The Pipe Bomb
About the Writer
Chris Negron graduated from Yale University, where he wrote for the nation’s oldest daily college newspaper, the Yale Daily News. His short fiction has previously appeared in The Grand Central Review, Torrid Literature Journal, Pilcrow & Dagger, and The Vignette Review and will also soon appear in Synaethesia Magazine and WhiskeyPaper. He has received multiple writing honors from the Atlanta Writers Club as well as the Literary Award of Merit from the Dawson Country Arts Council.
The pipe bomb will be eight inches in length, two inches in diameter. It will contain shards of broken glass, some nails, a few screws. It will be born after Jimmy Reed has one bad day too many, after Matt Lacey hip-checks him face-first into his locker, after the right lens of Jimmy’s glasses cracks and the frame bends and the air vents scrape his sideways-turned head, drawing blood.
The pipe bomb will exist because Jimmy’s older brother Frank once built them for blowing up watermelons and cantaloupes down in the old quarry with his friends. Though he sees a strange look in his kid brother’s eyes, Frank won’t blink when Jimmy asks him to teach him to make one too. Frank will show Jimmy how to cup his hand and pour the debris down one end of the pipe, standing with arms folded like a foreman on a construction site, clapping Jimmy on the back when he caps it shut, telling him to “be careful with that.”
The pipe bomb, as pipe bombs sometimes do, will detonate early. As Jimmy is sliding it into Matt Lacey’s locker, the combination to which he will buy from Russ Bukowski, who somehow knows these things, the pipe bomb will explode and the fingers of Jimmy’s right hand will sail past his right ear, landing with tiny thuds on the shiny tile of the hallway outside Mr. DeLuca’s math class like wet, slippery slices of strawberries flopping to the linoleum floor of Jimmy’s kitchen at home. Jimmy will see this image, his mother cutting strawberries for him, for some reason before the blackness descends over his eyes. And Mr. Deluca, who will have thought he saw a strange shape in Jimmy’s backpack but will have looked away when his favorite student asks him a question, will be the first on the scene, tearing out of his classroom at the deafening sound of the explosion. Mr. DeLuca, who will have been voted favorite teacher by his devoted students for three years in a row, will hang on for a couple more years, but his heart will no longer be in education. He will retire early to work in a Barnes & Noble forty miles from his house, his wife’s dinners growing colder and colder as his stops at Tanner’s Pub become longer and longer.
The pipe bomb will be nothing more than shattered metal when young Nurse York arrives, unable to stop her hands from shaking as she attempts to stem the tide of blood flowing from Jimmy’s hand, all the while saying, “Jesus Christ” and “Oh, God” and “Jesus Christ.” She will leave the profession she spent years training for before the following school year, hauling with her a massive pile of student debt. She will work in an automotive parts store, lifting boxes too heavy for her slight frame, until her back gives out and she begins popping Percocet like Tic-Tacs, until not even her own children recognize her at night, lying flat on the couch with one arm crooked over her swollen eyes.
The pipe bomb will carve a wide gouge into the polished floor in front of Matt Lacey’s locker, dividing the hallway neatly in half. Two days later, Renee Waters and Danny Utley will step over this gouge, still arguing about Jimmy Reed, Danny trying to explain what it feels like to be bullied and Renee emphasizing her firm stance that “violence is never the answer.” They will break up within the week and, after they graduate, Danny will disappear to Columbia. Renee won’t notice her new boyfriend’s drinking problem until they are already engaged. He will wait until they are married to switch to cocaine and begin beating her.
The pipe bomb will inhabit the back of Frank Reed’s eyes the rest of his short life. He will stay home for another year, trying to help his parents take care of his brother Jimmy, who will not be able to communicate verbally and will have lost the use of his right hand. Frank and his friends from the quarry will decide to knock over a jewelry store and, in the resulting shootout with police, he will take a bullet to the center of his chest. Frank will bleed out while lying on yet another bed of broken glass and twisted metal.
The pipe bomb will spread a near perfect circle of nails and screws down the hallway of Harris High and, from just outside this destruction, their toes dancing on the edge, someone will say, “Thank God no one else was here when it went off.” And someone else will point and nod and explain to everyone standing nearby what a good thing it was that the pipe bomb was already inside the locker when it exploded. This person will describe how much worse the impact would have been, how much farther out the spray of debris would have reached, if not for the absorption of the majority of its power by the metal and concrete immediately surrounding it. And this someone, as some someone always does, will say, “It really is a miracle more people weren’t hurt.”