MEMORIAL DAY MYSTERY
Mark H. Newhouse
“What’s different about these photos,” I asked Tanya, my big sister.
“I have no idea.” She was squinting at me like I was crazy.
“Look close!” I held the two pictures I had taken under her nose.
“This one has flags on our lawn. So what?”
“Who put them there? Huh? Huh?”
She smiled her ‘know-it-all, big sister smile. “I have no idea, and I’m not even slightly interested.” She dropped the pictures on her fuzzy carpet.
I grabbed the photos. “I’ll find out for myself!”
“Maybe it’s an elf.” She giggled and slammed her door.
I asked our ‘expert’ on everything’, who was working on dinner. “Mom, do you put the flags out?”
Mom laughed. “Are you serious? Do you think I have time to do things like that? It is nice though.”
“Then who puts them out?”
“I told you, it’s the Flag elf,” my sister sneered, slinking into the kitchen.
“Is it an elf, Mom?”
“If you were allowed to stay up, you’d see a tiny, pointy-eared elf in a red, white and blue suit, with a long star-spangled beard, rushing from house to house, leaving flags on everyone’s lawn,” she said with a serious face.
“Is it an elf, Mom?” I asked, imagining the Memorial Day Elf.
Mom laughed. “Get out of here you two, I have work to do.”
That night, I kept looking out my bedroom window. I was ready to give up when suddenly I saw someone kneeling by the Ferguson’s driveway across the street. “It’s the elf!” I saw flags standing on either side of the driveway. None had been there a second ago.
I tried to get a good look at the elf, but he was blocked by cars and trees.
I wanted to thank him so I snuck down the stairs and pulled open the door.
I gasped. The elf was in our driveway! But it wasn’t an elf! It was Mr. Robinson, the old man who lived on the next block. He was staring at me! I froze, scared stiff. Everyone said he was mean and didn’t like kids.
“Why are you up so late,” Mr. Robinson asked, his voice soft for someone so mean.
“Are you the elf?” I asked, ready to run inside and lock the door.
I pointed to flags in his hand. “Sissy thinks an elf gives out all these flags.”
Mr. Robinson laughed, plopping down on the curb. “I’m no elf.”
I kept my distance. “If you’re not the elf, why you puttin’ flags all over?”
Mr. Robinson smiled. “I had a little boy like you. I loved Scottie more than anything.” He showed me a picture from his wallet. It was a boy in a baseball cap.
“What happened to him?” I never saw his son.
“Won’t your folks be angry seeing you out so late?”
“I’m sorry, Mister Robinson, I didn’t mean to be nosy.” I began to walk away.
“You’re not nosy, son.” His voice was as soft as my p.j.s . after Mom washes them. “I don’t know if you can understand.”
“Why do you put the flags everywhere? Nobody else does.”
Mr. Robinson handed me a flag. “I do it for my boy, and all the other sons and daughters that gave so much to keep this flag flying. Do you understand?”
I shook my head.
He made a grab for my flag.
“That’s mine!” I pulled the flag away and jumped up.
He laughed. “That’s right. Most people don’t fight for something until someone tries to take it away. This flag stands for the freedom we have in our great country.”
“Everybody knows that,” I said, guarding my flag.
“Do you know why Memorial Day is important,” he asked.
“Sure! We get off school.”
He sighed. “Well, you’re right, but it’s much more. It’s the day we remember the men and women who had to fight to keep our freedom…to keep our flag safe.” He got quiet. He looked sad.
“Is that why I never saw your son?”
He nodded. “Scott was a soldier.” He showed me a picture of his son in uniform. The flag was right behind him…he looked proud.
I stood up. “Come on, Mister Robinson, we got work to do.”
“What do you mean?” He was still looking at that photo.
“I want to be a flag elf too,” I said, taking his hand.
From that night on, every Memorial Day eve, my friend and I would secretly put flags on all our neighbors’ lawns. And when we were done, we’d say a silent prayer that all those beautiful flags would wave proudly, forever and forever.
P.S. My nosy sister never did find out who the real flag elves were.