Friday, May 7, 2010

The Battle of Lexington

 This is for my hometown.

The stomping of many feet woke Benjamin Smith with a start.  With one eye open, he let his head rise up just enough so he could peer above the cool ground that was his soul’s final resting place.  Promptly, someone stepped on and through his ghostly head.  Now fully awake, he rose quickly and saw that his assailants were Colonials dressed in full militia gear, their muskets raised as they advanced in line up the gentle hills of what is now knows as Tower Park.

It was that time of year again.  A cool breeze damp with drizzle swept through him.  If he closed his eyes, he almost felt like he was back in his body on the day he died.  While it was a day he never would relish, it was the only time he could remember feeling truly alive.  He opened his eyes again, to remind himself of his reality.  He was not alive and time had marched on without him.  The only way anyone remembered the day that he still felt deep within his bones, though his true bones had decayed some two hundred years ago, was through these silly “reenactments.” He had heard the term some dozen years ago and it had stayed with him.  With nothing else to do, Benjamin followed the motley line of colonial minutemen, muttering quietly to himself all the way.

“Is their commander not blind?  Two of his men are one step behind while another is two steps ahead.  And you , sir, stop thy jabbering and pay attention!   You do the Colonies a disservice!” He scolded the minuteman who had stopped to chat with another colonial soldier who lay on the ground playing dead.

Benjamin’s line stopped abruptly, positioning to shot at the line of Regulars in front of them who were poised to do the same.  Benjamin swept in front of them, adjusting the position of each musket with his light touch to insure their musket balls shot true.  It wasn’t until they fired a volley right through him that he remembered that soldiers no longer used musket balls, just gunpowder.

“A waste of gunpowder,” he complained to the commander.  But the commander did not hear him and continued to issue orders that Benjamin thought poor.

His patience running thin, he turned away from the minute men and their inane “battle” and floated up towards the crowd that watched them as if they were a spectacle in some traveling show.  He frowned deeply at them and their brightly colored coats made of some slick material he couldn’t name.  His frown deepened further when he saw several farmers’ wives standing at the edge of the battle in their warm woolen cloaks and thin cotton skirts.  They should have been tending to the wounded – even if the wounded were only pretending to be so.  Instead, they chatted with bystanders, pointing at the battle as if they understood the proceedings.   As far as Benjamin was concerned, women never understood war and therefore should not be discussing it.

The crowd stood silent, almost as if bored, which infuriated Benjamin even more.  A revolution was not meant to be taken mildly, like one would take their morning meal.  It was meant to be riveting; both frightening and exciting at the same time.  A revolution was meant to bring change!  The Revolutionary War was fought to bring freedom!  Did these people standing here like they were watching cattle being herded – which they nearly were – understand that?  If they did, why were they not excited by it?  Why didn’t they pick up arms and join in the fray?!

“Dad!  Hey, Dad!” a boy’s voice doused Benjamin’s internal fervor like a bucket of iced water.  He looked down to see he was hovering next to a young boy, no older than ten.  He recognized the expression on the boy’s face: it was reverence.

“Dad!” he said again, louder.  He earned himself several glares from other on lookers.

“Yeah, Ben?” a man answered, startling Benjamin.  He thought for a moment the man was addressing him.  Instead, the man was looking down at his young son.  Benjamin though of his own son for a moment, but quickly pushed those painful memories away.

“The minute men were heroes, weren’t they?” It was a statement, but one looking for confirmation.

His father smiled.  “They were, Ben.  They were the first heroes of the United States.  Don’t forget that.”

“I won’t,” Ben said quietly, turning his attention back to the battle.

For several minutes Benjamin forgot about the mock battle behind him and observed Ben.  Watching his expressions change, both excited and respectful, Benjamin felt his mood soften.

“Well, mayhap there are worse ways to be remembered,” he said to himself, smiling a little.

And with that, he drifted up to sit on a nearby umbrella where he watched the rest of the reenactment without complaint.


Aislinn O'Connor said...

LOL - hope he enjoyed it, too! Delightful story, and glad his namesake understands what history's all about.

Lena S. said...

Thanks! I think Benjamin came to accept the whole "pretend" battle thing in the end. Maybe he'll finally be able to pass on!