by Howard Waldman
After the bombers landed (no losses sustained, heavy losses inflicted), the Squadron Leader, a poet as well, staggered out, still dazed by the giant flowers he’d contemplated 2000 feet below. He scribbled a poem about it at white heat at the bar of the Officers’ Relaxation Compound in the occupied capital and declaimed it to his comrades.
In the opening stanzas, the rebel tribesmen hurled their medieval spears at the Twentieth Century overhead. The bombs blossomed in their midst like exquisite fast-motion red roses, disposing of them and bringing transient beauty to the landscape of stony fields, spiky vegetation and surviving mud hovels.
In the following prophetic stanzas, the ardent roses had blazed the trail for schools, hospitals, cinemas, soccer stadiums, correct places of worship and administrative buildings bearing effigies of the Supreme Guide.
In the final stanza, an allegorical female form of surpassing beauty, draped in gauzy national colors, filled the sky between Venus and Andromeda, a diadem of stars caught in her flowing blonde hair. She praised their labors and pointed the way back.
When the Squadron Leader finished his poem the long moment of stunned silence that ensued was even more gratifying than the storm of applause, the cheers, the stamping. They stood him to drinks repeatedly and begged him to recite his poem again. As he did he noted certain flaws in it.
After a fourth round of drinks they all visited the other part of the Compound. The Squadron Leader, whose rank entitled him to first choice, picked a new reasonably light-skinned one. She wore, very briefly, a ragged dress with a faded floral pattern. She had a sullen child’s face but the important parts of her were well past childhood.
After, back in his room, the Squadron Leader spent hours over his poem, tightening it here, expanding it there, improving the scansion, polishing the imagery. When he felt his creation was worthy of the cause it celebrated and possibly of publication, he set it aside, next to the framed photograph of his wife and children, turned off the light and promptly fell asleep.
Born in New York but long a resident in Paris, Howard Waldman taught European History for a France-based American university and later American Literature for a French University. His short stories have appeared in Verbsap, Gold Dust, Global Inner Visions and other publications. He has published three novels, all available on Amazon: Back There, Time Travail, and The Seventh Candidate. A fourth novel, Good Americans Go to Paris When They Die, will come out in early 2008.