Collateral Damage

sharon-mccutcheon-AuPRHJe8Mhs-unsplash

Photo: Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash

 

“They’re collateral damage,” he said, and gestured toward the flash of news images across the screen. “It’s not anything personal against them.”

He shrugged as if his words explained all of what happened. Of what continues to take place.

“They never should’ve put themselves in this situation,” he added, perhaps because he’d perceived my incredulous stare as an invitation to explain further, or perhaps because someplace, somehow, he felt ashamed. That is, if he was capable of shame, which as the evening dragged on I found myself increasingly doubtful of.

I glanced at Brenda, whose dinner plate seems to have become her world. Her absconding only made me angrier, but the boulder in my throat allowed no sound. I shook my head.

“Well, they could’ve stayed where they were,” he retrieved a comb out of his pocket and proceeded to slick back his salt-and-pepper hair, and the outrageously incongruous act against the reality of utter misery, somehow released my breath.

“They are children!” I choked on the word, but the rest tumbled out behind it as if afraid to become lodged again. “They could not make the decision to stay. They had no choice where to be born. Or who they were born to, or whether or not to put themselves in any situations.”

He continued to groom himself with the comb and I fought the urge to grab his arms and toss away the thing, one of the many things, the children were denied.

“Their parents should’ve taken better care of them,” he added blandly.

I took in a deep breath. “Even if that was true, which it is not in the vast majority of the cases, how does that make it acceptable for others to deliberately traumatize these children further?”

He raised an eyebrow in disdain to signal that my upset was the overreaction. “If their parents stayed in their own countries,” he stated sedately, “instead of coming here, the children wouldn’t get locked up. It’s simple, really. If a person doesn’t want their kids to suffer, they should not do certain things.”

“So now we’re talking like the mafia? Threatening people with harm to their kids?”

“Calm down,” he drawled. “Now that people know their kids wouldn’t have it easy here, perhaps they’d think before they decide to make their kids into collateral damage. If they did as they were told and stayed wherever it was they belonged, none of this would have to happen.”

I inhaled and glared at his wife, the colleague whose silence at the face of cruelty made her increasingly less of a friend. Her eyes scanned the wall someplace not quite behind my head.

“So you approve of terrorizing children,” I stated, my fingers groping for my purse. Her birthday dinner or not. I was done. “This is exactly what mafia does.”

He actually cackled. “They’re the mafioso. It’s their fault if their kids are cold and wet and getting hurt. What did they expect, crumpets and tea?”

 

 

 

For Linda Hill’s SoCS writing challenge: co-

 

How Will I Know?

alone black and white blur child

Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

 

How will I know

The taste of freedom

If I am locked

Inside a cage?

How will I find

A true horizon

When I am of

Tender age?

Where will my parents be

Tomorrow?

Will army men

Lock them away?

How will I know

If I will get to see them

Once again

One day?

 

 

For Sam’s Poetry Challenge

 

Liberty Sail

Liberty sail IngeVandormael

Photo: Inge Vandormael

 

So she stands in the harbor

Greeting weary souls’ sails.

Her eyes had welcomed

The many

Who fled war, harm, travail.

She faced cannons

Of hardship,

Wept as terror sought

To prevail.

She marks the better

We can be,

The stories nations

Can be proud

To tell.

Through many storms

In the harbor,

She lights the way

In the gale.

As hate now amplifies sorrow

Seeking to see her bounty

Curtailed,

She hopes her pledge ‘cross the ages

Won’t become one made

To no avail.

 

For the Tuesday Photo Challenge: our world

 

The Sounds In The Silence …

 

“Hello darkness,

My old friend,

I’ve come to talk to you again …”

The song plays incessantly in my head, sparked awake by the words of a pre-teen who shared her nighttime worries with me.

She finds it difficult to sleep. Her ears strain to pick up any errant sound: A car’s brakes, a slammed door, people’s voices, steps, a distant bark. She’s afraid they’ve come.

She’s been told she shouldn’t worry. She’s done nothing wrong. Yet there are those who hadn’t, and still had loved ones taken. And she’s not from here. Not really. Not from birth, anyway.

What if the rules change and she’s deemed “returnable”?

What if they keep her away from her parents, send her back to where she’d come from? What if she cannot find the words, if they not let her explain that she is finally, finally, home?

She lies in bed at night. Listening. Making and discarding plans. Fretting in the dark.

Maybe she’ll hide. But where? Someone at school said they sometimes have dogs. She loves dogs. Police dogs — beautiful and focused and proud — never used to scare her. They do now. At their handlers’ command, they can hunt her down. She’s seen it. On TV. In her mind. Now her dreams.

“I listen to the sounds in the silence,” she whispered, eyes bright. “And I wait. Even in my dreams, I listen … and I cry when they come.”

 

 

For The Daily Post