The Explosion

“The Brewer’s Backstory” – Episode 1

February 2001

The Brewer's Justice cover

Coming January 2016!

The moment that forever changed Brad Peters’ life started with sound. The soft crack of glass. The jarring explosion of the bottle. Mary Beth Larsen’s scream. The fleeting silence. Mr. Ebenholt’s shoes smacking against the linoleum floor. Mr. E shouting, “Mary Beth! Are you injured, Mary Beth?”

Brad had tried to remember what he’d seen or felt during those first seconds, but he never could. Those senses hadn’t kicked in until Mr. E dove by him to get to Mary Beth, who stammered something about being okay. A second, brief silence. Then the slow-motion awareness of Mr. E and all his classmates staring up at the ceiling. Years later, Brad still recalled with crisp clarity the effort it had taken to tilt his head back. He remembered pulling aside the shock of wavy auburn hair that, at sixteen, he had let grow until it covered his eyebrows. He remembered the sudden lack of control over his mouth that went slack when he comprehended the power of the explosion that had shot the chunk of glass into the ceiling panel.

Mr. E’s voice and, “Brad, are you okay?” Whenever he really started remembering it all, he’d still shake his head like he’d done in that moment, before he’d gotten his breath back and answered Mr. E’s question with, “Oh, crap.” He had never felt so far from okay before or after.

Mr. E directed his Advanced Placement Chemistry students to return to the dry ice and solubility of gasses experiment, then marched Brad and Mary Beth into his office. To his credit, Mr E listened to Brad’s confession with only occasional interruptions. How he had overslept after studying until midnight. An argument could be made that surfing the internet was a form of studying. How he had grabbed a banana and the now exploded glass bottle of apple juice from the fridge on his race out the door. The banana peel he tossed in the trash on his way into class. He slid into his desk seconds before the tardy bell, drained the last of the juice and stuck the bottle in his backpack.

At that point, the omissions of truth began. There wasn’t any non-snot-nosed way to tell one of the most respected and demanding teachers at an A-ranked suburban school, “I’m naturally good at what you teach. I do my homework, and I walk in knowing almost everything you’re going to say in your pre-lab lectures.”

Instead, Brad gave a lame explanation about attempting to calculate how much the pressure of a little dry ice and some water would increase inside the glass juice bottle and how he had obviously miscalculated.

“Obviously.” The unamused tone when Mr. E repeated the word told Brad he had just, unequivocally and indisputably, lost the mostly good-natured competition he and Mary Beth Larsen had waged for the last six months. Come May, she, not he, would win the coveted Golden Goggles Award. For the rest of the academic year, that bothered him far more than the immediate punishment.

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