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To Make A Noise.

THAT'S ALL YOU WANT TO do. Make a big noise. It is surprisingly easy to do. All you have to do is make a bomb. Yes, a bomb. We're not talking about that kind of bomb, the kind of bomb that kills people. You are not a terrorist. Or at least that kind of terrorist. It is not the kind of bomb that hurts anyone, that destroys anything, at least anything physical or tangible. This kind of bomb destroys peace of mind. It is a real bomb, but it is a bomb of air. Mostly air. A clear plastic two-liter bottle of the type that you would find in most homes in this subdivision. Yet this one contains a few powders that react in a certain way to make the air inside the bottle expand. The expansion rate of the air overwhelms the container. Then the big noise.

A bomb of air to make a big noise. That is your plan.

You have everything you need to make your bomb of air. Though it is possible to make a bomb of air from simple household materials like aluminum foil and drain cleaner, those are for amateurs. You aim higher than that. Louder than that. You aim for the brain, the heart, the viscera. There are companies on the internet where you find the powders you need, the saltpeters, the sulfurs, the aluminums with names like German Blackhead. Powders with the texture of flour that will burn your hands black. You need scales and screens. You have to be careful not to order it all from the same places at the same time. You will be flagged and banned.

There in the dead quiet of this late fall night, walking around barefoot and in your underwear, you quietly gather and combine these powders. It is safer to do in your underwear. Static could maim you. You perform this process silently at the kitchen table with the lights off everywhere else in your house as if there were others there that you are worried about waking. After all, it is late and it was not so long ago that there would have been people to awaken. You work in the mostly dark anyway because it feels right that way. You finish gathering and combining these powders. You drill a hole in the cap of the two-liter bottle. You pour three tablespoons of the combined powders inside. Screw on the cap and put a piece of masking tape over the hole for now. Your bomb of air is almost complete.

You put on dark clothing. Nothing that looks suspicious. No Hollywood black turtleneck, pants and watch cap. You are not cracking a safe. Just a dark jacket zipped up over blue jeans and work boots. Before you leave, you do decide on the black watch cap, but only because it's chilly outside tonight. Male pattern baldness has rendered you susceptible to the cold air. You zip up the various components of your bomb of air in a pink Hello Kitty backpack. This is suspicious, you realize. You would prefer something made of black nylon, but it's the only one you can find in the house. You rip the plastic label off the two-liter bottle that contains the powders. Before you rinsed it with alcohol and dried it out in the garage last week, it still had Faygo Redpop in it, luridly bright and flat, leftover from a time when there were people in the house to worry about waking.

You open the back door of your house and start walking. You walk and walk, down darkened streets, for you are far in the exurbs, where there are no streetlights. Occasionally, a golden trapezoid stretches from a front porch lamp, the light dissolving into the dim of the street. Most houses are dark inside and out, porch lights off, their occupants asleep to all possibilities, confident that nothing could ever happen in this place--no break-ins or murders, no home invasions or abductions. Nothing like that could ever happen here. Until it does. Then you see the local news teams encamped on someone's immaculate lawn, surrounded by the pale stunned faces of neighbors and relatives. It is not like it is in the city, where the Mile roads number Five or Six or Seven, where bad things happen with disturbing regularity. No, out here where the Mile roads number in the Twenties, nothing could ever happen. Even when it does, it is inevitably forgotten, erased from consciousness, the burble of lies again loud in the ears, and all return to invulnerability.

This is why you need a bomb of air to make a big noise. To awaken them. To drown out the lies.

You keep walking down the sidewalk, past the mostly dark houses, every so often a motion sensor ticks on a light that then ticks off behind you after you pass, a blink of recognition, then nothing. From the Hello Kitty backpack, you can feel the bomb of air protruding into your back with it's taped snout and the combined powders it contains. You know that soon it will sound a clarion to these people, especially those in one particular house. A new house 1.2 miles away; 1.3 miles, depending on the route you take.

At one point the houses end, then soon the sidewalk ends, but you keep walking, right off the end of the concrete. You walk into the woods, follow a trail that you know is there, that a nine-year old boy once showed you. It is at this point that your behavior starts to look suspicious, though you've done nothing yet that is illegal. You're just going for a walk. In a dark woods at 2:05 a.m. Nothing suspicious here. You are looking for a special place, somewhere you won't be seen, but where you will be heard. There within the woods, you turn on a small flashlight because that's all you're willing to risk. You slow down your pace. You don't want to trip. Though the bomb of air will not explode this way, it can be damaged. You don't want to have to scuttle this mission. Adrenalin starts to roil in your bloodstream and vitals. You hope that you won't have to stop in the woods to evacuate your bowels. You wish you would have thought of this at home.

It passes as you walk farther, relying on both the flashlight and the moonlight to find your way on the trail between the trees. It has not snowed yet this year and the crunch of old leaves and twigs beneath your feet is strangely satisfying. You are glad that there is not too much moonlight because you want it to be cloudy as well. You are hoping that temperature inversions are at work tonight so the big noise bounces off the clouds and spreads farther to more ears. Though you are aiming for a particular set of ears, you want them all to hear. Cloudy is better, presuming that sound waves work in the same way that radio waves are propagated, affected by the water vapor in the troposphere. You should have looked this up. If that is the case, this is a perfect night where people for miles will hear the big noise from your bomb of air.

You want to wake them all at 2:17 a.m. on this Tuesday night. Why? Because it is not a time to be awakened. Not the time for a big noise. No one should ever be awakened at 2:17 a.m. on a Tuesday night. It is a time when, should you awaken in your bed, you should hear nothing but the rise and fall of the breath of a loved one lying next to you, the small noise of air quietly passing her lips. Or the gentle snore of a stuffed-up child as you stand watch from the doorway. That's all you should hear at 2:17 a.m. on a Tuesday night. Not bad news. Not tears or lies or betrayal that can no longer be contained. Not that big noise that makes you look at the clock to register the time. This is when it happened. When it all blew up.

This is the beauty of the big noise from the bomb of air. It's the sound in the middle of the night that reminds us, that haunts us, that gives us the bad news when our defenses are down, when all the lies we tell ourselves during the day to get through the day are forgotten, and all we're left with is the horrible ringing of truth in our ears and the aluminum tang of blood in our mouths where we bit our tongues from the jolt.

Now they will all be awakened. Awakened from their comfortable lives, made to know that there is a big noise out there waiting for each of us, to rouse us from our slumberous lives. A big noise for everyone. For a man and woman inside a house 1.2 miles away. A big noise for them, most of all.

You keep walking. How do you decide where to detonate your bomb of air? You keep walking, walking, deep into this wooded area where soon a developer will build more mammoth beige houses of vinyl and pressboard, flimsy drywall and brittle brick, hollow cathedrals to his hubris, he who will name the streets after all the types of trees that used to grow here before he struck them down to build the houses.

You walk deep into these condemned woods until you find the perfect space, a clearing next to a tree with a branch at the perfect height. You open the Hello Kitty backpack, carefully extract your bomb of air, remove the tape from the cap and insert the long, long fuse. (Burn rate of thirty seconds of walk-away time per foot.) You shake down the combined powders into the bottleneck, then suspend the bomb of air in a tree with a lengthy twist of masking tape. You coil out the long, long fuse, keeping it up off the ground whenever you can, taking care to push away any leaves or twigs that could catch fire during the two minute walk-away. You don't want to start a fire. That is not your intention. Your intention is the big noise. The awakening. That is the point of the bomb of air.

You take a breath and look at your watch: 2:15 a.m. You are right on schedule. You light the fuse, the spark and glare harsh to your widened pupils, then you turn and walk briskly through the darkness, your flashlight held low. You walk quickly, but calmly, the hissing now fading in your ears.

You keep walking. By the time the blast from the bomb of air reaches you, you are far away, back on the sidewalk, back on the darkened street, walking through the neighborhood where you once felt so secure in your life. At 2:17 a.m. and thirty-one seconds, on this Tuesday night of bad news that no one should ever hear, everyone hears the big noise.

It is so fucking loud.

The big noise does not sound like thunder. Make no mistake about that. It does not sound like any other sound but an explosion. You are glad to be outdoors to hear the big noise bleed through the trees, bounce off the clouds, ricochet between the houses. You are not quite at your own house yet, which is nowhere near as big as that house 1.2 miles away, the house where your children live now, but you are far enough away that if you were perchance seen by anyone at 2:17 in the morning, you would not necessarily be thought of as the bringer of the big noise.

There on the sidewalk, you feign surprise and shock and awe at the big noise from the bomb of air. You catch your breath and shudder at the sound. You enjoy it when the neighborhood dogs all start barking inside their houses. You savor the car alarms suddenly shocked alert and bleating. You relish the porch lights ticking on all down the streets. The once comfortable people peeking timidly between drapes, through bay windows, afraid to open their front doors, some of them doing it anyway, glancing out into the darkness far down the road, knowing something has happened, something that may have been intended for them. Probably not, but they never truly know.

That's all you want.

For them to wonder.
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Author:Zadoorian, Michael
Article Type:Short story
Date:Mar 22, 2017
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