Thursday, July 3, 2014

Happy Fourth of July

While contemplating whether or not to post anything in honor of the holiday, I happened to be perusing my books when it occurred to me that the Fourth plays a prominent role in some of them, going back to my first effort, Sumner Gardens

In that one, twelve-year-old budding thespian Conner O'Neil gets involved in a town production of The Music Man performed over the Fourth of July weekend. The night of the Fourth, he engages in bottle rockets at forty paces in the middle of the street with his future brother-in-law.

In my vampire saga Applewood, fourteen-year-old hero Scott Dugan uses the Fourth to have his first date with a girl who has moved in across the street. The two ride their bikes to a New England downtown rich in history to enjoy the festivities. When the city girl finds it a little cornpone, Dugan sets her straight:
Puzzled by the question, Dugan had to think a moment about
his answer. “Well, first of all, you better start using ‘us guys’ when
you talk about this stuff now, remember?” Her smile took some of
the sting off. “But I guess you’re right, it is a big deal around here,
probably ‘cause there’s so much history. You can’t turn around in
this town without bumping into some of it.
“Coupla years ago, there was this high school teacher shot
himself out in the woods over by the school. They never did figure
out just why he done it, shot himself I mean, but to close the case,
the cops needed to find the bullet. They looked for weeks out in
those woods, and recovered seventy-eight bullets. Some of the bullets
they found went all the way back to Revolutionary War days.
But they never did find his bullet.”
She looked thoughtful as Dugan went on.
“The place you’re sittin’ right now is the same place that the
volunteers came when the Revolution broke out, and after that the
Civil War. I’ll bet if we went back far enough, we’d find out that
some kinda Indian thing happened right there too, long before the
white man set foot on these shores.”
He looked over at her and smiled. “Like I said, you can’t get
away from it.”
I suppose that's true of most everywhere, but it is absolutely true for those of us who grew up in New England. There is no getting away from it.

Finally, in my pirate adventure Swash!, in which eighteenth-century pirates find themselves trapped in our time, another Fourth finds young protagonist Chris Duggan at the town parade. For their sake (and his own sanity) Chris has tried to keep the pirates under wraps, however, at the parade, Chris finds the pirates are about to make a very public debut:
Another marching band followed, and Chris knew the short parade was almost over. He began to hear cheering and whistles from down the street. Everyone stood on tiptoes trying to get a glimpse of what it was. He couldn’t see anything except the cab of a truck slowly making its way up the street, but a moment later he recognized the white haired man waving from the passenger seat and smiled to see Barney Zimmerman. Whatever it was, his float was getting the most effusive cheers. Then, through gaps opened by crowds of people rushing toward it, he saw it.
Rising majestically from the back of the flatbed was a pirate ship made entirely of living things. Its palm tree masts were festooned with purple lilacs. The billowing sails were made of sheets of green sod. As it moved closer, like he knew he would, Chris saw the crew of the Lady Grace, all manning their stations while waving and throwing beads to the crowd. But their appearance had changed. They looked different somehow. It took more than a moment for him to realize it was their clothes. Gone were the silly hand-me-downs taken from the giveaway bin at the church. They were now dressed in proper pirate costumes, though costume wasn’t the right word, for Chris knew this was how they should be dressed. And the captain was the best dressed of all.
I don't know what it means (if it means anything at all) that I'd return to the Fourth at least three times in my books. I was a bit of a history nut growing up. It is that most American of holidays. For myself, I have mostly good memories of Fourths of July past, though some bad. As in most things, I prefer to remember the good.

At any rate, may your own Fourth of July find you safe and happy and among those you love. And as always, thanks for reading!

"Not only won't I play it, but if Robert Preston doesn't, I won't go see it." - Danny Kaye turning down the lead in the film version of The Music Man.

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