Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Captain's Last March

The Captain was a source of curiosity
to us kids in the Alpha-Six housing blocks.
He lived on the sixth floor, in Pod 62.
We didn’t even know his name,
just that he was The Captain,
and our parents said
we needed to leave him alone.
So we stared at him, mouths agape,
when he walked down the corridor
with his groceries,
and never spoke to him.
He was in his sixties, then,
with a paunch and silver hair.
The only way you would know
he had been in the Forces
was his erect posture
coupled with a slight limp.
We avoided eye contact with him,
but if we did meet his glance,
we saw an empty sadness there.

“What’s he even doing in a housing block?”
Ula whispered.
Forces men lived in actual houses
and had their groceries delivered to them
and waved at us benevolently in parades.
“I bet he was a dishonorable,” Indo said.
“He’s old enough to have been
 in the Nebular Wars.
Maybe he deserted.  Or something worse.”
“What would be worse than deserting?”
his brother Jerren asked.
Jerren dreamed of joining the Forces,
But no one of our class would advance past
the private ranks,
otherwise known as Blaster Fodder.
“A captain wouldn’t desert,”
I interjected knowingly,
even though I knew nothing of the Forces.

Our parents appeared to have no interest
in this type of speculation.
“For the last time,” my mother cried
in exasperation,
“just leave it alone!
It’s no business of yours.
I don’t want to hear that you’ve
been bothering him.”
“Maybe we should invite him
for our Colonies Day dinner,”
my little sister suggested.
“I’m sure he has his own family,”
my mother replied,
then quickly changed the subject.

One day,
two men in suits came
to the Captain’s door.
He didn’t seem surprised to see them.
He said to them,
“Just a minute,”
and turned off his television.
He followed them,
down the corridor,
witnessed only by us kids
peeking around the corner.
He caught Jerren’s eye,
and Jerren stoutly saluted him.
He nodded almost imperceptibly in return.
He fixed his posture a little
and walked with his head higher then
and disappeared into the elevator.
He never came back to our housing block.

We did see the Captain’s face
on the news one evening.
“War Criminal and Traitor”
were the words under his picture.
“What did he do?” I asked my father.
“Never you mind!” he gruffly replied,
changing the channel.
Then he sighed.
It wasn’t like him to be cross.
“People in the Forces…” he began,
then paused.
“It’s hard for us to understand
what they go through.
Also, you can’t always believe everything
you see on these news reports.
But it’s best for people like us
to just stay out of it.
He’ll have a trial,
and they’ll figure out if he’s guilty
or innocent.”

A few weeks later,
we saw our landlord
open his apartment
and some men
moving the Captain’s possessions out.
Jerren saw the corner of a Forces flag
sticking out of one of the boxes.
“Can I have that?” he boldly asked
our landlord.
“Get out of here, you little rat!”
the landlord cried,
with a smack to the back
of Jerren’s head.
Luckily for Jerren,
the box containing the flag
wound up next to the dumpster,
so he was able to retrieve it
and solemnly folded it into a triangle,
quietly singing the Forces anthem
to himself, even though he didn’t know
all the words.
Many worlds, but one nation
all for the good of the Corporation!
We are the colonies’ defenders
The Forces will never surrender!

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