His hair was an untidy affair held in a pony tail by a bright pink band. That is the first thing you noticed about him, the pink band, followed by the faded army jacket. He sat by himself on a two-seater in a crowded bus with a couple of standing passengers. It’s not that he had refused to share but no one had been brave enough to approach him, an aura of barely contained hostility rose from him, the flavor ripe of aggression.
He was not a small man, you could tell that beneath his camouflage jacket he had muscle, granted he might have gotten a bit soft round the edges. It had been awhile since he last went to the gym, he used to practically live there and could bench press three times his weight in solid gold. But now, now he was out of shape; the fact that he had taken the bus when he could have just walked was testament to how far he had let himself go.
In a dusty old shoe box under his bed were two gold medals from the Comrades marathon and a medal for Valor. Gold of medals has such a heady flavour, something about it makes you stand up straight.
He didn’t care; he had stopped caring about anything a long time ago, the day he was relieved of his duties as an elite commando soldier. Dishonorably discharged, the word left a bad flavour in his mouth. A decorated veteran, dishonorably discharged, it was a stain on his honour he could barely bear and he carried it like a weight, shoulders slightly hunched.
He sat close to the window, gazing out with a far away look that saw nothing but the past, back to a time when he stood taller and men looked up to him. Lost in the past, he absent-mindedly scratched his beard, it was mildly itchy, he had stopped shaving and a fuzzy fur covered his lower jaw.
A loud bang startled him out of his reverie, old instincts took over as he shifted into a defensive posture, and adrenalin flooded his system as he readied to spring to action; identify and neutralize the enemy, it was in the basic training manual.
“We hit that pot hole hard” a passenger behind him commented.
“I thought the wheel had burst..” someone else added, followed by random passengers grumbling at the driver to slow down as he was not ferrying sacks of hay.
He realised that there was no immediate danger, well not unless the driver was recklessly speeding through a road filled with potholes.Slowly he flexed his fingers,it was only now that he was noticing he had clenched his hands it fists so tightly that his fingernails drew blood from his palms. He reacted to sudden noises in the same way like a beast about to pounce, in the world that felt a lifetime ago, if you were slow to react fatally bad things happened to you.
Bad things had happened to his men. He took out a faded photograph from his wallet it was a photo of a group of men hard to recognize because yellow berets covered half their faces leaving only smiles which were mostly teeth. The picture must have been taken either just before or after a parade inspection because the uniforms were neat, the boots were polished even the buttons were shiny. It was the only picture he had of his brother in arms, but he carried their memories with him.He remembered their names and he remembered their deaths, meaningless just like the war they fought in.
They had managed to roust the rebels only to discover the rebel forces were just slightly grown boys playing at war, they hardly had any weaponry armed with machetes, scythes and probably a misguided sense of liberation. The ranking officer in his outfit had ordered that they execute the treasonous troops. Execute was just fancy dressing the murder that was to follow. He had snapped and dragged his superior by the collar to reprimand him. It turns out the rebels were not quite as harmless as they seemed because while he was busy arguing with his superior, one of the captured lads detonated an explosive device, everything went blindingly white as everyone was flung like rag dolls and only two people walked away from that encounter.
They had been out of the blast zone by stupid blind luck. The first thing he did, ears still ringing from the percussive blast, was to punch the major square in the face, broke his nose too and that was why he was court-martialed and discharged from the army, he never stopped blaming himself he should have seen it coming, he should have___
The bus stopped with a sudden lurch that scattered his thoughts.
There was the sound of breaking glass as a stone went through the windscreen narrowly missing the driver. The road ahead was blocked with stones and burning tyres, ropes of thick black smoke rising skywards and an unruly horde of protestors chanting revolutionary war songs.Riot police had tried to quell the mob, wielding their batons and throwing tear gas but this had only had the effect of poking the hornet’s nest and now they buzzed angrily throwing rocks at everything crazy enough to get close.
A revolution starts with the distinct flavour of tear gas and burning rubber.
The police had fled and at the head of this mob, stood a man poised with his foot on a police helmet, as would a conquering hero.
He held a bottle, with a rag sticking out and the end bit of it was lit. He waved it at the bus shouting
“If you all don’t get out you will burn along with the bus”
The ex-military man was the first person out of the bus and walked straight to the ring leader.
“Hold it there son, let’s not get carried away, no one wants to burn anything or anyone.”
“I’ll start with you ol’ man” the lad growled as he tried to punch him but was easily grabbed and held in an arm lock.
“listen son, I could break every bone in your body twice, even your own mother would not recognize the mess they would have to scrap up from here as her son… now what’s all this about?”
“Don’t you watch the news, man, today we shut down the country, a massive stay away, we have had enough of lying down, letting the government mess with us, we are showing the government, we lay down no more…”
“and how will burning this bus and stoning all these cars help are they the government?”
The lad remained quiet
“You do realise the riot police will come back in full force, you might be able to hold out but that only makes them more brutal it’s all they know. Violence is like a fire that once you start, burns leaving nothing but ashes… There are ways of getting your messages heard, so there is a strike today, fine can you let this bus turn around and all these people go home?”
“Sure Boss, that’s all we was saying.”
As he boarded back into the bus the passengers started clapping.
….meanwhile someone had been filming the whole encounter and within a few minutes the clip was viral and making breaking news.
When he got to his stop the driver thanked him again and again saying if the bus had been torched his life would have been over, jobs are such hard things to get.
Walking up to the gate of home, his daughter rushed to greet him
“Daddy,daddy I saw you TV they are saying you are a hero,but I knew that already.”
He scooped her up in his arms “silly daddy” She said“you are still wearing my pink hair scrunch.”
That’s when he remembered way earlier his daughter had asked if she could style his hair; so he had spent the day with a bright pink thing in his hair and was probably going viral on the net, some things have a flavour all of their own; he begun to laugh as he twirled his daughter in the air….
#BlogBattle theme: flavour