The Brave Must Land Softly (An Ambush)

by Laurie McCulloch

Through the kitchen window she spies the parachute, a tiny scrap of cloth poking through the melting snow. Attached to a plastic soldier once, it lies unburdened, flat as a collapsed lung.

He commandeered a whole troop, she remembers. Sergeants and lieutenants and bilious green captains wielding toothpick bayonets. They plummeted fearlessly from the first branch of the Manitoba maple in the back yard to where he waited, with boy-sticky hands, to hurl them skyward again and again.

One time the paratroopers went rogue and drifted into No Man’s Land on the other side of the boxwood hedge. He was forced to mount a rescue mission then. Secure the perimeter and make ‘pop-pop’ noises to engage the Rottweiler next door.

From the window she watched him crawl under the loose boards of the broken fence, not minding the stains that would have to be pre-soaked later; forgetting, for a moment, the barbed-wire scar in his hairline, his invisible foe.

Soon he would become a casualty. But not then. Not when he stood victorious in the neighbor’s yard, negotiating a truce with the slobbering General, twisting and squirming to avoid the dog’s eager tongue. Explosions of giggles. Mushroom clouds of joy. Shrapnel everywhere, everywhere.

She presses her palms to the glass and prays for spring winds to breathe the buried fragment alive.

“Please,” she whispers. Or, “Peace.”

Either way, she wills this memory to unfurl above her, to save her from shattering (again) on impact.


LAURIE McCULLOCH’s work has appeared in After the Pause… and been longlisted for the CBC Nonfiction Prize. She lives in Turner Valley, AB, Canada.

Photo by Digital Buggu from Pexels

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