A little rain fell after the fireworks.
I stood on my bed gazing out the window at the empty street, and the air that came through the screen was heavy with the winey smell of sod and rhododendron. The streets were slick and everyone who wasn't out on a bender had gone home long ago.
What I saw that humid night as a child still frightens me as an adult.
A beat-up Chrysler slowly pulled over to the curb. The tires started climbing over the curb and toward our front lawn, but the car fell back to the street as if exhausted. The driver tried to shut off the engine but it kept kicking and sputtering and the lights flickered against a pine fence and a row of pines.
With the car still jumping around, the door on the passenger side swung open. A woman with stringy dark hair stretched across the front seat and, with her head hanging out over the curb, she began coughing, hacking as if she was going to throw up. She climbed out of the car and got her knees muddy and her skirt soaking wet on the lawn. The moon was gibbous and bright and she looked up at it and stood there a long time. She stood still on our grass. Her smile was not a smile exactly, it was far angrier than that, and my heart began to pound, sensing danger.
"Bottle, bottle," was all I could make of her mutterings. She stopped staring and smiling, and pulled an empty bottle off her dashboard. With the hard butt of the bottle she began pounding the deep-green hood of her car. The hollow sound echoed down the street and off the houses.
A light flicked on in the picture window of the house across the street. In the darkness the window was almost like a movie screen and an old man and an old woman in bathrobes, neighbors I barely knew, came into the light.
"Hey Momma! Hey Poppie!" the woman screamed. "Happy Independence Day!"
The couple stood frozen in the light for a minute or more. The old man walked off but the mother and daughter stood watching each other, separated by a pane of glass, a suburban street, a quart of booze. But there was something more in the air, something murderous that I could not see or figure out, and so I hopped off the bed and ran down the hall to wake my sleeping parents.