Shaved Legs and All: LGBT Pogrom

Keeping the promise - By Mizeta Moon 

Eighty four rings, thirteen bracelets, four necklaces, a gem studded crown, two crucifixes, and dozens of loose jewels gleamed on Madge’s kitchen table. Her head swam as she pondered their possible worth. She decided not to show her treasure to Brenda, feeling it could create a huge rift between them. Instead, she told Brenda that other than some great scenery, the trip was a bust. Brenda got her “I told you so” moment and laughed once again at the idea of aliens using telepathy to guide Madge. Madge let her gloat without retort and within a few days the pressures of daily life overlaid further conversation on the subject. 

How to convert some of her treasure to cash was a momentary dilemma until she remembered that her neighbor Jeff was a jeweler who worked from a shop in his garage. Taking them to a pawnshop would realize a small percentage of their worth but with no idea as to what they were and their value she could lose a small fortune. Asking Jeff to appraise them was a logical course of action. But should she do it all at once, or in dribbles and drabs? Her flair for the dramatic led to her starting with the crown and a handful of loose gems. She was nervous and almost peed herself as she waited for Jeff to answer the doorbell. She almost turned to run but the door opened and Jeff invited her in. 

Jeff was stunned at first, but soon grew suspicious. After all, Madge worked in a hotel laundry and could scarcely afford decent costume jewelry, let alone a King’s ransom. “Where’d you get this stuff?” He asked with narrowing eyes. 

“Dug it out from under a tree in the mountains,” she replied. Deciding honesty was the best policy, she added, “there’s more. Guess I shoulda brought some of the smaller stuff first. Kinda wanted to show off.” 

Jeff nodded, still distrustful but overwhelmed by curiosity. As he examined the crown with his loupe, he murmured with approval. Madge was encouraged by his fascination. “It’s really old,” he said. “Solid gold. The gems are cut beautifully and the carat weight is huge. Do you have an idea what it’s worth?” 

“No. That’s why I came to you instead of a pawnshop. Can you help me sell it? I could really use the money. Or maybe you could buy it. I know you’ll be fair.” 

Jeff grimaced at the idea of a pawnbroker even touching such a fabulous relic. It was museum grade and a part of human history. Possibly worth millions on the open market. “I couldn’t give you one percent of what it’s worth, but I could be your broker to a reputable auction house. That would be the way to go. I understand your need for cash but wish you’d donate it to a museum.” 

Madge shook her head violently. “No way! It’s mine now. I went through hell to find it. Like I said, there’s more, and with your guidance we could make some real money.” 

Jeff put his hand on his chin while examining the loose stones. “I’d want to see the rest and go online to find any police reports concerning it. If that comes up clean you got a deal. For twenty five percent, of course.” 

It seemed high but Madge knew he’d work hard to get the most for her treasure. On her drive home that day she’d asked the alien who could read her mind who the treasure belonged to. Evidently, a thug who broke away from a gang run by a man named Rynax came to the northwest, buried it, then died before retrieving it. That was hundreds of years earlier. She knew there would be no police reports. Brenda would be surprised when she moved to Monte Carlo and never mentioned the thingamajig again. 

For more about Rynax and his treasure, read the story Kriga in Mizeta Moon’s new book Stark Raving Mad. Available in the book section of Amazon as a paperback or now in e-book format as well.     

Thingamajig - By Mizeta Moon 

Following the clues they were given led to a long trek over rocky hillsides. They were told the reward could lead to wealth and fame, but so far, their reward was aching muscles and tired feet. Brenda decided she didn’t want to continue and told Madge she’d wait there for her to come back. Madge wanted to find the treasure so she plodded on, cursing her friend under her breath. She didn’t like being alone in the hills, or to leave Brenda vulnerable, but the man who told them about what he left in the cave seemed so sincere that she had to carry on. She could use some wealth and fame in her life. Working in the hotel laundry didn’t offer much upward mobility. 

After two more miles she thought about turning back but scrambling over a big pile of rocks led to a discovery. She found the ruins of an old mining camp and the opening of a cave that looked like it had been deserted for years. She gave the buildings a cursory examination but found nothing of value. Anxious to explore the cave but concerned about what might be living in there, she stood at the mouth and threw some rusty cans in that were laying on the ground. When nothing stirred, she cautiously started in. She expected darkness, or half-light at best, but there was a glow that made it easy to look around. Of course, no chest spilling over with jewels and gold was in evidence. The only thing she could see was an odd-shaped object that seemed to be the source of the glow. The thing was painted purple and green, and as she approached, it began to change shape. Square one moment, round the next, then triangular. Now she was scared. But! She’d come this far so she had to check it out or die of curiosity. 

When she got close, she heard a hum that could only be coming from the thingamajig. It continued to change shapes, then grew larger and hummed louder. Finally brave enough to touch it, she felt a tingle race through her whole body. It was warm at first, then grew icy cold, then back to warm. The surface was smooth in some places and rough in others. She didn’t think it was alive but wondered if it was a machine of some sort. It didn’t seem to have openings or a purpose other than constantly morphing. When it shrunk to the size of a softball, she tried to pick it up but it was too heavy. Thoroughly puzzled, she sat and watched it for a while as it changed, then decided to explore the tunnel that had probably been dug by the miners before the place was abandoned. Only, she couldn’t. There was an invisible wall she could see through but couldn’t walk through. Now things were really getting weird. Time to go. Brenda would be worried if she didn’t get back soon. Besides. Force fields meant aliens or who knew what. 

She decided to run her hands over the thingamajig one more time to see if she could find an opening. At that point, it was a huge triangle and was barely humming. After finding nothing, she reluctantly turned to leave, unhappy to have not solved the mystery or found treasure. After reuniting with Brenda, telling her about the strange object, and starting for home, she suddenly had a brain flash. The image of an alien family sitting in their home ran like a movie in her head. Now she knew what the thingamajig was. A tinny voice whispered a message only she could hear. When she nodded her head to agree that she’d never tell anyone what it was, she was told where she could find a big bag of pirate treasure. Brenda was going to be amazed     

Separate Ways - By Mizeta Moon 

Brenda didn’t believe there was a treasure. Aliens reading minds was something she didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t believe in, regardless how sincere Madge sounded. So, Madge packed for an excursion to the coast and set her alarm for an early start. Brenda seemed content to idle along through life and use her precious time doing little to enhance the experience. Only, time can slip away like a thief in the night and leave you old and wrinkled, wondering if your journey was joyful and meaningful. Madge wanted to do anything and everything possible and die with a bang. 

The drive to the coast was beautiful as usual. Farmers tilling fields. Rows of wine grapes ripening in the sun. Birds perched on wires or flying overhead to destinations only they knew about. Madge left the radio off, rolled her window down, and breathed in the fresh air. The cathartic effect was soothing to her soul and she looked forward to the magnificence of the ocean. As she climbed into the coast range, she hummed one of her favorite tunes while reaching into her lunch bag for a double fudge chunk cookie. 

When she crested the highest peak, she had to roll up the window because the coastal effect was still in charge on this side of the mountains. Her sunny day suddenly became dark and gloomy. The fog was too thick to see more than a few feet ahead on the constantly curving road. She slowed and kept her eyes glued to the fog line on the side of the highway. Like a dancer on a high wire she navigated the last few miles. By the time she got to the flats she was a nervous wreck, hoping no one came charging up behind her, not realizing how slow she was driving. When the sun finally poked its head through the fog, she breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed her death grip on the wheel. 

After a potty stop, she drove down the coast toward where the aliens told her to look. Recent development raised concerns about the trail through the forest no longer existing but when she reached the small stretch of blacktop turning away from the ocean her hopes returned. Before turning onto it, she pulled into a turnout and sat watching waves crash onto the rocky shores for nearly an hour. After nibbling some crackers, she fired up the engine and waited for traffic to clear. Time to get lucky. If not, this day was a treasure to have and hold forever. 

The road led to a parking area where three trails went separate ways. One looked easy to negotiate, wandering through a flower-filled meadow. Another dropped away quickly and would probably follow a small creek she could see through the underbrush. The other led straight uphill through a dense stand of trees. It was narrow, looked treacherous, and was probably precipitous. As she sat wondering which to take, the tinny voice of the alien popped into her head and told her that the easy path never leads to the treasure. Sighing, grabbing her gear, then locking the car, she took a deep breath and started to climb. Two hours of being scratched, bruised, and being sorely tested revealed a tiny clearing with water surfacing in its middle. After taking a big drink she sat and watched the water trickle down the opposite slope. Obviously, this was the beginning of what would turn into a creek that would eventually join the ocean. What now? She asked in her mind. 

The tinny answer led her to a giant fir whose semi-exposed roots gripped a pile of rock as it clung to the edge. Probing into the roots required scraping away dirt and small rocks. The small garden trowel she brought wasn’t very effective, but her determination to succeed pushed her beyond her normal limits, She finally felt the trowel break through and started widening the opening with her bare hands. It took a while to drag the bag she found through the opening, and just as she freed it, rain started falling. There was no time to look inside. If she didn’t get going, she could get trapped and die if lost in the dark. When she finally got back to her car and toweled off it was time to look. Brenda was going to be jealous. 

Okay Jacki….More next week              

Explorers - By Mizeta Moon 

“How did I miss that easy shot?” Ravenna asked. “I always hit what I’m aiming at. Maybe I need to get my eyes checked.” 

Margot didn’t reply right away. She was amazed at how quickly the target disappeared and was trying to catch sight of them again. She’d asked Ravenna not to shoot something that wasn’t threatening them but was ignored as usual. They’d been sent here to explore colonization possibilities, not kill indigenous lifeforms but Ravenna liked killing things for sport. She, on the other hand, wanted to study and learn. “It’s ears were so big it might have heard the bullet coming.” She said after a lengthy pause. 

“Hah.” Ravenna snorted. “Nothing can outrun a bullet.” 

Instead of replying, Margot picked up her gear and started walking toward the mountains ahead. The mountains were huge! Nearly twice as high as Mt. Everest and stretching from horizon to horizon. Discovering what was on the other side would require a strenuous climb and she didn’t want to waste energy arguing with Ravenna. They could just call the ship and describe what they found on this side of the mountains and ask to be picked up but had to make certain there was no civilized culture they would disturb. While circling the planet their instruments couldn’t penetrate the thick cloud cover on the other side of the mountains so they’d been set down on the sunny side with orders to check it out. The captain failed to mention how high the mountains were. She probably shouldn’t have dumped him on the last voyage to get this assignment as revenge. 

After scaling the foothills, they discovered what appeared to be a game trail running through a rift between two peaks. If it led through, they wouldn’t have to climb over. Ravenna kept her rifle ready in case they ran into whatever blazed the trail while Margot photographed everything they passed. The sparse vegetation conveyed the sense of minimal rainfall and suggested the other side might be a swamp. There were slight rises in elevation but the trail continued to skirt the two peaks and give them hope that they would reach the other side before long. They knew they were close when the air cooled rapidly, the light faded, and wisps of moist vapors began to swirl around them. Within an hour they’d left the mountains behind and were now walking on what felt like wet grass but visibility was so poor they weren’t sure. When the trail led to a pile of boulders and stopped, they were uncertain about which way to go. 

 “Let’s take a break and just listen,” Margot said. “If there’s anything out there, we’ll hear it and can go toward it.” Ravenna was tired, so she agreed. 

After a prolonged, eerie silence, a brilliant light broke through the gloom and dazzled their eyes. When they could see again, they saw that strange creatures were marching toward them in a military-like formation. They reminded Margot of kangaroos but had humanoid faces, long claws, fangs, and huge disc shaped ears. “Oh crap!” Ravenna exclaimed as she raised her rifle. Margot reached out and pulled the barrel down. 

“What are you doing? They could kill us. Might as well take them out first.” 

“Too many.” Margot replied, still looking for the source of the light. Was a ship hovering overhead? “They look scary but could be friendly. If not, we’re going to die anyway.” 

When the creatures were within twenty feet, they stopped. Margot could see that some of them were female and had large pendulous breasts. The males were easily identified by their genital display. The largest male spoke to the group in a tongue she couldn’t identify, then a child emerged from behind one of the females. The big male spoke again and the child pointed at Ravenna. Suddenly, the light went out, and Margot heard the sounds of struggling. When the light came back on, she  saw that Ravenna was tied to a pole and being carried away. The rifle lay on the marshy ground. The big one pointed to the trail they’d used to reach that point and motioned that she should use it to beat a hasty retreat. She hated leaving Ravenna behind but was glad she wasn’t prone to shoot first and ask questions later. At least she could report that this planet was unsuitable for colonization.     

 

Mantra - By Mizeta Moon 

Though my flag be tattered and torn, I shall wave it proudly in the face of all opposition. Never surrendering to tyranny or social derision. Staying at peace in my heart despite what the world brings to bear. Enjoying my journey through life with a song in my soul. When storm clouds gather, I will weather them as best I might and welcome the return of the light. When tears fall, I will dry them with my joy and hope for better tomorrows. There is only this moment and I shall not waste it by harboring bitterness or despairing about the constant flux of human affairs. Hate me. Disparage me. I shall not bow. I will maintain my dignity and seek constant enrichment regardless what obstacles arise. I will always be me and like who I am.

Creative Thinking - By Mizeta Moon 

Robo Rent-A-Cop d311 was good at enforcing the law but wasn’t programmed for unusual situations. This current problem was causing his circuitry to overheat as he probed his data bank for a solution. When he took up his position earlier, there was no one around. Patrolling the campus was usually routine during spring break but as the day rolled on a large group of naked bike riders stopped riding and took a break on the lawn. Soon the hillside was littered with naked flesh which was definitely a violation of Dine and Dash University’s dress code. 

At first, he moved through the crowd politely asking them to move on. Most of them refused so he opened the hatch on his left shoulder and pulled out his ticket book. As he wrote citations the dilemma of where to place them arose. Since they weren’t wearing clothes where would they put them? He solved that problem by using zip ties to attach them to the bikes. Many of the naked riders became unruly and shouted expletives due to that action but since he had no feelings to hurt, they were ineffective. When some of the more aggressive ones started shoving him, he realized he was going to have to be creative since harming humans was contrary to his programming. Remembering that there was a big roll of shrink wrap in the utility shed, he rolled that way, hoping the crowd would disperse before he got back. They didn’t. 

He used his hook to round up all the bikes and shrink wrap them together, then dragged them to the empty parking lot. Since he was really fast, he began circling the riders who were now pedestrians and wrapping them in shrink wrap as well. As he was doing this, he called for back up so the miscreants could be shipped for booking at the Fast Food County courthouse. Hearing dispatch contact the fleet of Rent-A-Cops, several television news crews arrived to document the naked bike riders being lifted and loaded onto a flat bed truck. Since they were unashamed by public nudity the riders didn’t mind being filmed but were extremely angry about being arrested. After they were unwrapped at the courthouse, fingerprinted, and photographed, they were delivered to the courtroom of McArthur, Big Mac Burgerking, who chastised them for tying up services and increasing demand on an already overburdened budget. He handed out healthy but reasonable fines and released them without prejudice so they wouldn’t have a criminal record. Their bikes still lay in a pile in the campus parking lot so they had to walk through town and unwrap them as additional punishment. 

Needless to say, there was never a naked bike ride in Frytown again. Rent-A-Cop d311 was awarded a software upgrade which allowed him to solve complex problems without overheating The judge used footage from the incident to make a fortune on YouTube which allowed him to take his wife Wendy to Carl Jr’s supper club for a sumptuous barbecue. Creative thinking saved the day better than pushing and shoving ever could.          

War - By Mizeta Moon 

The crowd’s mood was changing. Where before they had hope for their future, recent events made it impossible to believe they would survive the constant attack on everything they’d strived for. Children bleeding to death in the streets. Buildings they’d scarred their hands to erect turned to rubble. Bombs exploding and disrupting a way of life focused on sharing and caring for one another. Sirens blaring. Machine guns burping death and destruction in every direction. Tanks using their steel treads to trample everything in their path. The crowd was now individuals fleeing the onslaught of an enemy hell-bent on genocide. 

When their homes were destroyed, they survived by salvaging anything they could reap from the rubble. A jar of pickles. A bag of flour. Two eggs from a chicken whose feathers were singed. Water filtered through a handkerchief from a muddy puddle to soothe a thirsting tongue. Whatever was required to defy the enemy became their daily practice. Their bodies were sore and tired but their souls were unwilling to relent to terrorism. 

“Up there! Can’t you see it?” A woman cried out in the midst of a missile strike that killed a hundred people trying to evacuate. “It’s a rainbow. An omen that salvation is imminent.” Unfortunately, her head exploded moments later as a sniper placed her in their sights. Hope was no longer a commodity. Bleakness painted a grim reality for all to experience. Rainbows were simply weather phenomena instead of something to feel good about. Flies swarming around corpses had become the norm. When it rained, gutters ran red with blood. 

Since the beginning of time there has always been someone jealous of what another has to eat, or their property, and has sought to usurp it. The thinking is– whatever they believe is wrong and we the righteous true believers have a right to expunge them and absorb the wealth of their labor. War is our way of life. Hatred and destruction are the only path we tread. To share the world is the aim of weaklings as only the ruthless and strong survive. Incessant war creates jobs and the need to rebuild so we are justified in spilling blood. 

 I, for one, will forever seek to share and plant seeds in opposition to the idea that war is the only way we can maintain a viable economy. My crops may feed few but the  joy they bring will echo beyond my tenancy.    

Discovery - By Mizeta Moon 

Officer Porky Pig hung up the phone and sighed. Somedays he hated being a cop. Someone was always doing something crazy and he had to pick up the pieces. Arresting people required a ton of paperwork and his hooves were clumsy when typing was required. Maybe the caller was a prankster and there was no crime but he still had to roll out. At least having Mister Ed pull the hay wagon would give him someone intelligent to talk to. His last partner Daffy Duck had been just that and his lisp made him hard to understand. 

When they reached the address that he’d been given, a rusted mailbox sat atop a weathered post leaning over so far that Porky wondered how Yogi Bear the mailman could deliver to it. A small opening in the trees was the access point for whatever lie behind them. Mister Ed said he’d wait there while Porky explored further because something smelled rotten and he’d get queasy if there was a dead body. The twisty lane led to a ramshackle house that looked deserted and a barn that seemed to be the source of the odor permeating the air. 

An investigation of the house revealed that it was inhabited but no one was home. Shabby furniture and worn out rugs made a statement about the occupant’s financial status. Sighing, he pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and tied it around his snout. Anything that would make a pig want to vomit had to be terrible. Pulling the handle on the barn door produced a screech from unoiled hinges that made his skin crawl. He could leave and say there was nothing to see, but Chief of Police, Elmer Fudd might send Deputy Dawg to make sure and he’d be demoted. As the door swung open, a wave of stench rolled over him like waves breaking on the beach. His first step into the gloomy interior produced a crunch and he felt something squish under his hoof. He turned on his flashlight to see what it was. Bugs were everywhere. Not only on the floor, but they were also crawling the walls. 

 The barn was huge and he hated crunching his way deeper but he heard what sounded like someone crying and couldn’t ignore the plaintive wail. When he walked past a huge pile of hay, he could see the source of the horrible smell. Cinderella sat on a stool in the corner, and the remains of a huge pumpkin on wheels that had cracked open was covered with bugs dining on its rotting interior. 

“What happened?” Porky asked. 

Cinderella sniffed, wiped a tear from her eye and said, “the Big Bad Wolf and Yosemite Sam robbed me of my glass slipper, then held me hostage when I was on my way home from the ball. It made me late and my carriage turned back into a pumpkin. It was dark, late, and raining when I got away from them, then the mice and toads ran away, leaving me stranded.” 

“Why didn’t you walk home when the rain stopped? And how’d the pumpkin break open? How long have you been here?” 

Cinderella held out a badly bruised and swollen foot. “For some dumb reason I was pushing the pumpkin inside. Why I wanted to protect it escapes me at the moment but just inside the door, I tripped over a bucket, sprained my ankle, then fell onto the pumpkin. It cracked and I almost drowned in the pulp before I could pull myself out. I can’t put any weight on my foot so I’ve been here for two weeks.” 

Porky whipped out his Acme walkie talkie and told Mister Ed to bring the wagon. Once they had Cinderella comfortable in the hay, they rolled out toward the Fred Flintstone county hospital. Just as they reached the head of the twisty lane an old jalopy pulled up and waited for them to get out of the way. Porky thought the driver looked a lot like one of the Beverly Hillbillies but being in the midst of a medical emergency, didn’t have time to ask for an autograph. He’d heard they fell on hard times after some bad investments. He still didn’t know who the mysterious voice on the phone was who said he should check out the scene for possible monkey business but was glad nothing was amiss other than a smashed pumpkin and a bug infestation. When his wife Petunia got back from touring Sunnybrook Farm, they could visit the ramshackle house together and maybe get a picture taken with Jed and Granny.         

 

Dyslexia - By Mizeta Moon 

Officer Lawrence knelt on the wet sand and looked at the young girl’s corpse, wishing he could’ve stayed home for his family’s turkey dinner like the rest of the department. Surrounded by fog with an empty belly wasn’t his idea of an exhilarating day. There was nothing he could do so he snuggled deeper into his Harris Tweed coat. Turning to the man who found the body, he said “why were you here?” 

The man wearing a wet suit with goggles wrapped around his neck said, “I was having my first scuba lesson when the train suddenly plunged off the trestle and fell into the bay. Scared my instructor so bad he ran home to take his heart medication. My phone was in my bag, so I called it in, then started walking the shoreline looking for survivors and stumbled onto her.” 

“She the only one you found?” 

“So far. I think most of the passengers are trapped under water. Coast Guard’s all over the scene. Why are you looking at me like I did something wrong?” 

Officer Lawrence pointed to the woman’s hand and said, “looks like she had several rings on her fingers, and a bracelet on her wrist. The depth of those marks tell me they were on there for quite some time. Want to tell me why they’re missing?” 

Realizing he was busted, the diver shrugged, then dug into his kit bag and held them out. “Figured she didn’t need them anymore. Gonna arrest me?” 

“Just get out of my sight,” Lawrence said as he palmed them. 

Inter-agency investigations were a nightmare. NTSB usually treated locals like they were dirt and since there was no evidence that the crash was anything more than an accident he could go home as soon as they arrived. No point taking on a petty crime that would involve a lot of paperwork. 

While he waited, a small suitcase floated onto the rocks about fifty feet from where he stood. Walking over, he picked it up and shook water off of it before setting it on the sand and popping its latches. Examining its contents led to a big surprise. There was a passport with photo attached of the woman lying dead on the beach. The irony of her luggage following her didn’t escape him as he dug deeper. He discovered a train ticket, which was expected but soon realized it was for a different train than the one that crashed. The ticket was for the number 13 express, not the number 31 local that lie at the bottom of the bay. The only thing he could surmise was that she took the wrong train because she was dyslexic. Now the fact she was dead became a greater tragedy. 

By the time the feds arrived he’d copied all her pertinent information into his notebook and put her jewelry in his car. He hoped to provide a small degree of comfort to her relatives by sending it along. When he got home dinner was cold and the football game was almost over. At least his in-laws were gone after scarfing everything they could and leaving his wife to do the dishes. He nuked a plate and started to eat but couldn’t get the dead girl’s face out of his mind. Appetite gone he went to his study to type up his report. As he worked, he thought about the effects of dyslexia. How many people suffered misfiled forms or turned the wrong way? How many of those situations led to tragedy? He understood that others died on the train and were where they were meant to be and when. Was the girl? Such questions could lead to drinking and sleepless nights.        

Memory Lane - By Mizeta Moon 

The red gate led to the burial plot of the Duquesne family. It was a pretty gate surrounded by honeysuckle vines and buzzing bees. Dappled sunlight took away what could have been a threatening presence and infused the scene with a sense of tranquility. People inside were truly resting in peace. I unlatched the gate and stepped inside to pay my respects to someone I felt privileged to have known. 

Malcolm Duquesne and I joined the peace corps while we were in college. Every summer break found us digging wells in third world countries or vaccinating children against malaria and other diseases. We shared food around campfires, told tall tales and got drunk when the opportunity arose. After graduation I went into corporate law and Malcolm became a fireman, following his family’s tradition. A college education wasn’t required for the job but his degree in computer science led to him making extra money developing apps for gaming. When stuck in boring meetings about some company suing another for copyright infringement, I often wished I’d followed his lead. He was on the front line saving lives and making a difference while I worked hard at protecting my pension plan, hoping not to be downsized. 

When caught, the arsonist who caused Malcolm’s death stated that it was the greatest blaze he’d ever ignited. He showed no remorse for the loss of life and millions of dollars-worth of property damage. He smiled at the cameras as the police loaded him into a van and vowed that he would do it again as soon as he was released. Evidently, he considered himself a crusader, at war with an oil cartel my company happened to represent. Local news agencies broadcast footage of the fire for hours before the smoke and toxic fumes forced everyone to evacuate the immediate area. Night fell and all they could show from a distance was a glowing mass along with hundreds of flashing lights from emergency response vehicles. Once again, Malcolm was at the forefront, sweating, laboring, desperately trying to make a difference. 

Dawn revealed massive destruction. Soot covered haggard faces reflected the agony of retrieving bodies incinerated by searing heat while ambitious newscasters lobbied for exclusivity, unmindful of anything but ratings. Another day, another tragedy, another opportunity to move up the ladder. Meanwhile, Malcolm was missing. When last seen, he was valiantly trying to rescue a dog nursing a litter of puppies in a storage shed. His captain had advised him that it was too dangerous, but Malcolm’s sense of duty and humanism propelled him into the maelstrom without concern for his own well-being. His body was found the next day with his coat draped over the mama and five dead puppies. 

All the medals in the world can’t bring him back or truly commemorate his bravery. I’ll always remember his laughter when we rode into the jungle on the back of a flatbed truck wondering what we were doing there. Being by his grave brought back a flood of memories that will be etched in my mind till the day I die. All I could do was sit quietly on a stone bench and sip from my flask while tears rolled down my face. As the sky began to darken and evening chill caused me to shiver, I rose and slowly walked back to the red gate. I knew I would come again.