It was reverberant. The ground shook. We did not. Eyes locked on the flag, straight thumbs aligned with curled knuckles, we were confident mannequins rooted to the humid soil.
Rooted. Yes the grass, the little green blades damp with Carolina dew, its roots ran right beneath our feet.
There it came again and with it the thought of what had nourished the ancestors of those roots. The metallic tasting red rain that had inundated a thousand such fields since time immemorial.
I thought of the cannon. I thought of its fantastic brutalilty. A thing built to say ‘you had best comply.’ One of those paradoxical war machines designed to illict peace. A detterent I think they called it.
What’s funny is it never deterred anybody. It was more a catalyst. The old arms race story. You wanted to stop a bunch of men with rifles so you built a giant bowling ball spitting tube. I guess you’d gain advantage for a while till the other folks figured out how to make their own or stole yours. And now you had limbs falling off trunks on both sides like loblolly branches in a thunderstorm.
I imagined a hundred pounds of lead making contact with flesh cleanly obliterating whole sections of anatomy through the decisive action of blunt trauma.
Exposed bones, gleaming fat, pools of offal and viscera, these and the feces of a thousand carrion birds mixed with the aroma of human blood and shit. Yes, in pretty green sunlit fields like these. A green whose manure was gore.
And yet we stood resolute. Willing perhaps even lusting for combat. A chance to test our limbs and brains against wicked metal and wickeder minds. Mind you we were not wicked.
Ah yes we were being inured to the sound, to the instinct to run for cover, taught to stand our ground. In defense of what? A fluttering bit of feeble fabric for an even wispier thing called ideal.
So were the fools across the ocean and beyond the hill.
I am no coward and I will die if I must. As will any man by my side, to my rear, or to my front. Yet every time I hear that sound of thunder…. I cannot help but feel that while the ideals may well be good, the present preparations connection to such is as feeble as that fluttering fabric.
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