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You think your backpack is plenty large enough.

Sure you do. 

Just like I did. 

Of course it seems large enough when you think you’re headed to grandpa’s farm for the weekend. That’s what I was doing when the bombing started. Mom & Dad were going to drive me there after work. But they never made it home. Not yet.

The backpack seems large enough until you find yourself rushing all around the house, like I did, trying to decide what to stuff in it to get away from the bombs. Water? Food? Our pet cat, Lucy? Weapons? Extra clothes? Some of each? Radio? Batteries? Chargers? Electricity. Phone? The kitchen knives, unsheathed?  

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Meanwhile … the noise never stops. No word from folks. Think you’ll get used to the explosions and the inhuman screams of pain. But you don’t. Not really. You think you’ll find a place that’s better than the last place you were. But you don’t. 

No, you won’t get used to it. At least, I never did. You won’t find a better place, either. At, least I never did. 

Just death everywhere Stench. And noise which I never did get used to. 

The “sharpness” in the explosions evaporated though. I studied enough bio to know what happened. I lost some hair cells is all. They still make a huge THWOMP in my sternum and they still hurt my ears. Oh, yes. The nearby explosions are plenty loud. They are just dull. 

Like everything else now, I guess.

I don’t hear birds any more. Maybe there are a few left. What’s that thing about canaries and coal mines? Hard to believe the air here used to be clear enough to breathe without choking. It never used to stink thisbad either. Maybe the stench killed the robins and jays. 

Maybe the birds all flew away first. Smart. They have their own built in method of transportation. Anyway, whether the birds are all dead or all flown away, I don’t know. I just know I don’t hear them. Anyway, why would they be singing? I like to think they flew away. All I know for sure is that they’re gone.

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Except for the crows*.

I remember in the “before times” being grossed out at the way the crows picked the meat off the bones of road kill. I remember wondering: “Do they get sick from rotting meat ? Or, do they just never realize that rotting meat makes them sick? Or do they do know it makes them sick but they’re so damned hungry, that they don’t care.” 

I was sure, back then, that I’d never be that hungry.

What did I know? 

Anyway, I thought the crows were gross, all right. But they were brave! They’d swoop out to their sickening feast of squashed squirrel or raccoon or unlucky dog and peck away at the rotting carcass while a car or truck would zoom right at them! Only at the last second, they would angrily flit out of the way. I never saw one get hit. 

I guess I kind of wanted one of them to get hit. It would serve them right for being so gross! 

“For being so gross.” 

As best I can understand it, that’s how all this started. Some folks were being gross. I guess I never really saw them being gross. My parents thought it was a good idea to kill all the gross people but others didn’t agree. I don’t know what the grossness even was. My folks — did I mention I haven’t seen them since all this started? — any way, my folks never explained it. 

That was back in what I call the “before times” when we could just drive to the grocery and get fresh vegetables and fruits, butter, cheese, chips, cookies, bread. Olives. I especially liked olives. My folks thought that it was weird for an eight year old to love olives so much. In fact, they called it “gross.” 

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They were joking. I think they were joking. They may have been joking. I kind of miss them. I don’t think they thought I was gross back then. Lots of people eat olives. I don’t think I started the war. Olives?

I don’t know. I don’t think I was gross enough to deserve to die. Like I said, I’m not sure what the “grossness” was all about — not the grossness that they were killing each other about. 

No-one should eat road kill. Or bomb kill. 

And no-one does. 

Except for the crows.

And me.

*Author’s Note: At the exact moment I wrote the line “Except for the crows” (the first time), the crows outside cawed loudly! Now, all I hear are the wind chimes.


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