about the author

Tyler Munro is an emerging writer based in Toronto. He graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School and is currently working on “Deadbeat,” a novel about canoes, whiskey, and the ghosts of fur traders.

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Big Bo Goes Boom 

Tyler Munro

Read by Alexandra Roberts

Big Bo’s got the bomb.

The scientists crowd around him in long, white lab coats with serious expressions pinching their faces, clutching notepads they pretend to write in while Big Bo gestures at the bomb and talks animatedly about the big boom. The photographers snap their photos, largely ignored in their endeavor, since the clicking sound of photo-taking follows Big Bo wherever he goes. One of these photos will appear in tomorrow morning’s news all around the world.

When the shoot is through, the scientists nervously glance at one another. Eventually, their eyes all end up on the bomb, and they all shudder to themselves. One of the primo generals, Tod Braxton, rushes over to Big Bo who rolls his eyes and thinks, great, this cock-less mongrel. Beyond being an incorrigible bootlicker, and not in a good way, Braxton looks foolish in his military cap, the only one of its kind to have a customizable chin strap to keep it fixed on his ostrich head. Not a good look for the uniform. Big Bo frowns.

What a masterful achievement, Braxton declares, shaking Big Bo’s hand with both of his, squinting up at him like he’s the midday sun. Your father would be so honored because of this masterful achievement.

Big Bo solemnly nods his head, the appropriate response to any mention of the now-deceased Bo patriarch. When the primo general backs off, bowing and gibbering to himself about god knows what, Big Bo glances over the steady cast of TV people and photographers.

Where’s Hedvig? he screams. Hedvig!

Two corporals drag a tall woman with platinum blonde extensions through the crowd, depositing her at his feet.

Hedvig, he sighs, spreading his arms wide to hug her.

Hedvig, adult film superstar, recent winner of three EVA Awards for her performance in Queen Ingeborg versus the Nordick Wurm, a film that so captured Big Bo’s erotic imagination that he absolutely had to have her, even if it meant whisking her away from her Copenhagen flat in the middle of her morning Pilates routine.

Decked out in a black corset, stockings, and pumps, the only outfit Big Bo will permit her since it’s what she wore in her film, Hedvig stands and stares forward with glassy eyes as he proceeds to nuzzle his face in the cleavage of her bust before all the onlookers, reemerging with a boyish grin on his face.

What do you think, my hygge bear? he says, shuffling aside to point at the bomb.

Hedvig’s eyebrows raise and her swollen lips form an “o” as she nods her head frantically.

Big Bo is beaming.

You see? he screams, face reddening. He shoves Hedvig aside so she doesn’t ruin the shot.

Could father build us the bomb?

The sea of faces are expressionless. Big Bo glares at them all, circling the bomb like a mad dog.

No, he yells. Father could not build the bomb. But he tried, didn’t he?

He stops to strategically turn to the biggest camera of the bunch and he points at it, eyes narrowed to slits.

Only me! Me! Me! Me! he says, jabbing his plucky thumb into his chest. I built the bomb!

To this, everybody cheers and claps, a deafening roar, and it would go on until their arms strained and their shoulders ached if Big Bo didn’t cut in with a vicious snarl.

The foreign interlopers will soon see. We will not tolerate their...their...—Big Bo begins to convulse, an aid runs to him but is restrained by one of the generals—hostile policies, he gasps, surfacing from his rage.

The applause begins again and Big Bo smiles his famous smile, which isn’t really a smile at all so much as a smirk. He lifts his hand to wave, but doesn’t really wave, his flabby hand hanging there, still as a statue’s, before falling to his side, a gesture immortalized by his late-great-grandfather in a black and white photograph.

Then, as quickly as he arrived on the scene, he’s lifted away by his attendants and guards into a shiny black, flag-adorned limousine. Hedvig is stuffed in after him. They burn rubber, and they’re off, followed by an escort of motorbikes and SUVs, a marching band playing them off, though there’s nobody left to hear their triumphant music.

Big Bo sits quietly, Hedvig even quieter next to him, the darkness mounting in the evening sky. They pass nearly identical, pastel-colored apartment blocks; the newer high rises his father put up that circle center city like the merlons of a crown and reflect the light of the setting sun; and his own creation, the entertainment district: a lighted thoroughfare fronted with discos, a casino, an amusement park, a large Odeon, a field hockey stadium, even a mini-golf course.

He watches these modern curiosities and their lights flicker on as soon as he approaches, employees emerging onto the sidewalks, standing stiffly at attention, waiting for patrons who may never come, and this, of course, this vision of endless diversions turns him inward to his adolescent years studying abroad which makes him feel very old and very tired. He slumps forward in his chair and lets out a sagging breath. For the first time that day, Hedvig looks at him, turning back to the twilit window before he can catch her.

A guard shoulders his weapon, bends his knees, plants his heels into the cracking pavement and clasps Big Bo by one of his dainty wrists, pulling at it with all he’s worth. Big Bo swats at him and screams that he’s going to lose his arm, until, by some great exertion, he’s wrenched free from his limo seat and onto the side of the road. Finally afoot, he tugs at his lapels and straightens his trousers, gazing indifferently at the soldier, who’s been catapulted onto his ass and is now scrambling upright to salute the Great Bo.

Big Bo sniffs at the air, ripe with Hedvig’s musk, and walks with his armed retinue through the palace grounds, shedding his retainers at each of their posts until he is left with only two, who rush to open a set of thick double doors, standing aside to let him pass. All of his family are seated at a great banquet table: his wife, two sons, daughter, mother, and four aunts, their faces impassive as he takes his place at the head. He nods and they all eat to the delicate clanging of utensils striking dishware. The food is cold.

That evening, Big Bo realizes that he’s anxious. Next to him, his wife snores with her back to him. He watches her, the daughter of a general who’d once found favor with his father.

Big Bo manages to rise. The air at night is cool and it stings. He plods down the long hallway lined with old photos and memorabilia that long ago lost their mystique. He barely notices the young man twenty paces behind him but knows that he is there, an extension of Big Bo. Big Bo’s shadow. He stops at the end of the corridor and stares at an alcove where a dried-up wall fountain burbles no more. He could be mistaken for a sleepwalker, but the guard who follows him knows that this is the route Big Bo takes when his mind is troubled. He swiftly turns, unlocks a door and the guard takes his place next to it as he disappears inside.

The room is empty, but Big Bo can do without the objects that once filled it. He presses his palms against the window ledge and leans to look through the lone window to the night, to the city, to the past. It is hard to look anywhere without seeing guards or loud people, but now he is afforded the quieter vistas of the empty square, blue in the moonlight, and the ordered grid of the French gardens below. If someone told him as a boy that he’d be here today, Big Bo wouldn’t have believed it. He wasn’t supposed to be Big Bo, after all. His older brother was. He was supposed to be an ambassador, a general, a scientist, anything he wanted.

His eyes refocus on the reflection staring back at him in the glass pane of the window. It is his father gazing back at him the way a god might gaze upon a man, with indifference, but also with anger that something so small should insert itself before something so big.

It isn’t lost on him that part of why he’d become Big Bo is the close resemblance he shares with his father. There is none of his mother in him, none at all. In fact, he so resembles his father that it sometimes unsettles him. It’s as if boundaries do not separate them, which is why Big Bo must do things to set himself apart. To say: This is me, Big Bo, different than the last Big Bo.

He turns from his reflection to the room and even in its emptiness, it comforts him, but he can’t stay forever, so he unlocks the door, steps out, locks it again and leaves with the guard trailing him. He passes by another door, the one adjacent to his old bedroom, where his older brother had once slept. Now, it is his wife’s painting studio, cluttered with the haphazard watercolors of an old, crazy woman. What a terrible tragedy. His brother had been such a good rider. To have fallen, mangled in the hooves of a tired horse, killed.

When he does finally get to sleep, the sun is beginning its blushing climb up the sky, and his mind is replaying images of bombs detonating at distances. That’s all he’s seen these last months. That’s all he’s ever seen since he was a boy. Screens filled with mushroom clouds.

As he dresses, his attendants bring him reports from all around the world. People condemn him and call for action. He chuckles to himself, sipping a cup of strong coffee fortified with whiskey.

Did you see this? he says, waving a foreign newspaper at the man tying his shoelaces. They call me, and I quote, “The World’s Most Dangerous Man.”

Everyone is as thrilled as Big Bo, of course. This is some of the greatest news they’ve received since the Great Famine ended in the late-nineties. Big Bo, looking as regal and martial as ever in his military garb, marches to his limo, waving for the cameras. They pick up Hedvig at her apartment, accompanied by her handlers, and together they get on an armored train, which will shoot across the wasted landscape to the gulf.

Finally, that afternoon, he arrives at the coast, his generals, scientists, and camera people in tow.

It is a beautiful afternoon, and he says so many times over, all of his generals nodding in agreement. Even Braxton seems less a drag than usual, his head somehow more robust. An encouraging sight, which convinces Big Bo that maybe the old general doesn’t need to be eliminated after all. He notices that the scientists, however, are acting like nervous sheep, fidgeting among themselves and exchanging glances.

What’s the problem, he snaps.

They all fall silent. One of them stutters: Nothing. Nothing is the matter, oh Biggest of Bos.

Big Bo’s face darkens. He turns to his military cadre.

Let’s get on with it.


A General relays an order in his walkie-talkie. Moments later, a jet screams across the pale blue sky, leaving white tracers behind it. Big Bo points to it.

Look, my hygge bear, he says. Hedvig seems distracted, but manages to glance up. Her eyebrows lift like dispatched parachutes and her mouth forms an “o” but no sound comes from her, just silence. It concerns him that she cannot share in his joy, but he decides he will deal with her later, not now. Now, he will enjoy this spectacle. He fumbles to get his binoculars to his eyes.

When it drops, don’t look directly at the explosion, someone reminds him. It can damage your eyes.

Yeah, yeah, sure, Big Bo says.

Everyone is silent. The wind stops its lashing. The bomb drops, a fleck of dust in the sky, and it falls in a long, graceful arc to the sea. A voice counts down. Big Bo’s mouth widens. He thinks he hears a scientist praying, but that doesn’t make any sense. Everything stops. For a moment, the world is frozen. It’s a child’s charming diorama.


Hot air races from the point of impact and blows the hats from the onlookers’ heads. A sun is slowly being born. Big Bo gasps. All of the scientists, for a moment, seem relieved. It actually worked. He cannot turn away. It is the best thing he has ever seen. A hand grips his shoulder. The people around him are buzzing. Hedvig shrieks. Another person yells something to him.

But everything has gone black for Big Bo.

He can hear footsteps. Autos starting. A helicopter churning the air. He can hear something else.

He palms his eyes and the pain is immense. He knows that sound. It is the sound of angry water. He looks up and feels a shadow crossing over him, a coolness in the air as it fills with moisture. He can smell the water as it comes down wet and heavy. It steals his breath away.

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