Springwood was a small town, but the annual Fourth of July Picnic always drew a sizeable crowd. Families from six counties stood cheering in the town square as fighter jets roared overhead, filling the air with plumes of brilliant red, white, and blue.
As I stood among the roaring crowd, I couldn’t help but wonder how many really understood the spectacle. Was this just entertainment, or did they understand that the jets represented those who had bled for their freedom?
“Excuse me, Mister!” A young girl bumped into me abruptly. Her pigtails bobbed in the summer breeze, and she clutched a handful of roses in her tiny fists.
Here was a prime example, I mused, of a youngster too innocent to understand the great significance of today.
“You should be more careful,” I scolded her harshly.
“Okay, Mister,” she gushed, eyes bright. “I was just watching the planes! I watch them every year.”
She pointed dramatically to the sky, where one fighter jet broke away from the rest.
My eyes flooded with tears as I thought of the many comrades I had seen go down in battle…the thousands of fallen soldiers represented by that solitary plane. The crowd cheered, excited by the beautiful display, and completely unaware of its meaning.
“Are you alright, Mister?” the girl asked, alarmed.
I smiled weakly. “Yes, I’m fine,” I told her. “I was just missing some old friends of mine. You…you wouldn’t understand.”
The girl hesitated for a moment, clutching the flowers tightly to her chest. Then, with trembling fingers, she offered me a rose.
“This is for them,” she said. “Your friends, I mean. You see, my Daddy used to fly airplanes before he… went to Heaven. Every year I watch the planes, and bring roses for his grave. But I’m sure he wouldn’t mind sharing…this once.”
I wanted to thank her, but couldn’t form the words. The girl hurried into the crowd, and left me a changed man.
Want to celebrate July 4th by writing a gripping piece of flash fiction based on this patriotic photo prompt in 360 words or less? Take the Thursday 360 Challenge at www.whitneylschwartz.com!