Monday, May 25, 2015

[Fiction] - Memorial Day


MEMORIAL DAY

I stopped at the bus stop and cowered under the meager cover it provided. The rain had begun to fall just after I had left the house and so I found myself without an umbrella. I shivered slightly and attempted to shake the cold, and the rain, from my body.

Suddenly I noticed someone beside me, I had not seen him shimmy into the small shelter. He was young, I guessed he had just broken the two decade line. I gave him the silent nod customary for men these days. Acknowledgement without the dedication, or the offering, of a conversation.

He opted not to play along. “Good morning.”

“Mornin’,” I replied with my not-so homegrown but earned over the years southern draw. I took the opportunity to look the young fellow over as his dress took me as peculiar. He was wearing khaki slacks but they had an odd cut, a line that seemed old fashioned to me. Certainly not something you seen the young folks wearing these days. He wore a thick wool but rain soaked jacket with a collared dress shirt beneath. He looked like he could be heading to church.

“Why you carryin’ flags mister?” He questioned, noticing the small bundle of flags I had under my arm. I was on my way to the cemetery to lay flags on a few of the boys I had lost in the war. Usually the Boy Scouts handle this but I like to place my own on my boys.

“They are for the boys I lost, helps me get through the days without them,” I reached out with an open hand. “It’s James.”

We shook. “Sergeant Jason McNulty, 101st.” I noticed he had a stuffed duffle bag at his feet, it looked like a large green sausage.

“Heading home?”

“Nope sir, heading back to the front, our boys need a hand. They left last week. My Sally was about to have our first so the captain let me stay back.”

“That was certainly kind of him.” I smiled, thinking of my two babies when they were born.

“I am grateful but now it is time for me to head over there and get to work,” His eyes lit up and I could see pride in those eyes. I remembered when I was young and eager like him.

I heard a bus and turned to see one fast approaching, my destination printed on the readout above the front window. I turned to him and place a firm hand on his shoulder. “Well, Jason, you take care of yourself, be safe and come home to raise that babe of yours.”

“I will do my best sir.”

“Tell you what, take one of these,” I handed him a flag from my bundle. “Remind you that there are folks back here praying for you.”

“Many thanks sir, you have a great day.”

I plopped into the seat on the bus and looked back at the bus stop but the sergeant was gone. I looked up and down the street, then across the street, but did not see the sergeant. “Fast little bugger,” I said to myself.
Twenty minutes later the bus pulled away from the cemetery gate and I began trugging up the hill towards the plain white alabaster markers the government provide the boys.

The hour was still quite early. I guessed I had beaten the Boy Scouts because not a single flag flew on the graves. I passed the first row, then the second. I always find it a strange feeling being here among the boys. Comforting, but eerie at the same time. Then I stopped in my tracks.
A single flag fluttered in the breeze three graves over from where I stood.

I looked up and down the rows, the next one, the last one. It was the only flag.
I knew the final resting spots of all my boys and this one was not among them. I shrugged my shoulders and was about to continue to the first of my boys’ graves but something made me stop and instead head towards the single flag.

I nearly dropped my bundle of flags as I read the tombstone:
Sergeant Jason P. McNulty
A CO, 101st Air Assault
6 JUNE 1944
Omaha Beach

9 comments:

  1. All I can say is WOW! You captured the feeling in just the right way. Downplayed, no drama, and I knew where it was going, but it still grabbed me and made me cry. You are truly gifted, Matt. Keep writing, and let nothing get in your way.

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  2. It is a gift to be able to capture such big emotion and sentiment in so few words. I really love it.

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  3. Oh my goodness, That was so well-written, that my eyes were teary and it was hard to read through them. Thanks for writing this post and Thank You Matt for all that you do.

    And again, well-told.

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    1. Oh Ivy you are far too nice, glad you enjoyed it though. Kinda weird how it came to me, I was out for a morning walking after I completing a workout. In the original piece the narrator was going to meet a WWII vet at a diner. That quite suddenly changed to a bus stop. Then that suddenly changed to a young man. Then the idea of meeting a ghost as the narrator was heading out to put flags on graves hit me. Then the bit that sold it for me, giving the ghost the flag and it being at the cemetery hit me like a mac truck. I knew I had a good piece when that came to weird.

      Really weird how inspiration hits you.

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    2. Very cool that you knew it was a good piece, because it is.

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  4. Incredible, thanks for that.

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