The Rest of the Story
For over fifty years Luther Hobbs, Wilmer’s Hobbs’ younger brother, has flown a flag every Veterans Day. It was something his father did, until he no longer could, then Luther took over. It was a way to honor Wilmer, a way to remember.
Luther will be the first to admit that his memory isn’t as good as it used to be.
“Time is catching up to me,” is something he says more and more these days while watching the evening sun drift behind the tall trees he climbed as a boy. That was until, Wilmer was killed. After Wilmer was killed, climbing trees was no longer fun.
Wilmer taught him how to climb trees; how to climb trees, and so many other things, things he would never forget things like; how to throw a curve ball, how to bait a fishing hook, ride a bicycle, how to not be afraid of the dark, and the Lord’s Prayer.
Wilmer taught him how to tie his shoes, too. Luther still remembers that afternoon, and how long it took, and how patient Wilmer was as they sat on the porch steps until he finally caught on. He remembers it every morning when he ties his shoe laces.
Sometimes he hears Wilmer’s voice whispering to him, sometimes calling out from across the fields, and sometimes when he walks along the stream. It was by the stream where Wilmer first told him he was going away to fight in the war. It was where Wilmer let him listen to his grandfather’s watch that last time.
Luther thinks about that watch now and then. He still remembers its ticks and tocks. The old watch wasn’t among Wilmer’s things that the Army sent home after he was killed.
Luther still keeps those things; a few medals, and ribbons, Wilmer’s dog tag, and two stripes that he never got around to sewing onto his uniform. He keeps them in a box along with flag that once draped his brother’s coffin. It’s the flag he takes out every Veteran’s day and hoists high, unfurling it in the crisp November breeze, just as the sun peaks over the mountain top.
This Veteran’s Day, like Luther’s memories, there is not as much left of his brother’s flag to dance in the morning breeze.
Two weeks ago, Luther’s grandchildren dug the old flag out and burned it. When he was awakened by smoke, Luther thought his whole world was on fire. In a way it was, and still is, as he continues nursing burns from reaching in the hot blazing flames.
He did it without thinking.
“A silly thing,” the doctor at the emergency room told him.
“It’s just an old flag,” the doctor said more than once. It was the same thing celebrities say, and what his grandchildren said while they watched him rescue the old flag they set out to destroy.
“Because being an American isn’t cool.”
By some miracle all, of the red, white, and blue wasn’t burned and enough stars and stripes survived for Luther Hobbs to fly his brother’s flag this Veteran’s Day and remember.
I pray this is a work of fiction I pray, but fear it’s not. Edward Reed 2019