Every Fourth of July until I went away to college, my shiftless friends and I would drive out to the Indian reservation and purchase awesome and highly illegal fireworks. The effects produced by many of these couldn't be deduced from the info on the label, so we were forced to turn to the taciturn men behind the counter for help.

One time my friend Nick held up a grenade-like device and asked what it did.

"Well," the man said slowly, "you light the fuse..."


He nodded. "Then you git back."

That was all the sales pitch we needed, but still we wanted to know more. He gestured vaguely. "It just kinda hops and whirls," he said, and that was all we ever got out of him.

The Hopping Whirling Ball of Death, as we immediately dubbed it, did indeed kinda hop and whirl, and if we hadn't got back we probably would have lost a finger or two. But the purchase was still the best part.

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