Part 1: Our Little Drama
Alonzo Arnold blew things up for a living.
He worked at an explosive ordnance plant in Childersburg, Talladega county, Alabama. The plant, like most parts of the state, had answered the call during the great charnel of the second war and it pumped out such death and smoke for America. Asbestos lined the walls of the plant and arsenic sank into the ground. At its peak the great plant produced forty million pounds of trinitrotoluene, and other explosives that made man into many, every thirty days.
The great plant dredged up the depths of the Coosa River to find deuterium, that heaviest of water, and sent their meager bits to a place called White Sands for a project called Manhattan. All this tearing and rending of Earth took its toll on Childersburg, Talladega county, Alabama, and in 1985; an unimaginable year to Alonzo Arnold, it would be declared a thing called Superfund. Which sounds charming until you learn the definition.
Alonzo Arnold blew things up for a living and right now some leftover stocks of trinitrotoluene needed to be destroyed. He set the TNT very gently on the ground and readied the timer. A long whip of burning rope lay ready. It sizzled and cracked as Alonzo Arnold retreated to a safe distance. His mind wandered and he looked away from the impending and familiar boom of something as mundane as TNT.
The greatest crack he ever heard shattered the heavens. An unforgiving cacophony of rock and ice screeched through the atmosphere and exploded as it hit the sky. Alonzo Arnold stared at his stockpile of munitions. They rested sweetly upon the ground as the flaming coil snaked slowly forward. Unexploded. Inert. Mostly stable. Then he looked towards the horizon.
A great black cloud traveled towards the northeast.
Alonzo Arnold recognized a mushroom cloud. For a moment, squatting in that field, he must have thought it was the end of the world.