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Publisher’s Note: My apologies to author, Eric D. Goodman.  His submission of this story was received long before the deadline and was meant to be posted in the Table of Contents but I lost track of it.  Thank goodness, he called me this morning to ask about his story.  I found it,  and am now posting it to the special July 4th 2020 issue of Syndic Literary Journal. Please excuse my age.

Flag In The Road


Eric D. Goodman

Narrated by Charles Rammelkamp

The weary soldier sat at Starbucks and watched as it happened. The American flag fell from the window of a speeding SUV. It had flown proudly atop the vehicle, its plastic pole gripping the passenger side window. But it had fallen after too many hours in the fifty-five-mile-per-hour winds. It fell into the pot-holed road.

In the street, it fluttered like a hit animal, road kill not yet dead, struggling to get up, twitching. Vehicle after vehicle ran over the flag — compacts and station wagons, SUVs and hybrids. Surely they saw the flag there, trembling on the hot asphalt. But no one stopped to pick it up. Nor did they swerve to avoid hitting it.

This flag took more damage than those he’d seen in war. The gusts of wind from the passing vehicles blew it around in aimless circles, slowly moving forward. It did not give up, pushing onward as though searching for purpose.

Not even the walkers on the surrounding sidewalks stopped to help. Certainly they saw the battered flag, but left it there to fend for itself.

Construction workers lingered a block away, some of them sitting in the hot summer sun with sandwiches and thermoses. They saw the flag, sudden looks registering on their faces and then almost as suddenly falling away. They pretended not to see. They didn’t have time to pick it up.

The soldier sat a block away at an outside table surrounded by other customers, sipping their lattes and iced coffees. No one left the comfort of the sun-shading umbrellas.

A police cruiser turned the corner and headed in the direction of the flag. Surely he’ll pick it up, the soldier thought. He didn’t. Neither did the cruiser that passed fifteen minutes later. The flag had made its way to the filth-infested curb by then, still blowing slowly along with the wind of passing cars.

The soldier didn’t wear his uniform now.

“Liberal pansy,” he had been called by the passenger of a passing car hanging out the window — in reference to his Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker. Their own bumper stickers said “these colors never fade” and “proud to be an American” and “Support our president.”

They didn’t know he’d fought for them.

The flag in the gutter began to fade away in the sun. It was soiled, left to die and no one — conservative, liberal; flag lover, flag burner; peace keeper, peace activist; soldier, citizen — no one was stopping to show the flag respect, loyalty or the least bit of concern.

The soldier finished his coffee. He stood and walked across the street. Wary of his service though he was, he couldn’t help himself. He picked up the violated flag, soiled by oil and dirt and filth. He felt he’d done too much already, fighting a war he didn’t believe in, killing for a president he hadn’t elected. But somebody had to be the rescuer. He shook the flag out and jabbed the plastic pole into the ground, in front of a wall of bushes.

Even as he did, he knew that somehow the Bushes would get all the credit for this, too: for honoring a flag for which they pretended to hold exclusive rights, but which actually belonged to the drivers, the construction workers and the people sipping their lattes.


Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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