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Youssafzai & The Quarterback by Brendan Thomas

Click HERE to Read the Interview With the Writer

Youssafzai by Brendan Thomas

Flash Fiction Semi-Finalist, LISP 2nd Quarter 2020

The early October sun was waning as the school bus wound its way across the bumpy roads of the Swat Valley. Three girls sat together across the back seats. Their school exams had drained them, and they were silent.

One looked lazily out the window at the craggy peaks that rose high above the valley floor. Lush meadows chased their way up the mountain sides. The Swat river meandered past villages and towns before gathering speed and hurrying purposefully towards the mill. The valley's considerable beauty was inspiring. Pakastani forces had driven the Taliban to higher ground and she was happy to have returned to the valley.

“I hate Algebra.” She waited a moment before responding.

“I hated it until I spent two months at the refugee camps with nothing to read. I would’ve read anything, even Algebra. How I longed for a quadratic equation, just a simple ax^2+bx+c=0 to enliven my day.”

The others laughed at her silliness but knew what she meant. Life became difficult when the Taliban outlawed education for women. But that was in the past. They had exciting futures ahead of them.

The bus stopped with a jolt shaking her from her pleasant thoughts. A man entered wearing a keffiyeh and a long flowing thawb covered in dust. He clutched a rifle in his hand. His voice was strong but his eyes portrayed his nervous state. Later she said he was no older than twenty. He addressed the riders,

“Who is Youssafzai?” but nobody answered.

“If Youssafzai doesn’t step forward I’ll kill everybody on the bus.”

“I’m Youssafzai,” her friend said, rising bravely from her seat. The gunman looked Malala in the eye, and shot her in the face.

The Quarterback by Brendan Thomas

Flash Fiction Semi-Finalist, LISP 2nd Quarter 2020

She received the perfectly folded Flag from the young service man. The sound of Taps rang in her ears. He’d spoken softly,

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the US Navy, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable, and faithful service.” In truth she didn’t hear a word. Her son was in the ground and she was broken.

She’d read that they fold the flag 13 times, with each fold having a specific meaning. The first, symbol of life, second, belief in eternal life. She didn’t care. He was dead. No amount of flag folding changed that. Her little boy wouldn’t become a man. His destroyed body lay in a wooden box, for eternity. They’d placed three bullets in the flag, each representing one of the three volleys aimed over his coffin. They reminded her of her son's flesh being ripped open by enemy fire. She threw them in the trash.

She looked at the pictures on her mantle. She’d removed his Navy photograph preferring to remember him as the highschool quarterback posing with a ball marked 1940. He was brave on the football field and his army colleagues said he was fearless in battle. He’d manned the guns on the USS St. Lo. They were attacked by Kamikazes at Leyte Gulf near the Phillipines. Her son died in a place she couldn’t find on the map.

Had he been scared as the planes fell straight from the sky like perfectly thrown footballs? Did he think of her, and cry out, or was death painless and instantaneous? She thought of his murderer’s mother. Was she anguished at her son’s death, or proud he had steered his plane into a ship, and stolen so many futures?



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