No one thought the Fields of Shantara would be the decisive battle against the tyranny of the Verbeni. For a dozen generations, the invaders of the colony world of Grazoria had ruled the human race with cruel efficiency, and although the resistance fighters were outgunned and out manned, they were courageous. Their harassment of the enemy gave the populace hope, until their exploits became legends for their children and their grandchildren.
“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” -attributed to George Orwell
His name is Derek Johnson and he’s a disabled, homeless drunk living in an alley that stinks of piss. He’s also a Marine and a Vietnam vet. The three punks thought it was funny, but I sure as hell didn’t. The old man was still passed out when they found him. Drunks most times get rolled for what little they’ve got, which isn’t much, or sometimes a truly sick bastard will pour gasoline on them, and think they’re doing the world a favor by torching a “warmonger” to death.
This time, they only took his prosthetic foot.
I can’t sleep. I can never sleep, well, almost never. When the insomnia monster is clawing at my brain, I walk. Who cares if it’s 2 a.m. or whenever. This time, it was just after dawn. I saw them running out of the alley, laughing like hyenas on coke and carrying something. On a hunch, I looked where they’d been and found him. He was barely conscious and cussing up a storm. I saw the stump where his foot used to be and I saw the words “Semper Fi” tattooed on his forearm. That’s all I needed to know.
“Stay here, brother. I’ll be back.” I touched his shoulder hoping he’d think it was reassuring.
“Stay here? You fuckin’ nuts? I ain’t got no foot. Where the hell would I go?”
I didn’t answer. I just turned away. If I were in his place, I’d probably have said the same thing or worse.
They were just kids and they thought it was funny. He was a homeless Vietnam vet who had his foot blown off. The punks thought they were doing the world a favor by abusing him.
I found them a mile away from where they left him and made them tell me where they’d left his prosthetic.
I took it back and said he could come to my place. He asked me why. I told him that Marines have each others backs. Later that night, he stood on one good foot and one artificial one, and we both saluted the flag.
I wrote this for Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above to create a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count (after a lot of editing) is 100 words.
A prosthetic limb and the American Independence Day. I didn’t have to think hard to write this one. My Dad was a veteran and so is one of my sons. For their sake alone, I’ll never take the knee in front of the American flag, though I respect the right of anyone who chooses to. After all, that’s what so many have fought and died for; the right to speak their mind in a free country.
Happy Independence Day to you and yours.
To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.