The pavement of the driveway feels warm and flat under her legs. The boys make circles around the trees, shouting and shouting. They’re playing some game she doesn’t understand. One weaves through the grass before dropping and rolling while the other watches from the sidewalk. Then, they shout each other’s names and switch places. Whenever a firework lights up the sky, they scream, “Firework stand!” or “They’re making me so angry!” or a continuous loop of, “Look at that one, that one, that one.”
To her, it feels like the sky is shaking – the pounding, deafening beat of the houses around them sending fireworks into the air. Afterward, there’s that lull, that indeterminable wait as someone sets a container out onto the street, lights it, and runs away, a sea of faces turning upwards to wait for it to explode. Then: Boom. It makes her muscles jumpy under her skin, the nerves at the base of her jaw twitch and dance. She finds herself running her teeth back and forth across one another.
The dog in her lap jumps and claws at her chest, scratching welts into her skin with his long nails. Her husband lies beside her, his arms folded underneath his head, his face lazy, sliding into a trance as the colors explode above their heads. Everything looks dark and grainy and she wishes she were already in bed, blankets pulled to her ears. “The kids will love them. Just a few minutes,” her husband had said as she eyed the front door, placed her hand on the doorknob. He’d touched her elbow and she’d relented, sitting down beside him in the driveway.
A truck passes them, windows rolled down, the man on the passenger side with half his body hanging out, neck craned to the sky. They drive so slowly down the street that it doesn’t look like they’re moving. But the tires crunch and pop over discarded plastic shells until they eventually make a turn and disappear. Her head pounds from the day – all the sun, the beer, the sharp smell of chlorine. Her mouth is dry and hot.
Her husband reaches over and takes her hand, a chunk of gravel trapped on the underside of her wrist, cutting into her skin. When she pulls her hand away, he snorts and shakes his head, pushes up to join the boys before she can stop him and explain. He’s running with them, inserting himself so easily into their game. She remains sitting there, dog clawing her skin, desperately wanting to be in bed.