Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorare




WWI Cemetery in Verdun Royalty Free Stock Photo


I really didn't belong there. I wasn't supposed to ride that far. I'd crossed two main roads and a highway. I wasn't even in our city anymore. My mother would have had a fit. Well, I thought, what she doesn't know won't hurt me. I leaned my bike against the chain link fence and climbed over.

The old cannon sat rusting in the vacant lot beside the American Legion. I'd been dying to get to it ever since I'd first noticed. Tucked away in an overgrown corner, it menaced North Main Street. I crouched behind its shield, peeking over the flap. The breech was rusted shut. No matter. North Main Street was the road to Berlin, each passing car a Panzer, and I was Audie Murphy. Now Jerry would get his.

Incoming! I shouted orders to my imaginary platoon. Down! Get down! Eeeeeeeee - BOOM! Quick, load, LOAD! I sighted along the barrel. Ready - FIRE! BOOM! One down, men. Here comes another. RELOAD!

No cap gun could compare. This was the real thing.

The real thing.

I felt his eyes on me before I saw him. The Legionnaire stood by the flagpole, lighting a corncob pipe. He nodded and gave me a casual wave. He wasn't going to kick me out. I waved back. The battle raged on.

Sure is a hot one today.
I whipped around. He had come up behind me. If it had been Jerry I'd be in big trouble. Up close, he was slight, but with the straight back and square shoulders that mark so many military men. He had a commanding air: a man that even street punks like me reflexively called "sir."

Yes, sir
The afternoon sun slanted in through the overgrowth. For the first time I noticed the heat. A cicada buzzed somewhere overhead.

That's a World War II 105mm howitzer you're playing on. You know that?

No, sir.

You like history?

Yes, sir.
He nodded approval.

Know anything about World War II, son?
I told him some things I knew. He nodded again.

I was there, son.

Really? Were you a general?
He laughed.

Nope.

Maybe I'll be a general someday.

Maybe.

You really fought in World War II?

Yup.

What was it like?

Hard.

Did you kill anyone?

He paused and stared at me. Silently, slowly, he drew on his pipe and exhaled. The blue smoke hung motionless in the stillness and heat. No cars passed. The cicadas seemed very loud. He looked off into the distance. He looked at the cannon. He looked at me.

You know what I hope, son?

No, sir.
He gestured toward the Legion building.

I hope some day we close this place down.

Huh?

I hope some day we don't have any members anymore and we can close down. We're the only organization I can think of that wants to go out of business. That's the truth, son.

Um... I don't understand, sir.

I know you don't. Just remember what I told you. Got that?

Yes, sir.

Been nice talking to you. I've got to be getting back now. You have a nice day. And son?

Yes, sir?

Remember what I told you.

He turned and left, trailing the scent of Captain Black. For some reason I didn't feel like playing anymore. I pedaled home slowly under the reddening sun. All the way, I could hear his voice in the back of my head. I can still hear it now.

Remember....


Respectfully Yours,


Cricket



20 comments:

Jillsy Girl said...

fantastic post!

Out on the prairie said...

Very nicely told

Kittie Howard said...

Great post! Thank you! My father was on Iwo Jima - he thought war was a terrible thing. My husband has the Silver Star from Vietnam - he thinks war is a terrible thing.

Lemon Stand said...

Amazing post... as always.

Shrinky said...

Oh Cricket, this chilled me to the bone - your innocence, his wisdom. So much conveyed in so little words.

You have a talent my friend.

Thank you for boiling it down so well.

ds said...

Amen.

lime said...

and with few words and a calm demeanor he left a deep impression which endures. thank you for sharing.

Slamdunk said...

Fantastic post Cricket. The veteran was right--I hope they close the places down as well.

Hilary said...

Absolutely beautiful.. in true Cricket style.

Ananda girl said...

This is one of my favorite posts.

I was lax this year and did not get out a Memorial Day post. But we had our flag out and as always, I played
The Green Fields of France.

Bossy Betty said...

Very nice, Cricket. I salute you for telling this so beautifully.

Jayne said...

What a perfectly timed and well told story. I can imagine you getting back on your bike, disappointed, trying to figure it all out. This really speaks so eloquently to how some of heroes don't really wish to be heroes.
Beautiful, Cricket. :)

slommler said...

What a beautiful story!
Congrats on your POTW
Hugs
SueAnn

Snappy Di said...

From the wife of a Vietnam vet.... I hope you can shut it down too!

Congratulations on this well written and heartfelt post and on your POTW.

Di

texwisgirl said...

oh this is wonderful. congrats on your POTW. very well-deserved. thank you...

ladyfi said...

A wonderfully moving post.

Moannie said...

Deserved winner of The POTW. How many more 'wars to end all wars' will be fought before the insanity ends?
How many dead sons, fathers, brothers? War is an obscenity.

Beautifully written.

TechnoBabe said...

Congrats on the POTW. You are a gifted writer and much appreciated in our house.

Suldog said...

Good Lord! How did I miss this one? Great piece of writing, my friend. Great.

Stacey Dawn said...

Powerful story - thanks for sharing. Congrats on the POTW!