I don't usually post my own writing. Seems pretentious to do so. Perhaps today I am pretentious --I'm sure some of you think I am most days.
This is an excerpt of a piece The Sky is Falling, based on some past Remembrance Day ceremonies I've been to. In particular, the image of a frail, older veteran standing in the rain while the ceremony unfolds around him.
The Sky is Falling
by: Harry Tournemille
Nov. 11/ 2007
The body is old. Hunched shoulders drawn down in the rain. They'd be arched in the sunlight too, the graveness of gravity. At one time they were straight. Broad, strong anchors for the torso. But the body ages and is now old. The awareness of age does not help. In the rain, the man is rooted to the ground. A feeble apple tree, split and worried with years. His brow a permanent furrow, the earth of his face turned over with age. And wisdom. His jacket is buttoned, hat perched on the side of his head. Medals weigh down his breast. They hang from curled ribbons that mock the man's shape. He dislikes them, their gaudy brassiness. They do not remind him of another time, of smoke and fire and confusion. Their memory is born of fabrication, the allusion to a time that did not exist in the temporal. They remind him of nothing at all. On any other day he keeps them in a small, pine box at the back of his sock drawer. Today they weigh him down, pull his heart to the saturated earth. The place where they belong, where he belongs one day. The body is old. But not dead yet.
He snaps to attention. Autopilot. Chest out, chin down, eyes fierce for a moment before they retreat into thought. He feels the host of bodies around him dance the same. Unison, the great deceptive cadence.
The man pivots, graceful. His foot claps the asphalt, joining the percussion of all the others. A person he does not know stands next to him. Her dark rimmed glasses appear to squeeze her eyes closer together than what is natural. But the beauty of her youth is not lost on the man, her pixie mouth and high cheeks. She leans towards him and whispers.
They really should have those new fandangled gadgets for us to ride on.
Seg-ways they're called. Two wheels and we could still turn to attention. My grandson has one.
It requires an inhuman amount of effort to suppress a smirk. And he after all is human. He shakes his head at her and she winks.
Well, I'd like one at least. I'm no spring chicken, y'know --but I used to be.
In unison they move, tired limbs swing, feet rise and fall. Less smooth than the last time. But no one notices. As the man marches he clenches and unclenches his left hand. He tries to relax his shoulders. The cenotaph at City Hall is only two blocks away and he wonders if he'll make it. Will his body fail in this postured line of duty?
He tells himself this is it. No more marching. Been saying that for years now. By Christ his hip hurts. Out of the corner of his eye he notices a homeless woman pushes a shopping cart, her mouth moving in phantom conversation. She stops as the veterans pass, raises a half-empty bottle of rice wine in salute. Her mouth pulls apart in unpracticed smile, exposes fragments of what few teeth she has left. Missing teeth. Who was it that lost his teeth that night? Louis? No --he was alright. Stoned out of his mind but alright. Louis Sutton had a nickname for everyone; called the man Frankie-boy. The marching has stopped. Stand at ease. The charcoal cenotaph points to the grey sky. A concrete, admonishing finger that God misinterprets. The ceremony begins. As a voice comes over the sound system, the man's thoughts drift back sixty odd years, to a beach in France at night...