Eli’s done it again. The kid loves playing with fire.
Based on my observations of Eli and his friends, based on my own experiences, twelve-year-old boys like to burn stuff. When I was twelve, I found an empty glass spice bottle somewhere in my house. On occasion, I’d fill the bottle with gasoline—the stuff we bought for the mower—and I’d head to the woods with a book of matches. The woods. That buffer-zone between my neighborhood and Interstate 270—the four-lane highway linking Washington, DC with points west. This was 1974. Today those woods are gone. They’ve been replaced by twelve more lanes of traffic.
I’d find a well-hidden spot and pour out some gas. I’d drop a match in the puddle and watch it flare. When the gas burned out, I’d do it again. My fireworks were done when the gas was gone. And then I’d light up the rest of the match-pack as the grand finale. I washed out the bottle in the creek and headed home feeling bold and daring. I’d just done something dangerous. It was a rush.
Compared to the crap that Eli does, this seems tame and naive. He’s constantly scanning the internet for cool, reckless stuff to try, and every few weeks he finds something new. Many readers will remember the potato cannon we built last month. Because Eli’s a cautious kid, he doesn’t sneak off to do these stunts on his own. He always recruits me. And because I haven’t matured beyond that twelve-year-old playing with gasoline in the woods, I’m always willing to help out.
This time, Eli wanted to make fireworks. Real fireworks. Something less pathetic than lighting up a few ounces of gasoline in the woods.
We bought a cheap metal whisk and tied it to the end of a rope. We filled the whisk with steel wool, and we lit it on fire. Because Eli is the only one who knows how to use the time-lapse function on his camera, I was selected to swing the rope.
Here I am in the center of a maelstrom, a shower of sparks raining down around me. I’m trying my best to avoid getting burned. Eli’s holding his camera, making art.