She snuggled in close to her daughter as the sun set in the window.

The Umbrella

(A story written by a veteran)

She snuggled in close to her daughter as the sun set in the window.

“There now, that’s better isn’t it baby?”

“Yes mommy,” she said, sleep starting to creep into her voice. “Mommy, tell me again about the umbrellas.”

“I’ve told you that story already baby, remember?”

“I know,” she said tiredly, “but I forget.”

“OK, baby, I’ll tell it again. Are you ready?”

“Yes mommy.”

This story starts like all good stories, with once upon a time. Once upon a time an unpopular war ended. How it ended isn’t importnat, but years after it ended people found long, thin strips of yellow cloth everywhere. They stopped up rain gutters and littered yards and highways like confetti from some forgotten parade. People began to resent them because they reminded them of things they wanted to forget.

Even the ones who served in the war began to be resented.

People saw them everywhere, but mostly on street corners. Holding signs saying will work for food. Each time they saw them people would say, “Why don’t they just get on with their lives?”

But instead they were just there, some of them missing parts that God intended for them to have, others just looking lonely and lost. This made people uncomfortable.

One day a little girl saw them on her way to school and asked her teacher who they were.

“Nevermind who they are,” said the teacher uncomfortably, “we must get on with our studies.”

The little girl still wanted to know so she asked her daddy. He daddy wouldn’t tell her he just said, “Stay away from them.”

Each day she saw them on the corner and each day she asked a grown-up about them. No one, not one would answer her.

Finally, the school called her parents in to talk.

“She is making everyone uncomfortable and now the other children are asking about them,” said the principal. “If this keeps up we’ll have no choice but to suspend her.”

Her parents talked to her and told her that if she didn’t stop making people uncomfortable with these questions they would punish her.

She didn’t want to be punished, but she wanted to know why these people made grown-ups so uncomfortable.

The next morning she left for school earlier than she ever had before. She went to the corner where they stood and asked them why they made people so uncomfortable.

So, they told her about the unpopular war and the thin strips of yelllow cloth. They told her too what question they would like to have answered if they could ask it.

When school started she asked the question they wanted asked and she was suspended. She wasn’t the only one, all the kids in school asked the same question and they too were suspended.

Now the school stands empty and the people from the street corner and the children who wanted to know stand in rows along the rolling hills of the cemetery, each one holding a yellow umbrella shading a brass plate fixed in the ground.

The street people had their question answered.

“What was it, mommy, what was the question?”

“The question was, baby, who’ll hold the umbrella after all the sunshine patriots are gone?”

At the door a nurse appeared. “It’s time to say good night, Mrs. Corbin.”

She kissed her daughter on the forehead. “See you tomorrow baby,” she said softly as they left the room.

“She’s doing so much better, don’t you think?”

“I think so,” said the nurse. “See you tomorrow.”

Outside, she popped open a yellow umbrella that read, ‘Support Our Troops’ as she walked past the VA Hospital sign.