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The biggest explosion I’ve ever seen was a goat’s head when I used to work on a farm.

That doesn’t make sense.

Sorry, I need to relax into this piece and keep it nonfiction.

I once lit a bottle rocket and it flew directly at my grandfather, just missing him, and going under the car in the garage. My dad closed the garage door and told me to be more careful, but from then on he lit all of the fireworks himself.

In Negaunee, one of my favorite things with fireworks was when the wind would blow them back on the crowd. I loved that, seeing little missiles land on families, so gently terrifying.

In the Navy, we had a plane crash. It didn’t explode. A helicopter caught on fire, killed everyone in it. It didn’t explode. I did though, when I got to my PTSD counseling.  Now I look back on it and think I was a wimp. I wasn’t even frontlines. They call it survivor’s guilt.

I went to the V.A. with a constant cough. I asked if it was from the prolonged pneumonia I got in boot camp or the asbestos exposure when I escorted Seabees in Spain or the lice in our uniforms during 30 Foxtrot or something else that had to do with disease and the military.

We had people die at every base where I was stationed with the exception of C-school. I was happy everyone lived in C-school. That was pretty awesome.

When I lived in Napa, everyone shot their guns in the air at New Year. Well, not everyone. It just sounded like that. I hit the ground, one of my seven roommates laughing at me, eight of us crammed into two bedrooms.

They sold drugs from the house. Or at least one guy did. I probably shouldn’t say that, but the guy who did it has already done jail time, so I think the cops would leave him alone, especially since it was eighteen years ago.

What have I been doing since then? I was on the set of Criminal Minds as an extra. They cast me as a cult follower, said I looked like one. I also got cast as a circus freak for Pushing Daisies and as a Russian chess player on Life. I don’t think I look like any of those character types, but apparently I do. For Criminal Minds, I got to do a stunt. I got to leap over a fence while a church burned behind us. It was kind of the same rush as Desert Storm, when we went into Threatcon Alpha. I wasn’t supposed to do any stunts, because I wasn’t getting stunt pay, but the A.D. let me do it as long as I agreed to never file paperwork to classify as a stunt performer. It was a small fence. He told me to watch my ankles. The fire was controlled, only in designated areas. They could turn a switch and the fire would shoot out of the church windows. It was supposed to be like Waco. They made a big announcement with everyone gathered, excited. We’d been there since like 6 a.m. and this was the big final shot of the day. There was another girl in the cult who went to my high school. I dated her sister; she was really into New Age religion, a bit too much for me. I guess she thought I looked like someone who would follow that kind of stuff. I stretched, getting ready for my leap and the stunt crew showed everyone how big the flames would get from the church window and when they did so, it caused a light bulb nearby to explode. Glass flew everywhere. Once we realized no one got hurt, there were a lot of questions if it was safe. I didn’t care. I wanted to leap that fence. We did the shot like three times. It was me running next to some background actor from Texas who wanted to get into westerns. He was really Republican. On the last shot, they started clapping and said we did it. I watched the episode and my leap never made it to the screen.


Ron Riekki’s books include The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book), U.P., and Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. His play “Carol” was in Best Ten-Minute Plays 2012 and “The Family Jewel” was selected by Robert Olen Butler for Best Small Fictions 2015.