At the roadside, troops of children  
painted in summer cottons wave flags
and ask when the parade will start.
"Soon" mixes with gossip swapped by neighbors 
who don't always like each other
but are willing to call a truce on Memorial Day.
A thin drumroll snares the waiting heads
and turns them eastward, 
while curb-seated children 
hunch forward on loose-jointed haunches
to claim I-saw-it-first rights.

Boys on mountain bikes pedal long figure eights
past a wheelchair whose driver sits behind 
three rows of war ribbons,
a Globe and Anchor at his collar.
He nods and waves at columns of marchers
as bass drums from two bands
compete with syncopated beats
in a fusillade of sound set to music.
The swarming bikes chase the fire trucks 
out of sight as the roadside empties, 
and the wheelchair turns homeward.

*     *     *
The author: Bill Britton enlisted in the Corps in 1958.
From P.I. to Cherry Point for Airborne R/O School, then to Quantico where he flew R4D-8s and AD-5s; crashed at Dyess AFB in R4D-8 17248. Discharged in 1962, operated a hardware store until 1987, then dug clams on Long Island for a living. After getting an M.A. in English, mixed clamming with freelance editing. Moved to Florida in 2004. Still editing P/T, motorcycling, and bitching about most things. Semper Fi.

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Memorial Day, 1997