Flash Fiction: Sounds of war and peace

The local boys are toying with their guns down at the shooting range, their pot shots echoing like whip cracks off the hills around. They’ve been let out for the first time since the pandemic had them rushing for cover. Overcome by an urge to celebrate, they’re firing off a round or ten.

Above, the Swiss Army are performing loop-the-loops over the town, the sinister drone of their jets reminding us that war is only a click away. Like any other conscientious worker, the pilots have to be heard to be working, even if it’s only during office hours. No sniffer, stealth planes here. Too expensive. They’d never pass the ramp of the popular vote.

Meanwhile, a souped-up motorbike growls the length of the main road trying to rival the fighter planes. Hard not to be tempted with such a powerful beast between your legs.

Tractors kick up clouds of dust along the tracks before crisscrossing the fields spraying our future food with nitrates or worse. A forthcoming vote aimed at banning pesticides has many a farmer in panic, afraid for their livelihood, unable or unwilling to envisage other ways of farming. Their ‘No!’ is blazoned in red across fence and hedgerow in a call to arms.

As for the organic farmer, he’s nestled in a sea of pesticides, trying to keep his distance. While the rest of us are expected to sit silent, beset by pharmaceutical companies peddling their profitable miracle solutions, as we sink inexorably into ill-health.

A couple of miles away across the hills, the jets have scarpered, no doubt gone to annoy someone else. Or maybe they’ve used up their allocation of kerosene for the day and are hurrying back to base. The shooting range is too far off to be heard or perhaps, now they’ve shot their load, the boys, frustrated at missing so many clay pigeons, head home to berate their wives.

The wind has dropped and there’s not a cloud in the sky. Two ponies saunter by, shimmering in the sunshine. Their riders, sleek young girls in casual dress and riding hats, sit straight-backed in the saddle, rising and falling with their mounts as they chat of this and that. They too have great strength between their thighs but they feel no need to brag about it.

Down by the henhouse, someone must’ve summoned the hens. They’re capering across the field, hopping from clawed foot to clawed foot, so many flecks of white squawking all the way, into their heated shelter for another bout of egg-laying.

High above, riding the up-drafts, a kite turns lazily in search of prey, its royal battle cry a mark of authenticity amid the discordant clank and clang of man.

For other flash fiction by Alan McCluskey see Secret Paths Story Fragments.

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