by Max Eevi
We bought an explosion in the desert, it was cheaper than expected and left us with a small surplus from the money we put aside.
It seemed an obvious conclusion to make an event of the explosion.
All of our acquaintances received an invitation in a velveteen envelope.
The invitation read:
To whom it may concern,
This is a formal invitation to the viewing of an explosion we have recently purchased
In the desert.
(It’ll be a blast)
The explosion will take place on the 21st May at 12:45pm.
Snacks and beverages are to be provided by our caterer.
Hope to see you there,
There were things that needed doing, the explosion had a blast-radius of fifty meters, we had to estimate the most appropriate viewing distance. We purchased an array of deckchairs and set them up seventy meters from the central point.
Musical accompaniment was hotly contested. I suggested something flamboyant and inspiriting such as Glinka’s ‘Ruslan and Ludmilla’ or Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. However, my fellow hosts dismissed my recommendations and insisted that the music should be melancholy enough to provide a ‘wholesome juxtaposition’ to the detonation. We argued till the early hours, then finally agreed upon a live performance of Schoenberg’s ‘Kol Nidre’, which we concluded to be something of a compromise. This did not matter.
Naturally we looked towards the atomic viewing parties of the nineteen-fifties as a source of inspiration for the event.
Some light research led us to this photo of NATO observers witnessing the detonation of ‘Operation Plumbbob Boltzmann’ in May 1957. We had the photo framed and subsequently mounted.
Radiation poisoning was of no concern – ours, being a much smaller, simpler
explosion would leave the viewers with no hazardous long-term effects. I advised that the mirror-shades still be handed out as a stylistic measure.
The local paper caught wind of what we were planning and cited our event in the following headline:
Usage of the word ‘illegal’ seemed to strike a chord amongst the disenfranchised youth and local vagrants. Our event gathered status and suddenly the word ‘explosion’ was on everybody’s lips.
The final stanza of a poem by Baca kept repeating in my head as we were planning the event:
the bodies slowly move, in solitary ritual,
counting lost days, mounting memories,
numbering like sand grains
the winds drag over high mountains
to their lonely deaths; like elephants
they go bury themselves
under dreamlike waterfalls,
in the silence.
Perhaps the poem underlined a contradiction, perhaps this event was our solitary ritual or perhaps at least it should have been.
To account for the burning heat of the desert sun, we decided every deckchair should be complete with its own parasol. This sparked yet another debate concerning the color of such parasols.
The company we ordered from stocked just three colors – an order of the same color would constitute a discount. Many of us (including myself) wanted red, however a small group of agitators insisted that the parasols be purple – they also stocked green (no one wanted green).
These were the stock-photos from the website, we just had to imagine the blast.
As the day of the explosion drew nearer, the fine details and logistics had to be accounted for. We had lots to consider, transport to the site had to be arranged, security employed, guest-list verified, detonation precautions checked and double checked – I thought ahead to the supreme moment in which our labours would be verified in just a fraction of a second.
“The true picture of the past whizzes by. Only as a picture, which flashes its final farewell in the moment of its recognizability, is the past to be held fast. The truth will not run away from us…”
Walter Benjamin, On The Concept Of History – V
One of us posed the question as to what would be exploding. This perplexed us all, and we had to admit that we hadn’t given it much thought. ‘There must be some kind of a subject?’ he asserted – we agreed, and decided to explode a venerable series of significant figures in the form of effigies.
We could not agree on all the effigies, but we did agree on some.
John Wilkinson (1728 – 1808)
Simon Bolivar (1783 – 1830)
Marin Mersenne (1588 – 1648)
Leonarda Cianciulli (1894 – 1970)
Friedrich Hayek (1899 – 1992)
We felt these individuals would make adequate effigies owing to their explosive qualities.
All of us experienced a deep sense of malaise during the final weeks of preparation. No one talked about it, but we could see it in each other’s ways. It was as if all of our assurances had blurred, those who took milk in their tea went without, those who liked to read at night would watch TV instead, I could feel a pain behind my eyes that wouldn’t go away. One morning over breakfast I heard one of us whisper something that sounded like the words, “God help us…” (when I asked him what was wrong he pretended not to hear me).
I checked the weather in the desert for the day of the explosion so as to rule out any chance of rain.
The detonator was another problem. It was a button-trigger detonator which meant that only one of us could do the honors. This caused contention between us as we all had pitched in equally towards the event. Picking straws would only cause resentment, so we hired a neutral party to initiate the explosion. The neutral party had to be deaf, blind and dumb for resentment to be crushed.
We named the blast ‘Novinka’ from the Russian term for ‘Novelty’. There was no hidden allegory in the choice of language, we all just liked the sound of the word – it was between that and ‘Vittima’, meaning ‘Casualty’ in Italian.
“Lost time is never found again.” Benjamin Franklin
The night before the day of the event I had a dream. I dreamt that I was tracing out my hand with a felt-tip pen, but every time I reached my wrist something would be wrong and I would have to start again on a fresh sheet of paper. After countless repetitions the failures had begun to build into an impassable mountain that almost dwarfed me in my chair – still I carried on regardless. When I had corrupted every sheet of paper I sat there for a while, staring wretchedly up at the mountain that now towered over me. Finally I resolved to cut off my hand with a butcher’s blade I had found under my chair. It was swiftly severed and I threw it on the mountain.
On the day of the explosion everything went perfectly to plan: all the guests arrived on time, the catering brought food and beer, the parasols were purple, two reporters covered the event, the deaf, dumb mute did his duties to the letter, all the effigies were set up in the sand, security came through, mirror shades were handed out, transport to-and-from was confortable and air-conditioned, no deckchairs were vacant, the band performed the music without even a stammer and nothing was the same again.
[Check out Max’s back porch wisdom here]