Fallen Hero

headstone dog

Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

Marine Corporeal Jeffrey DeYoung could barely hold back his tears as he accepted the folded American flag in honor of Cena. Five-hundred people were attending his funeral, all Marines in their dress blues. Cena had been raised to be a Marine since he was very young, and during his tours in Afghanistan, he’d saved thousands of lives.

“There’ll never be another like you.” DeYoung listened to the taps performance as the coffin was lowered into the grave escorted by eight German shepherds. Then, on command, they issued their own salute to their fallen comrade, howling for thirty seconds.

Cena fell, not in the service of his country, but to bone cancer. The Michigan war dog was interned with seventeen other military canines. This weekend, we mourn our honored dead in the United States Armed Forces, but never forget the most dedicated and loyal members of the service are not always human.

cena

Cena with his handler Marine Cpl Jeffery DeYoung – Photo Credit: Fox 2 News.

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction – May 27, 2018 writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 151.

Given that this is the Memorial Day weekend in the U.S., and seeing the prompt was a photo of a dog and a headstone, I thought it fitting to pay homage to the dogs who have served our country. My tale is a fictionalized version of the events in the news story Michigan bomb-sniffing war dog gets military funeral. On August 24, 2017, Cena was buried with full military honors at a cemetery in South Lyon, Michigan. You can click the link to get all the details, but it’s very touching.

In doing my research, I also found a book on the history of military dogs, as well as this commentary.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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Inseparable

sisters

© Mrs White

Wednesday could only make squawking and chirping noises but her sister Friday understood every word. She was the only one who could.

“Because everyone hates us, Wednesday. You know that. You’ve known that ever since you were old enough to see how different you look.”

Wednesday shook her head, her large beak moving from side to side. She chittered.

“I know you’re scared. It’ll be quick. Like going to sleep maybe. I’ll be with you. We only have each other.”

She tried to say “I love you, Friday,” but only inhuman sounds escaped her throat.

“I love you too, Wednesday. I always will. But you know there’s no place in the world for us.”

Wednesday pulled her hand out of Friday’s and squawked.

“No! I won’t leave you. It doesn’t matter that I look like everyone else, it matters that you’re my twin sister. Now we’re going together or not at all, and if we don’t go, where can we return to?”

Tears escaped Wednesday’s eyes as she let Friday take her hand again.

“Now come on, Wednesday. The water’s just over there.”

Friday led Wednesday to the ocean and then into the ocean. They would always love each other and in death, be perpetually inseparable.

I found an intriguing photo at the Up Against Mortality blog that lead to Photo Challenge #172. It was such a mournful image and certainly my melancholy tale reflects that.

I gave my characters names inspired by the poem Monday’s Child. In this case, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” and “Friday’s child is loving and giving,” though her expression of love is a dual suicide.

Friday could have left her twin since looked perfectly human, but their bond was stronger than that. Even as the author, I wish they could have found some place that would have accepted them.

The Loyalty Test

loyalty pledge

Image: The Federalist

“I see you received excellent marks on your overall training evaluation, Mr. Collins.”

“Yes Ma’am. Thank you.” Brad Collins was standing in front of his section chief’s desk on what he hoped was his first official day on the job. She had a reputation for being strict and pulling no punches, so needless to say, he was a bit nervous. But he needed this job. Actually, he’d wanted this job ever since he was a little kid. Being here was the culmination of a 20-year-long dream. Now if only the dream would come true.

“You can address me as ‘Ms. Nash’ or ‘Chief Nash,’ Mr. Collins.” Nash’s expression was stern as she stared at him through the thick lenses of her glasses. It was rumored that her expression almost never changed, at least during work hours.

“Yes, Ms. Nash.” He stood ramrod straight in front of her desk as she carefully turned the pages in his final evaluation report.

“You signed your loyalty statement this morning, I see.” Nash didn’t bother to look up when she addressed him.

“Yes, Ma…Yes, Ms. Nash.” The loyalty test was one of the most challenging examinations to pass, not because of any physical or intellectual difficulty, but because it was so hard for most people to purge all possible tendencies toward disloyalty. Duffy, Brad’s first instructor, told him that most applicants were denied employment because of this, even if they passed all of the other exams.

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