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Tuesday

Flash Reprint: KJ Hannah Greenberg’s “Dandelion Fields”

Dan­de­lion Fields

KJ Han­nah Green­berg

 

His duf­fle bag was dusty. His dress uni­form, too, was dusty. Even the insignia on his sleeves were dusty.

The sergeant shrugged and watched the bus, which had left him in his par­ents’ dis­trict, drive away. Sigh­ing, he walked down the long flight of stairs that reached from the main road to his home. Here and there birds chirruped. A dump­ster cat crossed his path as did one of the season’s first lizards.

The park­ing lot near his front door held few cars. A torn, plas­tic laun­dry bas­ket lay on its side. Candy wrap­pers skipped in the breeze. A dis­carded pair of gym shoes hung from one end of the street’s main waste recep­ta­cle. Part of a loaf of bread, snugged in a plas­tic bag, hung from the other.

The enlisted man fum­bled for his keys. Mak­ing sure his gun was on safety, he laid it and his kit at his feet. Again, he searched his pock­ets.

Bul­lets had flown within inches of his face. His captain’s knees had been destroyed by the enemy. A buddy had had to be air­lifted out. The war­rior thought that he, him­self, had killed a man, but given the con­fu­sion and dis­tance, no one had been sure.

What’s more, there had been that half day, in the moun­tains, the place to which the fight­ers had been trans­ported after bat­tling in the low­lands. In those heights, all of the sur­faces had been slip­pery with snow. A local young­ster, maybe eight or nine, maybe older, had urged the non-com­mis­sioned offi­cer, who had just come off duty, to help build a white fort.

The sol­dier had obliged, for­go­ing pre­cious sleep to form bricks of frozen stuff and to pile them into a row and then into a wall and finally into a shel­ter. He had been com­pen­sated with the child’s smile.

The man boy exhaled. After reach­ing into the last of his fab­ric pouches, he had pro­duced no key. Nearby, a kit­ten cried for its mother. Tree clip­pings, placed hel­ter-skel­ter near the trash bin, rat­tled a bit in the wind.

The kaki-clad youth shrugged. He rebal­anced his gun on his shoul­der strap and took a drink from his water bot­tle. Leav­ing his large cloth bag on his folks’ porch, he made his way up the small knoll that over­looked their address and sat him­self down among the season’s new dan­de­lions.

He fin­gered those shoots and thought about chew­ing their leaves, but recon­sid­ered on remem­ber­ing the neighborhood’s cats. Palms turned sun­ward, visor adjusted over his face, that for­mer inno­cent, instead, inhaled and exhaled those flow­ers’ golden dust. He breathed with great pur­pose. All of his hours had not been destruc­tive ones.

 

Note: Orig­i­nally pub­lished in May 2015 Door­knobs and Body Paint.


 

KJHannahGreenberg.jpgKJ Han­nah Green­berg, who only pre­tends at being indomitable, tramps across lit­er­ary gen­res and gig­gles in her sleep. As well, she eats oat­meal and keeps com­pany with a prickle of (some­times rabid) imag­i­nary hedge­hogs. She’s been nom­i­nated three times for the Push­cart Prize in Lit­er­a­ture, once for The Best of the Net, and helps out as an Assoc­iate Edi­tor at Bewil­der­ing Sto­ries.

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