Pop-pop . . . pop-pop-pop . . . pop . . . .
“What was that?” my wife asks from the other side of the bed?
“I’m not sure . . . fireworks?”
It was nearly midnight. The muffled sounds, unwelcome strangers, shocked our room. It was hard to tell where they came from: inside a neighbouring house? . . . from a nearby park?
Pop. Pop-pop . . . .
We stopped thinking and listened. “Maybe it’s kids setting off firecrackers in the nearby park?” I said.
“Or gunshots. That doesn’t sound like fireworks,” she said. My love grew up in Mexico City and she knows the sound of late-night fireworks set off in celebration.
We waited in silence for more of the sounds. Nothing. The furnace turns on and we hear a fan pushing warm air into our home.
“What should we do?” she asks.
“What can we do?”
It was March 28, 2020. We were two or three weeks into the COVID-19 crisis. Where we live, everyone was hold-up in their houses. We stood six feet apart. Owners had closed their stores. Municipal enforcement patrolled the streets and businesses to ensure the “apocalyptic” scene didn’t result in mass break-ins and community discord.
My wife stood, moved to the bedroom window, pulled back the drapes, peeked out. There were lights on in a few houses, but no street traffic, human or mechanical. She asked again, “What should we do?”
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do,” I said.
I moved to the window, looked out at the dead of night.
Then she moved away, leaving our room and walking toward the front of the house. I followed, and saw her sneak a quick look out the front window, at the streets. They were deserted. Ominous.
I felt disorientated. Maybe it was tiredness. Maybe It was stress from the impending collapse of the world’s economy? Maybe it was “cabin fever?” We could call 911, I thought, but I dismissed the idea, thinking: if it was gunshots inside a house there’d be nothing to see; if it was fireworks in a park, they – probably kids – would be long gone; what would I report? “Let’s go back to bed,” I said.
Staring at the ceiling, I half-listened for a scream or laughter or anything. Then I thought about how our government has deemed alcohol an “essential service.” Alcohol is, then, equal to food. I thought this must be partly to do with the revenue it generates for the government, partly to do with the addictive qualities of the drug – those reliant on it would be in crisis without it – and partly because many people take comfort in a glass of wine, a beer, or a snifter of brandy. But then I thought about the years I worked in bars as a youth, and the effects alcohol had on patrons: I’d witnessed many brawls, most fueled by alcohol. And then I wondered if deeming it essential was a wise move during the COVID-19 crisis when nearly everyone is doubly, or triply stressed? Would it be calming, or gasoline poured onto open flame? I determined quickly, that I didn’t have the answer.
While making coffee the next morning, I look out the window at the houses surrounding us. They are still. Leafless aspen trees sway in a morning breeze. Yet through this morning calm I think about last night’s sounds: pop, pop, pop . . . .
I dial the RCMP administration number. It’s Sunday. The office is closed. I leave my name, address and contact info. I tell what we heard, and invite them to call if they want more information. Then, I think I should have called last night.
After pouring myself a cup of coffee – black – I sit down at the kitchen table and look, again, outside. Snow has melted some during recent warmer spring days, but there’s still a blanket of it covering most of the back lawn. Our fence needs to be re-stained. And I consider trimming the cotoneaster before the buds appear.
I lift the ivory coloured cup to my lips, take a sip, looking again at our neighbour’s houses . . . and hope it was fireworks.
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Copyright © Allan Boss, 29 March 2020