Short story, writing competition

You know nothing about the summer ( The Gauntlet runner up )

Author: Matt Kirby

Illustration: Mark Smith

You might think you know something about the summer, or the sun beating down on you, but you know nothing. Me, I know everything, lying on the ground of central Baghdad during the searing summer months with no protection from the elements. Here the sunshine reigns supreme, 46 degrees of dusty vacation nobody wants.

Of course you wouldn’t just lie on the ground given the choice but I’ve been stuck for thirteen long years of stagnant scorching. Once I stood tall casting my gaze across the square and beyond whereas now I lounge staring solemnly along the ripples of heat-soaked ground.

My ego is but a tiny morsel of its former self. Try having the occasional rabid dog emptying its bowels on you. Oh sure it dries quickly enough but that smell lingers long in the heat. Then there are the kids climbing all over me, no respect for history, no concept of dignity, declaring that it is they who are the kings of the castle. Well I used to represent a king-of-sorts, reaching to the sky with pride.

I had the best view in the house when it all kicked off. Everyone knew it was coming; it had been on the cards for years, the only surprise being that it took so long for them to arrive. I was gifted the perverse pleasure of watching the most fearsome fireworks display of all time.

Hauling me down was part and parcel of the whole experience, a symbolic gesture of victory and defeat. I could hardly blame them, for I represented the past, my boss Sadaam, and a dark chapter in the history of our great nation. But they acted in such a hurry, giving no thought to what they’d do with me when I’d been removed from my plinth, or with the country after the invasion had ended.

So I’m left in the dirt to spend my days reminiscing about how things used to be. The past was far from ideal but we could rely on certain standards that have yet to return. Whilst I can’t see as well as I once saw, and the sideways view is nothing if not tedious, I see enough to tell you the truth.

We still have foreign troops in our country. Can you imagine it; the great state of Iraq blighted by this shame. There is the violence which haunts us without signs of an end. Still the suicide bombers are leaping expectantly into an afterlife that they cannot guarantee to find. And the ruins are everywhere, the scars of relentless bombing, so much yet to heal and be rebuilt. If tears could come to my eyes I would have shed many.

So enjoy your summer, safe and secure, free and easy, soaking up the rays, wherever you’re blessed enough to be. But you know nothing about summer, like that of a fallen retired statue in an Iraqi summer, and if you’re lucky, for luck is all it is, then you never will.

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