Written for Trifecta.
Wind swept through a dusty town bringing news of victory, lifting the women’s skirts and blowing sand into the children’s eyes. People coughed as they cheered. Peace at last.
But it wasn’t peaceful in the home of the five children who rode around the neighborhood on rusty bicycles, posting blurry photographs of their father. MISSING IN ACTION. Nor was it peaceful in the garden of a mother whose tears watered the strawberries after burying both of her sons. There was no peace in the womb of the pregnant woman whose husband died before knowing of his child, and when the baby was born dead, his mother slept for the rest of her life.
A soldier stayed awake for days without blinking, for every time he dreamt, the men he’d killed attacked him with shards of their broken eyes, and he sunk into the holes in their flesh and he held their missing hands in his hands. Another soldier dug a hole, climbed in, and shot himself in the brain, his last thought being that all men eventually get what they deserve.
Boys played war, imagining sticks into guns, murder into an inconsequential game. They ran home at dusk, holes in their pants, dirt caked under their fingernails like earth wrapped around the roots of old trees. Their mothers mended blue jeans and scrubbed fingernails and sent them to bed with overflowing stomachs.
But the little boys across the ocean, they were still hungry. No mothers to sew their broken hearts together, no time to play if they also wanted to eat. Enemy soldiers stalked the streets like wild cats eager to pounce. The boys lowered their heads, if they didn’t see the enemy maybe he didn’t exist. As night swathed their tent, molding and cracked, they surrendered to darkness for they had no candles, telling stories of triumph and tragedy, love and loss, exploring parallel universes and searching for the holes they’d jump through to land there.