The Little Bomb That Could.
As far as bombs go, I wasn’t supposed to kill that many people. I wasn’t suppoed to destroy entire city blocks. I was what other bombs call “a message,” the type of bomb that puts someone on notice rather than kills them. Didn’t stop me though. I didn’t let my deficiencies hold me back. Where others said I couldn’t, I said forget that, I will. And I did. I killed a whole lot people.
It’s all because of my maker. He would toil away on me for hours in the garage. Those were such happy times, me and the maker. He would sit on his stool, fluorescent bulbs would hum away over head, and I would feel the warm drip of solder on my connections. Sweat would drop down from his forehead and splash on my casing. He worked so hard on me. Night after night, he would fix me, make me better. He loved me so much. And every night, I would watch as he left the room, walked up the stairs, and hit the light switch, wrapping me in darkness, where I would sleep peacefully until the next night, when we did it all again.
Sometimes he would have magazines or newspapers laid out on the table. He didn’t know I could see them. I think he didn’t want me to, but I knew what he was looking at. It was always an article about some bomb somewhere that had gone off and killed hundreds of people, destroyed a couple of city blocks. Those articles got him fired up, and he would work extra hard on those nights. But I think I always knew his expectations were too great. I mean look at what Fat Man did, he took out a whole city. How can any bomb ever meet those expectations? How can any one maker do what Fat Man’s makers did? They can’t. But I never discouraged him. I was the best little bomb that I could be.
Then one night, the very last night I ever sat on that table, my maker put on a tape of old music, women singing in high voices in a weird language, and it played until the spool snapped. I was complete. Except for one last thing. My maker left a little door in my casing, a portal of sorts, a way for him to work on my insides. He just had to close it. So I waited there patiently, anticipating the hot melting glow of the welder sewing me shut.
My maker was staring at the open wound in my abdomen with tools in hand. And it was like an eternity. I just wanted him to finish me, make me complete. But he didn’t. He laid his tools down, got up from his chair, and left the room. And this time, I wasn’t sure he’d be back.
That was a lonely stretch of time. I mean, I never really had company during those nights before, but I always had the assurance that my maker would return. That night, I wasn’t sure. Those hours were slow, and all kinds of sad thoughts went through my circuits. Would he scrap me? Would he bury me in the ground somewhere. Would he just never come back? Would I just sit there, incomplete, never to detonate? I thought all of that and worse while I waited. We bombs have such good sense of time. It never speeds up or slows down for us. We feel seconds with precision. We bombs, we know time like ants know dirt, and there was so much of it that night, so much plodding time.
Then the lights came on. My maker trudged down the stairs with a drink in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. He was so sad looking, teary eyed and a little drunk. I remember I saw him in outline, his shadow marking his place against the light at the top of the stairs. He took his normal spot on the bench, and I waited, oh so patiently, for him to pick up his tools and complete me. But he just stared at that piece of paper for the longest time, taking sips from his drink.
Then, oh it tears me up to think about it, my poor maker started to bawl like a child. If I had arms I would have hugged him tight right then. I would have done anything to make him happy. It isn’t right goddamnit. Someone like him should not have to cry! He took me and built me up from nothing, from absolutely nothing. He imagined me in his head and sat down with a plan to create! Why should he suffer? What did he do to deserve that? Nothing! That’s What!
It was horrible, sitting there powerless, unable to help. I know it doesn’t make sense, but I thought it would just be like that. I thought he would sit there and cry until he died and I would be stuck there on his table forever. But then, he rubbed his eyes til they were clear, his breath hitched and he straightened up. He stared at me with the fiercest look I’ve ever seen. He flipped that paper over and I saw what it was.
It was a picture. It was a street somewhere, and oh I recognized what it was right away. A bomb had just gone off, a good bomb. There were pieces of cement and rubble everywhere. People were screaming and bloody. A little boy was holding his own arm. A woman was completely shredded and laying in the road. I think I even saw my maker in that picture, standing near the woman, probably taking notes. I understood. He was crying because he didn’t think he had it in him. Or,more likely, he didn’t think I had it in me. I was not going to let that happen. Whatever he needed me to do, I was gonna do it a thousand times better than he ever imagined. I wasn’t built to do the things that were in that picture, but I was gonna do them anyway.
He took that piece of paper and held it over me, right over the hole in my casing, then he gently, lovingly placed it inside. He took up his welding iron, threw his mask down over his face and closed me up. It was such a nice feeling, being complete for the first time. You only get it once so it’s best to savor it as much as you can.
Then the next day, my maker came down and collected me. He placed me into a backpack and left the top open. He carried me upstairs and into his garage. He put me down on the passenger seat of his car, and then he started it up and pulled away. That trip was so nice, me and the maker out and about, seeing the world. He kept the radio tuned to opera. I laugh to think about it now, but my maker was singing! I couldn’t say anything, which was good, but he can’t sing at all. I didn’t mind though, I was just happy to see him smiling. My bomb sense of time counted up two hours and seventeen minutes of driving, and it was far too short. I would have been happy to drive around forever if it meant he could just listen to the radio and smile. So when he finally stopped in the middle of a big city and parked on the curb in a busy street, I was, I’m ashamed to say, a little sad.
He took me out and sat me in a chair on the sidewalk and did some last minute checks. It was weird, that moment, knowing I would never see him again. I didn’t want it to end, but I didn’t want it to go on either. I just wanted to… I don’t know, make it count.
He leaned over and set my timer for five minutes, gave me one last look, said a prayer for me, then sank out of sight. And that was the last time I ever saw him. Bright sunlight warmed my casing from overhead. My maker, out of nerves, forgot to zip the bag back shut, and he also forgot to rebalance it on the chair.
I didn’t tip over right away. The bag just started moving forward, and the tops of buildings started showing up in that space where the bag was open. I saw the first human head in that space with two minutes left on my timer. With one minute left I saw the first complete person, then the bag fell all the way forward and I tumbled out onto the street.
And then very worst thing that could have happened, did. A man walking by had his hands full with bags of food and drinks. He was fidgeting with his wallet, trying to stuff it into his pocket by cradling it between his elbow and ribs, totally ridiculous. And then he dropped it no three inches away from me. We were there face to face. He didn’t know what to think until I told him, “45… 44… 43…,” and with 40 seconds left he jumped up and yelled “BOMB! BOMB! RUN!”
Everyone heard him and the panic was incredible. Seconds ticked down and all hope faded as those people got further out. I watched feet and counted yards, knowing how far they had to go till they were safe from me, and fear, real fear took me as each one crossed that last bit of distance. I’ve never wanted arms so much. I had to sit there helpless while ankles ran past. If I had hands I would’ve grabbed them and dragged them back. If I could talk I’d have yelled “HOAX!” and everyone would’ve stopped for a second to think about it, and those seconds would’ve been all I really needed. I’d have done anything at all to keep them close just a little bit longer. But I couldn’t do it.
With ten seconds left there was no-one in range. I had a flash of the future, of helicopters flying overhead and the news people saying “No deaths or injuries reported.” Then I remembered that picture sitting in me. I remembered my maker’s face when he put it there. I said, “No! this is not happening. I’m a better bomb than this.” So I looked, I searched, and I found something in me I only suspected was there. I shook and rumbled. I clutched and stuttered and my casing grew red hot with flame. I bounced on the sidewalk like a rubber ball, “5… 4… 3… 2… 1…”
A young couple looked back at the sound of the explosion. I ripped their jaws off. People closer to me got their legs severed. One lady was trying to drink a bottle of water when I hit her mid swallow and the water poured out the back of her head. I made a man’s wife into a mist of blood that stained his face. A little boy got his back blown open so that his spine was exposed to the world. I went sailing in a thousand directions all at once. I landed all over everyone, no-one was too far away and the blood was everywhere. I did good.
The very last part me found the man that yelled “RUN! BOMB! RUN!”. A sharp piece of me shaped like a triangle sailed over the crowd, arcing downward, landing in his eye socket, blinding his left eye forever, and going in just far enough to tickle his brain, making him talk with a stutter for the rest of his life.
When the nurse took the last piece of me out of his eye, they found a piece of paper stuck to the back, a piece of that picture, and on it was the back of my maker’s head.
I know I made him proud.