Archive for the ‘WHEN DARK CLOSES IN’ Category

Dusting off my ‘old projects’

There is still only 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. It is a new year and we’ve barely started 2016. But, as I have said before, for me each moment counts in itself, and there are those times when I have to reorganize, juggle those priorities, projects and promise (only to myself) that I would finish what I started so very long ago. Admitting to how long I’ve put off my book ‘project’ is too embarrassing to share. 🙂

I lack only a few chapters to complete,  The Informant’s Agenda, re-edit again and do a final draft. But, it is only a third of the way done on another book project, When Dark Closes In, that is also a long-awaited goal shelved for way too long.

Procrastination is what I do best.  🙂  Organizing my time is what I want/hope to do better, and working on those book projects is what suffers as the result of too much time spent on other things. As the minutes of each day tick away into history, those uncompleted projects become more a part of my writing ‘history’ than a possibility or probability of its future. The characters and I in each book have sadly become strangers because of too little contact, and they are not on social media networks.  Now I must resurrect them so I can feel as if they are once again a part of my life in the sense that we can be ‘friends’, and I can begin again to mold them into the characters I see and know.

In the meantime I am absorbing all the instruction and mentoring I can get from a well-known, well published writer friend to help me along the way towards seeing my goal, or goals accomplished. But, sometimes what takes center stage and pushes my book projects to the back is the posting and creating new posts for the blog. So, at times I will need to post less frequently in order to put that required time into my book projects. From time to time I might add a new chapter here to all others posted before, but if not it is not an indication I have not completed it, but because I have improved it, revised or rewritten parts of it, and want it to be the best. We’ll see.

As life goes on, and the minutes and days tick by, so do the years, and we ‘baby boomers’ don’t want to waste any.  This one doesn’t. 🙂

____________

Joyce E. Johnson (2016)

 

Posted January 11, 2016 by Joyce in My Novel, My Writings, The Informant's Agenda, WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

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The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter XIII, Part 2

Map of the Transdnestrian Region

Map of the Transnistrian Region (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

1944 – Transnistria ghetto             

My fingers are stiff, numb from the pain of cold and frost. I don’t know how much longer I can keep the journal, record the things I know and have seen. If caught, I know I will not see my son and wife again. It is for Jacob, Raisa and the rest that I write this and hope one day it is found by someone who will learn the truth. Oh, eternal God, redeemer, Jehovah, cover us with your mercy. Deliver us.   

Our food line today was shorter. The faces of some I saw before, now gone. We are served meager rations of bread with a thin gruel. I saved back some of my bread, eating only a small amount so I could leave more for Jacob. He is running a fever. I fear he has caught the dreaded Typhoid. Like his brother, Joseph, and many others who have already died.

The smell of unwashed, lice infested bodies emaciated in their soiled rags fills my nostrils. Huddled together, bent over, joints stiff from the cold, eyes protruding from dark sockets many look like the walking dead. They will not survive much longer. When I look at them I see myself, a bony protrusion of brittle stick like limbs.

Crudely built cots made from slated wooden crates are pushed together to hold all of us crammed together in the old warehouses. There is no heat. We are given no wood or coal to build a fire to warm us during the winter months. Guards laugh, calling us their “prisoners” and tell us we must serve time for our “indiscretions committed against the Reich’s commander and chief.” I have been assigned to a construction site at their barracks.

We are inspected and closely watched as we are rounded up each morning before dawn, stand in line while they call our numbers, and wait while they check their lists for those now dead or anyone missing. When that is done we are given our ration bowl, devour its contents hungrily, work for hours with no breaks, little protections against the harsh winds and cold, then marched back to our quarters at the end of the day.

That is when I saw him. Mueller, a Jew like me, now claiming to be converted and baptized hides behind his altered documents wearing a crisp clean uniform given to him by the Reich’s commander in the Romanian Iron Guard. His pious look fools no one. His heart is as cold and bitter as the soup in the steel drum. They serve him soldiers’ rations, allow him to bathe and use their toilets, and drink their liquor. But, he has betrayed us all, turning in our names, giving them information about our family members, our history, and circumcision. We are all marked for death, because of him. I have seen him staring at me with suspicious eyes when we are marched out, and ordered to report each morning. I worry that he may know what I do, or where I hide as I write this.

Our families once farmed, side by side, breaking ground, planting, cultivating. They celebrated harvests, shared the bounty, and suffered through the bad years, together. We were brothers in spirit, working alongside, believing that one day we would rise up and join others in an insurrection to turn the tide and see a democracy born from this anarchy. But, it is for naught. We are brothers no more. He is free, to live. I am destined to die.

Time is short. I fear I will not be alive much longer, for the things I know and write about will be found.

Oh, my dear Raisa and Jacob. Where did they take you? What have they done to you? Will we ever be together again? I cannot bear to think what they will do to you both if they find me with this.

A.G. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I’d finished my notes and reports I sent off an e-mail to Jeremy marking it ‘priority,’ asking him again to review, translate and do a thorough search on the names.

________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

 

When Dark Closes In – Chapter X

File:Bruce Crandall's UH-1D.jpg

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Chapter X

Scott – Hue, South Vietnam

June, 1967, Hue, South Vietnam

It was nearly impossible to empty his mind of the things he’d seen, and try to write stuff as if he was a boy scout on a camping trip. Yea! Some trip. Every time he started a letter to Jen or his mom, he didn’t know what to write. What he thought they wanted to read, or hear, he could not write. What he could write they would not want to read, or hear. Too depressing. The media covered enough of the grizzly stuff, but how many bothered to read it, or hear it reported on Nightly News?

He wadded up the letter, another hard ball, and threw it at the latrine. Smack! Wadded another. Threw a curve ball. His mind flashed back to the time he was in high school. They were in the seventh inning, their baseball team’s playoff game for the all-state championship trophy. The opposing team was up at bat. He stood at the pitcher’s plate, slamming home fast balls, right into the catcher’s mitt, strike one, two, three. Another one, “out”!


Bases loaded. Runners up, eagerly waiting. I took my time, made them sweat. Slowly raising my pitching arm, arched my back, turned and, raised my left leg, fooling those on bases. Then, quickly straightened, and threw to third base with the runners sprinting for second and third. The umpire called it. ” Out”!

His writing notebook was not entirely empty. There was much of it that was already filled with things he didn’t share with anyone. He’d been keeping the ‘journal’ since he arrived in Saigon nine months ago. Now, he snatched minutes whenever he could to unleash whatever was in his head. When he didn’t know what to write home to Jennifer and his family, he used the journal to communicate his thoughts, express his frustrations, or just rant with pen on paper.

            ____________

“Here I am, nine months into my tour of duty, these last three in Hue. My M-16 remains the only friend I know that won’t leave me, my constant companion. Sleep deprived, I have dreams of hot showers, cheese burgers and fries, the waves of Puget Sound washing over my bare feet, but, I lie back on burlap bags filled with freeze-dried army rations near the latrine, stink like the village pigs here, and my eardrums vibrate from the drone of planes and helicopters overhead.”

“I still see the faces of the dying villagers lying helpless in our wake as we moved in, after the Viet Cong. Their blood soaks the ground. They are the innocent victims of our bullets and shrapnel. Open, gaping wounds fill with swarming flies to lay claim to their remains. Medics cannot help them all. Only the monsoons help wash the earth of their blood. But, nothing washes away the memory. Their fading cries linger in my head. I hear them over and over.”

“There is no time to grieve the death of friends I’ve made here. I just watch the medics wrap them up and send them home in a body bag. My grief, my emotion is an internal kind, because it’s just not cool to watch a big boy cry. But, when, or if I leave here alive, I will feel more ashamed for not shedding any for the friends I watched die.”

“We don’t know where our enemy lurks. The south will do whatever is necessary to annihilate and wipe out all evidence of VC presence, or compromise. There is infiltration in the South’s army. It is hard to distinguish between the two armies sometimes. At times we don’t know who we’re fighting. We just fire. The South Vietnamese Army formed a special unit for the sole purpose to hunt ‘rats,’ (revolutionists and their spies), another name given the VC. SWARM (Specialized Warfare Against Rat’s Movements) are a brutal bunch of boys. Some say the CIA trained them. No reason to doubt it.”

“Reports from home tell about the apathy for the soldiers here. Does anyone care we are dying? Troops have no real commitment to the South’s cause. They were pulled in, with no choice. This has become a political war. Those in WA., DC that decide our fate should be here. We would choose theirs. And they would go home in body bags. With, or without the U.S. help, the South Vietnamese will fight on, to keep their side free from the north.”

“Things are getting intense around Da Nang, and our unit may be heading north. My only momentary relief comes from looking at Jennifer’s picture, and reading her letters from home. I pray I make it back. I never thought much about praying for anything before. Guess I never needed anything so much until now, so I’ve given it a try. Whether or not God listens, at least I’m giving it a shot.”

            Scott Bradley – 1967, Hue, South Vietnam

                        _____________

Suddenly, the sounds of M-16 s erupted everywhere. Another ambush. The screams of troops falling under fire while launching grenades, the chaos from those running, hitting the ground, diving for cover: they were under attack.
Aim, fire, and kill. Scott emptied his cartridge on all he could see in their black pajamas, then reloaded. They camouflaged themselves in the bush, foliage hanging off them as they crawled along the ground. They laid low in rice paddies, creeping along like maggots. They were dropping, but it was too hard to see how many he’d gotten. They could pop up like ducks at a carnival shoot to gain the surprise. Carnage everywhere. The surprise attacks were coming more frequent.

His knees buckled. He lost balance. He felt a stinging, piercing pain, like a hot knife shoved in, then withdrawn. His grip loosened, his M-16 feeling too heavy to hold. He looked down at the growing red stain, the sticky wet blood oozing from a chest wound. He would not go down. Not today! Tightening his grip, he stumbled up, out of his trench and ran into the fray.

“Bradley! What are you doing? Get down, man. You’re going to get…No!” Mac yelled.

______________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson




The making and telling of story: WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Members of the military are attempting to keep...

Members of the military are attempting to keep Vietnam War protesters under control. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a story about young adults living in the sixties era of the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia, 1965-1975. It is about a ‘coming of age’ generation, across the country holding protest demonstrations against the war,  rebelling against the ‘establishment’ of rules and regulations, experimenting with pot, ‘free love,’ and illegal abortions. It is about those who swarmed to the Beatles concerts, danced and rocked to the tunes of popular groups and singers at rock concerts like Woodstock.

When Dark Closes In tells the story of Jennifer, Scott and their friends who lived, loved, fought and died during that time, succumbing to  the shadows of a dark period in history. But, from out of the darkness comes a light of hope and redemption for some whose lives will be forever changed from that moment on.

In two chapters posted Jennifer was coping with an unplanned pregnancy and considering an abortion. In 1966 abortion was illegal in every state. She was Catholic, unmarried, a college student, and her baby’s father waited to hear if he would be sent off to war in Vietnam. Those were traumatic times to live in. The choices and decisions made by the youth were often made in haste, with little thought to the circumstances. Other decisions made concerning the war, our military and troop buildup were made by our president, his administration, and congress. It caused division, unrest, war protests. Many dodged the war to run off to Canada where they could hide and blend in with the masses there, some never returning to the U.S. to face the consequences.

These characters, their lives and choices made are not a reflection of my personal views or perspective, although my husband and I were ourselves nineteen in 1966, living with our own choices, but instead they are those of the characters created for the story. All feedback and comments on this story, or any chapter posted are welcome. Comments are helpful to know the thoughts, opinions expressed and views of another, but do not influence my own on the way I tell the story. I hope you enjoy/have enjoyed reading it. It is a current work in progress, but also one I have been writing and editing for many years, recently renamed and revised with the posted chapters and prologue, all of which may be found under the category and menu heading of, When Dark Closes In.

_________________

Joyce E. Johnson

When Dark Closes In, Chapter IX, – ‘Scott’

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN (Historical Fiction)

Scott

Chapter IX

1967 – Saigon, Vietnam

“I could really jack up the cost of this job if I did it at home in my uncle’s garage. But here, I can’t collect, or set my own hours. At least the parts and coveralls are courtesy of the Army. You think they appreciate our expertise, Mac?”

A soldier hunched over machine parts, cleaning and oiling. “Hey man, we’re government commodities now. Dispensable and replaceable, you know?”

The Lieutenant’s voice boomed from across the road. “Bradley! You finished with that jeep, yet?”

“Almost sir.” he called back. Starting up the motor he listened to the sound. “Sounds better now, sir. She sputters a little, but still got some life in her. Till her sweet rump gets all shot up, and scattered to parts unknown.” he added.

“What was that?” asked the lieutenant.

“Uh, nothing, sir! Just thinking out loud. Do you think I could be relieved now to go get some dinner?”

“Yea, knock off.” The lieutenant looked at his watch. “Report back in two hours.”

“Thank you, sir.” Scott saluted and walked down the road to a café frequented by the military. Chopsticks and soy sauce were laid on a small table tucked in a corner. He ordered his food, propped his booted feet up on a chair and leaned back. While waiting for the food he rested his head against the wall and closed his eyes. A large ceiling fan circulated the humid air and smells that settled in the dim place. The weariness and drain of a long day took its toll and he was almost fully asleep when he felt a warm hand on his arm.

“You one sleepy soldier boy. Yes?” The girl said, smiling. She laid the plate of food down in front of him and he picked up the fork and started eating. She moved over behind his chair, hooked her long lithe fingers and hands into his muscled shoulders, and began to massage them; making deep penetrating circles, working down his back.

“I make you feel better?”

He had to admit the massage felt good, and she was something to look at with her long, cinnamon colored hair flowing down her back, locks draped over her bare shoulders. Her eyes were a translucent steel-gray. The tight, short red skirt crept seductively up her thighs as they moved in rhythm with her forearms.

“Just here for the chow, sweetheart.” he said, smiling. “You don’t look like other girls I’ve seen around here. Are you Vietnamese, or…?” He said between bites.

“My father. He was French man. Come here with French militia. My mother, part Chinese, part Vietnamese. My name, Suki. It …how you say in your country, nickname?”

“Yes. Cool name. Uh…Listen Suki, I didn’t come here for…well, you know, the entertainment.”

“What your name?”

“Scott. And thank you for the massage, but…I have to hurry and get back.”

“That O.K. Maybe, I see you again?” She glanced over towards the bar at the bartender ‘boss’ with the snarly, screwed up face, watching her.

“Bye, Scott. Have other customers waiting.”

He nodded, and watched her make her way back to the men hanging over the bar. She used her practiced approach on another, and minutes later they headed up the dark stairway to a room upstairs, his arms wrapped around her like an octopus.

There was a sense of longing and loneliness, an emptiness and deep ache in the pit of his stomach. He wanted only to be back home in Seattle with Jennifer. He hated this place, this war, the country, the constant monsoons, and stinking town.

It had only been a week since he last wrote Jennifer, but he would write again when he got back to the barracks. He hoped his letters were getting home.

Ten minutes later the soldier came down the stairs, rumpled, looking content.

As he walked back to base a transport helicopter touched down. The bodies of dead soldiers were being unloaded, identified and carefully placed into body bags, their personal belongings collected, and placed into smaller bags with identification tags. It all seemed so cold, so routine anymore. Unload, identify, match up, zip up the body or remains, and send home.

One soldier stood by, anxiously waiting, watching. Grime and grit covered his face and bloody uniform. His eyes looked wild, fearful, as if still out in the bush. He grasped the shirt of his friend.

“Smithy! We’re here. They’re going to fix you up. Hang on. I’ll make sure they take real good care of you. Smithy! Did you hear me?” Shaking Smithy, he pleaded, “Smithy?”

He looked up at the medic. “You will, won’t you? Work on him right away?”

Smithy’s body went limp, his eyes glazed over, staring up at no one, nothing. They just stared. His body was lifted off and laid with other still, lifeless bodies.

The medic turned to the soldier, and said, “Look man, he’s gone. I’m sorry. We have to get him unloaded so we can get to the wounded that need immediate attention. Smithy will be taken care of. Why don’t you help me collect his things and we’ll get him ready for the trip home. What’s your name fella?”

The soldier was quiet for a while. He wiped his dirty sleeve across his face, as if trying to wake up from a bad dream. “Rakowski. Sam Rakowski. Smithy always called me ‘Rack’. He said I could shoot the rack off a running bull moose. I like to hunt. We were good at it. Together, hunting the Cong. We got a lot of em, Smithy and I.”

The medic just nodded. All of them casualties.

Looking over at Smithy’s lifeless body, ‘Rack’ asked, “What am I going to do now? Who’s going to help me hunt the Cong?”

Scott was suddenly thankful he was not in that unit. He walked back to the broken down jeep. Maybe Mac was still cleaning engine parts.

_________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson

When Dark Closes In, Chapter VIII – Fallout

English: 1965 Ford Mustang 2D Hardtop frontvie...

English: 1965 Ford Mustang 2D Hardtop

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Chapter VIII

 Fallout

     1966 – Clear Creek, WA.

    Scott boarded the southbound bus, and turned around to find her waving. He smiled, found a seat, and the bus pulled out, headed for Fort Lewis. He promised to write. She could only pray his letters would never stop, that he would return to her, and the child he knew nothing about.

    There could not be a hole anywhere on earth deeper, or greater than the one she felt in her heart as she made the lonely drive home in his 1965 Ford Mustang. Even with a window down the scent of his sweat mixed with his after shave and soap he used when he showered lingered. She caressed the black, leather upholstered bucket seats. She knew how much he loved this car, spending hours buffing and polishing it after a wash. She would call his father and have him pick it up. One day at a time: it was all she could do, and hope for the year to pass quickly.

    But, there was something she could not put off any longer, so locked it and reluctantly went inside where she knew her parents waited. They sat at the kitchen table in their usual place, reading the newspaper over their coffee. It was around the kitchen table where they had their family sessions, laughed, and talked about their day. This time an awkward silence filled the room, as if a pall of doom had followed her inside making its home there, uninvited.

   “I’m very sorry, dear. I know Scott’s leaving has been a sad and difficult thing for you, but perhaps, when you return to school things will be easier then, and you can meet up with some friends there.” Erin said.

    “I’m not returning to school in the fall.” Jennifer said, pointedly.

    Her father’s head shot up, his facial expression always an easy barometer to read. His broad, bent shoulders stiffened, as he straightened in his chair. Jennifer did not look forward to this.

    “What kind of nonsense is that? You’re going back to school. I won’t allow you to quit school, and mope around here over that boy.”

    “I’m not going back, daddy. Not now. I need to tell you both something. About why I can’t. I’m…Scott and I… I mean, I am going to have a baby. I’m pregnant.”

    Her words fell on them like the mammoth trees felled in the Olympic National forests where her father managed the logging camps. He could determine the exact angle and position as each was felled to the ground. But, he could not determine her fate. Right or wrong, alone or with their help, she would make her own way. Another long pause.

    Erin McAlister found her voice. “Have you been to a doctor? How far along are you?” she asked.

    “Yes, I saw the doctor. I’m three months.”

    “Does Scott know?” Erin asked.

    “No. I didn’t tell him. I’m not going to. Until he returns home. I don’t want anyone else to. I don’t want his family to know, because they will think it their duty to tell him. He has enough to deal with just being over there in that war.” The days of holding back tears, the stress: all of it was gone now, as she unleashed it all.

    “Mom, could you get me some water. I feel…light headed.”

    Erin got up, and brought her some water and a cold compress.

    “Thank you.”

    “Jenny. Jenny. What have you gone, and done?” Her father slowly shook his head. “Does anyone else know about this?”

    “Dana does. I told her when I found out. I just wanted to share it with someone that… would understand.”

    “How can a girl like that ‘understand?’ Someone who has no morals of her own.” Jim said, his Scotch-Irish brogue more noticeable when angry.

    “Jim. That’s enough. Maybe she wasn’t taught the things we have taught Jenny, so what else would you expect? It is rather sad they let her do all the things she was allowed to do. She lives the way she wants.”

    “Which is why our Jenny should not be hanging around with the girl.”

     “Jim! Stop that kind of talk. You don’t know…”

     “Daddy. I’m tired of you calling Scott, ‘that boy,’ and Dana, ‘that girl.’ They’re my friends. I love Scott. We plan to be married… when he comes home.” She cried into the wet compress, shoulders shaking.

    “Jenny, it will be alright. Your father is just trying to be…”

     “Sensible. Someone needs to be. I hope you have gone to confession, talked with the priest.” her father said.

    “No. I don’t need a priest. They hide behind their confessional like an imposter as if afraid, or too ashamed of you to even look at your face, and tell you what you need to hear.”

    “Jenny! That’s enough. You cannot speak that way. It’s…” Jim spat the angry words back.

    “What? Disrespectful? Are they hiding from our shame? Or theirs? Aren’t they guilty of sin, too? Isn’t it God we should confess to, and ask for help?”

    “God knows we can use his help.” Erin said, quietly.

    Jennifer walked upstairs to her room. She picked up her rosary beads sitting on the night stand. As a child she was taught to practice the good Catholic rites of faith. A confession when she did things that were wrong, regular attendance at Mass, bowing and saying her prayers before the Virgin Mary. It all seems so pointless, so empty now.

    She looked out into a clear night sky from her upstairs bedroom window. The moon was out, and the stars looked like shiny crystals scattered about. She wasn’t into astrology like some, but she found them more comforting than rosary beads.

    She fingered the tiny diamond ear studs she wore. Scot had given them to her the night they watched the sky explode in every shape and color, bursting through the dark void on July 4th, over Puget Sound.

    She went to bed, but slept little.

__________________________________

To be continued

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

         

When Dark Closes In, Chapter VII – Ferry Crossing

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Chapter VII – Ferry Crossing

1966, Puget Sound, WA.

    They stood at the rail watching as the Space Needle loomed larger, closer, beckoning them back to Seattle’s metropolis. Their day excursion was coming to a close like the near perfect last three months of summer. The ferry’s wake from waves rolling in, then out, and in again to sea was hypnotic, soothing as she snuggled in his embrace. The choppy water sent cold sprays into their face as the wind smacked the sea with each assault. Seagulls squawked and flew between the quay and ferry announcing its scheduled return.

The official draft notice came that week allowing him two weeks to put things in order. He turned in his resignation at work, withdrew his fall enrollment from the engineering institute, had started packing up things in his apartment, said goodbyes to friends and family, and would report to Fort Lewis the following week. The remaining days went too fast with precious little time together.

They purchased some things from a store early that morning, then headed for the ferry crossings, pulled into a line with other cars being loaded and drove over to Port Angeles. They found a quiet shore, picnicked on the sand with smoked salmon, cheese and crackers, and bottle of wine, and browsed through quaint shops along the piers. Now, as the familiar and predictable came into view, they thought how soon it too, would end.

She would not be returning to Notre Dame for her sophomore year, but have her baby, work in town, live at home, and wait for his tour to end. Wait for the day when he would return to find her, and their child here. She had not told him that he would be a father. She was three months into her pregnancy. Larger, lose tee shirts and shorts helped hide the small swell of her abdomen. It was more difficult hiding the increasing nausea she had daily now. She did not want him going into a war feeling anxious, worrying about her, making himself vulnerable. She would try to not dwell on tomorrow, only today, this moment, looking into the setting sun over Puget Sound. But, the uncertain, unknown gnawed at her like dark shadows. She wanted only sunrises, with promising bright skies, and sunsets with restful nights.

Scott was the first to break the silence. “Are you feeling OK? Still having that nausea thing?”

“A little. I think it’s just… the choppiness of the water, crossing over today that made me a little queasy. But, I had the most wonderful time. It was one of the happiest days we’ve ever spent together. I wish we could make it last indefinitely.”

“There will be plenty more, Jen. I promise. When I’m back. You’re not getting away from me that easily, you know?”

She looked up, searching his eyes. “I don’t intend to. I will be here, Scott.” There is that little bit of extra that holds us together, more than a single day, or single moment in time.

“Good. Because, when I come back, after Vietnam, we’re going back out to Port Angeles again, to the same shore, same spot where we had our picnic, and carved our names in the sand. And do it all over again.”

And we will add another name in the sand, with ours.

“Do you think it’s presumptuous for of us to believe things can return to normal one day, after the war?” she asked.

“I don’t know, Jen. But, the one thing that will never change is that I love you. I always have. I always will. I think I knew it back when we were in high school.”

She laughed. “Every time you showed up at my front door, my dad would say, ‘That boy is back.’

“And, before him and your mom, I will get down on one knee and propose, so he can see that ‘that boy’ is serious about his daughter and wants to marry her.”

“I think sometimes you misunderstood my father. A lot of his bull crap was just his way of testing you. I think down deep somewhere he actually likes you. My mom, too.”

“Really? You could have fooled me. For a lumberjack I half expected him to pull out an ax or something from behind his back when I came over to see you. Your mom kind of looked at me with that little half-smile like the proper British folks do when they’re thinking something, but don’t want to really say it, so give you that kind of look. You’re the little bit of sweetness in between them.” He cupped her head in his hands and kissed her, not wanting to stop.

When their lips separated, she asked, “Do you want kids of your own…someday, Scott?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“Well, I just thought I would ask how you felt about them. I wanted to be certain we think alike on those kinds of things, you know, since you plan on asking me to marry you.” She smiled at him.

The skyline came into focus, moving from out of a heavy haze into a clear night, dusk settling like the noisy seagulls on wharves looking for food scraps.

“You bet.” Taking her hand, he added, ” Come on. Let’s go find my car.” Passengers started for the stairwells down to the vehicle holding decks to retrieve their cars. Scott drove off the ramp and they merged out into Seattle’s crowded, congestive traffic.

_________________

To be continued

Joyce E. Johnson


When Dark Closes In – Revelation, Chapter VI

When Dark Closes In

Revelation

Chapter VI

She was apprehensive as she entered the clinic. The stenciled sign on the door read: Andrew Crowley, MD; Gynecology, Family planning and Reproductive services.

“Hello. I’m Jennifer McAlister. I have an appointment to see Dr. Crowley?”

“Just a moment while I check the appointment calendar. Oh, yes, you called earlier with some questions…I have some papers here for you to read and review. It will answer any questions you might have. May I ask who referred you to our office?” She said.

“A friend. Dana Martinelli.” Jennifer answered, accepting the handouts. “I was told there would not be a lot of paperwork.”

“We respect your issues with privacy. All information is kept confidential, and all are kept secure. But, we need pertinent information like place of employment, home address, a phone number, and an emergency contact number of a friend, or someone we can call, if needed. And, your signature on these forms agreeing to the terms of financial obligation and assuring payment before the procedure…” She said curtly, as if tired of explaining, and repeating all of it too many times.

“Well, Ok.” Jennifer took a seat and began working through the paperwork when she noticed the girl sitting near, bent over, with her arms covered protectively over her abdomen.

Jennifer leaned forward and asked quietly, “Are you alright? I couldn’t help but notice you don’t look so well and…would you like me to ask if a nurse could come out to help you?”

“They know I’m here. I don’t have an appointment. I called them and told them what was going on. They said the doctor was booked, but I could come in. I got this fever and pain…”

“I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do? Get you some water, maybe?”

“No. But, thank you. I took the pills he gave me, but they haven’t helped.”

“What pills?”

“The ones the doctor gave me, after he…killed…took my baby from me.” Tears fell from her flushed cheeks.

Her answer startled Jennifer as if suddenly jolted awake from a bad dream.

“Are you married?”

“No.”

“How does your boyfriend feel about your…?”

“He told me to get rid of it. Said it would just get in the way, and didn’t want no ‘screaming little brat’ to raise.”

“Miss McAlister, the doctor will see you now. I will direct you back to his office.”

Jennifer was sure the receptionist had heard them talking, maybe hearing every word by the way she kept glancing back at them. Jennifer had tried to keep her voice down.

“What is your name?” Jennifer asked.

“Rebecca.”

“That is a pretty name.”

Jennifer stood up, afraid to just walk away from the girl, but, more afraid for herself for the kind of cold-hearted thing she was about to do to her own baby. She didn’t want to become like one who worked in this place.

She turned to the receptionist and said. “Rebecca needs some attention. She isn’t well. Could you help her?”

“We will. But, I was asked to show you into the doctor’s office for your ‘consultation.’

“I am not going anywhere until a nurse or someone comes out to help her.” Jennifer replied.

“Miss McAlister, we try to stay on schedule. The doctor is busy and doesn’t have time to stop to examine everyone who walks in without an appointment.”

Jennifer looked at Rebecca, bent over and then noticed the blood spots on the floor near her seat, and pointed to them for emphasis. “I think there is reason enough why you need to see her now, or I am going to go call an ambulance for her so she can be taken to the nearest hospital to be checked. I don’t think you will want the publicity when they begin asking questions. And as for me, I don’t think you will be needing these, and I won’t be needing the ‘procedure.'”

She took the papers and ripped them up, leaving the wad on the receptionist’s desk. Except for a small piece she ripped off to hurriedly write down her name and phone number, for Rebecca.

“Miss McAlister, are you certain about this?”

“Yes, more certain than I have ever been about anything.”

She turned back to Rebecca, gave her a pat on the shoulder, and said. “Please take care of yourself. And dump the boyfriend. You don’t need him. He didn’t want your baby, and it sounds like he doesn’t love you. He doesn’t deserve you.” Jennifer handed Rebecca the corner piece of paper with her contact information. “Please call me later, and let me know how you are doing?”

Rebecca nodded.

A nurse hurried out to the waiting room, after being summoned. She put a supportive arm under Rebecca’s to lead her back into an examining room. “We’ll check you over, and see if we can get you to feeling a little better.”

Except for maybe, Rebecca, Jennifer left the clinic, hoping never to see those people again. On her way out, she placed her right hand over her belly, as if shielding the tiny person inside.

I don’t know what is going to happen, but we will go through it together, even if it is just you and I alone in this.

_________________

To be continued

Joyce E. Johnson


When Dark Closes In – Chapter V, – Into The Storm

Into The Storm

Chapter V – WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

     1966 – Seattle, WA.

    Dana led Jennifer through the apartment, opening doors to spacious closets, pointing out the built-in dresser shelves and walnut bar, fully equipped kitchen with pantry, and large windows that looked down four stories from a formal dining room to a courtyard and pool with landscaped gardens. The giant Space Needle, seen from a little balcony from off the bedroom towered over Seattle’s skyline. Jennifer watched as a large gray cloud formed, much like the dark one that descended over her now.

    “So, what do you think?” asked Dana.

    “It’s beautiful. The view from up here is incredible.”

    “Isn’t it? I love it. Daddy worked with the contractors and Nick has connections in real estate and was ready to move out of his old place the moment these units were finished and ready. So we signed the lease and got our keys yesterday. We’re moving in this weekend.”

    Jennifer nodded, looking down over the courtyard and pool below, pensive and quiet.

    “Ok. Let’s have it.”

    “What?” Jennifer asked.

    “You’ve been moody, and quiet all day.”

    “Oh, just a little envious of your apartment and independence I guess. I’m fine.”

    “No, you’re not. You don’t hide things that easily. Something is going on.”

    Jennifer shrugged. “I’m sorry. I guess it’s just worry, you know? Scott had to fill out all those papers and answer a zillion questions about his job, what he does, hours he works, if he has dependents, single status. They want to know everything, and then they make guys sweat and wait to see if they will be called up to serve…” Jennifer quickly dabbed her eyes.

    “Look, Jen. Scott will be fine. Don’t worry. I bet his uncle could pull some strings.”

    “I doubt it. And…I’m not so sure about me, either. Dana, I’m pregnant.”

    “No way! Are you certain?”

    “Of course I am. Do you think I would tell you if I wasn’t? You look as if my halo has fallen off and I’ve sprouted horns or something. “Say something, but don’t say, ‘You should have used birth control pills.'”

    “Well, you should have. I have for… a long time. ”

    “I know. Everyone else knows too. The way you… Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…. But, it’s different with me. My dad would hit the roof if he knew I ever took birth control pills.”

    “And now he’s going to kill you, unless you…take care of it before anyone finds out. Does Scott know? Have you told him?”

    “No. Just you. And I want to keep it that way. I mean it, Dana. I am not telling my parents right now and for sure don’t want Scott to know. He has enough to worry about, with the draft board. And, what makes you think I am going to run off and find a quack doctor to get ‘it’ ‘taken care of’ as you so blatantly put it? Is that how you took care of yours?”

    “Jen. Be real. You don’t have to go through with this. You have three more years of college, live at home, have only a part-time job; hardly enough to take care of a kid, and the father that might have to go to war. This will mess up your life, big time. You don’t have to run off to find a ‘quack doctor’. I know a good doctor that does illegal abortions. I mean, it’s expensive, but I can loan you the money for it. You can pay me later, and there is no paperwork, nothing to sign. It is set up by appointment after a consultation and done in a clean, sterile office.”

    “That sounds… cruel… heartless. I don’t know. Even dangerous, and risky. Don’t those doctors get into trouble with the state medical boards or someone if they’re caught doing illegal abortions?”

    “Not if it is done in secret, kept confidential and there are no records. You would be surprised at how many doctors are doing illegal abortions for women who don’t want to carry a baby to full term, or can’t afford one.”

    “How do they come up with the money to pay for one? How much do they cost?”

    “Never mind that. There are desperate people out there, Jen. They find a way. Right now, you’re one of them. How far along are you?”

    “Two months.”

    “That’s good.”

    “Why?”

    “Because, the doctor I know does most of them between two to three months. He claims it’s easier during the first trimester, and safer. I could contact him if you want, and give him your phone number. He’s a friend of my father’s.”

    Jennifer mumbled. “That doesn’t surprise me.” Then a bit louder, “Alright. But, please don’t speak to anyone else about this. Not even Nick.”

    When Jennifer left, rode the elevator down and came out into the lobby, a young woman and little boy stood inside the entrance watching as lightning lit up the skies, and thunder followed sounding like a sledge-hammer banging on clouds, releasing rain. Her hand was clasped tightly around his small one. Seattle’s afternoon monsoons.

   “Mommy. I don’t want to go out there. It’s too scary.” He said, his eyes looking as big as half dollars.

   “It’s OK, honey. Don’t be afraid. God is just watering his big garden, and makes a bit of racket with his watering can. He’s giving the pond frogs a drink, too. He watches out for all of us.”

   Jennifer raced across the parking lot to her car, and started it up for the long drive home. She could not stop thinking about the young mother with her little boy. ‘He watches out for all of us.’


   She wondered what she was carrying. A boy or a girl. As the rain beat hard against her windshield, her tears came too, unrelenting, as did the small silent heartbeat of one, beating rhythmically, unbeknownst its fate.

_________________

To be continued

Joyce E. Johnson      

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN – Incoming Tide, Chapter IV

This is a chapter and scene from my novel, When Dark Closes In, about young adults in the sixties era. A bit of history  about that time: During the years between 1963 – 1975,  the military draft was implemented to increase the numbers of troops needed to fight the hated war in Southeast Asia, known as the Vietnam War. It was a historic time in the U.S. when the  ‘hippie’ generation experimented with pot, a promiscuous lifestyle, held protest demonstrations against the war and rebelled against the ‘establishment’ of rules and regulations. It is a generation that rocked and danced to the beat of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and other popular groups and singers on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. All of this story is fiction, simple as that. All characters are fictional, created only for this story, alone. Their lives and character are not based on any values or opinions of my own, but their story could be that of many out there, given the history and facts of that era and time. The history and references to the Vietnam War in places and localities are truthful and factual. You will find the prologue and first three chapters and parts of this story all posted under my ‘fiction’ category on my blog.

When Dark Closes In tells the story of Jennifer, Scott and their friends who lived, loved, fought and died during that time, succumbing to  the shadows of a dark period in history. But, from out of the darkness comes a light of hope, grace and redemption for those whose lives will be forever changed from that moment on.

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021813_0041_WhenDarkClo2.jpg

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Chapter IV

Incoming Tide

Jennifer waited while Scott showered and dressed. She looked at framed pictures he displayed on the walls, one of them together, taken years earlier. His apartment was filled with things and touches of the man he was. A collection of miniature die-cast model cars and planes was arranged on the mantel beside the picture. On the other side rested an old baseball glove and hard ball from his days with their high school baseball team he played on when he was their star pitcher. A desk in one corner held textbooks and notebooks from his three years in college. A stereo unit with a stack of records propped up beside it took up space on the other side.

She turned on the stereo, tuning in to the local hit parade AM station, and the Beach Boys revved up and roared to life in, Little Deuce Coup.

The door to his bedroom opened. He was dressed in khaki pants, knit shirt and deck shoes. His hair with natural blond streaks, still damp, had a mussed up look adding to his rakish charm. His aqua blue eyes and captivating smile were just a couple of the things that attracted all the girls back in high school, she remembered. His recent tan was evident he’d not spent all his hours indoors at his uncle’s garage, working on cars, or in a classroom at SITE (Seattle Institute of Technology and Engineering).

Gads, he looks good.

“I left my grungy clothes in a pile on the floor for the maid to find. She’s off today.” He quipped.

“Oh. That’s too bad. I guess you will just have to wash your own clothes. Hmm…is that British Sterling I smell?”

“It is. You remember.” he replied, grinning.

Jennifer nodded. “I gave you a bottle of it the Christmas before I left for Notre Dame. It is my favorite men’s cologne.

“And now mine, too.”

“Oh, do I have that kind of effect on you?” she said, teasing again.

“Don’t you know what you do to me?” He walked over to the stereo, turned off the Beach Boys, and picked out several records, stacking them onto the cylindrical record changer. The strains to, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” began playing.

“Come here.” He said, motioning to her with his forefinger.

She went into his embrace.

“What are you thinking, with that smug grin?” she said, looking up into his eyes.

“Just how happy I am to have you all to myself tonight. We don’t have a third-party hanging around this time.”

“Who are you referring to?”

“Someone. Anyone. It seems whenever I want to be alone with you there is always someone around. But, tonight it’s just you and I, here alone in my apartment. And, since I am your ride back home tonight, you can’t get away from me.”

“I realize that. You certainly arranged this well, didn’t you? My father used to warn me, ‘Watch yourself with that guy.’ But, with my car in your uncle’s shop waiting to be serviced I could hardly refuse the ride, could I? But, Scott, don’t assume…”

“Jennifer… relax. Let’s just dance. Then we’ll go to dinner somewhere.” His arms tightened around her and he began coaxing her gently into a slow dance, their legs and hips coming together, moving together, with the music, the lyrics capitalizing on the mood, and the physical sensations she was feeling.

“Scott… I realize it’s hard for you to understand. It’s just that…well…”

“Understand what? Jennifer, I love you. I respect you for the person you are, and I’m not going to force my intentions on you. But, we’re adults, now. Let us have our time, our moments, together. Make your own decisions. Right or wrong. You’ve allowed your parents and your old-fashioned virtues to stand in the way too many times of finding some happiness for yourself.”

“It isn’t just that. It’s the consequences we live with if we make a mistake we aren’t prepared to live with, and could regret.” Her words, spoken quietly were so muffled she could barely hear them herself as she leaned into him, feeling the heat of his body, penetrating into her’s. Jennifer wanted to pull away, but couldn’t make herself do it.

The scent of his British Sterling cologne was intoxicating, his hands on her lower back, electrifying. Even as she said the words, “I think we should wait.” she knew he did not want to. She did not think she did either, anymore, as she allowed herself to be carried along, the pleasure, the blissful gratification, an ecstasy, she had never known before, and knew she could not stop. His kisses sent a wave of desire through her, gently at first like an incoming tide, then increasing with such intensity it was like the surf pounding against her groins, would not let her retreat. She succumbed to the moment, returning his kisses with the same intensity, and they forgot all else.

_______________________

On a personal note: My husband and I were just nineteen in 1966, got married and lived through that time. He was placed on exempt status from the draft so he could attend college in L.A., CA. Because, he attended four years of college, graduated, and the arrival of our first-born child in 1970, he never had to fight in that war, of which we are very thankful.

Joyce E. Johnson

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN – Bender’s Garage, Chapter III, Part 2

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN (Historical Fiction)

Chapter 3, Part 2

Bender’s Garage, Seattle, WA. 1966

____________________

“OK, then. I’ll meet you inside, when you’re ready.” Jennifer said to Scott.

“I’ll hurry.” He said.

“I’m sure. Am I the motivation you need to work a little faster?” She smiled.

“Something like that. Do I need another reason?” He said, grinning.

It grew quieter as they talked. The banging under the noisy heap stopped when she saw the pair of legs from under it slide out revealing a face dirtier than Scott’s grinning up at her. He quickly got up from the mechanic’s creeper as if hopeful to get an introduction.

Other mechanics stood watching as she turned to walk across the work bay to the door of the customer service center. Their staring made her feel uncomfortable, but she knew they were just harmless big boys in dirty overalls.

“Hi, fellas.” She said, giving them her winning smile.

When she approached the door she noticed a wadded greasy shop towel thrown across the bay area smacking the mechanic with the dirty face. It phased him little. His eyes barely blinked, still on Jennifer as he stood like a fixture in stone, on the concrete under him.

She knew Scot could still pitch. He’d pitched all through high school, fast ball, slow curves, all while on the school softball team. He seldom ever failed to strike out players on opposing teams, anticipating their moves, judging his next pitch. But, this time he was unable to move the guy, or wipe the lascivious smile from his dirty face.

She punched in a quarter for the soda machine, and waited as a lever inside lifted and released her choice. The Coke rolled down into the slot.

Arnie Bender, Scot’s uncle came through the door and greeted her, picked up his mail from Shirley, the receptionist and entered his office.

She settled down in a chair to read the book she’d brought. But, the newspapers on a side table caught her eye. She read the titles, and subtitles of enclosed articles, “Stepping up troop movement for escalating war in Southeast Asia,” “Fighting results in increased college enrollment,” “Mothers weep at departure gates; their sons promising to write,” “Debate over U.S. involvement causes division in Congress,” “Parades and demonstrations take to the streets.” Pictures showed hippies holding signs, “Make Love, Not War!Some had those with their two middle fingers raised in a ‘peace sign.’ Others stood defiant, in their face using just their middle finger raised in a lewd gesture. The scenes and news reports were coming with more regularity for the times they lived in.

She stopped reading when she heard Scot’s name mentioned in the adjoining office. She knew it wasn’t right, but couldn’t resist listening to the conversation between Mr. Bender and the receptionist.

    “Mr. Bender, there was a call for you earlier from an Army officer by the name of…”

    “Riggs?”

    “Yes. He asked if you had filled out the necessary papers regarding your nephew, Scot’s employment here. He wanted to remind you that those papers they sent you requesting confirmation of his employment needed to be filled out and sent back ASAP to their office here in Seattle, by the deadline date.”

    “OK. Is there anything else, other calls, or messages?” he asked.

    “No sir. That’s all. The rest are on your appointment calendar, or spindle. This one I highlighted because of its importance. I thought you would want to know. He said it was vital they get those papers back by that date. He left his number for you, to call.”

    “Thank you, Shirley. That is all.”

    Shirley walked out to resume her work behind the ‘Information’ desk.

    Jennifer sat, the newspapers still in her lap, with little interest in them, or her book. She quickly tossed them back onto the table in a heap, as if she’d just been bitten or stung by an angry bee. She decided she would not tell Scott what she overheard or knew, about the ‘confirmation’ papers with his employment status requiring his uncle’s ‘immediate attention.’

    When Scott was finished, he walked inside, took his time card, clocked out, and peeked into his uncle’s office telling him, “Goodnight, uncle Arnie. See you tomorrow.”

    “Sure thing, Scott. I’ll get someone on her car first thing tomorrow.”

    “Thanks. I’ll get her home tonight and pick her up tomorrow when it’s done.”

    He turned back to Jennifer, smiling. “All ready?”

    “Yes. Thanks for the ride home, and promise of dinner.” she said.

    “My pleasure.” He said, grinning.

_________________________________

Joyce E. Johnson

        

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN – Bender’s Garage, Chapter III, Part 1

BENDER’S GARAGE (A scene from – WHEN DARK CLOSES IN), Chapter 3, Part 1

Jennifer pulled into the lot at the automotive body and repair garage. A sign read:

Bender; Tender with your Fender,

Committed to Care what we Repair,

Reasonable rates; Always fair.

She thought the sign kind of funny considering all the noise coming from inside. The music blaring from a radio perched on a cluttered shelf with various auto related tools and parts could barely be heard above all the pounding and thudding. But, she could make out the popular Beach Boys hit, “GOOD VIBRATIONS.” Their song was on the top 10 of hit parade stations everywhere. The sound of an engine turning over, sputtering to life under the shaking hood made it seem all the more crazy, and she laughed at the thought.  She could imagine the Beach Boys with their own cars rattling roof tops with their gyrating, noisy engines. “Good Vibrations.”

Seattle’s June temperatures in the high eighties, along with high humidity levels hovered around for ten days straight. Large fans hung from metal beams, but did little to cool the inside. It still felt like a sauna. The lingering smell of greasy engine parts, oil and sweat from mechanics working at their stations permeated the atmosphere.

A pair of legs in coveralls protruded from under a car, where she guessed most of the banging noise came from.

Under the hood of another car were the head and shoulders of another mechanic. That’s him.

“Hi. Scott.”

He backed out from under the hood, bumping his head on the hood latch. His smudged

face and overalls wore the residue from the old car he worked on. He rubbed the back of his

head.

“Oh. Hey. Jen?” he said. grinning. His eyes scanned over her slim, tanned figure in white shorts and navy tee shirt.

“Wow! You look great! How long have you been back?”

“Since last week. I’m sorry for sneaking up on you. I didn’t mean to startle you.” She laughed. “Are you O.K.?”

“Sure.” He wiped his hands on a shop towel.

“I made an appointment last week to get my car tuned up. I talked to your uncle and he told me you were working here during the summer. Are you still attending ITE?”

“Yep. But, I’m taking the summer off from classes, too. My uncle wanted me to come work for him, so here I am, getting my hands dirty again.” He laughed.

“Who’s assigned to work on your car?”

“I’m not sure. Your uncle said he’d take care of it. The receptionist was out when he took the call. I asked him how things were going with the business. He said he was having, ‘a good season’. It looks like it. Expanded the business and number of employees? Hey, I like his cute poster sign he put up. Has a catchy little rhyme sound to it.”

“Oh, that? That’s a joke. He didn’t do that. One of the other mechanics made that. Thought it would be good for the new advertisement in the yellow page listings, you know? Hey, if you leave your car here, I will take you home later, if they can’t do it today. But, you have to agree to come back to the apartment with me, wait for me to shower, clean up, and let me take you out to dinner.”

“Well, OK. I will want to let my mom know I won’t be home for dinner. How long will it be before you can leave?”

“Not long. Wait inside for me. Get yourself a coke and I’ll knock off after I’m finished here. This old wreck has been a real piece of work.” He checked the big clock on the wall opposite him. “Can you give me a half hour or so?”

“Sure. I’ll wait inside. I brought a book along in case they got it in today.”

________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson

THE ATTIC

The below story is fiction. It is based upon a word prompt for this week from Woven Dreams – A Creative Prompts Blog.  It is also a newly created scene and chapter I have written for my current longer fiction story, When Dark Closes In. Comments and feedback are welcomed. And if interested in reading the previous chapters and scenes from this story you can find them in the recent posts column and under the Fiction category.

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The Attic (Literary Fiction – A Scene from, WHEN DARK CLOSES IN)

1976 – Clear Creek, Wa.

With her parents both, now deceased Jennifer had so much to do to get their house ready to sell. It sat empty, but she could still feel their presence in every room. Where to begin, cleaning out and sorting through things no longer wanted or needed. She started with the attic.

Changing into a pair of old jeans, tee-shirt, and hoodie she took empty boxes up stairs to the second floor. Standing on a three-step stool ladder she reached up and pulled back the attic opening, grabbed hold the attached fold out ladder and pulled it down through the opening and climbed up into the attic. She pulled up empty boxes, and a flash light lantern resting on the ladder rung in case the overhead ceiling light was burnt out. It felt like fifteen or so degrees cooler in the attic without the upper portion insulated. The dank smell of mold and mildew from floor boards permeated the room. She pulled the light switch cord. It still worked but the bulb was weak. It gave little light so she switched on the lantern and pulled it over to a stool and sat down. Cold winds blew, rattling a weather vane attached to the roof, its noise seeming so much louder in the attic than down on the first floor.

She began with filled boxes, going through each, all full of things that went back to the early years before she married. Some of the boxes went back to her years as a teenager before college, while in high school. 1963, 1964, 1965, and on they went, all marked and labeled with the contents. So many things saved, souvenirs from trips, carnival trinkets, programs saved from plays she performed in while in school productions, achievement awards and certificates for various events associated with her drama class, tickets from football games she attended.

She opened another box, with pictures. There were so many of him, many with them together. There were pressed flowers, jewelry and mementos he’d given her, the corsage, the pair of high-heeled shoes and her prom dress, its once vibrant color of the deep blue now faded to a dirty hue, the color of the Pacific ocean washing ashore at Puget Sound when she and he…and there on the top of all were newspaper clippings of the war that had separated them.

She would not allow herself to remember. She had shut out those memories years ago, trying to forget and move on, but she couldn’t. She could not organize her life, much less her thoughts. The memories forced their way back into her head, here in this dark attic with its cold, flickering bulb as if to remind her all she once had, and could not forget. Would there be no escape from the shadows of depression that came over her? The dark dreams, the nightmares that would not stop that oppressed her, clawing at her throat like a pair of hands choking her until she could not breathe. Could she escape the tormenting darkness that closed in around her life? How would she tell her son about his father?

Her own father once said, “Honey, the shadows in our life are a part of the process of growing, maturing. The painful parts and the hurts we will always remember, as we will the good times. In time they heal, making it possible to see the light. But, time cannot heal a wound if first there is no reason to cover the scar.”

She left the boxes siting open where they lay and quickly climbed down the ladder, and went outside. Taking deep breaths of cold air blowing off the Sound from the Pacific Northwest she lifted her face towards the sun.

God, help me find your light.

__________________

Joyce E. Johnson – 2013



WHEN DARK CLOSES IN – Old Friends, Chapter II

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Chapter II

1966 – Clear Creek, Washington

Jennifer sat, sipping her coke, watching people coming through the door of Barney’s Smoke Pit. Hazel green eyes, shoulder length dark hair, fair complexion, she was a girl with a vivacious spirit. Her feisty character mirrored the same as her Scotch-Irish father. Her friends claimed she was more her father in a female body than one refined, like her mother of British descent. But, the McAlister family’s unwavering ties to the Catholic Church became more an albatross to Jennifer’s generation than a thread of continuity worth keeping. There was a sense of freedom and coming of age for those in her generation. Her father’s insistence in attending mass, and honoring all the church’s stringent teachings was more like bringing the two clashing together like loud cymbals in conflict and discord.

Jennifer waved to her friend when she came in. Carolyn squeezed through those still waiting for tables to open up. People mingled around outside. The place began filling up, the lunch crowd straggling in.

They hugged. “It is so good to see you again, Jen. I talked with your mom last week, before you got home. Did you have to wait long for the table?” Carolyn asked.

“My mom told me you called. I thought lunch would be fun, like old times. But, no. I didn’t have to wait long. I called ahead so they would have a table ready for three.”

“For three?”

“Yes, I called Dana too. She’s meeting us here.”

“Oh. Well, when you called, you didn’t mention Dana, so I hoped it might be just us two.”

Jennifer laughed. “You wish. But, I thought it would be good if we all… Oh, there she is.”

“Dana, over here.” Jennifer called over, motioning to Dana.

Dana worked her way through the knot of people near the door, gliding through isles, getting looks and stares from every guy in the place.

“I’m so glad your back. Its been too long.” she said, hugging Jennifer. Then noticing Carolyn already seated, said, “Carolyn, how are you?” and gave her a slight hug.

“I’m good. Thank you, Dana.” Carolyn had the lunch menu opened, saying little.

Dana, the pampered ‘daddy’s girl,’ came from a wealthy Italian family who spoiled her to the core. There was no shortage of the thing she had the most of: money. Yet, lacking in the one thing she wanted most from her parents: an unconditional love, she often went seeking in all the wrong places. There was nothing she had not tried. If it was new, she’d done it first. There was no one she was afraid of if there was something she could gain from the relationship.

Her coal-black hair was styled in the tapered, popular ‘page boy’ cut, turned under on the ends, one side swept behind one ear. Both ear lobes sparkled with gold hooped earrings. Her jade colored eyes were made larger by eye liner and a coating of mascara on her long lashes. Foundation and blush blended well into her flawless ivory complexion. Her lips and nails were painted scarlet, a deeper red than the ‘mini’ skirt that hugged slim hips on her five feet, four-inch frame. Worn with a short bolero vest and balloon sleeved blouse, all making her look as if she’d stepped off a page of Cosmopolitan magazine.

An hour later she’d finished her tales on her exploits with fraternity guys she’d met, ones she’d shared a room with, the parties, and the sorority she’d pledged to, and got in. A couple of times she added a little bit about a class or program she just could not ‘get into.’

Jennifer had made no solid plans for her summer break home from college. But, with Dana around she was sure things would not get dull, and they would find plenty to do, not all of them good.

“But, enough about that stuff.” She went on. I’ve met a new guy. He’s a little older than me, one of my father’s business associates, but so cool. College guys can be kind of immature with all their friends around, but…Paul…well, he seems a little more experienced in things, you know?”

“Now, there’s a pretty lass that finds a party wherever she goes. You be careful now, Jenny.” Her father had warned her of keeping company with Dana.

“I’m fine, dad. I can handle myself. You cannot pick and choose my friends for me.” As an only child she felt as if he still treated her like a child, doubting her ability to make good choices. In spite of Dana’s flamboyant lifestyle and the fact that she walked a little on the wild side, they stayed in touch and hung out.

In contrast, Carolyn, who gave balance to Jennifer’s ‘trolling trolley,’ as her father put it was the one who remained a constant, reliable friend, and always there. Her parents liked Carolyn.

“Jennifer, what’s wrong? What are you looking at?” Dana asked.

A couple of soldiers in uniform walked in and were directed to a table near them. It was hard to avoid overhearing their conversation about the, ‘new developments in South Vietnam.’

“Just looking at the officers that came in. I think they’re Army recruiters. Scott told me he had to register for the draft. He’s kind of worried about being called up to serve.”

“But, he’s at ITE (Institute of Technology and Engineering), isn’t he?” Dana asked. “Won’t they exempt him as they have other students?”

“Not unless he keeps up a 3.5 GPA. Working a job doesn’t matter, either. The draft boards are running out of volunteer recruits, and so implemented the mandatory draft.” Jennifer said.

“It has been in all the news. There’s hardly a newspaper reporting anything else, but the war it seems, except for the hippies, or otherwise called ‘flower children’ who ride around in old Volkswagen buses all painted with big flowers. Most of them get all doped up on weed, are into ‘free love,’ and all that stuff. They drive around the country protesting the war, making ‘peace’ signs, demonstrating wherever they go. Many of them are draft dodgers who have taken off for Canada.” Carolyn said.

Carolyn, from a strict German background, always the honest, outspoken one sometimes tried too hard to win people’s respect and friendship. Her Lutheran synod church seemed to solidify her inherit values, although too staunch in their beliefs. The way she dressed, her simple short hairstyle, and basic, little used makeup never changed. Jennifer always wondered if Carolyn was proof to the old cliche that ‘redheads are hotheads.’ There was nothing striking about Carolyn except for the cranberry colored, red hair and her opinionated thinking. She did not ‘get all dolled up’ as Jennifer’s mother would say, to seek dates or praise from guys. Dana called her, ‘Miss prim and proper’ from the ‘starchy shirts church.’ But, her ‘prim and proper’ often earned her the admiration of many a parent. She excelled in everything she did, because in everything she tried, it turned successful. Her head was all business, her style, modest, and her intentions, – Jennifer believed for the most part– sincere.

Such a contrast between her two friends, and Jennifer wondered if the girls would ever get along.

When they got up to leave Dana sauntered out the door, all eyes and heads watching her moves.

Carolyn excused herself at the door, saying she had an appointment and needed to leave. She gave Jennifer a hug, and promised to give her a call soon.

“Well, let’s just us two go have some fun, shall we? Go shopping, like old times?” Dana said.

“Sure.” Jennifer said.

As the Army recruiters got up to leave too, Jennifer watched them get into a dark car with the military license plate logo. She could not stop thinking about the conversation she overheard between the two men about, ‘the newly enlisted recruits, trained and ready to leave, and the new ones, called up and reporting in, but the numbers are still short of what is needed over there.’

Jennifer didn’t really feel like shopping, but knew she could no longer go off and mope like she did as a child when things did not go her way. Her father would try to console her, give her a big hug and say, ‘things might be tough now, but they will get better, Jenny. You’ll see.’

But, these new feelings overwhelmed her, and she wondered if she was really ready for things ahead.

_________________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson


When Dark Closes In – Historical Fiction

When Dark Closes In – Historical Fiction

This is a historical fiction story taking place during the sixties and seventies time period era when the Vietnam War drafted and pulled in thousands of U.S. troops to help South Vietnam in their fight against the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong. The war was over by 1975 when the North Vietnamese advanced on Saigon, claiming it and all of the south. With a casualty count of 58,000 American lives lost and thousands more missing, it became one the longest and deadliest wars in U.S. history. There were thousands more troops (MIAs – Missing in Action) whose bodies or remains were not found or recovered years later, and still some declared missing to this day.  This story is about the lives of men and women who lived and fought during that time when the darkness and shadows of a hated war drew them into the throes of turmoil and despair. It is in the pages of history where names and faces may never be remembered by one generation, and never known by the next, unless we tell their story. This story is fiction, as are the names, and the faces I see, the images of characters created, but their stories could be real. They could be ours.  And, it is because of history that those coming after us can learn and know what happened then, and appreciate what history has taught us all.

I started writing this story back in the eighties and had several chapters written when I attended a writers’ conference in Colorado Springs, Co., my home town. It was held by the Christian Writers’ Guild. I received training, instruction and mentoring through the guild’s instructors, and completed my course work in 2004 with certification for the Journeyman status. To me, that was a big step and plus in my writing achievement for one who was never able to attend college and earn a degree in Creative Writing and Journalism which I had always desired, and dreamed of doing. But, through the Christian Writers’ Guild I received some of the very best instruction and training out there with their online and correspondence courses. While attending the conference I had the honor and privilege of having Jerry B. Jenkins, owner and director of the guild, and author of the best-selling series LEFT BEHIND  (in partnership with co-author Tim La Haye) critique the first chapter of my book manuscript. Jerry is one of my all time favorite Christian authors. It was a highlight for me during that whole writers’ conference. The future of this story depends on a few very important things:  (1) how it is received (in the way of interest) by those reading its first chapters, and (2) how much time I will have or can allow to get it finally finished without having other interruptions interfere.  But, as a writer of fiction it is not only the desire to write for ourselves, and to entertain the reader, but sometimes there is a story out there that will not rest until it is told and a completed final draft finished. It has to be written, and this is one of those kinds of stories. Maybe it is too that I and my husband were eighteen in 1965 like Jennifer, graduating high school, engaged to be married, and waiting the outcome of the draft board’s decision, knowing first hand what it was like to live through that time as young adults.

____________________

Joyce E. Johnson

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN – Flashback, Chapter I, Part 2

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Flashback

Chapter I – Part 2

1975 – Seattle, Washington

“Hey, honey, are you ready yet?” he asked, coming into the dressing room, grabbing up his car keys from the nightstand. “If you primp anymore we’ll be…” His whistle was the only approval she needed .

“You look spectacular! Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea.” he added.

“Thank you. What ‘idea’?”

“Our being late, or maybe not going at all. We could stay here and have our own party,” he answered, wrapping his arms around her. “Do we really have to go?”

“Are you kidding? Miss a chance to meet my old school chums? Those girls are waiting to meet you. They would hate me if we didn’t show up. You can’t back out now.”

“Right. The enthusiastic, supportive husband parading through the gauntlet. I can hardly wait.”    

“Yes, I can see the excitement on your face. But, if you can suffer through Dana, and her boyfriend, I will make our time alone later, unforgettable.”

“Is that a promise?” he asked, a smile spreading across his face, his blue eyes searching hers.

“Yes.”

“So. Was she a bad girl in high school?”

“She was kind of…, how to say this…she was…”

“Easy?”

“Yes. But other than that, OK. The daughter of a rich Italian guy. She will try her wiles on you too I suppose, so don’t give her any opportunity to…”

“Come on to me? Gotcha. I’ll just wave my gold band at her, and let her know I’m a marked man. You have indelibly so planted your mark on me, that I couldn’t get it off if I tried.” He held up his left hand, wiggling his ring finger.

She laughed. “I’m glad to hear it.”

“And what’s the other one like?”

“Carolyn? Well, she is genuine, honest, but rather opinionated. The guys all called her, “nerdy and wordy,” an educated type, who often corrected our grammar in speech and English class, wrote poetry and essays with words no one else could even pronounce, and scored with the debate club.”

He laughed. “And then there’s you, in between. How did you get those two to even tolerate one another?”

“I didn’t. I just let them scrap it out, until one would walk away mad at the other. Scott was a couple of years ahead of us, and would just laugh at them, and try to mimic them when they weren’t around.” she said.

They were pulling out of the hotel’s parking lot when Marc flipped on a news station.

A returning war correspondent was reporting from his perspective on his assignment in Saigon. “Who would ever think life to take such turns in people’s lives? The world and its inhabitants does for certain contain volumes of history, wars won and lost, leaving still mysteries as to the fate of some, never a promised guarantee for the safe return of another…”

Jennifer reached over and turned off the radio, silencing the news correspondent. She grew pensive, quiet, and reflective.

No! Oh, God. What am I going to do? How can I avoid the questions, the gossip tonight?

She dabbed her eyes with a tissue.

“Honey, are you O.K.? You got so quiet and…” He looked over at her. “Are you crying? What gives? Jennifer! Look at me! Tell me!”

She just shook her head, cutting him off with a hand gesture.

How could she stop the dreams she had? The recent news stories just brought it all back.

They all have the same faces, but no names or recognition with the faces. She keeps seeing the back of a young woman walking through the shadows, her steps slow and halting. Body bags are filled with the corpses of dead soldiers, or their remains. A man is checking off names from military records, matching I.D. tags with identified remains using any possessions available to send home to families or wives. The woman looks through the possessions, I.D. tags, and finally the bodies and faces of the most recently found. She shakes her head each time to the military officer. She approaches the last corpse but cannot look. There is a premonition, a fear of the unknown. She hurries through the shadows of darkness trying to reach the light. But, the light is too far, the shadows, too great, the darkness permeating everywhere. The woman turns around looking for a place to run, a way out of the darkness.

_________________________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN – Flashback, Chapter I, Part I

WHEN DARK CLOSES IN  

Flashback

Chapter I, Part I

Newspapers lay scattered across a table in the hotel room. The pages were opened to the stories running daily as one story followed another. On April 30th, 1975, headlines read, “Saigon Falls. U.S. Pulls Out,”  South Vietnamese Army and Marines Flee,  Helicopters Scramble to Lift off of Embassy Roof.”

Pictures covered the pages where print allowed space. People were hanging from the helicopter skids, trying to climb aboard the crowded aircraft. Desperate people, frightened for their lives and what was coming. Jennifer read it all. She couldn’t think of anything else when she did. Now, she tried to forget what she had read. She couldn’t. It would be an impossible feat to pretend to enjoy herself tonight. But she would try. She reminded herself she was happy.

It was May 20th, 1975. The war was over. No one had heard from him. No one.

She fluffed and sprayed her chestnut colored hair, applied the last of her makeup, lipstick, then scrutinized herself in the mirror. Looking hard at her reflection, she turned, checking for bulges, or creases in her dress.  She looked critically back at her young, five feet, four-inch frame. Twenty eight years old, she worked out daily to keep it fit.

She smoothed the clinging navy blue, silk dress that fell to mid calves. She hoped it would look right with the silver toned, high-heeled sandal shoes. The diamond necklace and earring set Marc had given her for Christmas completed the look. She touched the earrings gently. It reminded her of another night she would never forget, in 1966.

The moon cast a soft glow over the clear night sky looking like royal blue velvet, its stars winking on a still, glassy sea. They stood again on the pier at Puget Sound. Scott took out the envelope inside his shirt pocket.

“I got my orders from the Army.”

She was silent for a few moments.

“When?”

“Today. I report Monday at Fort Lewis. I’m sorry, Jen. I was hoping we could…make some plans for our future together.”

“We will someday. There will be time…later…when you’re back home. Everything will be alright. You’ll see.” Even as she said it, she didn’t believe it.

He placed his hands behind her head, pulling her closer, wiping the tears and streaks of eye makeup from her face. His thumbs brushed gently over the tiny star-shaped crystal earrings he’d given her a year earlier the weekend of the fourth of July.

“You’re not very convincing you know.”

The following Monday he told his parents and sister goodbye, and Jennifer drove him to the bus station. The mood was somber; the silence worse than a morgue. Just before he boarded the bus, he did an imitation from a line of his favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart in the movie, Casablanca, one they loved watching together, substituting the last word.

“Here’s looking at you, babe.” His kiss was slow, lingering as were her tears, then he pulled away and quickly hopped up onto the departing bus.

“Come back to us.” She whispered to the bus merging out into the flow of traffic, and out of sight. She ran, crying uncontrollably towards the car.

_______________________

To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson

When Dark Closes In (Historical Fiction, Prologue)



WHEN DARK CLOSES IN

Surf and Shore Restaurant, Puget Sound

1966

The night started with the usual banter, kidding around, catching up on school and friends. Would they be able to pick up where they left off before college? The time away, seeing others, meeting new people had given them the opportunity to test their relationship. It all started here on Puget Sound at the Surf and Shore in 1966.

A swordfish and other fish types hung on planks of wood from old piers. Fishing nets, antique rods and reels, a whale harpoon, rudder wheel, port-hole window and other various artifacts gave the ‘Lobster shack,’ as it was known to the locals, its character.

“Does this bring back memories of our meeting here, when you came with your parents?” Scott asked.

“Yes. The place still looks the same. We sat over there facing the pier side. You were working that night, clearing tables.”

“Yep. Every day, I’d rush off after my last class, come to work, get off at 9:00, then drive home and study till midnight.”

Jennifer speared her lobster with knife and fork, and then cut into the shell ripping out succulent chunks of white meat dipping each into a tiny cup of melted butter beside her plate.

“This is good. What do you find so amusing?” she asked.

“I like watching the way your deft, manicured nails rip into that crustaceous creature dismembering it as if looking for some left in there.” He said.

“I guess it’s not a very proper way to eat lobster, but there just isn’t enough of it.”

“Would you like me to order another one for you?” he asked, teasing.

She threw a roll at him. Her aim was off and it bounced off his wine goblet, nearly knocking the glass over. His hand caught it in time.

“Oh, my g… Look what your bad influence makes me do,” she said.

“Oh, so it’s my fault? The manipulating, Irish Catholic daughter of a logger is blaming me for her childish behavior?” he said.

“May I refill your glass, sir” the waiter said, as he approached their table.

“Sure. Thank you. And, this young lady needs a glass of milk. She shouldn’t be drinking.” Scott said.

“Oh, I am sorry. I misjudged your age. Excuse me, I will bring you…”

Jenifer and Scot burst out laughing.

“Oh, no problem. It’s all right. Actually, she is the legal age. She just doesn’t act like it sometimes.” Scott replied with a conspiratorial wink. “We’re just kidding around. She really is nineteen.”

“Oh. Yes, sir. OK, then. I will check back in a few moments, and take your order for dessert.”

“Thank you.” Scott replied.

“He doesn’t enjoy your humor.”

“Now that you’re home from college, have you made plans for the summer? Or do I get to snatch you away from the girls? ” he asked.

“Oh, you mean Carolyn and Dana? We haven’t discussed any yet, except to ride the ferries around the islands, shop, and check out the cute sailors at Bremerton home on leave. I will think about you though while you’re at the garage sweating under a car hood with a wrench in your hand.” She smiled impishly.

“You would do that, while I slave away to save for our future?” His pretended hurt expression was all a part of the game he played with her.

“Oh? Is that what you’re doing? Have you considered that I might not accept your proposal?”

“I admit I have. I guess I would have to be very convincing, wouldn’t I? But, whenever we’re alone, you get that ‘uncomfortable feeling’ that I am expecting too much, and moving too fast for you.”

“And what is wrong with having that ‘uncomfortable feeling’? I am not a ‘fast’ kind of girl.”

“OK, then. I know your parents have raised you to believe in their old-fashioned Catholic virtues, but you can loosen up a little. We’re in the sixties now, and our generation doesn’t want to live by the same old set of rules our parents did.”

“Yes, I know. But, I still think trust and respect are necessary in a relationship. It isn’t because my parents are devout Catholics and hope I’ll choose to live by their set of values. It’s because I want what they have in a marriage one day, and that didn’t come about with ‘free love’ like so many are into these days. The kind of relationship I want can’t be rushed.”

“Right. The long, slow kind. I understand. Well, we may not have that kind of time, anyway. The military’s selective service is requiring registration now. Their upping the numbers of troops to ship off to Vietnam. Enlistment is down, so they’re pushing the draft to meet the demand. I had to fill out papers and send them back to the local draft board.”

“But, you don’t have to worry about that, do you? I mean, while you’re in college? Don’t students have immunity to the draft if they’re called up?”

“Usually, yes. But…”

“But, what?”

“But, I still had to register. And, I have to keep a 3.5 GPA, even while working at my uncle’s garage as a mechanic. I have to pay tuition debts, so need to work my way through school.”

There was a long pause; both of them quiet, thoughtful for the next several minutes.

After dinner they walked barefoot along the shore, breathing in the salt air. She felt safe, shielded from things when they were together. They stood looking out at the sea sending white caps thrashing against the pier. Scott wrapped a warm arm around her.

“A storm is moving in.” he said.

Jenifer could not help but feel there was a wave of the unknown coming, building, strengthening, preparing to break on impact as it came, just like the surf that rolled into shore, with a vengeance, then rolled back out to sea, each wave bigger, stronger than the one before.

_________________________

Joyce E. Johnson – 2013


Fiction, Historical Fiction, Writing, Creating Characters, The Daily Post, Weekly Writing Challenge: characters

The below post is my submission for this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge in The Daily Post.  It is based on a fictional character in my Historical fiction story, entitled, WHEN DARK CLOSES IN.

Character analysis: Scott is a soldier in the Vietnam War, who was drafted into the army while a student attending a college in Seattle, Washington. He writes this letter home to his father about his experiences during the war while stationed in South Vietnam.

Scene – Scott is in Vietnam writing this letter from his base camp.

_________________________

March, 1966.

Hi dad,

I’ve been in Vietnam now for six months and now know the basics in warfare tactics, survival and aggression. My instinct is tested daily when out on patrol with my unit. Those that can’t cut it are easy prey for the VC, and the NVA. My M-16 remains the only friend I know won’t leave me. Fatigue, exhaustion is my constant companion. My eardrums roar from the sounds of planes and helicopters overhead, gun fire, shouts and screams.

Sometimes, I have to force my stomach from heaving its contents when I see the dying lay helpless in our wake. Their blood soaks the ground. Bullets or shrapnel become imbedded inside their bodies, with open, gaping wounds. Flies and vultures swarm in to lay claim to their remains. Medics cannot help them all. Only the monsoons help wash the earth of their blood. But, nothing washes away the memory. Their fading cries linger in my head. I hear them over and over again. There is no time to grieve the death of friends I’ve made. I just watch the medics wrap them up and send them home in a transport.

Reports from home tell about the apathy for the soldiers here. Does anyone there care we are dying here? The guys have become numb to feeling compassionate, or committed to the South’s cause. This has become a political war. Those in WA., DC that decide our fate should be here. We would choose theirs. And they would go home in body bags.

Whether with, or without the U.S. help, the South Vietnamese will fight on, to keep their side free from the Viet Cong. More often the south unleashes its violence on mere villagers with the intent to annihilate and wipe out evidence of V.C. presence, or compromise. Yet, there is still infiltration in the South Vietnamese Army. It is hard to distinguish between the two. At times, we don’t know who we’re fighting. We just fire. The country has gone mad and crazy with war. There was some talk in our unit of an elite group called, SWARM, Specialized Warfare Against the Revolutionaries’ Movement.

I hope you get this. I don’t know when I will have time to write as things are getting intense around Da Nang, and our unit may be heading north. My only momentary relief comes from looking at Jen’s picture, and reading her letters from home. Dad, don’t let her or mom know about this letter.

I pray I make it back home. Give mom, and my kid sister a hug.

love, Scott

___________________

Joyce E. Johnson


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