Qualified Entry: Fiction Category
By: Paul D. Bayer
It was eight a.m. when the alarm sounded, and Ezra Banks wanted to jump out of bed immediately. Instinctively he had woken two hours prior, thanks to the five years of six o’clock Marine Corps reveilles, and fell back to sleep. Now, waking from a dream of walking, he heaved his legless body out of bed and into his wheelchair. He pulled his olive drab under shirt over his close cropped blondish-brown head of hair, onto his shrapnel scared torso, and wheeled himself to the kitchen.
His mother Deidra-Ann and sister Evelyn were already having coffee. “Good morning, dear,” his mother said.
“Good morning, ma,” he replied, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.
“Morning Ez. Sleepy head,” Evelyn said jokingly.
“Morning, lil’ sis,” he said with a smile, as bright as his sister’s golden hair.
“Lil’ sis, huh? I am turning twenty-one next week, you know?” she said, matter-of-factly, playfully sticking out her tongue. They both smiled.
“You want some coffee, Ezra? just made it,” said his mother. “No, thanks ma. Not right now.”
“How ’bout some breakfast?” Evelyn asked. “I’m gonna make some ham and eggs. Sound good?”
“Yeah, maybe in a bit,” he said.
“Sure. Just let me know when,” she said, grinning. The smile she gave was half sincere and half feigned. She was truly glad to have her only sibling back from that desert hell-hole; but, to see him like this.
Ezra wheeled out of the kitchen and continued to the living room. He stopped for a moment, staring at the picture of his father, clad in Marine dress blues, on the fireplace mantel next to his own. It was then that Ezra realized for the first time how much he resembled him. “Dad,” he said aloud, “Wish you were here.” Reminiscing on the days of playing catch with his father on the front yard of their suburban Ohio home, Ezra’s eyes began to mist. The trips to the zoo, the picnics, the talks of the birds and the bees, fishing at the creek. All gone. All memories. He thought of what it must have been like in the jungles of Vietnam; was it anything like the desert sands of Babylon? His father made it out unscathed, not a scratch; only to be eaten from the inside out by nightmarish memories and cancer.
Ezra looked down where his legs should have been, heaving a sigh of burden; the burden of his father, his burden. Before being consumed any further by sentiment, he wheeled himself through the rest of the living room to the closet, the wheels of his chair squeaking on the old, cold hardwood floor. He opened the closet door. The shoes, the umbrella, the football, the dress blues, the flag. He took the flag out, closed the closet door, and went out to the porch.
Bang! Bang! Bang, bang, bang. Ezra, startled, swiveled his head; just before a memory could revel itself, he saw the neighborhood kids lighting fire crackers and playing with toy guns in the street. He unrolled the flag and posted it on the porch. It was a sunny fourth of July morning. As Ezra stared at the flag waving in the wind, he heard the children continue to play war in the street.