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I was in the mood for some Kurt Vonnegut brilliance and I wasn’t disappointed with his short story “The Cruise of the Jolly Roger”.
Nathan Durant, a war veteran, sets sail in his cabin cruiser named The Jolly Roger to visit a few small New England coastal towns. During his first visit, he encounters a group of artists that invite him to lunch. He doesn’t exactly fit in and even though they make some feeble attempts to show respect, their attitude tends to be, in a word, snooty. They condescendingly laugh at the name of his boat considering it too cliché for their tastes.
Durant moves on to the next town where he searches for people who knew an old army buddy killed during the war. In spite of it being his buddy’s home town, not many people remember him. However, his friend does have a small patch of grass in the middle of town named after him. And as it’s Memorial Day, children are paying their respects to those who have died. In struggling to come to terms with the situation, Durant listens to a grade school boy’s speech:
“He died fighting so we could be safe and free. And we’re thanking him with flowers, because it was a nice thing to do”
The boy’s sentiment seems a little simple, a little cliché – but simple and cliché are not always bad. It worked for Nathan Durant. And it kind of works for me.