The yellow flag

Like a small yellow flower the little flag raised its head just above the side of the road.  The passing cars did nothing to disturb its stiff and unfurled banner. Drivers would catch a glimpse of it out of the corners of their eyes as they sped past.  Perhaps twenty centimetres tall, its head was proud but is root was submerged in a small and dirty puddle of water that hinted at the marshy waste land through which the road had been laid, a watery, desolate land that straddled either side of the road and stretched for a few hundred metres.   A single little yellow flag.

Its newness was at odds with its hinterland, a dandelion yellow but with a sheen that only the hand of man could make.  A short metal tube, standing erect and a stiff,  a precision cut flag pointing westwards, flanked by bog and marsh, tufted unkempt grasses and the odd deformed tree.  A rusted wire fence lay behind it, away from the road, put there lest anyone should feel the need to stray into the sucking, squelching amphibious waste beyond, halfway between the water and the earth.

But someone had strayed there, a man in riggers’ boots and dark blue cargo trousers.  A man, who parked his van in the lay-by on the opposite side of the road, made the few steps across the worn tarmac and placed the single little yellow flag.  Placed it perfectly, exactly where it was needed, half submerged in water and with its head peaking over the surface of the road. An act of precision, carefully thought out, planned in advance, blue-printed.

A man who stood by the side of a road in a fluorescent jacket on the edge of a desolate terrain.   The collar turned up against the cold damp mist that hugged the ground in front of him, with three simple stands of encrusted barbed wire hanging between decaying posts separating him from the quagmire beyond.  A damp and dreary location, a bleak and soulless place.  

A man with a job ticket in hand, a works order for the placement of a little yellow flag in a measured and fixed location, a yellow marker, marking something, something hidden under the dank and fetid water, underneath the scabbed and scarred earth, marking something important, something essential, something vital.

A man with his head raised, the upturned collar rubbing on his nape, surveying the reeds and rushes that were slowly consumed by the seeping soaked earth.  He searched the horizon for land marks, coordinates, points of reference.  He looked from side to side, from front to back, at all points of the compass to check that he was in the right spot, the right juncture, just as the works order demanded. 

He took the little yellow flag from the pocket of his dark blue cargo trousers, the right hand pocket, and placed it in the dank soaked earth, by the side of the road, with its head just proud of the side of the road and its precision cut flag pointing westwards.  He turned on his heels and walked back to the van parked at the side of the road, gave one last look, checked off his worksheet and drove off.

He left behind a little yellow flag, marking something important.

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