Studly Manwright powered his classic cherry red muscle car across western Kansas. The’68 Dodge Charger’s four barrel carburetor sucked air into the gas guzzling V8, as it screamed along I-70 at a-hundred-and-ten. Studly’s silent sentinel, his Escort Passport 9500IX radar detector monitored ahead and behind for unwanted encounters with the Kansas Highway Patrol.
“…Till the diamond has been sold for gold. Do as I do…” Studly’s twenty-four-year-old hand beat on the steering wheel screaming and competing with Toothgrinder blasting from the MP3 player. “…Play me for a fool—”
“Shut up!” Tony Stiletto yelled, shutting off the stereo.
Studly kept on beating and screaming, “… Beautiful and cruel, when you do as I do—”
“Enough already! I’ve listened to you trying to sing ever since we left St. Louis—”
“Wa’do ya mean,” Studly felt insulted, “tryin’ to sing? My mom says I got a great voice.”
“Your mom’s tone deaf. Besides you’re just screaming, so knock it off or I’ll kill you before we get back to Denver.”
The driver withdrew into a silent huff. He leaned forward muttering under his breath, watching the white dashed lines flash past the speeding Charger.
“Oh! Oh!” Tony’s body suddenly animating, like some crazy doll, flailing his hands wildly. “Next exit!”
“Next exit what?” Studly asked, focusing on the fast approaching rear end of a slower moving semi-trailer he was about to pass.
“Where, where?” That got his attention, as the trailer slid past Tony’s side in a gray blur.
“Behind that truck.” Tony gestured frantically. “Next exit. Get off!”
The green exit sign grew quickly at that speed. Studly suddenly jerked the wheel right, his fat tires squealed on the pavement, the two bodies leaned violently to the left. The roaring Charger took the exit. Studly ignored the stop sign, turning onto the road, aiming directly toward the gigantic sign proclaiming CLYDE’S DISCOUNT FIREWORS. The car ground to a halt in the parking lot, surrounded in a cloud of dust. From force of habit, Studly unplugged his radar detector and stashed it under the seat and the two excited semi-adults jumped out.
“I almost forgot we had to stop,” Tony said with a grin.
“That’s ‘cause you’ve been stoned since we left St. Louis.”
“You mean, we.”
Studly laughed. “Fair enough bro.” He pulled open the solid white metal door and the two customers entered.
“Whoa…” Tony went glassy-eyed at the tables and shelves of assorted fireworks.
Behind a glass case counter, filled with a variety of knives, replica swords, and other devices of mayhem, sat Clyde. His hard eyes fixed on the two guys, narrowing beneath his bushy brow. “Can I help you boys?” the proprietor croaked in a deep voice.
“So much great stuff here, we gotta look around,” Studly answered, as he peeked into a box of Roman candles.
Clyde leaned back on his chair, vigilantly monitoring the two shoppers. He was a huge man, with a barrel chest and a sizable beer gut. His greasy black hair strung down to his shoulders and a frizzy matching beard touched his chest. A Harley t-shirt ensured there was no mistake the owner was a biker. “I’ve got a two for one sale on everything today,” he announced.
Tony and Studly perused the explosive boxes of boyhood joy. Colorful containers with colorful contents bearing names like The Patriot, Red Glare, Screaming Zombie, Atomic Blast, and Curtain of Fire. The two travelers quivered at the possibilities. Kansas sold the real stuff, unlike Colorado. The boys could openly buy pot in Colorado, but they couldn’t get the aerial bombs, Roman candles, bottle rockets, and other delights at home.
This was the main reason for not flying to their friend’s wedding in St. Louis. They wanted to stock up on some great fireworks on the way back to Denver. Studly and Tony had saved money for this purpose. However, because of when they left St. Louis, they’d been driving through the night and this was the first place that was open, and just in time, because the Colorado border wasn’t far off. The two of them each grabbed an empty box and began filling up. When full, they put them on the counter and went back for more. By the time they left, Clyde was happy to make a four-hundred-fifty dollar sale. The boys, still feeling a pleasant buzz, were excited they had doubled their purchase. Their open boxes of fun practically filled the back seat of the Charger. There was so much stuff, the car smelled like black powder, so they rolled down the rear windows to air it out.
“What a great deal that was,” Tony remarked, as he shut the car door.
Studly got in, turned the key and the throaty exhaust roared to life, making the whole car shudder. “Yeah, we really lucked out.” He stomped on the gas, the rear tires spun, kicking up a shower of gravel, as they rocketed from the parking lot, and fishtailed onto the pavement heading back to the Interstate.
When the Charger reached cruising speed once again on the empty highway, Tony pulled his bag of pot from the glovebox. “Now it’s time to celebrate our good fortune.” Tony sprinkled some weed onto a paper and deftly rolled it between his fingers and licked and sealed the freshly minted joint.
“You’re a frickin’ mind reader.” Studly grinned in anticipation.
“Glad I stopped at Peak and picked up some Death Star for the trip.” Tony lit the fat joint and sucked it into his lungs, then passed it to Studly’s waiting fingers.
The speedometer needle danced on 120, as the excellent weed pleasantly baked the two riders. As they nearly finished smoking and Tony handed of the remaining inch of the fat joint to Studly, he happened to glance in his side view mirror. “Aw crap!”
“In your excitement you forgot something.” Tony pointed to the naked dashboard without the radar detector.
“Oh no!” Simultaneously he looked at the empty spot and then in the rear view mirror. Flashing blue lights heralded a pursuing and slowly gaining Kansas Highway Patrol cruiser,. “Damnit!” Studly, still holding the roach, banged his hand onto the steering wheel.
“Hey, man,” Tony warned, “you better toss that out the window.” At the same time he reached under the seat to hide his stash in the springs.
Reluctantly, Studly flicked the still useful and burning roach into the slipstream outside his window, as he let up on the gas and applied the brakes. The cruiser rapidly filled the rear view mirror as Studly brought the car to a halt on the shoulder. “Crap, crap, crap,” he said, maneuvering to pull out his wallet, watching the cop emerge from the car, straighten his hat, and slowly approach the Charger. He reached over and grabbed his registration from the glovebox just as the officer came alongside the open window.
“Nice car,” The cop pleasantly remarked. “I’m not going to ask you how fast you were going,” he peered down, Studly’s worried face reflecting in the mirrored sunglasses, “because I’m sure you know you were doing 120.”
In anticipation of the next request, as if well-practiced, Studly handed the cop his license and registration without saying a word.
The cop looked at the license and then at Studly and shook his head. “You two boys wait right here.”
“I still smell pot,” Tony said, nervously wrinkling his nose. “I hope he didn’t smell it too.”
“Oh man,” Studly moaned, “this is gonna cost me. How could I be so stupid?” He looked in the mirror and saw the cop in the cruiser running the license and registration.
Tony still worried about the pot, which was illegal in Kansas. He didn’t care about his friend’s speeding ticket, he worried about a bust for possession.
Studly hadn’t heard a word Tony said. “Hey man,” the driver said, sniffing the air, “it smells like pot in here.”
“That’s not all I smell,” Tony remarked, now wriggling his nose like a rabbit.
“Yeah,” Studly slowly said, “it smells like—”
The first report from the back seat made the stoners jump out of their skin, but it still hadn’t sunk in what was going on until KRACKLE BANG BANG WHIZZZ BOOM!
Instantly the car filled up with smoke amidst the eruption of fireworks behind them. Screaming and cussing the two boys frantically grabbed for the door handles to escape the pyrotechnic conflagration. Tony, had locked the door in his panic, so he wriggled out the window, looking like toothpaste squirt from a tube. Studly suddenly felt his hair burning, when he managed to push open the door, head smoldering, and roll out onto the pavement.
BANG BOOM WHIZZZZZZ KRACKLE! Screaming fireworks ignited, making a horrendous noise as the entire collection purchased from Clyde fired and exploded. The boys rolled on the ground, scrambling to get away from the Charger, now discharging fiery balls shooting and exploding from Roman candles. Strings of fireworks exploded like machinegun fire. Smoke, sparks, and shreds of paper blew from the back of the car as each large report aerial bomb exploded, confined within the vehicle.
Sitting behind the protective windshield of his cruiser, the cop watched the display, his mouth hung open, unable to speak into the open microphone he held in his hand, which he let fall to the floor.
“Car 72, do you have an emergency?” shouted the voice from the radio. “We hear shots fired. Do you need backup? Are you okay? Sam, what the hell’s going on?”
Sam could only watch, dumbfounded as the car exploded sparks and streams of fire from the open windows, flashes, and detonations. The two former occupants scrambling to get away, while under fiery bombardment, periodically being struck by exploding projectiles, igniting their clothing and hair, as they frantically flapped and swung hands and arms to douse small burning patches.
“Sam! Are you okay?” The voice on the radio finally distracted the cop from the spectacle before him. He picked up the mike from the floor. “Car 72. No problem here. Seems someone set off some fireworks.” When Sam finished with the radio, he stepped out of the car slowly adjusting his hat and doing his best not to smile at the chaos unfolding on the side of the highway. He watched, knowing there was nothing he could do to stop the fireworks at that point. They’d just have to run their course. He saw the two passengers—though still smoldering—were out of danger, now standing in front of the car, feeling helpless, and looking totally stupid. It was just a matter of time, so Sam waited.
A few minutes later, as the discharges came fewer and farther apart, all grew silent in the smoking red Dodge Charger. Without much of a breeze, the smoke wafted from the open windows and the cloudy trail dispersed over the flat Kansas plains. Convinced the show was over, the cop slowly walked toward the car, as Studly and Tony approached from the other direction, looking frazzled and shell-shocked.
Sam, placed one hand on his gun, leaned forward, and peered into the still smoking vehicle that reeked of Sulphur and burnt plastic. Struggling mightily not to laugh, he whistled long and low, sizing up the damage. Then he looked at the two guys standing by the front of the Charger wearing blank expressions making them look brainless. “Well, boys, I have to say that was quite a treat and it’s still three weeks until the fourth of July. The county fair’s got nothing on you two when it comes to a fireworks display.” At this point his stone face began to fracture and one corner of his mouth lifted into a smile. Studly and Tony stared back, incapable of speaking or appreciating the humor of the situation. “Mr. Manwright, why don’t you get inside and see if your car will start.”
Studly reluctantly obeyed the cop’s suggestion. The car smelled awful, still smoking, he feared some latent explosion would blow off his head. His hands trembled, as he put the key in the ignition, hesitated, and then turned it. The car replied with its throaty roar and the V8 purred patiently. He turned toward the officer and smiled weakly, still unable to speak.
“Good,” Sam announced. “I won’t need to call a tow truck.” He stepped closer to the open door and extended his left hand, offering Studly his license and registration. “I see a lot of crazy things in my job. Gruesome accidents, fights, and other stuff, but never in my fifteen years have I been so entertained as today.” The officer stood straight. “After that, I’d feel bad busting you for speeding and possession. Too bad about your classic car Mr. Manwright and all those fireworks. Well, I suspect the two of you feel pretty bad without my adding to your misery.” With that, the cop tipped his hat and returned to his car, shut off the flashing blue lights, and then drove off leaving Studly and Tony completely thunderstruck.