As told to Alabama State Penitentiary Chaplain Ross Krueger:
A while back my friend Otis and me were sitting at my kitchen table in the trailer eating Frosty-Os and washing them down with blueberry Schnapps. We were bored, of course, neither of us having jobs. Normally around this time of day, we’d get in my pickup and drive around town drinking Miller Lites and throwing the empty bottles at kids or dogs. But before I could open my mouth to announce the commencement of our ritual, Otis looked up, his red eyes glowing with mischief.
“Let’s go burn an American flag,” he says.
“Burn a flag?” I asked. “Why would we want to do that?”
He grinned. “It’s Memorial Day.”
I understood immediately. “Hell, let’s not burn a flag. Let’s burn twenty flags.”
That got us both giggling like little girls.
At Hobart’s Hardware, we located the flag aisle, but there were only four flags. We grabbed them all.
When we set the flags, matches and lighter fluid on the counter, Old Man Garth looked suspicious. “What you gonna do with them flags, boys? I won’t tolerate no mischief.”
Otis and I looked at each other. “Memorial day,” I say. “We’re…gonna have a barbecue.”
“Yeah,” added Garth, feeling the need to chime in. “We’re grilling a bald eagle.”
Old Man Garth raised an eyebrow. “Okay. Just as long as you ain’t doin’ nothing to them flags ‘cept waiving them proudly and respectfully.” He rang us up and put everything into a bag.
We drove out to Vets cemetery, drinking the whole way, and parked next to Duffy the caretaker’s lawnmower. There was a crowd of town folk out there standing in the heat listening to an old soldier garble nonsense. Otis and I stripped naked, soaked the flags with lighter fluid, and then lit the little buggers on fire. Holding a flag in each hand, we ran screaming into the crowd waving our patriotic torches while old women and men with canes shuffled for their lives. I tell ya, we never had so much fun in all our days. Even though Otis and I ended up on Death Row as a result of the incident, it is a memory I’ll treasure for the rest of my short life.