Taking care of the ones you love by avenging them, however directly, is always too late. The reason for vengeance isn't prevented. Sometimes it has to happen anyway. Someone might be saved; it's an act of independence.
Fireworks by Jay Butkowski
The moment the plan entered Frank’s brain, he was certain of one thing: It had to happen on the Fourth of July. The rest of his convictions may have wavered like the giant flag that he and his granddaughter used to hang over the garage door to celebrate Independence Day. But the date was an absolute certainty.
It had to be the Fourth.
Frank spotted two in the living room as he approached up the walk. No need for “covert intelligence” – the grimy bay window was bare, and the assholes were visible from the street, glued to the flickering light of the TV, probably already tripping balls. The drug-dulled response time definitely worked in his favor.
Independence Day used to be a big deal for Frank’s family. There was a parade in town in the morning, and his granddaughter used to come by to visit him. She would cheer him on from the front porch while he marched with the local contingent of veterans from the Korean War.
Frank’s granddaughter, Fiona, was something special: spunky little personality, strawberry blonde hair done up in pigtails accented by silver and blue ribbons. A smattering of freckles crossed the bridge of her nose above a wide, gap-toothed smile which could barely contain all the wonder and joy in the world, confined to a sweet little giggle that rang like wind chimes.
Frank wedged the barrel of his over/under against the paint-chipped wooden door, just above the tarnished doorknob. He lit the M-80 with the Zippo Helen had given him for their tenth wedding anniversary and started counting down from 7.
The image of his granddaughter – perpetually young and happy – flashed in his mind once more. Fiona Firecracker, he used to call her. Born on the Fourth of July.
Frank pulled the trigger and breached the locking mechanism. He kicked the door the rest of the way open and strode through the shattered portal.
With one second left in his count, Frank flung the M-80 into the lap of the nearer pile of human garbage, frozen in his seat by the front door on the shit-brown couch. He raised the shotgun in a fluid, practiced motion, and unloaded the second barrel into the further of the two. The shotgun and M-80 went off almost simultaneously, ruining the face and manhood of the two in the living room.
Frank dropped the shotgun onto the coffee table and reached for the Colt Peacemaker that hung down on his hip.
He had loved that little girl. Doted on her the way a grandfather only could. She rekindled a happiness in him that he thought was buried when his beloved Helen died of cancer.
Fiona lit up the room when she came to visit. When he noticed the hand-shaped bruises on her arm, Frank broke her daddy’s arm in three places. The fucker left the family after that, never to be seen again. Good riddance.
Another junkie came whirling around the corner from the kitchen into the living room, two-liter bottle of Coke in hand. Frank put two rounds into him as soon as he came into view – rather, one into the junkie, and one into the soda bottle. They both dropped to the ground, blood mixing with high fructose corn syrup on unmopped linoleum.
Fiona Firecracker lost a bit of her spark after her daddy left. She became quiet, detached. Strawberry blonde hair was dyed jet black. A smattering of freckles was joined by an ugly nose ring and black eye make-up. She started hanging with the wrong crowd.
Enter the Scumboys.
Frank started up the stairs, Peacemaker drawn and at the ready. He’d seen lights from a second floor window on his approach to the house and wanted to investigate.
The Scumboys were a gaggle of braindead losers who had names like Rat and Scythe and Puke. Dope peddlers, carjackers, and a couple B & E’s rounded out their collective rap sheets.
It was through the Scumboys that Fiona was introduced to pills. She tried to fill that Daddy-sized hole in her soul with them. Then she moved onto needles. After she started shooting up, little was left of the spunky girl with the wonderful, joyful giggle.
Frank shoulder-checked a door on the second floor, sending it flying open. Inside, a teenage girl was writhing on top of an older, tattooed boy. They were startled when Frank came through the bedroom door.
Frank sighed and tossed a discarded Misfits t-shirt from the floor at the doped-up girl. “Go,” he said, deflated. “And quit it with the drugs.”
Frank kept the Colt trained on the tattooed kid while the girl ran down the stairs, out the busted front door and down the sidewalk. The punk’s immediate reaction of fear was replaced with pissy defiance once fight-or-flight kicked in.
“I don’t know you, Old Man, but you’re dead,” he snarled at Frank.
“Yeah, you too,” Frank shrugged, and put a bullet between the kid’s eyes.
Fiona Firecracker was born on the Fourth of July in 1981, five months after her Grandmother died from cancer. She died eight months ago from a heroin overdose, on November 13, 1997 – two days after Frank’s lung cancer diagnosis.
Frank searched the rest of the house, but no one else was home. He went out to the trunk of his car and brought back a couple gas cans. The rest of the town was down at the football field to watch the fireworks, so it would be a few minutes before the fire trucks arrived.
Frank finished his work and went out onto the front lawn to see if the police or volunteer fire squad would show up first. At the other end of town, a sky rocket erupted in the night sky, sending multi-colored embers back down to Earth.
“We did good tonight, kid,” Frank said to himself.