By Salvatore Buttaci.
He missed the real world. Months ago a navigational error, not of his making, tossed him orbiting off course and into the galactic stream of a parallel universe. It was a likely assumption that someone at Central, distracted perhaps, had applied more pressure to the path gauge than was required to bring him home. Instead of a hero’s welcome, his space capsule crashed into the icy waters, and he was fished free like noonday catch. One look at the American flag and he knew. This was not home.
Yardville Saxon finished his diner meal, then returned to the kitchen where the sound of the griddle called an end to his break and a return to sizzling raw meat patties for the lunch hour crowd. From sky commander to short-order cook. Deep-seated anger and frustration left no room for humility. Saxon had plummeted from top of the world to bottom of the barrel, and there was no fixing things. He could empathize now with the felons America had sentenced to life in the rock cells of distant planets.
But what about Clara? It was as if she had never existed. And their baby Audrey? By now, his years in space behind him, she would be a woman tenaciously holding on to the hope of her daddy’s return. The three of them like sand grains lost on sun-baked beaches. Lost forever.
A storefront television drew a crowd of pedestrians eager to hear the president –– their president –– deliver the State of the Union speech. He stopped to join them, watching effortlessly over their heads, hearing of impending wars, a drop in unemployment, new occurrences of racial unrest, the spread of diseases, and the absence of cures. “We stand on the cusp of medical discoveries long sought and long inaccessible,” the president said.
When the message to the nation ended, Saxon instinctively placed his right hand over his heart and stood silently as the others saluted the flag. Stars and stripes. Red, white, and blue. Saxon felt himself an unlikely traitor. His life here had become a stumbling in nostalgic remembrances.
He recalled the cerulean blue fluttering in the wind, in its center the white oval that framed the first hero of the American Revolution. The flag he would die for, but this proved worse than death. Land of the brave and the free? That land was far, far away, no matter what this impostor president claimed.
Former sky commander and newly hired short-order cook at the Broadside Diner, Yardville Saxon raised his eyes to the afternoon sky.
Somewhere up there his home sweet home was denied him.
Back home his wife and daughter still wept in mourning.
Back home U.S. King Claude Ferranz II placed a hero’s wreath on Saxon’s empty grave.
Retired teacher and professor, Salvatore Buttaci, writes everyday. His poems, stories, letters, articles, and blogs have appeared in The New York Times, Cats Magazine, The Writer, Writer‘s Digest, and many other publications. Author of Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, he lives with his wife Sharon in West Virginia.