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Monday, 22 June 2009

MULTIPLY Rita's "Riting" Challenge #27: The Flag

Do you remember the American Stewart family: Hank and Jean, with their sons Jason and Duke. Hank works in Switzerland for his American company. Somehow they have had a couple of small problems settling into their new country, and they try so hard.


Here are the first two stories to bring you up to date

The Truck

The Purple Door




“Hey Honey, what do you think? Uncle Chad sent us the present all the way from the States and it would be a shame not to use it.”
“You’re right Jean, it was a good idea, and we won’t feel so home sick. I am sure the boys will love it.”
“Ok, Hank, looks like we have work to do.”

The American family Stewart are still living in the little village somewhere in the French part of Switzerland, near to Geneva where Hank worked for an American company. They found that life was a little bit different in Europe to the States, everything a bit small scale. They tried their best to get on with the neighbours and their surroundings, but decided to just go about their lives as quietly and inconspicuously as possible, avoiding any unnecessary excitement. Even Jason, their youngest, got a prize in the school for learning the words of the Swiss National Anthem by memory. His brother, Duke, attended yodelling classes once a week and was now one of the best soloists they had.

Michelle Le Blanc was still not so happy with her American neighbours who lived opposite. Her husband Marcel quite liked Hank Stewart and they often had an interesting conversation about sport or politics, the normal masculine conversational topics, although he did not mention it to Michelle.

The next day was Saturday, so Hank was up early in the morning, he had some shopping to do and he took the two boys with him to the local building market. He then saw exactly what he wanted; a white pole about eight feet high.

“That looks like it will do the job, what do you think sons?”

“What’s it for dad?” the two boys asked.

“Hey boys, just think. You saw what Uncle Chad sent us, well this is just ideal to go with it.”

“Oh, I see dad. You don’t think that Mrs. Misery Le Blanc will have anything against it?”

“Son, she is Mrs. Le Blanc to you, even if she can be a bit of a witch now and again. Her husband is a nice guy.”

“Yea I know dad. He even played a round of football with me and Duke last week, but we had to go to the other side of the village.”

“You don’t say.”

“Well Jason said it would be better. He probably didn’t want old Mrs. Misery, sorry dad, Mrs. Le Blanc, to see that he was siding with the enemy.”

“So sons, this has to stop. They are probably a very nice couple and we just got off on the wrong foot with them. Anyhow, we are inviting them to our 4th July party as well as some other friends.”

“But dad.”

“No buts, they are our neighbours.”

The family Stewart left the shops and travelled home. After lunch Hank Stewart had work to do, under the supervision of Jean of course.

In the meanwhile….

“Marcel, come and look. Those Americans are up to their tricks again.”

“Michelle what are you doing again at the window with the binoculars spying on our American neighbours.”

“Look, Marcel, that Mr. Stewart is hammering a long pole into the ground and his wife is giving him instructions.”

“Perhaps he is fixing a light up in the garden for when he wants to sit outside on the summer evenings. It is really none of our business.”

Suddenly Jean Stewart saw the light reflecting on something in the neighbour’s window opposite.

“Hey, look Hank I am sure that Mrs. Le Blanc is looking at us again with the binoculars.”

“Who cares baby, we are not doing anything illegal.” And so Hank carried on with the work under Jean’s orders. After an hour they were nearly finished.

“Jason” called Hank “bring me Uncle Chad’s present. I am ready for it.”

Hank removed the present from the box and hooked it onto the pole.

“Marcel, Marcel, look what those Americans have done; an insult to our country.”

“Are they burning a statue of our president, or our country’s flag? Come off it Michelle, they are just a nice family doing no harm.”

“No harm, well what do you say to that. They have just hoisted a flag on that pole.”

“Yes, but we have a Swiss flag in our garden as well.”

“No, Marcel, it’s an American one. You know the one with the stars and the stripes. That is against the law, I am calling the police.”

Although Marcel was annoyed with his wife, he knew she was right. In Switzerland you are only allowed to have a Swiss flag showing on your private property. Foreign flags are forbidden. Before he could do anything his wife was already on the phone. Soon afterwards the Stewart family heard a knock on the door and Michelle opened the door.

“Hank, can you come quickly. It’s those nice police officers again, you remember the ones that told us how to paint our door.”

“Bonjour Mr. and Mrs. Stewart. Unfortunately we have a problem. Your neighbour called us.”

“Old Misery Le Blanc again.”

“Jason I told you to speak of Mrs. Le Blanc with respect. Go to your room.”

“So what’s the problem officer.”

“It seems you have an American flag in your garden. I am afraid you will have to remove it.”

“But in America most of us have flags showing our countries in the gardens. It is a good old fashioned custom. Not forgetting that 4th July will soon be here and we are having a good old Independence Day party. Well, when I think of it why don’t you come as well? We have really got to know each other over the past months and I would love to introduce such nice police officers to my friends. You won’t feel so out of place I am inviting a few people from the village as well, our neighbours Mr. and Mrs. Le Blanc.”

“Thank you very much Mr. Stewart we would love to come.”

“Charles, we are here on police business and not on a social visit. First of all we must deal with the facts.”

“But Jacques Mr. and Mrs. Stewart are such nice people. I am sure we can close an eye to the crime.”

“Charles, please remember who we are; staunch upholders of the Swiss law. No, I am sorry Mr. Stewart, but the flag must be removed.”

“What about our 4th July celebrations? You cannot celebrate them without a flag.”

“Sorry, but it is the Swiss law. By the end of next week, the American flag no longer appears.”

The police officers Charles and Jacques left.

“Jacques I really think we could close an eye on the problem. What harm does the Stars and Stripes do in a little Swiss village. No-one will know.”

“It is the principle Charles; the principle.”

With a heavy heart Hank Stewart removed the flag from the pole.

“Hank give me the flag, I have an idea.”

“What sort of an idea Jean?”

“Just wait and see.”

Jean said no more but went on a shopping trip and then Hank heard the sound of the sewing machine now and again during the week from her work room.

It was soon the 4th July and the Stewarts now had a Swiss flag on their pole in the garden, although Hank found it not so suitable for Independence Day celebrations. The invitations had been sent and were accepted. Even Mrs. Le Blanc came. After all she wanted to know what the inside of the American’s house looked like. When police officer Charles arrived Hank was please.

“A shame that your colleague could not come as well.” He said to Charles

“Please do not mention it to my colleague if you see him. I did not tell him I was coming. May I present my wife and two daughters?”

It was a successful party, and Jason and Duke were very happy to meet the daughters of Charles. They really got on well together.”

At midnight the Stewart family had organised some fireworks and while everyone was looking Jean pulled down the Swiss flag. She took it to one side, opened the zip she had put on the side and turned it inside out and put it back on the pole. Some noticed, some did not notice, but it was very original. A Swiss flag on one side with the American flag on the other.

Hank was proud of his wife; she always had such good ideas.

The Stewart boys, Jason and Duke were also pleased. They had found two girl friends, the daughters of a Swiss policeman, so they spent the late hours of the night toasting marshmallows on the fire together.

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