American River Review 2022 Final5-1 - Flipbook - Page 49
“This is the coolest part,” said Ben,
pointing to the left monitor. On it, the
conductor was waving his baton and
flipping pages. “Watch this.”
Ben clicked the mouse a couple of
times and a little red dot appeared
at the end of the conductor’s baton.
It bounced and swung across the
screen, tracing the conductor’s motions. A tempo marker clicked up and
down. “85 BPM” it read, then “86,”
“That’s amazing!” said Mila.
“Yeah, just like magic,” said Ben. He
clicked the mouse and the screen
froze and dragged the dot
to the nose of the conductor. He
clicked again and the screen jogged
back into motion, the conductor
doing a very serious and unwitting
Rudolph impression. “NO BPM’’ read
the corner of the screen.
All three laughed. Ben shook his head
and beamed with pride. Mila looked
over at him and the two fell into each
Ernie coughed. “I’m going to go flip
the fail-safes,” he said, but the two
love birds were a world away. Outside
in the twilight Ern shuffled over to
the cab of his old blue pick-up and
grabbed his binoculars. He set them
on the hood and opened one of the
water bottles Mila had brought.
He took a sip, screwed a cap back on
and looked up at the sky. Wondering
if Jenny was really watching, wishing
he could know for sure. He thought
she was though. He picked up his
binoculars and pointed them towards
the soccer fields.
He looked down and there was the
rabbit. Well at least some rabbit
was standing on its hind legs–no
more than three feet from the truck
bumper – wiggling its nose and looking at him.
For what seemed like an eternity they
just looked at each other. Ern blinked
and rubbed his eyes. When he looked
up, the rabbit had disappeared.
He shook his head and wandered
down towards the mortars. He
walked down the line and
flipped the switches. It always felt
like the strangest garden: barren
planter boxes with black metal tubes
poking out and the big semi-circle
switches with their yellow rubber
handle and their red and green
He made his way down the rows,
working his way towards the big box
at the end – the “Big-Boom Box.” The
grand finale box. It was twice as wide
and long as the others with an even
bigger switch.” He was wheezing a
little bit when he got there and sat
down on the edge of the box. He had
pulled the switch half way when the
rabbit popped up again.
“Hey!” He yelled. “This ain’t no place
for you! Shoo! Go on! Git!”
He chased the rabbit out off the
baseball field, swinging his water bottle pointlessly, feeling like some old
dishwasher with an apron and towel.
He could just barely make out the
couple. There they were, caught up in
another pleasant standoff, just looking at each other.
He looked over at the control booth.
He could see Ben and Mila smiling at
him. He put his hands on his knees
and shook his head, laughing. Ben
gave him a questioning look and
raised his right thumb. Ernie looked
both ways and then nodded and
raised his thumb, too.
“The fireworks should fix that,”
thought Ern. “It oughta work its magic on ‘em.”
He looked around for the rabbit and
then just headed back and leaned on
Again the silver boxes and white
gloves danced in his mind. This time
a little white rabbit sprang up, too.
He blinked and lowered his
He could hear the orchestra faintly
from across the field. They were rolling out the old “Stars and Stripes” like
always. Ern sipped his water,
whistled along and then said aloud,
“...for a duck maybe somebody’s
The sun was fully set now and the orchestra paused. The conductor made
a few brief announcements and the
crowd cheered when they heard the
fireworks were about to begin.
And begin they did. In the control
booth, Ben tapped the space bar on
the keyboard. The red dot was back
on the conductor’s wand and as he
brought it down the program began
running and the boxes began clicking
Light shot into the air. The baseball
field was a strange garden indeed,
where the flowers bloomed for mere
The crowd ooed and awed. The
orchestra swelled and ran their
program, finally building to
Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.
Ern watched the mortars blast down
the line like clockwork. He heard the
glockenspiel ringing the victorious
church bells. He heard the trumpets
sound. He watched the fire go down
And the rabbit hopped past the dugout.
Suddenly, in his mind’s eye, Ern
saw not the magician’s hands but
instead the big yellow switch of the
“Big Boom Box.” Half way – he’d only
turned it half way! He thought of all
the people watching and waiting, he
thought of the couple by the soccer
fields, Ben and Mila in the control
But mostly, he thought of Jenny.
“You just keep lighting up the sky,” he
heard from somewhere far away.
He never thought twice about it. He
shot from the hood of that old Chevy
like he was a spring chicken again
and ran down the rows through the
smoke and bursts. Sure it was the
stupidest thing he’d ever done, but he
never cared even for an instant. Not
even when he coughed and not even