Nina dropped the black can of spray paint and stepped back to admire her work. “Starving children” was scrawled across the hood of Emily LaFontaine’s Camaro. A sixty thousand dollar car for a teenager. The most popular teenage queen in the bubble of South Delta needed a reminder. Everyone did.
“What the fuck?”
Nina turned from the car to see Emily striding towards her, eyes dripping poison and her lips curving into a wolf’s snarl. She had two sycophantic companions, eyes wide with shock.
It was one-thirty in the afternoon. Class was in session and Nina thought she’d be in the clear, but apparently the teenage queen wasn’t above truancy.
“How do you justify this car to yourself?” Nina asked, crossing her arms and planting her feet.
Emily was running pale-cream hands through straw hair, shaking her head slowly. Her friends were glaring at Nina.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m here for the children.”
The threesome advanced on her, arms raised.
“Don’t let her get away,” Emily snapped.
Nina didn’t move, and let her hands fall to her side. “While you’re driving around in sixty-thousand dollars, thousands of children die every day. The true cost of your vanity? It’s not sixty grand. It’s chil-“
Emily’s fist struck Nina’s cheek and staggered her. Nina fell onto the grass, and more blows pummelled her. Hammer strikes against her ribs, her legs, her face, her groin. A leather boot struck her jaw and her vision blurred.
Anger roared inside Nina, a virulent toxin clouding her mind. That barbie bitch never even considered her own greed.
The blows stopped and Nina sat up, tasting blood on the corner of her mouth.
“What’s your name?” Emily screamed and Nina laughed at the girl’s blotched, red face. All of Emily’s stature and grace, spoiled because of a little paint.
“Nina de Grey,” piped up a cherry-pie red head from Nina’s English class. “She’s nobody.”
“It’s hard to ruin someones life when they don’t have one. Still, I can try. It’ll be therapeutic,” Emily said.
“It wasn’t personal,” Nina said through swollen lips.
Emily threw her head back and harked before firing a loogie onto Nina’s shoulder. “Damn it,” the teen queen said. “I missed.”
The words of the immortal Jolly Roger rolled through Nina’s mind, a quote from his gospel, the Anarchist’s Cookbook:
Scream against the setting of the sun, spit in their eyes and make them address you. They can’t ignore a chemical fire.
An hour later, Nina was lounging with Dylan on a park bench, sharing a cigarette. He had the reassuring presence of a soldier; amplified by a crew-cut, a rake-thin frame and an open face.
“Why’d you let them do this to you?” Dylan’s arm was warm around her shoulders.
“It’s not about hurting anyone. That’s not the message,” Nina said.
The sky-blue Camaro was somewhere in South Delta that very moment, in the McDonalds drive-through, parked outside of seven eleven, idling at the lights on fifty-sixth and tenth and it was telling everyone how twisted that sixty-thousand dollar car was. A billboard selling something positive. Talk about an oxymoron.
“A pacifist who’s obsessed with explosives,” Dylan chuckled. “You’re an odd egg Nina de Grey.”
“Says the guy who spent the summer of grade eight watching every episode of Judge Judy ever made.”
Dylan laughed, but it went on too long. His smile was too wide, too bright. “I had nothing to go out for.”
“It’s okay peasant, I’ll keep you busy.”
It’d been two weeks since the incident with Miss Lafontaine.
The family garden shed was an icebox at night but that didn’t matter. The chill couldn’t touch her, oh no, not Nina de Grey. The fluorescent overhead lights illuminated the spiderwebbed walls and dusty cupboard shelves with flickering spurts.
The school’d given her a two week suspension.
Nina inhaled gasoline.
The fumes travelled down her trachea where they were absorbed by the aveoli in her lungs. They charged into her blood stream. Euphoria blossomed in her brain, a summer shine of stimulus.
Her eyes turned to the chipped grey table where her father kept nets for his mosquito magnet. It was where her mother kept a trowel, pots and a bag of fertilizer. It was a de Grey family tableau, but Nina’s contribution outshone the others.
A gorgeous salad bowl half full of napalm. Styrafoam dissolved in gasoline over a week. Three pickle jars containing one hundred mls of gasoline and a chlorine tablet each. A peanut butter jar full of iron oxide and aluminum shavings. Rust and granulated tinfoil makes thermite.
Two McChickens and a Big Mac makes a McGangbang.
Throw one of the gas-and-chlorine jars against the window and the Eastern part of the house would become a volcanic maw. The flames would spread like red death in the house of Poe. The mansion her father called his ‘dream home’ would be reduced to crumbling char.
The firemen would whistle and roar past the gate of 151 English Bluff Road. A troop of intrepid goblins hanging out of the windows and swinging from the ladder of their aquatic chariot. They’d find her molten legecy a monster too fierce to slay and would settle for containing it.
When the white four-thousand square foot mansion was just smoke and memories the only thing left of little Nina De Grey would be chunks of roast finger and singed eyelid. Then they’d pay attention. For weeks on end, they’d wonder on CNN why no one ever noticed her.
Nina’s phone vibrated in her pocket.
Dylan informed her the gate was closed. Nina told him to jump it.
She lowered herself into the rickety lawn chair and tucked her bangs behind her ears.
Dylan entered the sacred realm of the Jolly Roger, the patron saint of Anarchy, wearing a fucking Nike jacket. He gawked at the table, mouth working like a nutcracker.
“Holy shit. Is that – What is it?”
“Napalm, jar bombs and thermite.”
Dylan bent at the waist and tilted his head to examine the jars and the salad bowl.
“Scared?” Nina asked.
His chest heaved as he turned towards her. “Fuck Nina. I didn’t think you were serious. These’ll actually like, explode?”
Nina rose and swooped up the jar in one hand. Dylan jumped back, hands raised like he’d been caught robbing a bank and was coming out waving a white flag.
“What are you doing? Put it down.” Dylan said.
“Chill your pants, Beavis. They aren’t for us.” She raised the jar to her cheek and purred.
She pressed her lips against the glass and smacked them before placing it carefully back on the table. A bright red pair of lips marked the jar.
Dylan scratched the back of his head. He opened his mouth to speak.
“It’s goin’ down tomorrow night,” Nina said.
“You betchya ass boy.”
Dylan looked at the table again, and then turned to Nina.
Nina silenced him with a raised palm. “I’m doin’ it. You can either come, be a part of history or you can be a bitch.”
Dylan’s adam’s apple rose and dove.
He sighed. “Alright. I’m in.”
Nina leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.
Dylan ripened to the colour of nectarines. She ran a hand across the back of his bristly head, smiling. He placed a tentative hand on her shoulder.
Nina laughed. She wrapped an arm around his soft, thin neck and they came together with writhing tongues and clumsy paws.
The Walmart parking lot was empty except for the single security sedan parked out front. At two forty-five in the morning, darkness had a monopoly on the starless steel-grey sky.
Around the side, Nina and Dylan’s bikes were hidden behind a shelf of thorny flowers. The service entry door was thick grey metal with a dented silver knob. It came out near the plasma TVs, the Xbox Ones, the PS4s, the iPhones and other black magic.
Nina handed Dylan a bottle of pepper spray. “Only use it if you have to,” Nina said as she looked up at him. Dylan glanced over his shoulder at the quiet parking lot before tucking the can into his hoodie.
“Hose up,” Nina commanded, as she pulled an ash grey stocking over her head. Dylan followed suit. His features were squished beneath it. His nose looked like a bulbous tuber.
Nina checked her phone. “It’s almost three. Out by three ten. Got it?”
“Yeah.” Dylan’s voice was a poorly tuned radio.
“Let’s do it.”
Dylan disappeared around the front.
Nina lowered her bag to the ground and withdrew the thermite. The brick-red powder shifted as she held it up to the glow of a streetlight.
Nina retrieved a Jack Daniels shot glass. Tapped brick-red powder into it until half full. Thermite burns at four-thousand degrees so it needs a container to be focused effectively.
God bless the Jolly Roger.
A tinkling crash echoed from out front. Nina’s stomach lurched and her hand shook, pinches of thermite spilling onto her hand, like salt for a tequila shot.
Reaching into her pocket, she retrieved a strip of magnesium and buried it in the thermite.
She balanced the shot on top of the knob. A precarious position but it stayed.
Deep breath. Nina lit the end of the magnesium strip and it flashed like sparklers on Canada Day.
Sprinting away, she heard sizzling. Lit thermite can cause blindness so use a welder’s mask or hide your eyes. The sizzling grew to a crackling crescendo. Nina squeezed her eyes shut. In seconds there was the clatter of metal hitting concrete. Nina turned around and opened her eyes.
The door was slowly swinging open, a smoking husk of the knob rolling on the ground below. A pile of thermite was eating it’s way through concrete at the door’s base. Tar-black smoke emanated from the crater.
Nina grabbed her bag and sprinted towards the opening.
She found herself in the right ventricle of the enemy’s heart. Walmart, the slave master, the snake-oil salesman, the tax-man in black and red.
Vacuous ceilings loomed overhead. Everything was egg yolk yellow, shot-through with recycling bin blue.
Blowout Clearance Sale.
A urine-coloured smiley face was ‘blowing back’ the price of barbecue sauce. Faux wood linoleum flooring intersected with church white lanes.
Rows of Angry Birds and Star Wars t-shirts were on display for five ninety-nine a pop.
Even in the half light, the entertainment section was big, bright and shiny. There were metal shelves of plate thin plasma TVs with “Ultra High Definition!” hanging above in bold black font on sterile white. There were see-through glass displays (bulletproof) where the new video game consoles were connected to even more TVs. A sign read “Next-gen Gaming” and in smaller font beneath: “Unbeatable Prices.”
Nina placed zip-loc bags of napalm at the bottom of some sales posters. Lying innocently at the bottom of a poster of a smiling kid, the bag looked like orange jello. The kid was holding an xbox controller, parents beaming over his shoulder. Nice watch on dad’s wrist. Kid wasn’t looking at the game he was playing, he was beaming at his generous parents.
Another bag of napalm at the feet of an absurd poster of a pleased middle-aged man sitting in a lazy boy. Designer-framed glasses and a Clarke Kent jawline. He was watching TV. A girl was leaning over his shoulder, squeezing her breasts against him in an attempt to see the television better.
She laid eight bags of napalm all together, using the other six to flush out her area of effect.
Nina punched a hole through the video game boy’s head.
A scream echoed from somewhere up front.
Nina reached into her bag and removed the glass jars. She lined them at her feet, three do-it-yourself grenades.
One of these will obliterate a classroom. Can you say ‘school’s out’ children?
She placed two where the napalm was lightest.
Nina made her way to the aisle outside of the entertainment section, about twenty feet from her target.
She gripped the final glass jar in sweaty fingers and steeled herself. Then she threw it in an arc towards a landscape-sized Sony Envision S3000. Only thirty four ninety-nine (plus tax).
The jar shattered on a plastic tile and a mini-sun blazed at it’s epicentre. A wave of light seared her corneas, and booming bass crushed her eardrums. The blast pushed her and she landed heavily on her back.
Nina struggled to her feet and looked around, at a messy blur of black and white. Everything was moving. The entertainment section was unrecognizable. Her eyes were like open sores, leaking tears. Colour slowly returned and the store swam like a river of lava, swelling yellow-red gold.
The happy-customer posters were gone. The TVs were gone, the games were gone. There was a gaping hole and Nina could see electrical lines spewing sparks from the gouged wall. Nina’s head stopped spinning. She’d fallen down again.
It was so beautiful.
There was a muffled noise behind her. Nina turned and saw Dylan running towards her through the smoke.
He was staring at her from behind the dark-grey hosiery but no words were coming out. Her ears were ringing.
Nina looked for the service door. It was hidden behind a wall of infernal tongues.
The fire was spreading to the kids clothes section. A baby’s jumper glowed orange and withered like a dying leaf. Dylan dragged Nina to her feet, and pulled her towards the front door.
There was a large, jagged hole in the front windows. A security guard with a turban was lying unconscious on his back, blood pooling from a wound on his cheek. Another guard was kneeling on the ground, hiding his face in his hands and kicking the linoleum with New Balance sneakers.
“What happened?” Nina screamed to be heard over the ringing din in her ears. Dylan grabbed her arm and yanked her outside.
Smoke was billowing out of the broken window and the parking lot flickered like a fireplace.
Nina limped around the side to pull her bike from behind the flowerbed. Then she hopped on. Dylan pushed her into a start. Nina glanced back and saw flashing red and blue tearing up the street towards their location.
Fear gripped her and adrenaline took over. She pedalled hard, standing up in her seat. The world through her eyes was dark around the edges as if framed by shadow.
They carved a path through a nearby field and over side streets. The journey was a blur. Giggles came unbidden, boiling up from Nina’s belly. They cut through avenues and courts, up fenced walkways and half-lawn back streets.
They power pedalled up the hill and cruised onto the bluff. Nina’s lungs were on fire.
The pacific village was tranquil, still and impenetrable as a midnight pond. The road split ahead and Nina still hadn’t heard anything other than a high-pitched ringing.
“Hey,” Nina called and Dylan stopped. She put her arms around him and held him for a moment. He pried her arms off of him and she saw his eyes were shiny. His eyebrows were pulled down like closed blinds. He opened his mouth but she couldn’t hear and then he took off, down the left fork, home. Nina took the right fork.
She hopped off her bike and guided it to the rack before going to the shed.
All evidence was dumped into a large, plastic bag and thrown down the bluff. She experienced the advantages of an acre of hilly forest, at last.
When Nina climbed into bed, there was a thousand-mile grin carved in her face.
What would they say now?
The bright-red clock face beside Nina’s bed read three a.m. The numbers swam and merged, separated and twirled. The water bottle of gasoline in her hand felt connected to her mouth by string. She raised it and inhaled.
The walls were breathing, more alive than any architect or interior designer had ever managed. Nina ran a hand across the dynamic surface.
Her mind went again to the copy of the Province, delivered that morning and now lying on her desk open to page ten. Page ten.
“Accidental Gas Leak Destroys South Delta Walmart.”
The rage and anger Nina’d felt had been dulled, wasted on the wall, which sported a flakey hole. Her knuckles ached but the pain was distant, as if it belonged to someone else’s body.
Nina rose, wavered and then found her balance. Her ears felt stuffed with cotton and sound reached her distorted, as if emerging from a maze.
The Province; father of lies, bastion of deceit, the gluttonous information baron.
Scream against the setting of the sun, spit in their eyes and make them address you. They can’t ignore a chemical fire. They can’t ignore death.
God Bless the Jolly Roger.
The oily front page of the Province was devoted to a five car pile-up in the Massey tunnel. A person died. Nina’s tears had stained and obscured the cover photo of mutilated metal, made it a blur of colour.
Opening her laptop, Nina sat at her chair, head swinging in circles as she fought to remain upright. A quick google search for Emily LaFontaine. Nina found an address.
220 English Bluff Road.
It was less than five minutes from her home.
Nina began to giggle, short bursts of machine gun amusement, eyes rolling up to show the whites.
She opened the Anarchist Cookbook and searched for a recipe: How to make plastic explosives from bleach.
Potassium chlorate is an extremely volatile explosive compound-
God Bless the Jolly Roger.