No one knows for sure when the Wigwam was first built, but legend says it was made one night by Mad Riley, on the run from the FBI for a triple murder and caught in a terrible storm. Desperately seeking shelter he hid in the middle of the forest and crafted the structure, staying for three weeks before disappearing never to be seen again.
It was Joe who first suggested we meet there, all those years ago. The Thunder Children, as we called ourselves, in a misguided homage to the storm that was Mad Riley’s salvation and curse, met every month, come what may. Joe was geek sheek, the intelligent glasses, calm but distant, a casual shrug of the shoulders that told you he was way more intelligent than you, a long journey from the fantasy bookworm of our first meeting. He saw himself as a ‘Sherlock Holmes’, and me as his Watson. Or rather the ‘bodyguard’ as he’d say. Violence had a way of sniffing me out; I wasn’t big, but I wasn’t small either and I was quick with my fists. Beca; well she was the ‘mentalist’, eyes too close together and too dark for comfort, quick to anger, slow to forgive and the ringleader in most of our hairbrained escapades. Of course others came and went, but we three were the heart.
The night of the accident was a dark October night like so many others. Jenny arrived with a wheelbarrow of ‘goodies’, refuting my complaints with her logic of: “they're only fireworks, everybody knows fireworks never hurt nobody that's why they use them on Guy Fawkes' Night, because he didn't actually do anything.” I asked Joe if he thought she was being crazy? “Can the rain stop being wet?” He replied irritatingly.
The first rocket launched with initially, great excitement, followed by the inevitable disappointment of a distant bang. The next was aimed at a tree, with a satisfying gasp of wonder. The next went into the Wigwam, a festival of sound and light for the merest of seconds. Before we knew it the remaining fireworks including the aptly named Thunderbird Titan had been strapped together and placed in the centre of the Wigwam; in our ever increasing quest for more. We three stood inside waiting; a wave of uncertainty deep in each of us, kept at bay by the stronger desire to not back down in front of another.
Jenny the branded Thunder ‘mentalist’ was the 1st to hesitate. “I'm not sure this is a good idea” and then, “actually this is a terrible idea”. I was about to agree but Joe stepped forward, match in hand, smiling. “We’re not kids any more.”
Perhaps to him it was all an intellectual computation of what would happen next, or maybe he was tired of his quiet persona and wanted to evolve to the next stage. And he was right, we weren’t kids anymore, well not compared to back then. We weren't just friends anymore either; we had grown to know more about each other than our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers combined. We were Thunder Children, becoming Thunder Adults. We knew the value of caution, because as young adults we had learnt it. But as old children we also knew how to ignore it. Maybe he was just carried away in the moment.
I grabbed Jenny’s hand as Joe crouched and lit the match.