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FREDDIE AND THE DREAMERS / Bill Meissner WE KNEW NOTHING of explosives. But sometimes, at the end of lunch hour, we'd wake from our naps and remember that we were sleeping inside a bunker that stored 100,000 pounds of gunpowder. We'd wake—whUe those fleeting dreams we never recaUed evaporated quickly from our heads—and squint at the sunUght that always hurt our eyes as it brightened the open front doorway of the bunker. Then we'd Uft ourselves slowly from the tarpaper floor, which was coated with a layer of rubber so there wouldn't be any sparks. At the gunpowder plant, even a tiny spark sometimes meant death. But we never thought too much about that—the plant was just a place to work the summer of 1966, nothing more. It was just a place where, while shoveUng gravel along the plant's network of tram tracks, Freddie Jones and I Ufted our shovels to our hips and strummed them Uke guitars, rocking and laughing as we'd imitate Herman's Hermits or Freddie and the Dreamers. It didn't matter that we slaughtered the harmonies. We'd dance far up the narrow-gauge railroad tracks playing "How Do You Do It" until Luke, our foreman with the crewcut and bulging, sweat-greased muscles, would look up from his track-straightening crowbar and shout at us to knock it off. Each day at 11:05, when the whistle blew, we sat on the porches of the storage bunkers and opened our metal lunch boxes. We'd finish our bologna or peanut butter sandwiches as fast as we could so we'd have a few extra minutes to sleep. Once in a whUe, as a gag, Jonesy would cUck his lunchbox fastener back and forth with his index finger. "Sparks," he'd hiss. "Hey guys, Tm making sparks." We'd all chuckle and Ue back, resting our heads on the cushioned floor, and let our minds slowly sift down toward the layers of sleep. AU summer long we slept in the powder storage bunkers not because we were daredevils, not because we wanted to tempt fate, but for simple reasons. We slept there because on those hot, humid days of summer, the bunkers were cool and moist and dark inside. We slept there because they were quiet places, insulated The Missouri Review · 81 by three foot thick waUs of wood and sod. The first time we walked into a powderhouse, I tried not to stare at the red letters painted on the white sign above the doorway: Danger, 50,000 lbs, of Explosives. "Tm not going in there," Jonesy said as he paused in the doorway. "No way are you going to get me in there." But we all got used to it. For one thing, you could never see any of the explosives when you walked in—inside, there was just a hoUow room with a plain black floor. The powder must have been stored beneath the floor, or behind the wood and tarpaper waUs. The powderhouses always smeUed Uke a freshly tarred road, only not as sweet. Sometimes, late in the afternoon, we could stall smeU that heavy scent on our clothes and skin. After our naps we woke refreshed; we never had any nightmares. In fact, none of us could quite remember any of our dreams. Jonesy once said that sleeping in these damn bunkers was Uke being hypnotized—when you wake from the trance, you don't remember a thing. There were six of us high schoolers on the tram track maintenance crew: besides Jonesy and me there was Moe, who knew more trivia about top 40 songs than anyone In history; Otie, the taU, rangy, aloof guy, and Bernard and Ed, two shy farm boys who decided to forsake their farm labor and come to town to make more money. After a few of our musical jam sessions with the shovels, Moe started caUing us Freddie and the Dreamers, and the name stuck. We were aU kept in Une by Luke, our foreman—Luke the Slavedriver, Jonesy caUed him. "You young bastards have aU gone soft," Luke used to sneer as he...


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