KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 6: Fall 2016
Haibun: 310 words


by Jeff Streeby
The owl’s call reminding me
our separate solitudes

Fritz hated Russians and Italians and slackers and rock-and-roll and hippies and Fords pretty much in that order and for a German, he cussed them all with a surprising virtuosity in English. He liked the black dirt of bottomland and Black Angus cattle and baseball and fishing and Benny Goodman and the Erika (which he whistled at work) and Marlene Dietrich.

A farm boy from Bremen, he was drafted in 1940 and they doctored him and fixed his teeth, taught him to march and salute and shoot. He finished basic training in 1941. He was handy with tools, a natural-born mechanic, so he went to the motor pool of Armee-Oberkommando 6 just in time for Barbarossa. During his second winter in Russia, he was replacing the driveline on a Horch Kfz81 when his wrench slipped and split his lip and broke his partial plate all to pieces. He was sent to the rear so a Heer dentist could fix him up. The morning after he left, the Russians attacked and overran several Wehrmacht positions. Katyushas and T34 formations wiped out Fritz’s unit to the last man. Within six weeks, he himself was headed for a POW camp behind Russian lines.

He was released from the gulag in 1959 and immigrated to Iowa. When I first met him at Johnson Lumber, he was married to a girl from south of town, was naturalized, and had worked in the yard for nine years. By the time he was sixty-five, he had put together a tidy nest egg and had a nice little farm down by Holly Springs.

In the first month of his retirement, he died in his sleep in a rocking chair on his front porch.

In this late evening sky
perhaps not much more
than the weight of the moon

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