Hut was on fire, and several windows were broken. They stopped walking, and watched. There was a group of people in front of Wal-Mart, and they were shouting and kicking at the plate glass windows. Alarm bells were clanging, and another group of people started shooting at the first group. Then two police cars drove up, sirens and guns blazing away. The first two groups seemed to forget their former quarrel, and turned their fire to the police cars, which were quickly reduced to shattered glass and crumpled aluminum hulks.
    Three or four people ran out of Wal-Mart, carrying rifles and boxes of ammunition. They handed them out, and disappeared into the night. There was an explosion, and flames poured out of the broken windows of the darkened Wal-Mart.
    Nora and Heather turned and started running down the road towards Granny's house, several miles away. They could hear explosions every now and then, and almost every building they passed was on fire, or totally demolished by hoodlums.

*

    Rick and Larry had almost decided they were lost forever in the woods, when they broke through a hedge of thorn bushes, and saw a highway. About fifty yards down, there was a truck parked on the side of the road. They began walking toward the truck, but when they got closer, they saw that both side windows had been shot out. When Rick looked into the window, he gasped and almost threw up his supper. There were two dead people inside, and blood all over the seats. He decided that a truck was no use to dead people, so he asked Larry to help him drag the bodies out.
    Larry walked up, turned around, and regurgitated, causing Rick to do the same. Then they heaved the bodies into the ditch. Larry found a rag under the seat and wiped most of the blood off the seats. Rick found the keys in the ignition, so they climbed in and drove off in a 1989 4x4 Ford Bronco.
    Rick kept it in four-wheel drive, and drove in the ditch, since every now and then a car would speed by on the road, either trying to get away, or trying to get revenge for their wounds. After a few minutes, there was a rush of cars, getting away from the fighting in Seminole, with several police cars among them, and Rick turned off into a cornfield, driving through a fence.
    After a few minutes of driving through the half-grown corn stalks, Rick spotted two figures crawling through the field ahead of him. He stopped the truck and called out, "Who's there?"
    "Nora and Heather," a voice replied, and Nora and Heather, recognizing Rick, stepped up to the truck. Rick opened his door, and let them into the cramped back seat. He turned the ignition, and drove off, heading for the highway.

*

    When they were almost to Granny's acreage, Heather spotted the Turners' station wagon on the side of the road. Rick skidded to a halt, and they piled out. The car's windows were shattered, the doors and fenders were all smashed in, and the tires were flat. Onieta (Nora and Larry's mom) was lying dead in the front seat, and Shari, Rick's eleven-year-old sister, stepped out of the back door and said, "Oh, guys, I thought you'd never show up." She almost started crying, but she got composed, and continued: "We left Uncle Larry at the hospital, and on the way here, some bad guys shot up the car." They climbed back into the truck, and headed for Granny's house.

*

    Upon arrival at Granny Anderson's house, the kids rushed inside and started telling Granny about all that had happened, and she sat in the dining room, listening horrified. Rick, meanwhile, led Nora to Granny's back closet, where her late husband's guns were stored. He pulled out the 12-gauge shotgun, the .22 rifle, and the bullets for both. He loaded the guns, and carried them into the living room.
    It was almost forty-five minutes after the fighting started, when Rick heard on the radio that the National Guard had been called in to do what the police could not. He was relating the news to the others when they heard the crack of a rifle outside. They rushed to the window, and looking outside, where they saw several dark figures dragging a cow across the field. Rick handed Nora the .22 rifle and stepped outside, holding the 12-gauge. She followed him out, and they crept silently across the yard, towards the fence. Nora aimed at a man, and shot, but missed.
    Then they heard a hissing sound, and an arrow punched through one of the men's backs. Nora and Rick turned and saw Larry, holding Granny's bow and five more arrows. He pointed, and they saw several people in Granny's garden trying to get food. Nora, Rick, and Larry spread out, trying to protect Granny's property. Finally, Nora shot again, and a man cried out, dropped his loot, and took off running (or rather, limping).
    A man sneaking up behind Rick would have clobbered him and stolen the 12-gauge, but somehow the back of his head collided with a swiftly moving .22 barrel, held by Nora. Needless to say, the man collapsed. After a whisper of thanks, Rick squeezed the trigger of his shotgun carefully. The well-aimed shot hit a man at the edge of the garden, who howled in pain and clutched his wounded shoulder. Nora's aimed .22 went off, opening a small hole in the man's head, causing him to fall over and become dead.
    Then footsteps in the darkness alerted Rick to a man running toward Larry. Rick lept through the air and brought the man down hard with a flying tackle. Larry turned around with a surprised look on his face, then let his next arrow fly. With a crunch, it penetrated a man's temple, and protruded on the other side. The man screamed and fell over.
    Then there was a scream inside the house; someone had broken through the outer defense. Rick ran to the door, only to stop in surprise. His wiry sister Heather was on the man's shoulders, pounding his face, while Shari grabbed his waist, and threw him on the floor. Shari held him down while Heather jumped up and down on his face. Then Shari stomped on his groin, and he passed out. Rick then returned to his post outside. This type of hair-raising defense went on all night.

*

    The next morning, dead and wounded bodies littered the yard, and all of the Turners and Andersons were tired out. Rick's shoulder was black and blue from firing the 12-gauge, and Larry had a black eye. Heather had sprained her wrist, and Nora had twisted an ankle. They were sitting in Granny's living room, trying to stay awake. They had eaten some cereal for breakfast, along with some toast, and now they were sleepy.
    The radio droned on: "Somehow last night, in Seminole, Oklahoma, at a fireworks display, a fight broke out. As of yet, it hasn't been determined who started it, but within an hour, there were over 250 people dead, and 450 people wounded. Over 50 of these were policemen and law officers from the surrounding area. Here, in Oklahoma City, the crime rate has already risen by more than 40%. This unusual increase in crime has been mostly caused by refugees and participants of last night's battle, according to local authorities.
    "The police are trying hard to stop this fighting, but some makeshift fighting groups in Seminole have made contact with several of the larger gangs in Oklahoma City."
    The news announcer went on to another subject, and Rick turned the radio down. "Well, guys," he started, "what do you think we should do?"
    It was decided that Rick should drive into town with Shari, to see if any food could be had (since Granny was almost out). Upon arriving in town, all they saw were burned, looted buildings, and wandering gangs of armed men, women, and children. Rick stopped the truck at the IGA grocery store, and looked in through the broken plate glass windows; there was no one inside. Most of the things had been stolen, but there were a few things left. He took the gun (the 12-gauge), told Shari how to drive the truck, and went inside. He came out frequently with bags of groceries, and after bringing out twelve sacks, he looked around for someone to pay; there was still no one. He then climbed into the truck and drove back to Granny's house.

*

    Occasionally, there was a gang of bandits that came through Granny's land, trying to get food, or just to fight, but the Turners and Andersons survived. The next day, on July 6th, Nora and Larry's dad came in through the woods, carrying an armload of weapons and ammo, and favoring his bandaged left arm. He told the rest of the family how he had been at the hospital when it had been flooded by wounded and hungry. He had decided to leave then, and just as he was leaving, a gang attacked the building. He also said that it was probably completely destroyed by now. By that time, a lot of the radio stations in Oklahoma City had been destroyed by hoodlums and warring gangs, but there were still a few left to hear the news on. So Rick's uncle Larry spent a lot of time listening to the radio for news, and cleaning their guns.
    The interminable speech of the radio announced mumbled on: "This is the last day this radio station will be broadcasting, because of the intense fighting here in Oklahoma City. The National Guard has been called in to squelch the fighting, but the gangs are now of such numbers and organization that the Guard is being soundly beaten.
    "President Bush is considering sending in the Army, but he says that it will have to wait. I don't think anyone outside the 'war zone' actually knows how bad the situation is. In fact, there is a battle getting ready to happen on the street below this office. I'm looking out my window on the twenty-second floor, overlooking Main Street.
    "It appears that there are about forty to fifty people barricaded on one side, and sixty to seventy people attacking with jeeps and machine guns. There is a National Guard unit coming down a side street with about twenty-five men...
    "What's this! A noise in the staircase. Well, radio-land, it seems that I've finally met my end. Well, I was a good man..."
    There was a bang and a click, and there were no more transmissions from that station. Big Larry looked up, changed the station, and continued cleaning the guns.

*

    Rick, who was on guard duty on July 8th, lifted Granny's field glasses to his eyes, and scanned the landscape for any sign of danger. There was a curious looking vagrant to the South, toward Granny's canyons. As Rick continued his sweep, he saw something which caused him to stop and stare. Norma, Granny's third child, had married James Gillespie, and they lived across the highway from Granny. When her house had come into view in his binoculars, Rick had seen that it was surrounded by about fifteen to twenty people.
    Little Larry ran out of the house. "Hey, Rick," he said, "Aunt Norma just called, and she said someone's attacking their house. They need help!"
    "I know," Rick breathed. "Look." He handed the field glasses to Larry.
    Minutes later, Big Larry, Little Larry, Nora, and Rick were in Rick's truck, heading up Granny's driveway. They went through the gate, across the highway, and up the Gillespie's drive-way. Rick's uncle Larry had the 12-gauge, Rick had a .22 that Big Larry had brought them, Nora had Granny's .22, and Little Larry had another .22 that his dad had brought.
    They could hear the gunshots of the enemy, and they could see their frightened relatives in the windows of their house, protecting their endangered abode. Rick parked the truck, and they got out. They were running low through the tall grass in front of the Gillespie's house, when Big Larry hefted the shotgun, and blasted one of the gangsters. Then all of them commenced firing. Nora got the second hit, and Rick and Little Larry hit the same man at the same time.
    From the looks of the situation, they decided that the gangsters had been dousing the house with oil and gasoline, and taking potshots at the windows and doors. One of them was holding a lit torch, and was carrying it toward the house. All of the gangsters were wearing torn, bloody rags that used to be clothes. They hadn't shaved or combed their hair in five days, and most of them were drunk.
    Rick started circling the group to get a good shot at the torch-holder, and he got off a good shot. The bullet cracked the torch in two, but the gangster kicked the lit end toward the house. The flames caught, and while the four attackers were picking off gangster after gangster, the whole house was engulfed.
    Big Larry ran forward, blasting at the enemy with his twelve-gauge, and heading for the door. A gangster dropped him with a shot to the thigh. Nora promptly opened the gangster's chest with three quick shots. The other hoodlums starting firing at Nora, and they tore up the ground all around her. Little Larry fired at one of the remaining hoodlums and shattered his shoulder; the man dropped to the ground with a shriek of pain.
    While this gunplay was going on, Rick sprinted to the back door, and rushed inside. The Gillespies were gathering their most valuable belongings. Within minutes, they had all of the stuff they wanted in their truck and two cars. Rick fired at the criminals from the carport while the Gillespies drove to Granny's house.
    Nora was still keeping the gangsters busy while Little Larry helped Big Larry to the truck. Nora and Rick kept firing as they retreated slowly, toward Rick's Bronco. The six gangsters left were almost all wounded, so they didn't follow, but ran the other way, throught the field behind the Gillespies' burning house.
    The Gillespies, Anderson, and Turners all agreed that the Gillespies should move into Granny's house along with the rest of the family, so they did. After that, the population of Granny's property consisted of Granny Anderson, Rick Anderson, Heather Anderson, Shari Anderson, Larry Ray Turner (Little Larry), Nora Turner, Larry Turner (Big Larry), James Gillespie, Norma Gillespie, Scarlett, Cassandra, and Clay Gillespie; a few wandering vagrants, and about 15 cows (several cows had been killed by passersby, looking for food).
    Because of the lack of gas stations, they only used their cars in extreme emergencies. The electricity had gone out, so refrigerated items were soon useless. They were also low on ammo, so they saved it everytime possible. For food, they used homemade traps to kill squirrel and rabbit, which they cooked over an open campfire in Granny's yard.

*

    From listening to the battery-powered radio, they learned that the 'firecracker war' had spread to Tulsa. On July 10th, the radio announcer said: "Yesterday, the U.S. Army completed a blockade set up around the danger zone. Their mission was to contain the fighting, but they failed. Many members of fighting gangs in Oklahoma City ran the blockade, and many refugees, without food or money, are flooding Tulsa, and other cities near the 'war zone'.
    "Today, riots broke out in several areas here in Tulsa..." Several seconds were filled with loud static, interrupting the faraway radio announcer. Then he came back on, "...were killed, and over a hundred wounded, before noon today...." The station faded out again, and Rick turned off the radio.

*

    The next morning, at around 7:00 a.m., Rick, Little Larry, Nora, and Heather were sitting in Granny's front yard, watching their breakfast cook over the fire, and talking. Rick commented, "You know, with all that fighting in Tulsa, someone'll be bound to beat up y'all's house."
    "Yeah," said Larry, "but we'll find a way somehow. You know how 'all things work together for good...' "
    " '...for them that love the Lord'," Rick finished. "I know all that. I was just thinking out loud."
    "Well," said Nora, "at least we're here at Grany's house, and not at home."
    "Yeah," Heather replied. "We're having a lot of peace and quiet here in the 'war zone'."
    And it was peaceful, except for a small gang on July 15th, which stole a cow, and lost two members to Nora's blazing gun, and one to Big Larry's gun.

*

    Early in the morning on July 20th, after Rick Anderson and Clay Gillespie got back from a firewood-gathering expedition, and set down their armloads of chopped logs, Rick flipped on the battery-powered radio, and fiddled with the dials. Finally, he picked up a voice: "...the battle yesterday. Over the past several days, as most of you know, the United States Army has constructed another barricade around the 'war zone', and it was thought invincible.
    "Well, yesterday afternoon, at 2:35 p.m., over 2,000 refugees, gangsters, rebels and drunkards raided the barricade, and after two hours of bloody fighting, the rebels prevailed. It seems incomprehensible to all war experts that such an unorganized group of vagrants could beat the Army, but they did just that..." static "... only 800 remained, but they possessed and drove several dozen tanks, jeeps, and trucks. Following this wild band of refugees were over 4,000 escaping vagrants; incidentally, people who used to lead normal, happy lives.
    "As they passed through the hole in the barricade, the Army tried to close the hole, but it grew wider and wider. Finally, the whole barricade collapsed. The death toll since July 4th has now sprinted past 25,000..." the static took over again.
    Rick and Clay stared at the radio set in disbelief. Rick thought, "Twenty-five thousand dead, and all because one little rocket misfired. It's not fair. That's stupid!"
    He finally spoke up, "You know, Clay, now that the barricade's been broke, the fightin'll probably keep spreadin'. Maybe to some other cities, like Dallas-Ft. Worth, Amarillo, or maybe even Kansas City."
    "Yeah," agreed Clay sullenly, "but it might not."
    "We can just hope," Rick said.
    "Yeah," Clay agreed.

*

    On August 2, 1989, Nora and Little Larry were cooking breakfast, and Rick was just waking up, when Big Larry shouted, "Get away! Those are our cows!"
    He was shouting at a lone man who was trying to sneak up on a cow. Rick grabbed for his gun, as did everyone else. Several other people started walking out of the woods, all holding guns. The man in the field shouted back, "I'll take it if I feel like it!"
    He pointed his gun at the cow, and Nora punctured his temple with a .22 bullet. He screamed in agony, and as he fell over, he shouted, "Get 'em!" and the people over by the woods started firing toward Granny's house.
    One of Granny's windows was shattered by a bullet, and Cassandra screamed out of fright. Rick shot out of the broken window, and dropped one of the attackers. More people started coming out of the woods until about thirty people had grouped around Granny's inner fence. They were coming forward one step at a time.
    Big Larry fired, and hit a woman in the leg; she tumbled to the ground. James Gillespie pulled the trigger of his German Luger, and hit a man in the chest. Little Larry fired and missed; at the same time, Nora shot and killed another gangster. Rick shot again, hitting someone's arm. It was the first time he could remember hitting two people in a row. Big Larry fired and missed, and Nora wounded another.
    "Ahhh!" James let out a tremendous howl. When the others looked, his hand was bleeding. Rick turned and killed another gangster. They were coming closer and closer, but they were also getting picked off one by one. Rick's Uncle Larry got hit toward the end, in his leg, but finally the gang, with only six members remaining, retreated.

*

    After that small incident, there was no excitement at all for weeks. Each week, someone drove into town to see if anything was going on. Nothing had changed; there were burnt, decrepit buildings everywhere, and smashed cars littered the streets, along with bodies and other garbage. No radio broadcasts could be picked up.

*

    On August 21rst, Rick and Larry Ray (Little Larry) were taking a routine patrol around Granny's inner fenceline, which, unlike the outer one, remained standing. Larry was thinking about his Saturn rocket, and why he bought it. He knew that if he hadn't bought it and lit it, none of this would have happened. He really had no idea how much destruction had been caused, but he knew that thousands of people had died because of him.
    Rick tried for over an hour to encourage him, but nothing worked, and Larry Ray sank into deeper and deeper depression. As they discussed this matter, they slowly forgot their guard duties, and a lonely, ragged refugee had wandered up. He listened for several minutes, then cried out, "so you're the one who started all this mess?"
    Rick and Larry both jumped, each reaching for his own knife, then they saw how helpless the old man was. "Yeah," Larry said, "it's my fault you're dressed like that."
    The old man smiled and said, "Don't worry about it, son, I forgive you. After all, I've dressed like this all my life. I'm a bum, y'know. Now everyone gets a chance to see what it's like. But don't worry, son. You couldn't have known it would misfire."
    This cheered Larry up, and the two invited the old man in for a bite to eat. After eating he thanked them, and continued on his way.
    For thirty days, nothing exciting happened to the inhabitants of Granny's property. On September 20th, Rick's seventeenth birthday, a large troop truck drove up to Granny's gate and turned in. Everyone in the house that knew how to shoot a gun grabbed one, and headed for the windows. The truck parked in Grany's driveway, and three clean, well-dressed soldiers stepped out. One, obviously the superior of the three, was holding a brand new pistol in his hand, and the other two were armed with machine guns, right out of the factory.
    The first soldier stepped in the yard, and called out: "I am Lieutenant Graves of the U.S. Army, and we have come to liberate you. Who is the leader here?"
    Big Larry looked around at the other people in the hosue, then, after running a hand through his unkempt hair, he stepped out the door, clutching his rifle. "I guess I'm the leader here. We're so glad to see you." He shook Graves' hand, and asked, "Is the 'war' over?"
    "Well, almost," answered Graves, "probably just a few more days. I'm going to leave a few armed men here with you, to take inventory of everything that was damaged during the war. You should have electricity within a week." He turned to the truck and called out, "Johnson! Hartland! Trodeau! Get over here." Three clean-shaven young soldiers with brand new clothes and equipment hopped out of the truck and trotted up. Graves introduced them to Big Larry, then turned to go.
    "Wait!" cried Big Larry. "There's something I think you should know. I can tell you how the war started."
    "I've already heard several stories," replied Graves, "and they all have a little boy starting the 'war'. It's balognie!"
    "Well," answered Big Larry, "that 'little boy' is my son."
    Graves stopped dead in his tracks, then turned around. "What?" he said dumbly. Larry Ray stepped out of the house, not knowing what to say. "Well," Graves said, "I believe you, but don't worry—I'm sure no one will press charges." With that, he left.
    Johnson, Hartland, and Trodeau spent almost six hours walking all over Granny's property, listing things that had been damaged during the war. After that, Granny and Norma Gillespie invited them in for supper. They accepted, and after eating, they sat around the living room, and talked with the Andersons, Turners, and Gillespies. First, the Turners and Andersons told how the war had started, then the Gillespies told what had happened to them, and finally, the three soldiers told about the events of the past month or so.
    Trodeau started by saying, "Well, after that blockade past Tulsa broke, the whole 'war zone' seemed as if it was going to expand infinitely. Dallas, Ft. Worth, Amarillo, Wichita, Kansas City, and even Little Rock were almost totally destroyed."
    "Yeah," Johnson said, cutting in, "I'm from Little Rock. My family got away, luckily. They lost almost everything they had. Coming in, we saw that several of those cities were totally devastated."
    "Then," Hartland added, "Bush declared a national emergency. They called in all the reserve troops, and everyone was sent to the new blockade. They even had A-10 'Thunderbolts' out there strafing people who tried to get out."
    The listeners sat with their eyes open wide, listening to all this in fascination. Trodeau continued: "Well we moved in slowly, along with policemen, firemen, Red Cross volunteers, Salvation Army platoons, and news reporters. That was August 21rst, when we started moving in. By the time we got inside Oklahoma, construction contractors were already building new buildings where the old ones had been destroyed."
    Rick burst out, "You mean they actually destroyed buildings?"
    "Yeah," Hartland replied, "they were using dynamite as one of their main weapons. I don't have any idea where they got it."
    Johnson concluded by saying, "Actually, the hardest fighting for us was at the edge of the 'war zone'; after the first few days of pushing inward, we've mainly just marched, ridden in trucks, and visited people's houses. Well, I'm ready to turn in."
    Over the next three days, Trodeau, Johnson, and Hartland helped the three families to repair Granny's house and land. On September 24th, they left, after saying good-bye, and exchanging temporary addresses. The three families finally got Granny's outer fence line finished on September 29th, the same day on which their electricity was restored.
    All of the children in the 'war zone' were granted excused absence from school while their homes and schools were being rebuilt or repaired. Since Rick and his sisters lived outside the 'war zone', in Bulverde, Texas, he just dropped out, to help his family rebuild their homes.
    It was only during this time of reconstruction that their losses were mourned (they had lost Onieta [Nora and Larry's mom], Bill Anderson [Rick's dad], Sherry Anderson [Rick's mom], and Zane Anderson [Rick's three-year-old brother]). Everyone was comforted by the fact that these family members had all passed on to a better land. Rick realized that he would have to support his sisters by working full time.
    After Granny's land had been repaired, the three families rebuilt the Gillespies' house from the ground up. Then they drove up to Claremore, near Tulsa, to repair the Turners' property. It took until Christmas to get the houses completed, and until that time, no one in the family held a normal job.
    A week after Christmas, a contractor in Oklahoma City offered Rick a job for his engineering skills. It was only a small company, but it was a paying job, and they were working on some buildings in Seminole, so Rick took it. Then Rick sold his family's house and other car in San Antonio, along with all but his family's most precious belongings. He moved their most favored belongings to Granny's house in the back of his truck. After several weeks at work, he replaced the shattered windows of the truck, and later bought a stereo. Shari and Heather lived with Granny and went to school with Clay Gillespie.
    It would take a long time for the old 'war zone' to recuperate, and even longer for the mental and emotional pain to go away, but they did, because God had created the earth and its inhabitants to be able to survive. Our race was also created with a few faults, as this historical account relates. We just need to remember that even fun things (like fireworks) aren't necessarily toys (if you know what I mean).


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Dec. 31, 2011


I remember that the last paragraph was added after someone told me there should be a moral to the story. I hadn't wanted there to be a moral—just an ending, but I tacked on the false-sounding conclusion anyway.
    Looking back at this tale after more than 22 years, I had a few laughs. In more than one instance, I slapped my forehead at my own teenage ignorance. Still, I think the story idea is viable. It arose from kids my age using the term "firecracker war" to refer to tossing lit firecrackers at each other. Yes, we actually did things like that in the 1980s in rural Oklahoma. I wondered, "What if an actual war began because of such a thing?" and tried to play it out.
    A few things should be noted. First, all the main characters are real people, and in most cases I used their real names. The only names I changed were my own (to Rick) and my family's surname (to Anderson). The four soldiers are made up; I picked their names at random from a phone book.
    Second, I took a few liberties with the layout of Seminole. There are no "woods" neighboring the Seminole Municipal Park.
    Third, it's not clear from the story that Granny's property has an outer fence (surrounding the property) and an inner fence (surrounding the small yard and house).
    Fourth, I have no explanation for: how people suddenly became hungry and starving just a few hours after the melee began, why the phones continued to work so long afterward, how Rick 'told Shari how to drive the truck' in a couple of minutes, or what "engineering skills" Rick had at age 17.



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