“Are we going to see the fireworks tonight?” Christine’s mother, Anita, asked her.
“Do you want to?” Christine asked from behind her computer screen at the kitchen table. She was finishing the last lines to her article about moisturizing color-treated natural hair. She was racing against both the clock—the submission deadline was 11:59pm—and the computer battery—she only had eleven percent of battery life left, and her charger was lost somewhere in her room.
“What are you working on? Your blog?”
“It’s an article for this natural hair magazine,” Christine said as she forcefully pushed her index finger down on the final period.
“Can’t that wait?” Anita asked.
“Writing articles for these magazines and websites are what’s paying my bills, Ma,” Christine said, annoyed that her mother still didn’t understand that being a freelance writer was her dream job. She wanted to forge her own destiny, not kiss up to some disconnected white man in a suit, spending all of her time working her ass of to make him rich, only to lose her job to someone in India five years later.
“What bills? You still live here!”
Christine slammed her laptop shut. “It takes a while to get started,” she said. “I just got my first article published last week. Hopefully the jobs will start filing in now.”
“Well good. I’m ready to get you out. It’s hard to have empty nest syndrome when my kids never leave!” Anita said, throwing up her arms.
“Can we go? I’m getting antsy.” Suddenly, they heard a series of loud pops from just outside the window. “See!” Anita said, “They’ve already started!”
“Are you sure that’s not just some gangster emptying his clip? We do live in the hood,” Christine said with a smirk. She rose from her seat and went to her room to get her purse and shoes. When she returned to the kitchen her mother was already waiting for her at the back door, keys in had. They walked outside together an got in the car. They could hear loud whistles and pops coming from all directions.
“Where should we go?” Anita said, cranking the car.
“Where are they shooting?”
“Everywhere!” she said circling her head around. “Let’s just ride.” She backed the car out of the driveway and started down the street. She rolled down the windows to listen for fireworks and determine where they were coming from. The charcoal smoke from the ends of cookouts poured into the car, making Christine regret not eating while she worked on her article. Some of the neighbors sat outside on their front porches listening to music, their children running wild in the street, looking up for the multicolored sparks of fire in the sky. Avoiding the children was like driving through an obstacle course.
“Where these kids parents at?” Christine asked.
“Not paying attention,” Anita said. She slammed on her brakes just as a little girl darted in front of the car. She turned and frowned into the headlights as if Christine and her mother were in the wrong place.
“Get out of the street!” Christine yelled.
“Aww she has on a Hello Kitty shirt,” Anita said with a smile. The girl slowly returned to the curb and stuck her tongue out at Christine.
“That Hello Kitty shirt saved your life, little girl!” Christine yelled out of the window.
“Stop it,” Anita said, accelerating her speed now that the little road blocks had cleared.
“I hate kids,” Christine mumbled.
“Well you were once one.”
“That’s different. I’m—”
“I heard a crack!” Anita shouted, making a sudden, sharp left turn. She pointed ahead of her, where they could faintly see an array of lights just over the trees.
“Ok, Ma, don’t wreck the car,” Christine said sarcastically, hanging onto the door handle.
“Sorry,” Anita said with a chuckle. “It looks like they’re coming from that new amphitheater they built on Spring Avenue.”
“It’s probably crowded over there,” Christine said.
Anita kept driving, swinging the car in whichever direction she heard a crack and saw sparks of light. She turned into a dark neighborhood where people gathered to the side of the road to catch a cheap view of the show.
“How can they see? There are trees everywhere,” Christine said.
Anita slammed on the brakes.
“Ma, could you stop doing that? I’m gonna get whiplash,” Christine said.
“This is a good spot isn’t it?” She parked in front of someone’s house by the intersection. Thanks to the road ahead, there was just enough space between the trees that they had a perfect view. Anita cut off the engine, but let the radio continue to play as they watched the fireworks shoot off before them. The fireworks spread out and lit up the sky with bright colors of green, pink, orange, and of course, red, white, and blue. Some of the fireworks looked like confused torpedoes traveling in circles in search of their target. Others were like a series of shooting stars. Then there were the normal fireworks, the explosive stars, the diversely colored supernovas spreading across the sky.
“Your hair looks like a firework,” Anita joked, pulling at the springy coils of Christine’s fro.
“You’re so silly, Ma.” Christine laughed softly. “Happy Fourth.”