I'm going to post a short story that is not a happy short story. It's one of two short stories that I'm going to write this week for other bloggers, this one being for the ladies at In Good Company. I'm not good at writing that way, but I've been repeatedly given the assignment to do so and I try very hard to be a good student of the Universe. I think It All loves me and if It All repeatedly asks me to do something by putting it in my way again and again, then I'm best served by following.
For some reason, in my normally and currently happy life, this is the story that wanted to be born:
Haley Black stood in the sunken valley of the endless tombstones, all uniform from a distance and only different in intimacy because of the names and the shapes of the god symbols that had been carved from the bleached white marble, the thousands of rock bones as evenly spaced as seconds on a clock.
She walked through the rows and read each name that marked the way to the grave that brought her here to this marching stone testament to war. After a few hundred of them, she couldn’t look at the names without seeing their faces and she stopped reading names. The faces she saw weren’t of the boys buried in the earth, but the faces of boys she’d seen in the black and white photos she’d found in the box at the bottom of her mother’s closet. Those boys were all laughing, smoking, lanky, and alive. These boys would lie perfectly still for the rest of ever and all that would live here was the green grass that lay on top of them. This was war.
This is what we do, she thought.
This wasn’t where she wanted to be.
There was no way not to feel her soul splinter at the incredible and endless waste of all these boys, but she’d come here for a purpose that was larger than a roll call to death. Her father lay here in this place. She lived because he had once lived and the ritual of giving thanks to him compelled her as much as any instinctual act had ever driven a living thing. She’d come here to say thank you to life among all this death, she’d come here to say thank you to life, to this life. Haley set the heather she had brought with her down in front of the bone white cross and took a letter from the box in her backpack. A young girl, Haley’s mother had sent it out in innocent love but it had been returned unopened. In all the years her mother lived, she’d spoken very little of the man who’d been her high school sweetheart and never told Haley of the scores of letters in the lacquered box at the back of a deep closet. In with the letters was a Kodak Brownie and fists full of black and white photos of a boy she’d never seen, of a boy who had loved her mother once, of other boys. She opened the first of the love letters and began reading them out loud one at a time. She read them all, out loud to her father and to the ten thousand, four hundred and eighty eight of his brothers in arms, his brothers in death.
This wasn’t where she wanted anyone to be.