Fireworks

         

 

Jimmy had always loved fireworks, from the first Bonfire Night with his mum and dad in their back garden. He was five years old, and his mum held onto him tightly as they watched from a safe distance whilst dad bustled about, tending the bonfire and setting off the fireworks.

Dad was no gardener, and the back yard was an overgrown patch of rough grass and weeds; a grand playground where Jimmy and his friends played freely with no restrictions. There were no flowers or vegetables, and no angry shouts from irate parents about treading on precious plants.

All through the year, the weekly greengrocery order was delivered every Friday in a wooden orange crate. Jimmy's mum chopped them up for kindling, but from the beginning of summer onwards let him have them to play with. Stacked up they made excellent tanks, submarines and aircraft, and Jimmy and his mates played for hours in and around their imaginative constructions. By November 5th there was plenty of wood for a bonfire, and dad stacked the crates in the middle of the yard, with rolled up twists of newspaper tucked here and there as firelighters. Jimmy didn't mind losing his armoury for the bonfire, for there would always be more to follow.

As the fire began to burn, the roaring orange flames leapt high with showers of sparks, and the air filled with the sweet, hot, pungent aroma of woodsmoke. Jimmy felt his cheeks glow with the heat, as the flames roared and crackled, and his heart fluttered with excitement.

Dad had a couple of empty milk bottles standing partly buried in the earth, and inserted a rocket into each, taking care to point them away from the house. He lit the blue touchpaper, and stepped smartly back. The touchpaper glowed faintly, then after a dramatic pause, the rocket whooshed into life, and shot up into the sky at great speed, bursting high above with a bang and a fountain of coloured trails. Jimmy gasped. He had never seen such a thing. One after another, dad lit the Volcanoes, Roman Candles, rockets, Jumping Jacks and Catherine Wheels, and the night was filled with colour, spectacle, and the crisp smell of burning chemicals. The bangs, whooshes and fizzing, hissing noises, together with the roar and crackle of the bonfire rang in Jimmy's ears. He stood transfixed with joy, hoping that this spectacle would never end.

Blinking, as the after-images filled his vision with bright blobs of red, yellow, and blue, Jimmy was at last gathered up in her arms by his mum and taken off to bed. His mind whirled with all that he had seen, and the seeds of his future life were planted on that cold, clear November night.

Now, as he lay in a scrape in the desert, with a camouflage net over him, and the frost biting at his fingers, he thought back to that bonfire night and smiled. He had done well at school, especially in Chemistry, thanks to his interest in anything that went 'bang', and had survived the kind of dangerous experiments carried out by most schoolboys. One Christmas he had trudged up onto the moors after dinner, rather than watch the Queen's Speech whilst mum and dad dozed, full of turkey, pudding and cheap sherry. On his back he carried a rucksack filled with mortar bombs. He had found them, all harmless practice rounds, in a local scrapyard, and had laboriously filled them with a home made explosive mixture which he was keen to test. The moors reverberated to the steady 'crump' of mortar-fire, and Jimmy was ecstatic. His father less so, when he heard about it from the local police, who were unused to this kind of Christmas festivity. Dad just sighed and shook his head in disbelief.

Rather than go to university, Jimmy joined the Army, as this seemed like a good place to indulge his love of explosives, and his expectations were richly rewarded. He had learned how to deal with bombs, grenades, improvised explosive devices, booby traps and a host of other devices. His personal belief, shared with other Special Forces experts, was that there were few problems on Earth that couldn't be solved with high explosives.

Bringing his mind back into the present day, Jimmy checked his work yet again for any errors. Explosives were unforgiving of mistakes, and Jimmy had not lived this long by being careless. Over the previous two days, he and his comrades had laid their plans, and their explosive surprises were concealed from even the sharpest enemy sentry. There was enough 'HMX' explosive to put the Queen Mary into orbit, they reckoned; more than enough to satisfy the biggest fireworks fan around! It was a pity that Saddam Hussein would not see the show, as he would be reduced to atoms in the microsecond following detonation, but Jimmy and his mates would enjoy every moment. Fittingly, it was November 5th., and Saddam was to be the Guy on this Bonfire Night.

The target area was a new weapons facility, disguised as a toy factory, in the desert outside Fallujah; an unlikely place for a toy factory, but then Iraq under Saddam

Hussein was an unusual place. Intelligence had revealed that Saddam was to visit, and there was a strong contingent of his Republican Guard installed in expectation, to provide security.

The beauty of 'HMX' was that it could be mixed with flour and baked into bread rolls or pancakes, which could be eaten without ill effects. It went by the nickname "Aunt Jemima" after a famous old fashioned brand of pancake flour. Even Saddam's tasters, who checked his food for poison, would notice nothing amiss in the lavish buffet of pastries and spiced savoury snacks laid on for the dictator's visit.

Jimmy and his three colleagues, with great stealth and cunning, had secreted their special ingredients in the buffet, with the help of a local Kurdish baker whose entire family, along with thousands of others in Halabja, had been gassed by Saddam.

To their delight, the place was full of rockets, grenades and flares, and the effect of the HMX charges would be to set off a spectacular display, providing an impressive exit for Saddam, and much pleasure for the irrepressible Jimmy. He guffawed inwardly as he recalled those flashy TV chefs twittering on about putting chilli into a recipe "to give it a kick". Yeah, right!

As the evening turned to dusk, a cavalcade of limousines swept up to the building. Armed bodyguards sprang out of the vehicles, and the Republican Guards on duty stiffened to attention, relieved and apprehensive at the same time. They had been on parade for 5 hours now, awaiting Saddam, whose unpredictability had helped to keep him alive these many years.

A mile away, Jimmy waited until Saddam and his guards entered the 'toy factory', then calmly pressed the button on his radio detonator. A split second later, there was an almighty flash and a huge roiling eruption of flames and smoke. Rockets shot into the air, and the incandescent glow of flares lit up the scene in various colours. Seconds after the initial flash, the rumbling 'boom' echoed across the desert, followed by loud popping and crackling noises as the smaller arms went off in what was to Jimmy and his mates a very pleasing symphony of destruction. They smiled with satisfaction as they watched the display, then turned and crept away to the rendezvous with a helicopter for the ride back to base.

Next day, relaxing over a cuppa in the mess tent, they saw the familiar face of Saddam filling the tv screen, mouthing his usual blustering nonsense. They had evidently wiped out one of Saddam's many doubles, and the small regret that this was Jimmy's last firework display was replaced by the possibility that there would be another chance. As long as Saddam lived, and the British Army supplied the gear,

Jimmy could go on doing this to his heart's content. He loved fireworks.

 

 

Mike Biggs. 24/10/12