Having never liked fireworks, Nolan hated every festival, ever. People would gather and chat and eat and cavort around, which was all well and good. But always, once dark fell, the sky would be filled with lights and colour and loud booms that shattered even the strongest peace.

It started as a child. His parents would drag him out to every fireworks show they could, near or far. Sometimes they traveled for two or three hours, just to see the explosions.

As a child, Nolan had terribly sensitive hearing. He still did, at forty, able to hear the higher frequencies most adults couldn’t. When his students had tried to use mosquito ringtones, they had invariably been caught by Nolan’s ears. So as a child, the explosions – particularly the flash-booms – were troubling at best, and horrific at worst.

As the Gainsby Town Days wound down to a close, then, he stood arguing with the fire marshall on the beach, making little headway, as always.

“I’m telling you, Eric, it’s a fire hazard and a nuisance.”

“I know you don’t like them, Nolan, but the rest of the people do. These have been planned for a year, the town spent a great deal – more than I wanted, I’ll grant – on these, so we’re setting them off.”

“If you do, I’ll report you for disturbing the peace.”

“Again, Nolan? Remember last year? You were fined for bothering the police. And I’ll tell you, Jim’s ready to do so again, I was talking to him earlier. If you want, though, he’s just over there.” Eric pointed. “You go right ahead. But we’re setting these things off in twenty minutes, like it or not.”

“What about the veterans?” Nolan said, trying the tactic he had planned since February.

“I’m sorry?”

“The veterans! They were in the war, explosions everywhere. You’re exacerbating their shell-shock, their PTSD. Why do you hate the veterans?”

Eric sigh. “We don’t hate the veterans. They love the fireworks as much as anyone. Just go to your basement, Nolan, and put some earplugs in until it’s all done and over with.”

“You don’t get it, Eric. It’s stupid lights and loud booms to celebrate, what, the government stealing this land from the native people? Despicable.”

“Sure sure. Now if you’ll excuse me…”

Eric walked off to the other volunteer firefighters. Nolan could see them gesturing to him as they chatted. So, in a last-ditch effort of annoyance and frustration, Nolan took off for the first large explosive stuck in the sandy beach. He reached it, pulled it free, and threw it toward the water. It landed with a splash, and he had just reached the second one when Eric and three other burly firefighters tackled him.

Nolan was escorted to the town jail and left there while everyone returned to the beach. A few moments later, he was forced to watch the jail cell light up in multi-coloured splendour – Jim having turned the cell lights off just for the fireworks show – and suffer the concussive noise of each a second later.

Nolan stuffed his fingers in his ears, closed his eyes, and plotted his revenge.

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