When I was 18 years old, I inadvertently saw the most incredible fireworks display I can remember. It was a still and humid Midwest evening. Earlier that night, my friends and I had walked into a liquor store and bought a case of beer. The drinking age was 19 in Wisconsin at the time and, what's more, no one really cared what the drinking age was anyway. It was a much different time in America.

At the foot of a sloping hill, my friends and I stretched out a blanket. In the winter, Elver Hill was called "Suicide Hill" for its hot diggity sledding action. On the Fourth, it was the site for a small town firework display.

The first display went up--a basic pincushion of red sparks. Then, just a blink of the eye later, there was a muffled explosion. The whole hillside seemed to pulse. There were no colors, except the entire hillside seemed backlit like a cardboard silhouette, black on black.

For what seemed like an unending stretch of time, there was a fragile silence. No one spoke. No one even twitched. Probably only ten minutes passed, but it seemed like we would never escape that silence. Then, an ambulance--no siren, red lights washing over the still crowd--hopped over the curb and stormed to the top of Elver Hill. Rumors passed through the crowd like electricity through a puddle.

For years, two brothers had handled the show. It seems that a lit explosive had dropped down one of the brother's sleeves. He blew up. With no formal announcement, the rest of the show, of course, was canceled.

As the crowd thinned out, one group at a time, my buddies and I stayed until we were the only reminders of what had happened. We lay on our blanket, talked and joked carelessly. We had nowhere else to go.

Then, all of a sudden, the sky turned on--red, blue, green, too many colors for the retina to handle at once. Images layered on top of each other. The sky was like a quilt of electricity. It seems that in a tribute or an angry rebuttal, the surviving brother lit off the rest of the fireworks. It was awesome.