Bryce R. Piper, Orlando’s Vigil
Publisher: Moongypsy Press, LLC
Worried by the behavior of her new neighbor, Krista presses long-time resident June for information on the strange man, which June is reluctant to give. Krista resorts to deceiving her friends and neighbors to get the information she seeks, but to no avail.
Years earlier, Orlando’s service in Afghanistan exposes him to the complex tribal politics and darker side of a foreign culture. A gnawing worry grows in him for a village boy, as well as for his own family halfway around the world. When an explosion wracks his mind and body, he painfully learns that it is only the first of several unforeseen nightmares he must endure.
One night, her conscience loosened by alcohol and Krista’s incessant questions, June reluctantly reveals to her shocked friend the terrible history leading to Orlando’s vigil.
“He just gives me the creeps.”
June ignored the comment, her attention wrapped in pairing socks while folding laundry.
“Doesn’t he just give you the creeps?” Krista demanded.
“No,” June answered after a long moment. “If you’re going to sit here at least make yourself useful.” She tossed a dryer-warm lump of a shirt onto Krista’s lap with a hint of playfulness in her voice. Too distracted by June’s avoidance of the question, Krista folded the garment without thinking, barely taking her eyes off the park bench in the distance below.
The women sat in the cool shade of June’s second floor screened back porch, folding the warm, fresh laundry and sipping slowly-cooling cups of coffee. A light, early-summer breeze wafted through the late-morning sunshine. Below them a thin cement walk ran through the long back yard to end abruptly at an invisible property line. A pair of old maples bracketed the walk, forming an open living gate spilling into the vast open park beyond.
A lone figure sat on a park bench. Krista watched him intently. His back to the women, head never moving, he seemed to stare incessantly at the boisterous group of children cavorting in the park.
Like a cat watching mice, thought Krista.
“I just mean you can’t be too careful,” Krista said. “It’s weird. He sits there all day — every day — watching those kids... including yours. How do you know he’s not... you know...” her voice dropped to a whisper, “a molester?”
June glanced up at him from her laundry, watched a moment while he slowly brought a small wrinkled brown paper bag to his lips to sip from the can inside. When she spoke, her tone carried more than her words.
“He’s not,” she answered. “He’s just not.”
* * *
He’d picked up a little Pashto in his couple of months there. Not much, but it was a damn hard language to learn. He could greet men, figure out who held importance, give them the proper respect. He started with only a few basic commands: stop, get down, show me your hands. From the time he was called up to when his boots hit the ground, things moved so quickly it was all he had time to learn.
In country only a few days, he learned the hard way not to talk to the women. His platoon sergeant warned him to only talk to the men. But, excited about learning a few new expressions, he wished the simple greeting “starrey ma shey” to a passing woman. He later learned her family beat her to within an inch of her life. You could see the bruises through the burkha. Then again you weren’t supposed to look at the women either.
Copyright © 2010 by Bryce R. Piper