Agnes pulled into the driveway and stepped out of her Prius.
Her neighbor, Millie, hailed her from across the street. “Yoo-hoo! Agnes! Wait up. Happy fourth of July!” She scurried across the street.
Millie was the last person Agnes wanted to talk to. They had nothing in common. Millie and her husband, George, were antique buffs. Her house looked like a museum full of relics from the Revolutionary War. Why did Millie put up with such nonsense?
Millie, out of breath from rushing, said, “Are you coming to the Independence Day celebration at the Vet’s Memorial Building tonight? They’re having a military band, Viet Nam veteran speakers, and then fireworks after the meeting. You’re welcome to ride over with us.”
Agnes lifted her grocery bags from the back seat. “Sorry, can’t make it. Gotta’ get these things inside. Frozen stuff. Talk to you later.” She hurried into the house. A twinge of guilt gripped her chest. It wasn’t very nice, snubbing Millie like that. But, Millie was so gol-darned boring. Every conversation somehow turned to her latest E-Bay purchase. A Minute Man rifle. A battered sword. A faded shirt. Agnes sighed. Who cared about all that stuff anymore? What difference does it make, anyway, two hundred years later? Who cares?
The fourth of July was such a nuisance. The fireworks just got all the dogs in the neighborhood barking and the streets were a mess the next morning.
Agnes preferred closing the blinds and going to bed early.
The boom-boom of fireworks turned into the sound of a beating drum. The sun blazed down on men dressed in brilliant red jackets. Sweat poured from their faces. They marched in a straight row toward an outline of shadowy figures in buckskin, hiding behind rocks and trees.
Agnes ran back and forth on the battlefield, as the soldiers moved forward with guns drawn. Redcoats? From England? A battlefield?
Agnes jerked and twisted, thrashing her pillow. How did she get in the middle of a Revolutionary War battlefield? I don’t belong here! Wait. I can’t be here. The field will soon be littered with dead and dying men. She turned and tried to run. Wake up! Wake up!
Someone grabbed her arm, dragged her from the line of fire and pulled her down behind a rock. Her heart pounded. Perspiration trickled down her forehead. She crouched beside the men, so close she could smell their sweat. Older soldiers grimaced, their lined faces knowing what was soon to come. “Hold the line, men. Steady now.” Younger soldiers, terrified of the unknown, sniffled as the enemy advanced, step by step to the beat of their drum. Though the ragtag soldiers were outnumbered by the advancing troops, the advantage lay in their favor, as they took advantage of the cover of trees and rocks. The men primed their guns with powder and ball and squatted in the dirt, waiting, waiting as the formidable enemy advanced closer and closer.
I’ve got to get away. This can’t be real! I must be dreaming! Why can’t I wake up?
The drumbeat stopped. Silence! She peeked around the rock. There stood the enemy, immobile on the field, guns at the ready, feet in mid-step. The flag drooped unmoving, despite a brisk breeze. The young drummer’s drumstick hung suspended in mid-air, above his drum.
Agnes lifted her head toward the brilliant sky scattered with patches of clouds as though suspended from wires on a stage. Overhead, a bird hung motionless as though frozen in time. What happened?
She opened her eyes, blinked against the darkness as she lay in her bed. The boom-boom of the fireworks had ceased. A nightlight glowed across the room. I was dreaming! Dreams were, after all, just snatches of thoughts and memories, sounds and sights stored willy-nilly in one’s mind and pulled into a fractured scenario to haunt our restless nights. She shuddered. There was a day when her dream had been another’s reality.
She turned toward the window. It had begun to rain and rivulets streaked the glass, curving and twisting as it traversed the pane. Outside, the tree in the backyard wavered in the wind of an unseasonable summer storm. The celebrations had ended and fireworks ceased.
Agnes put her hand to her pounding heart. It was just a dream. Everything was fine. Just a dream. It doesn’t matter now.
Agnes rose from her bed and found a book on the Revolutionary War in her library. She sat in a rocker and began to read: For the sake of independence, farmers, storekeepers, bankers, men from all walks of life, rebelled at the tyranny England imposed on their fledgling nation. Ill equipped, with antiquated guns and untrained, the Continental soldiers chose to fight a highly-trained army made up of Englishmen, German mercenaries and Hessians.
The Revolutionary war lasted over eight years.
The estimated population in America in 1776 was three million.
80,000 militia and Continental Army soldiers served at the height of the war
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers died during the war
8,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from wounds inflicted during battle
17,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from disease
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers were estimated to have been wounded or maimed
1 in 20 able-bodied white free males living in America died during the war
All for the sake of following generations, so we could have the freedom to make laws and live by our own rules as established by the Declaration of Independence.
Agnes left a message on Millie’s answering machine. “This is Agnes. Sorry I couldn’t make it tonight. I hope you had fun. I promise I’ll come with you next year. Our freedom is important, isn’t it? We need to remember what the holiday cost our forefathers. It really matters.”
Agnes returned to her room with her cat. The rain had stopped.
Boom! Another fire-cracker cracked in the night. “Does he have any idea why he’s celebrating, or just having fun?”
Agnes’s cat blinked and though he had no answer to the provocative question.