Psychopomp Magazine Spring 2016 - Page 31

Ron Burch | 31

Ron Burch

Parade

She was waving the wrong way. From behind the sunflower, even I could see that clear on the other side. Her hand was curled incorrectly, and she was moving her wrist too freely. Mr. Merkin hadn't noticed yet. He was standing below the stripes of the flag, smiling at the passing people, his hand moving in perfect form. If he looked back, Amica would be in trouble.

Mr. Merkin had strict rules about the way in which we were to wave. It's a four-four beat with the thumb tightly cupped up against the forefinger and the rest of the fingers squeezed together. The hand was not to break the 90-degree plane, as Mr. Merkin called it, a tight measure of control and respect. We labored for months, almost a year, on our presentation. We worked hard, had to earn points, were constantly graded and criticized. Some left in shame, others in tears. This is a tough job to get, highly valued since there is little else. Applications come in from all over the country, the world even, for the few slots that we have for our floats.

They traveled across the country. The politicians decided that we should have a never-ending parade, back and forth across the country, to make our citizens proud of where they live. The Parade reminded them of that; it said we were good; it reminded us that we were strong; it made some men cry at the sight of it and hold their loved ones closer to them; it made us feel better about ourselves. Amica whispered to me once: to make them forget where they live and avoid their responsibilities. Mr. Merkin shushed us because it was quiet time while we repaired the flowers on our float. That's one of the rules. The floats must be decorated with all natural materials: flowers, leaves, sticks, bark. It can even be rice or beans or a spice but it must be natural. God's bounty, Mr. Merkin called it. That's what we