All That Glisters


In all his years with the bomb-squad, Brad had never seen his life flash before his eyes or had moments of reflection and regret. But now, as he attempted to dismantle a bomb in the art room of the local high school, he found himself wishing he’d taken guitar lessons. The guitar Tony bought him three Christmases ago was sitting, untuned and dust-covered, in the back of their bedroom closet.

Brad sighed and tried to ignore the bead of sweat threatening to drip from his brow onto the wires. The art teacher—Gemma—had been the one to call it in. She had arrived at work to find a suspicious looking box beneath the drafting table, a red display flashing a countdown. The school was evacuated and the black-clad minions of the bomb-squad bullied into the art room, Brad at the helm. The red numerals taunted as they clicked ever closer to disaster.


Brad knelt and squinted at the device beneath the table. His knees groaned and his back protested—he was getting too old for this job. He sensed his colleagues watching from the corridor, their collectively held breaths forming an airless pocket of anticipation.

Red or black? Brad closed his eyes, pincers grasped in his hand. Which wire should he cut? He opened his eyes. There seemed to be a magnetic strip beneath the wires and under that a small bag filled with…he frowned…what was that?

There was the sound of a scuffle in the corridor.


Brad jumped, banging his head on the underside of the table. Gemma stood in the doorway, trying to extricate herself from the panicked grip of a bomb-squad minion. A young girl in a flowery dress shuffled from one foot to the other next to her.

“What are you doing?” shouted Brad. “Get out!”

“Shelly has something to say,” said Gemma.

“It’s not…that is…it’s a…” Shelly, red-faced and looking as if she’d rather be anywhere else, started. 

The numeral on the device clicked over to “one”. 

“Go!” Brad burst from beneath the table, waving his arms at Gemma and Shelly.

“No!” said Shelly, maddeningly staying where she was. “It’s a…”

Click. “Zero,” read the display.

Brad yelped and dropped to the floor, an uncouth heap with his arms covering his head.  He was aware of his colleagues yelping and dropping to the floor also. There was a “pffft” and the room erupted in a shower of…glitter?

“A glitter bomb,” said Shelly.

Brad exhaled a shaky breath and brushed gold and silver sparkles from his shoulders.

“Glitter?” he growled, glaring at Shelly.

She shrugged. “Sorry.”

Brad and Gemma stood against the wall as the river of students flowed back into the school.

“I’m really sorry,” said Gemma. “Shelly is a very bright student, but…” She shook her head.

“I have one question,” said Brad.

“Of course.”

“Know any good guitar teachers?”

“What? I…why?”

“I’m thinking of making a career change.”

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