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The Ballad of Lynndie England
May 13, 2004
By Joshua Shelov

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Once upon a time the king came down to the village and told the villagers that there was a monster living across the sea. The king said that an army had to be assembled, to bring across the sea to kill the monster. Most of the villagers immediately volunteered their children for the king's army. A few pretended to be childless.

One of the villagers was on the fence. This villager was an old soldier, who had spent many years of his life in battle. The old soldier was a good judge of character, and he knew the toll of war. He looked deeply into the eyes of the king and saw a man untested by the temperature of battle. The old soldier wondered if there really was a monster living across the sea.

The king saw the old soldier's hesitation and approached him. The king asked him if he had any children. The old soldier said that he had only one: a daughter. The king asked him to volunteer his daughter for the army.

The old soldier said, "I understand that there are times when brave men and women must stand up and fight. But my daughter is the only thing I love in this world. So I must ask you to make me a promise. Is there really a monster living across the sea?"

The king said: "I will give you my most solemn vow: I will personally bring back the head of the monster to this very village."

So the old soldier gave the king his only daughter. As they departed, the king assured the old soldier that he would not place a weapon in his daughter's hands. Instead, he would place her in charge of the prisoners. With that, they left the village, and went off to war.

A year later, the king returned to the village, bringing with him the old soldier's daughter. The king presented her to her father. Then the king began to leave.

The old soldier stopped the king, and reminded him of his promise. "Where is the head of the monster?" asked the old soldier. But the king departed without answering. The old soldier and his daughter were left alone.

The old soldier was a good judge of character, and he knew the toll of war. He looked deeply into the eyes of his daughter, and, in a sharp, sudden whisper, his heart told him that the king had kept his promise.

Joshua Shelov is a writer living in New York City. His screenplay "Hooligans" was recently filmed in London, starring Elijah Wood.

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