Commentary and Philosophy Flash Fiction posted April 22, 2015

This work has reached the exceptional level
A short story

Hero's Requiem

by michaelcahill

Chapter one: The War

There were six of us. Smitty and I were closest. We both saw the grenade land in front of us... Our eyes locked sharing the same thought. He grabbed my shirt to hurl me forward. I placed my hand on his back and pushed. I back kicked his legs as I fell backward. He shot forward and landed on the grenade.

Five of us survived.

It's medal time.

"We all froze except for Corporal Smith and Sergeant Randall. They were both going to cover the grenade. Corporal Smith shoved Sergeant Randall backward and dove onto the grenade. Two bonafide heroes."

Chapter Two: War Stories

"It's nothing really. We were both standing there. Corporal Smith and I had the same reaction. No time to think ... all instinct. There's a grenade, we're gonna die, dive on it ... save your buddies. In the struggle, Smitty shoved me backwards and dove. It could've been me..."

"What matters is the intent, General. That's what separates a hero from a coward. You're here to tell the tale. It doesn't change what your intent was or make you any less worthy than the Corporal. He got lucky, or maybe you got lucky. That makes more sense."

Chapter Three: Another Chance

"You best put that pin back in the grenade, Corporal or you are going to be in a world of...."

"I'm already there, General sir. You should know, you put me there. I've been in this wheelchair ever since that day. I know what happened. You were both cowards. You know it and I want you to know, I know it too. Smitty ... well, I expect he's made some kind of peace with it wherever he is."

"What's the difference? One of us doesn't land on that grenade; you're not here to tell the tale. You're lucky to be alive. If not for...."

"Lucky? I lost more than my legs that day. My young bride didn't find me all that attractive without legs. I got to watch you get the Medal of Honor while I played the lucky soldier. Well, thank you very much, General Coward. You would've thrown your mother on that grenade."

"I never said different, but no one asked. You think my life is so dandy having to live a lie? I think about it every day. Most days I wish it were me who fell on the grenade that day. That being said, what in hell are you going to do, kill yourself and take me with you? What's that prove?"

"That's not the plan, General. I'm giving you a second chance. I'm tossing this pineapple in the corner there. You can throw me on it and save your sorry ass again. Or ... you save my life. Maybe I'd start to believe in life ... who knows. But, you have a chance to clean the slate, or add another lie to it. I've got nothing to live for. Maybe if I had hope ... I don't know...."

Chapter Four: Graveside

"He saved my life. I don't know why he did it."

Well, that was a lie. The speaker knew and so did the two ghosts that stood by him. Or maybe there were three ghosts....

It didn't matter who was speaking.



This started out as a story in one hundred words. Then I added another hundred. Then I just finished it.

Courage, hero, coward, those are words we tend to throw about as though they are clear in definition. It's occurred to me that, given the choice, I'm not sure which is easier, sacrificing your life for another or living your life as a coward. I left the ending up in the air. It would depend on the actual individuals how it would end. It always does. Knowing what is truly in their mind--we never know.

This is in no way saying that there aren't heroes. I believe there are and I think that heroism is a strong instinct in most of us given the circumstance. Well, the piece is designed to provoke thought on the matter. So, I'll leave it at that.

'Pineapple' is a slang word for grenade.

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