by Amy Halloran
The air was crowded with wooden soldiers, standing shoulder to shoulder,life-sized and fully armed. Deadly lead paint chips fell off the carvedwooden totems that looked like nothing more than cigar store Indians andfelt just as politically incorrect.
WAR IS FOR THE BIRDS, thought the mother, weaving her way through thesymbols of her times. SUCH A SCENE, she sighed, AND IT IS ONLY MONDAYMORNING. WHERE TO BEGIN?
MUST GET RID OF THE SOLDIERS.
She opened the north windows and lifted the screens. Oldest child wasat school. Crawling baby was safe, quite asleep in crib - sound ofbreathing piped in by monitor proved his presence even in his absence,proved his life.
WHAT PROVES MY LIFE? wearily wondered the mother as she tipped soldierafter soldier out the window. NO SMALL TASK.
The mother is buff, has a gym habit she cannot kick, but still, sixfeet of wood is six feet of wood - heavy, and awkward to tip out a window.It's not like pouring off stinky flower-water and letting dead petals andcollapsed stems fall to the ground.
The woman heaved the totems out the window, catching splinters in herpalms. She filled the space between her house and her neighbors to thenorth, a gangway five feet wide, with a layer of soldiers four feet deep.The neighbors would have hell to say about her efforts, but she didn't care.She didn't get along with the people anyway; it wasn't like she could saverelations by keeping the soldiers indoors and crowding her.
Besides, she could take the children to the backyard through thegangway to the south. Sure, there was the problem of the lead paintfloating downhill and into that backyard with the rain, but boy oh boy, itfelt good to get those soldiers out of the kitchen.
NOBODY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT WAR, EVEN WHEN IT'S STARING YOU IN THE FACE,the woman thought, shaking her head in dismay. BEST TO KEEP THE BEASTREMINDERS OUT OF FAMILY SIGHT. OTHERWISE, WHO KNOWS, THE HUSBAND MIGHTSTART RAGING AGAIN AT DINNER, ABOUT THE MID-EAST AND HOW COME THE PEOPLETHERE COULDN'T BE AS COMPLACENT AS THE PEOPLE IN THE MID-WEST WHEN IT CAMETO RESOURCES.
The husband got very angry these days, maybe because of all thesoldiers surrounding him at home. With them gone, perhaps dinner would becalm.
WHAT SHOULD I MAKE? SOMETHING VEGETARIAN TO KEEP THE SNAKE (herhusband) QUIET?
Our heroine sighed and swallowed another cup of coffee, tummy rumbling.Her diet consisted of coffee and the vapors she in- and exhaled, reviewingand reviewing her situation. Who would want to eat with all those poopydiapers and pukey clothes around? And the six-year old joking constantlyabout the toilet? She was glad there was more air to swallow with thesoldiers gone.
The woman looked out the window and admired her work. The dull-sharpedge of a black bayonet aimed at the sky as if the sun were an enemy. Inthe kitchen, the weapon had threatened a light fixture. The room feltbigger now, emptied of its burden. The woman tweezed out her splinters thenher eyebrows. She brushed her hands against each other and stuck her tongueout at the old wooden soldiers.
WHERE DID YOU COME FROM? she wondered. WHO INVITED YOU?
First there was one soldier, then another, then some mornings she wokeup and there were ten more of them, as if there were a kingdom of lostwooden soldiers that needed housing and her address was posted on theinternet. The soldiers looked like they came from the same army; there wasa similar folk art chisel to their faces, which were painted the same shadeof peach. The soldiers wore white straps across their chests, LIKE REDCOATSFROM THE REVOLUTION, LIKE PROMISES CROSSED WITH A FINGER OVER THE HEART,SHOULDER TO SHOULDER.
The woman sighed, chewing and spitting out another gulp of air. Evenwith the soldiers removed, the room was stuffy. The air remained stiff withindifference, full of soldiers turning their shoulders, cold, away from herand her petty concerns.
She was defensive about their dismissiveness. Didn't she fight thewars of childhood, battling bacteria and chaos with the help of washingmachines and vacuums? The soldiers fought the sky and stared with unseeingeyes at the clouds, ignoring the problems she'd cast them from. Theproblems stayed like dogs, obedient and smack dab in the middle of the room.
The baby stirred in his sleep. His brother would be home from schoolin an hour. The list of groceries begged to be filled, like the gas tank.The husband would be home soon enough, spitting his venom at her as if shewere the reason they needed cheap oil, as if she, woman personified, werethe root of each evil.
About the author:
Amy Halloran lives in upstate New York with her husband, two sons and six chickens. She is working on a variety of writing projects for kids and adults.