Theodore Van Kirk, Last Remaining Crew Member of Enola GayThey had a bed set up on the porch. He liked to watch over the hills for approaching storms. His great grandson, Dylan, fed him Cocoa-Puffs. He sucked them like a baby.

Dylan flipped through the pages of Ted’s life. “Plane,” he said, pointing. He was fascinated by the long airplane with soldiers standing beneath. He pointed at the words on the plane. He couldn’t read yet. ENOLA GAY. He tugged at Ted’s robe.

Ted flinched and raised the big sunglasses. “They say it will be like looking at ten suns.”

Dylan, annoyed, tugged more and pointed to the name on the plane.

“Yes, Enola Gay. Fine woman. I may have slept with her. Older, someone’s mother. But she was a comfort. ‘Teddy, she said, ‘Heroes do what they must.’”

Dylan giggled and said, “Teddy.”

Sleeping with her was just a dream. But he knew he had felt her cheek and held her strong back. He knew he had cried on her shoulder. Ted recalled his hands in her fine red hair. That was real, adorned with white ribbons for peace.

In another dream the blast melted her flesh and he held her bones. Still she smiled, always the cheerleader. “For country,” her teeth chattered.

Dylan flipped pages. The war ended. Ted was buying a house, having kids; in photos always squinting. Acting normally.

Once he had barricaded himself in the basement for three days. No one talked about anything. He couldn’t call Enola to say he loved and hated her.

Dylan turned back to a picture of “Little Boy.” Ted had tried to tear it out, but it was glued so fiercely he could never lose it.

In the center of the blast people never got the chance to be bone and ash – they were vaporized instantly, inhaled by the world. They made their own cloud and rained and evaporated and snowed, an eternal cycle. Ted breathed the scent from Dylan’s hair.

He remembered how in the plane, speeding away, their fillings had tingled with expanding radiation. The cloud grew above them, and when they looked down, there was nothing left.

His teeth tingled now, with sugary Puffs and whatever this was coming over the hills. A storm of dust with a black head moving along. Dylan pointed, and Ted called his grandson to take Dylan away.

“Pop, you better come in, too.”

“No. It’s alright.”

When they were gone Ted hobbled from the porch and down the lawn. The wind knocked him down, but he got back up. The hail was like gunfire, but he took it. The thunderhead was directly over him. His arms went up, and he waited.

Photo used under CC.