I never really knew if Marvin was my mom’s boyfriend or just a friend, but he seemed pretty cool nonetheless. I remember him for his straight, dirty blond hair and his laid back demeanor. He seemed to have a slight smart-ass quality that clung to him at all times. Maybe it was the squint in his eyes that gave the illusion that he knew more than he was letting on. Regardless, my brother and I thought he was pretty cool. I was in the third grade at the time and my brother Ben was in the fifth. Other things I remember about this year were: my orange and black Vans with checkerboard sides; piano lessons at Mrs. Launderai’s house (AKA Mrs. Laundry); Iola Underdew, our once-a-week maid who burped a lot; her husband, Zolly Underdew who took care of the yard; Mark Moser, who was more of my brother’s friend than mine, but whom I worshiped (He called Iola, Ayatollah Iola). There were Cookie and Bah, the feline companions we adored and thought of as family. The Star Wars wallpaper in my bedroom, but only on the wall with the window facing the driveway. And there was Kelly Davis, the cute girl with freckles at school. She had me and all my friends fighting over who would have her hand in marriage. I also remember going to Old Donation Gifted and Talented School. I hated being “gifted and talented.” This meant that I had to leave all my friends at my normal elementary school on Wednesdays and go to a school with a bunch of overachieving, well-dressed brainiacs. At Old Donation we would sit in circles and solve logic problems. The worst of it was this, not only did I have to go to this elitist camp once a week, but I also had to do all the make-up work from my regular school. Call me lazy, but I would have much preferred a regular day of school with my regular subjects, followed by a regular afternoon of riding bikes around the neighborhood with my regular friends. Yeah, Wednesdays were bad. First there was the gifted and talented school, then piano lessons with Mrs. Laundry, and then gobs of homework from all my missed assignments.

So, back to mom’s friend Marvin. I remember Ben, mom, Marvin, and I all standing in the main hallway of our house. The room with the chandelier that had lots of little glass shards hanging from it. Light reflected through its prisms shining across the walls and staircase and next door into the living room with the blue carpet. Marvin was going to South Carolina for the weekend and asked if we needed anything. Yeah. . . duh. . . fireworks! Fireworks and lots of them, was what instantly came to our minds. This is all we needed. This was all we asked for. Fireworks were illegal in Virginia and most of North Carolina. But enter South Carolina, and the kiosks began to line up along the highway. Explosives of all shapes and varieties strung across the open shelves, winking at the passing cars.

My mom pressed her lips together tightly, cocked her head to the right, and took a deep audible breath through her nose. She looked at Marvin for an answer. He looked at her and then turned to us. He grinned and raised his eyebrows twice. We were in! Her lips were still tightly pressed together.

Ben and I ran up to our rooms at lightening speed and gathered as much money as we could find. Twenty-eight dollars is what we came up with, rendering it fourteen dollars apiece. I would eventually pay Ben back his lent seven dollars. The deal was made and Ben and I impatiently waited.

Sunday night, Marvin returned. He handed Ben and I one large grocery store size brown bag. The weight and size equaled power. Fire power. Gun powder. Detailed Chinese craft and labor. In one breath, we jumped up and down, thanked him, and eagerly ran upstairs to Ben’s bedroom and started sorting. It was a classic one for me, one for you method of distribution that involved bricks of firecrackers, sparklers, lady fingers, jumpin’ jacks, bottle rockets, M60s, M70s, M80s, tanks, whistlers, and pinwheels. I ran and got a drawer from my dresser and dumped the contents onto the floor of my bedroom. Returning to Ben’s room, we put half in my newly emptied drawer and the other half in a cardboard box. When the work was done, Ben and I stood up and marveled at the display that lay in front of us. We had plans. Big plans! An order to when and where items would be lit. The ceremonies would begin next weekend. First we would have to tough out a week of school. The waiting would be grueling, but well worth the pain.

The story now moves to Wednesday. As I said, Wednesday was a bad day. I had become well versed in the art of faking illness to avoid Old Donation Gifted and Talented school. Unfortunately, I had already skipped the last two weeks. Three in a row would seem far too suspicious. I sucked it up and got out of bed that morning. School went. It went uneventfully and miserably. The logic problems went. The special interest units went. The research for our semester contract presentation went. Then I came home. Piano lessons went. The bike ride to Mrs. Laundry’s house, the Mel Bay vol. 2 book, the adhesive stars marking my success on the song I had been working on, and the bike ride back home all went. Then dinner came and went. Chicken Divan. A casserole combination of broccoli, chicken pieces, and cream of mushroom soup mix. It all went.

That evening, my uncle came into town for some business and met up with my mother. A baby sitter by the name of Theresa MacGilveray was installed, and my mom and her brother left for the evening. Theresa took to the phone in the kitchen and began her evening of boyfriend/girlfriend conversations. I took to my room to begin the piles of make-up homework in the areas of English, social studies, reading, and math. Ben took to his room. That’s all I know.