Eric Mayer

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We're going to see fireworks again tonight. Today there's a firefly camped out on the screen in the kitchen window. Last night, when we turned off the office lights, a dazzling flash from the office window startled me. I thought of firecrackers. Then, realizing there'd been no sound, I waited to hear the delayed rumble of thunder, which never arrived.

Someone with a flashlight prowling the neighboring lawn? The next strobe was too brilliant to be a distant flashlight. When I noticed other, more muted, blinking I knew I was seeing a firefly on the window. Others had gathered in the deepest shadows under the bushes at the edge of the woods, as they always do, as if seeking out the very places where their illumination will appear brightest.

We called them lightning bugs when we were kids. On summer nights we used to track one intermittent beacon until we came close enough to see the hovering creature responsible. It was like tracking a star to its source.

I can recall the two most memorable fireworks displays I ever saw. The Fourth of July when I lived in Weehawken, New Jersey, across from Manhattan, I walked to a nearby park which overlooked the river and the barges from which the Macys’s fireworks were launched.

On another Independence day, years later, I drove to a local fireworks display. As dusk fell light flickered over the tops of the trees. Had the show begun? Were we seeing the distant light from some huge display elsewhere? Ominous black clouds and peels of thunder answered those questions.

The lightning increased in frequency and intensity, sometimes a dusky orange, then green, turning trees into phantasmal silhouettes, outlining one looming thunderhead, illuminating another from inside like a monstrous jewel. When the jagged bolts began to flash between earth and sky and the wind sent stray papers and leaves spinning through the crowd, the announcement came that the fireworks had been cancelled.

I saw in my car for an hour, in traffic, in a deluge, on my way home. I wasn't disappointed. I'd been treated to one of the most spectacular natural displays I've ever seen.

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