The soldier bore the marks of many battles. Battles between opposing tin soldiers and evil stuffed animals. The color of his uniform had faded with time (and several campaigns where the solider was left outside in inclement weather for days on end). But, those were not the reasons for the burial. With each scar, with each mark, Allister had grown more fond of his tin comrade. Oh, he had received newer toys, newer soldiers. But, even after his tin soldier's right hand inexplicably fell off, Allister only looked on him with more pride. Sergeant Left was his soldier of choice.
And the reason for his eventual burial was not a forced decision. Allister's parents knew the subtle difference between a nudge and a step. And, so, they let Allister get there on his own. And he did. Taking Sergeant Left on missions, finding time for him, began to feel like a chore. Began to feel like a weight, like something Allister had to do. And it had never felt that way before. In his younger days, expeditions and battles and further heroics had just flowed out of Sergeant Left. He had been able to do anything.
But, the day had come. And Allister knew somewhere in his heart that the day had come mostly for himself and not Sergeant Left. The Sergeant could have fought more battles. He could have gone on. He had it in him. The Sergeant could have accompanied Allister. Sure. Sergeant Left would have served proudly and valiantly in the upcoming Allister mission which bore the cleverly clear name of Operation Growing Up (the objective: to understand who Allister was). Sergeant Left could have hid in the foxhole of one of Allister's many pockets and provided backup in the battles for jobs and rent and love and all the unnamed battles that led into the darkened forest of the future. But, it was Alliaster who felt the weight of Sergeant Left's metal. And, even though Allister knew tin was a rather light metal, it pulled him down. It was holding him back. Holding both of them back.
All the other soldiers of Sergeant Left's time were long gone. And Sergeant Left's sworn service to him was coming to a close.
So, Allister placed him in a tobacco tin, dug a hole behind his house (where the yard met the woods), and buried his comrade. He saluted the grave and did his best to whistle a respectable version of Taps.
He stifled a tear or two (goodbyes are never easy-even when one party or the other was an inanimate object) and he imagined Sergeant Left's future. Surely, there was a reason Allister had to move on without him. Greater things were to come. For both of them. But, it was up to Allister to take the first step. So, he did. Allister stepped from his tin comrade's grave and headed into the future.
And, just like that, Sergeant Left's story flowed forth in Allister.
Perhaps years from then, Allister thought, another kid would live in the Cromley family home and would stumble upon the tobacco tin and conjure up a new mission for Sergeant Left. Or, perhaps, time would hide Sergeant Left from human contact until the future had entirely forgotten him. And, if time hid him long enough, perhaps humans would evolve into a species that knew nothing of tiny tin soldiers or the tobacco tins they rested in. And, then (perhaps, of course), an archeologist would stumble upon Sergeant Left's grave and a whole new mythology would unfold. Maybe (yes, it could happen!), the future archeologist would theorize that Sergeant Left was the last of a tiny tin race of people and he would be revered and written about in history books! Tin monuments would be built to and for him. Yes, ideas and plotlines and a new life would unravel. It may seem ridiculous to some.
But, as Allister stepped away, he felt the ballad of Sergeant Left continue.