12/5/07

Christmas 06: P.O.W. Christmas

Gleaming, glimmering stars held a gentle vigil throughout the night sky, like nights at home when he was a boy—a boy who wanted to be a hero. Heroes go to war. War is hell. Did the folks back home who slumbered safely under this same night sky know how hellish this place really was? But, knowing and feeling are two different things. [awkward] The man-boy had learned that lesson since becoming a prisoner of war. As a naval pilot of attack aircraft, flying bombing missions in his A-4 Skyhawk, he had achieved one dream, but landed—plunged—deep into this nightmare.

At night his ears rang louder than wild bells. Daily, hourly, his heart pounded as loud as drums. Didn’t he remember that bells and drums were a part of Christmas songs?

His pulse throbbed in a dry, parched throat. He felt the measured beat. Peace! He existed to fight for peace. Where could he find peace? What could he say, do, to help himself and his comrades? Besides peace, one thing he missed most was his freedom. According to calculations, tomorrow’s dawn would bring Christmas Eve. Ho, Ho, Ho indeed. [good]

What gift could he give? His life? Him whose birth we celebrate did. Some soldiers would. He knew, but he put that thought away. [is this a reference to suicide? not clear.]

Searching deep into his soul, his heart, his mind, he realized that the one thing he missed most this Christmas was a symbol. Not the symbolic Christmas tree, nor bells, nor drums, nor stockings hung by the chimney with care. He missed a singular symbol for freedom—the American flag. Hadn’t he gotten, finally after “humane treatment” convention discussions—packages from home? Wonderful, heart-warming, even hand-warming packages containing gloves, men’s large, white handkerchiefs, and blankets. One blanket, a rich, ruby red, sparked an idea in his head. Wasn’t his shirt blue? Couldn’t he fashion a needle, of sorts, from bamboo? Yes, he knew what he would do. [too many questions]

Huddled in a far corner of the cell he went unnoticed by other POWs. Using unraveling from his blanket he threaded the bamboo needle. Inside the blue shirt, using strips of a handkerchief and pieces of the red blanket, he fashioned a flag. An American flag, a symbol of freedom. This flag—his gift—the only gift he could give. [frag]

That afternoon, before the POWs had their bowl of soup, they hung his shirt on the cell wall. All stood at attention and pledged their allegiance. It was the most important and meaningful act of freedom the POWs experienced. A great gift from one pitiful prisoner who desired to lift himself and others from the depths of despair. His gift was received joyfully by gladdened hearts.

The wonderful feelings of being able to pledge the flag evaporated one dreary, desolate day. Guards searched the cell. They found the shirt. They saw the flag inside. The guards left, taking the shirt. Upon their return they jerked open the cell door. The gift-giver—even the flag-maker was pulled outside and beaten severely for the next few hours.

When his persecutors threw him back into the cell he was bruised, bloody. His utterings were barely audible. Fellow POWs tried to clean away the blood and tend to his bruises. This tender treatment and care for the flag maker caused a great ferment among the men. After a time, the tension abated. Later, when his strength returned, the gift giver sat huddled in a far corner. Was he cursing his captors? Was he moaning with pain? Was he crying with sorrow? No.

He held a white handkerchief, a piece of red cloth, another blue shirt, and a bamboo needle.

Technically, watch your punctuation, sentence structure. I think you overuse the questions, but just by a tad. I like the patriotic twist.

What I liked best: Pretty much, all of it.

Magazine ready? Yes.

3 comments:

Rachelle said...

Love the patriotism here. Go USA!

Vickey said...

Thank you for this. It surely touched my heart and spoke of hope and courage. I loved how the ending of it went, leaving 'the rest of the story' to the imagination. It was well done.

Anonymous said...

This gets my vote