Friday, August 02, 2013

Memorial Day

The children were darting in all directions, in blue Cub Scout uniforms with yellow neckerchiefs if they had them or play clothes if they didn't, giggling and hollering and playing tag in the clearing beneath the high pines, ducking behind the enormous trunks, tracing circles around the hulking clapboard frame of the community house. They had marched in the parade, following the band, and had kept as still and silent as they were capable of doing while a bugler played "Taps" and the white-gloved firemen stood crisply at attention. The brocaded flags, borne on poles by the color guard in white helmets, hung laxly, barely stirring in the diffident afternoon breeze. When the riflemen shouldered their arms and aimed into the distance, the children had plugged their ears, then gasped as each salvo of blanks echoed around their heads. The cloud of smoke soon thinned but the smell of gunpowder, acrid but alluring, continued to filter through the crowd.

Later, when the coolers were hoisted out and set down on a patch of lawn, they lined up two by two for sodas, grape or root beer or orange, fishing them out of the melting ice and waiting while the grown-ups plunged can openers through the tinplate tops. Through the triangular holes they sipped the sweet cold liquid that tasted of wounded metal and gingerly waved off the yellow jackets that hovered around their hands. Finally they lined up again for paper cups of vanilla ice cream, which they scooped out, quickly before it could melt, with little wooden spoons. Then they ran off again to play until it was time to go home.

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