Drunken Fireworks by Stephen King: Summary, Analysis and Review

cover of drunken fireworks by stephen king

Drunken Fireworks is a short story written by Stephen King. It was first released as an audio book in 2015 as one of the stories in a short fiction novel titled The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. 

Stephen King mentions an anecdote with this short story, wherein an old woman, recognizing him at a grocery store, told him that she does not like horror stories.

He did clarify that horror was not the only genre that he has written in. He mentions that he loves to read and write stories that are funny and it shouldn’t surprise anybody, because humor and horror are Siamese twins “you write some scary stories and you’re like the girl who lives in the trailer park on the edge of town: you get a reputation.”

Too bad that he didn’t write humor as much; because going by what this story offers, we can do as much with King’s humor as with horror, if not more.

Drunken Fireworks: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story is narrated by Alden McCausland, who has been taken into custody by the Castlecounty police.

Alden lives with his mother, and they are what he calls themselves – idle rich, having recently acquired a lot of wealth from his father’s demise followed by a lottery win.

Both Alden and his mother have comfortably settled in a life that usually involves them spending a lot of time idling around and drinking. They spend most of their summers at Lake Abenaki.

Their neighbors, on the other side of the lake, are an Italian-American family – The Massimo. They are very rich and owe their wealth to a very successful construction business.

The McCauslands, however, do not think much of them.

Thanks to them being Italian and operating a business out of Rhode Island, they are obviously connected to the Mafia, in the eyes of McCauslands.

Starting from one fateful day of 4th of July celebrations, both families engage inadvertently in what came to be called the “4th of July Arms race”.

What ensues is an insane game of McCauslands and Massimos going to great lengths to one-up their neighbors. Being ‘trumped’ by the Massimos on almost all occasions, Alden and his mother become more and more desperate to win the next showdown.

Their desperation takes Alden to forge new connections himself – going to the extent of sourcing “Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind” or “GE4” – illegally.

In the ensuing showdown, completely oblivious to the dry summers that Castle county had that year, Alden launches the GE4, only to witness that the fireworks go further than the intended purpose of showing Massimos who’s the boss.

A shift of wind sets the pine trees around Massimo’s house on fire. Soon after, flames engulf the house and destroy it.

Alden is then arrested by the police.

fireworks in night sky
The story Drunken Fireworks has a lot to do with fireworks… duh!

The police, upon receiving a full statement from Alden, lets him know that Massimo will not be pressing charges, considering that they were also accountable for taking the arms race to ridiculous proportions, eventually leading to damage.

Alden is not convicted but soon comes to know that his cabin is burned down too and the cause was attributed to his carelessness, keeping the fireworks too close to the stove. He is advised that getting along with that story, and having insurance pay for the damages is the best course of action for him.

Drunken Fireworks: Analysis and Review

The story has humor written all over it. Be it Alden’s complete insensitivity to other

Cultures or his mom avoiding ‘alcohol abstinence’ like leprosy.

The story is not devoid of time-tested wisdom either. Consider the following for an example:

“I guess a lot of Ma’s weight gain had to do with coffee brandy, they don’t call it fat ass in a glass for no reason. But she said she was never Miss America to begin with.”

We have all seen someone like that – family or friend – haven’t we? Oh forget all that , how much it reminds me of myself!

Look here:

“something’s gonna kill everyone, am I not right? Doctors have a way of forgetting that but Ma knew.”

I noticed two things in that statement- the way I have seen our dear elderly folks try to brush off requests for making some healthy changes to lifestyle and the creative excuses that they come up with to counter them and Alden’s dog-like devotion to her mom.

“..but they were Italian, and Massimo construction was based in Providence, Rhode Island, and you’re cops, you can connect the dots. And Ma always used to say if you put two and two together, you never get five.”

A sharp comment on the number of babies of Massimos:

“Massimos must have had half a dozen babies, and they wore colors so bright, they burn your eyes if you looked at them too long.”

The next one here makes me laugh every time I read it:

“Someone ought to dip that trumpet in olive oil and stick it up his ass. He could fart out ‘God Bless America.’”

Alden’s blatant disregard towards his Italian neighbors is so disgusting yet hilarious.

Some motivational quotes from Drunken Fireworks

There were a few motivational gems referenced in the story as well. Consider the ones listed below:

“It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight but the size of fight in the dog.”

Then there’s this:

“I didn’t bother telling her no made up story, because she always sees through them and has since I was knee-high to a collie.”

This one did elicit an aww from me. The mother-and-son relationship shown in this is the only glimpse of love that you get, hiding behind all the humor and stupidity of the characters.

Mr King does not write humor much and I don’t see why.


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