“Hey, you kids! Stop throwing grenades on my lawn!” The Grenadier yelled.
He hated Grenade Day. Why wouldn’t he? It was a holiday dedicated to the worst day of his life. It was the day he was declared a national hero. More importantly, it was the day he earned his nickname. Few people remembered his original name. His parents had done their best, but they lacked the foresight. How could they have known he’d become “The Grenadier”?
The two teenage boys with their grenade shaped fireworks froze in place. The Grenadier felt a small amount of satisfaction that he could pull off the crotchety old man act so well. He was only in his forties, but with the bathrobe, fuzzy slippers, sweat pants, and several days of greying stubble he could play the part.
“Why you gotta be a Krushinite, man?” one of the boys said defiantly. “We’re just having a good time.”
The other boy was wide eyed.
“Mikey!” he hissed “That’s The Grenadier!”
The first boy, Mikey, looked at him more closely, yelped, and dropped his grenade. The Grenadier crossed the yard in a sprint, snatched up the firework, and pulled out its fuse. He handed it back to the boy.
“I had enough of grenades during the war,” he told them. “I just want some peace and quiet.”
Mikey had a wide, open-mouthed grin.
“That was awesome!” the boy exclaimed. “That’s how you did it on the first Grenade Day, isn’t it? I read about it in history class. During that battle, the Krushinites threw grenades at you, but you caught them and threw them back or kicked them back. You even shot a couple in mid-air!”
The Grenadier sighed. All anyone remembered about him was the stuff with the grenades. It was no big deal. He had fast reflexes and was lucky enough to see them coming. A lot more happened during that battle. Why didn’t anyone remember the other guys? He had a whole team of guys that did as much as he had that day. There was Ginger, Commander Buzzkill, The Shoe Shine, Echo, The Bro, Buzz-Cut, Alley-oop, Sean – The guy who likes to give nicknames, Dead Horse, and more that The Grenadier couldn’t remember off the top of his head.
“Just go play with your grenades somewhere else,” he told them and walked back into his house.
Back inside, The Grenadier propped his feet up on his recliner and started doing a sudoku on his phone. The number puzzle relaxed him. He enjoyed the simple logic and ignored the noise outside.
Soon, however, there was a knock at his door. It was probably those kids wanting to take selfies with him, he decided. He ignored it, but the person at the door was persistent. They continued to knock while The Grenadier continued to not answer. After a few minutes, however, it became clear that they wouldn’t give up. Luckily, The Grenadier’s mother had once taught him a way to make people stop knocking on his door. He opened it… silence. Worked every time.
There was a man at the door wearing a black suit. The Grenadier knew this man as Government Steve. Obviously, his parents hadn’t named him this. Like the Grenadier’s parents, they lacked the foresight. Luckily, The Grenadier was still friends with his army buddy, Sean – The guy who likes to give nicknames, so almost everyone The Grenadier knew had a nickname, whether they liked it or not. Government Steve did not.
The Grenadier was pretty sure that Government Steve’s job was to annoy him. He didn’t dislike the man. He just wished Government Steve wasn’t so dedicated to his job. He would show up at The Grenadier’s door several times a month with a report of some bizarre situation that some government official apparently thought he should know about. Every time, The Grenadier would have the same six-word response: “Why are you telling me this?”
“What is it this time?” The Grenadier grumbled.
“The moon is on fire.”
The Grenadier blinked. He wasn’t sure how to respond to that, besides staring stupidly. He blinked again. Finally, he gathered enough wits to respond.
“The moon is on fire!” Government Steve repeated more insistently. “Look!”
The Grenadier stepped out onto his front porch and looked at the sky. Sure enough, the moon was covered in strange, blue-green flames. Several questions occurred to him at once. How is it burning? What is the fuel? How does it have enough oxygen to sustain? How did it even get ignited? Above all those, one question seemed most important.
“Why are you telling me this?”
Government Steve sighed and recited his usual spiel.
“Sir, it’s my duty to keep you informed of situations that are of a clandestine or otherwise unusual nature.”
The Grenadier shook his head.
“Sorry, no. That answer doesn’t do it for me this time. Look, this is how I see it. I don’t know how far your jurisdiction reaches, but I doubt it covers the moon. Beyond that, I don’t see that this hurts anyone. Let it burn. It’s the moon. No one’s using it for anything.”
Government Steve opened his mouth to answer, but The Grenadier cut him off.
“What I really don’t understand is why you’re coming to me with this. Is this information supposed to affect me somehow? Do you expect me to do something about it?”
“Sir, we inform you of these things in the hopes that you’ll use your superpowers to…”
“My what?” The Grenadier sputtered.
“Your superpowers, Sir. You obviously have powers and you could be using them for beneficial purposes.”
The Grenadier laughed.
“All this time, you’ve been coming here because you think I have superpowers? Did The Bro tell you that? I could see him doing that and thinking he’s hilarious.”
“No, Grenadier, that isn’t the case…”
As he stepped back into his house, The Grenadier raised a hand to stop Government Steve from talking.
“I don’t actually care how you got the idea. I don’t have superpowers. You can stop coming here and telling me your weird stories.”
The Grenadier shut the door, not giving Government Steve a chance to argue. He moved to the windows and opened his curtains to get a better view of moon. The soft, green, flickering flames relaxed him as he finished his sudoku.