Tomorrow morning Byron Cobble will flop out of bed, pour a cup of coffee, and plop into his chair. Opening the paper, he’ll skim the news and scan the comics, perhaps noticing the one-page spread entitled “Remember the Fallen.” His second cup of coffee finished, he’ll dress and piddle with his fishing gear in the basement. Later that morning he’ll wash the car and mow the lawn. At midday, he’ll fill a cooler with beer and ice and load his trunk, setting off for the park or a relative’s house. It’s a holiday, a paid vacation day. Please don’t remind Byron of unpleasant things. Holidays are for fun.
Did you know they once called it Decoration Day? Thankfully for Byron Cobble, the solemnity of earlier times has waned. Byron said it himself: back then, people didn’t want to have fun. Look at old photos if you don’t believe him. Talk about some sour, sober people, all of them dressed in black, standing so mournfully at the cemetery. Byron wonders that they called it a holiday.
Most Sycamore Shadows residents attend the sunrise memorial service at the burying ground and you’re welcome to join us. Mayor Chibble usually speaks and Minister Westminster will say a prayer of appreciation, but don’t mention it to Byron Cobble. Like giving thanks before a meal or listening to a child, it’s an inconvenience. Byron endures enough inconvenience on work days, not to mention having to attend worship on Sundays.
Are you one of the many veterans living in Sycamore Shadows? Please avoid Mr. Cobble for the day. You may have seen blood spilled, may have held friends as they died, may remember the teary eyes of widows and children. Byron doesn’t want to hear such things, especially on a holiday.
Byron knows to avoid the Keene house. Nippy Keene didn’t serve in the military but he’s a patriot who spends Memorial Day morning in his study, reading a book about the battle of Verdun, crying as he holds a photo of his grandfather in uniform. Nippy also recites the Declaration of Independence to his children on Independence Day and carries the constitution in his pocket. That’s not the sort of person Byron wants to see on a holiday.
Please, if you see Byron Cobble tomorrow, no whistling Yankee Doodle or other patriotic tunes while he’s around. Byron doesn’t care whether or not Johnny came marching home and he can’t understand why anyone would squander the first day of summer thinking of blood and death, unless it’s the blood of a steak cooked rare and the death of a stringer of fish. If you invite him to sit, don’t point out empty places at your picnic table. And most of all, please spare him the unpleasant thought that somewhere, a little girl will pull the covers over her head that evening, hold her stuffed animal tight, and cry herself to sleep without a father’s kiss.
It’s Memorial Day. A holiday. Byron Cobble means to have fun.