It was stitched, scrutinized, approved, kissed, blessed, and finally erected. Another flag had owned this pole once, but the North had taken the fort, and so the pole was its now. It never intended to yield the perch, with its illustrious breeze permitting in unparalleled sights of both sunrise and sunset, of young men marching needless hours, and thirty years of pine trees growing in the valley beyond. How tall they grew under its watch.
Once there was a forest fire. It couldn’t do anything about it, not even call for help, since it was a flag. It was merely stained by the smoke of many a young pine. The ghosts of sap haunted its pores for decades afterward. No matter how it fluttered, it could not shake this sticky sense, and it never fluttered of its own accord. Flags do not move themselves.
It watched colonels retire. Two of them – one a man with so many wrinkles he must have been born with half of them, and one an optimist who was so forced he’d clearly been learning the trade. The latter colonel stored the flag in his office when it was the shift of the other flag – the replacement. The stand-in. The impostor that stole its breeze.
This, the one true flag, was on duty the morning the madman bombed their fort. Apparently people made bombs out of nails. Two passed through stars its folds. No humans were injured. The madman was kicked in the head many times while the flag flapped overhead, two holes far too few to stop its work.
It was hailed upon. Thrice it froze in caustic hails, sticking the flag pole itself at a permanent full-mast, unable to be moved even by the greatest gales. It was a relief that no one died those days and required it to lower. On the third hail, its nail-tears finally expanded and reached its lower side.
The third colonel, the youngest, the newest, the most apt to quote Moliere, fretted over the fort’s prized relic. The uniform code said to burn it. The younger soldiers said it was a dishonor to something that had flown so long. The older soldiers knew better.