Archive for the ‘Stories of Historical Fiction’ Category

Where lies the remains of Annie C. Maguire

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Portland Head lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

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Memorial to the capsized British vessel, Annie C. Maguire, 1886

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A mist roles in from a cold, dark sea.

Waves kick up, thrashing the British barque.

Wind gusts rip sails from the bowing masthead.

A deep guttural sound bellows to the surface from under the ship’s hull.

She hits rock, breaking apart on impact.

Caught in her rigging she turns and twists in its knotted embrace. 

The Annie Maguire drifts, its SOS not acknowledged.

Were there none to hear her distress signals sent?

Darkness descends.

A bullhorn sounds, and the cone-shaped glow of light emerges.

The lighthouse; a beacon to the capsized ship and crew.

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Footnotes: Mystery surrounds the capsized Annie C. Maguire British vessel. Miraculously her crew was saved and rescued on Christmas Eve, 1886, when the ship went aground during a storm, but the ship’s remains were never recovered. You can find images and information on this vessel and story here

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

 


 

 

 

Manitou Springs (Day 14 of NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month)

That's me in front of the old Ute chief in old Manitou Springs, Colorado (Nov. 1969)

That’s me in front of the old Ute chief in Manitou Springs, Colorado (Nov. 1969)

MANITOU CHIEF

His ghost stalks the town of Manitou Springs

where the Ute and Cheyenne came.

Little remains where much is new,

but the history and the name.

The trading post where goods were sold;

its pottery, blankets and crafts were

produced and made by the young and old.

They came for the water from the springs

filled with rich minerals found in the earth,

and all the benefits from which it brings.

Their tribal villages are all gone,

the ghostly past of a place grown old,

but the soul of the Manitou lives on.

The village grew and with it came change;

white men settled, houses were built,

roads were put in, and cars came to town.

Now the red stone chief bowing with clay pot,

pouring his water is no longer around,

and the springs have too gone dry.

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Notes: Manitou Springs, Colorado is a historic town that sits just below Pikes Peak and merges with the city of Colorado Springs where I was born and raised. It was a favorite place back then in the fifties and sixties when tourists and local residents would visit, shop, and tour the Indian cliff dwellings where Indian tribes settled and lived. The Cave of the Winds, Garden of the Gods, Seven Falls and Pikes Peak are just a few of the popular tourists sites to see. The mineral water was also popular for its health benefits and also was very good used in beverages like Cool-aid and lemonade drinks which we made when I was younger and went to Manitou for the water. When I moved away from Colorado Springs and relocated Manitou Springs was still a favorite place to visit and see all the new changes, shops and tourist attractions, but the springs dried up and I missed the water whenever we went back to visit. Today, the town is still a main attraction, and its history and surroundings have been preserved.

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter XIV (14), ‘Jacob’s Story,’ continued (Part 4)

Chapter XIV, ‘Jacob’s Story’, continued (Part 4)

“After the war we didn’t know who we could trust again. Evil prevails in those with hate in their heart. It is not just with one kind of people, or one race, but with any. I believe there will always be those who choose to hate for whatever reasons.”

“I saw people who claimed to be Christians, but they betrayed us, or turned us away when we needed help. We were their neighbors, living side by side, but they were unforgiving of Jews who rejected the Messiah they preached about. There were some who turned their own gun on the Jews and shot them. But, there are stories of Jews who were protected and hid from their enemies, fed when hungry, clothed when stripped of their own. Some became martyrs and died alongside Jews when the Nazis came. I was young, but wise beyond my years.”

“Jacob, do you know if any of the collaborators; Romanians or Germans here involved in committing these atrocities were ever caught, or found?”

He shook his head, “No. I think most were never seen again. After the war, there was so much chaos, locating missing people, registering survivors, trying to treat and care for the afflicted I don’t think it was the thing that was foremost on people’s mind, until much later. I think the horrors of the war left everyone traumatized. There was some good that came out of it though like the Zionist movement and the birthing of the state of Israel. Their intelligence agency was born, and an army of trained fighters formed. I know they have hunted for the guilty involved in the deaths of the Jews. But, I don’t know if they have been entirely successful hunting them all down.”

“It seems hard to believe that there could still be any alive somewhere and walking free. How do you deal with all this, even now after so many years? Aren’t you bitter? Don’t you feel hatred for those who killed your family, and left you to die?”

“If I am to be the kind of person called by Messiah’s name to love as he loved, can I carry hate in my heart? He has called us to forgive, as he forgave his enemies. I admit it is difficult at times. But what is to be gained from hating? It is the evil of a darker force that walks among us, trying to destroy all that the Messiah died for. But, He was raised up, resurrected and lives so we would not have to walk through life with those shackles on, but be freed of them. That is the deliverance, the power we have as his children.”

“My Mother cried out to the Christian Messiah to help us, to save us from the soldiers who came for us. That is what changed us, Ms. Mengelder. No baptism, Torah, traditions or prayer shawl would have saved us from them. Out of our desperation we were given eternal life, and placed our trust in the one called Jesus, making him our Messiah. We prayed for deliverance, not just from the Nazis, but also for our soul.”

All I could do was nod my head in silent agreement and thank him for sharing his story. The park was still empty, no children on the playground, no one around to hear, or care what he had shared with me. Only the birds quietly perched on tree limbs as if with respect listened quietly too. We sat for a few moments just listening to the rustle of the trees, soft breezes blowing under a clear blue sky.

It made me shudder to think about the scattered remains and ashes of the thousands who died and suffered at the hands of their enemies, their graves we walked upon, the trees, flowers, parks, buildings and roads built above it all as if declaring that life does indeed go on, and one has to move forward.

It was hard to contain my own emotion, so didn’t even try. It was as if Jacob’s life was being replayed in slow motion before my very eyes like a repeat from a documentary on the History channel. His grandmother Magdalena, the sister to my great, great-grandfather Adam whom my family had tried so hard to locate could now be technically laid to rest, even if there was no grave we could find or visit.

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This is the end of chapter XIV, but the story will be continued with new chapters posted after Christmas.

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter XIV (14), ‘Jacob’s Story,’ continued (Part 3)

Chapter XIV, ‘Jacob’s Story,’ continued (Part 3)

“I was very young when all that happened. But, the faces of the soldiers, the evil things done. Those things I cannot forget, even as I have tried to…they stay with me.”

“We were living in Odessa. The Jews were all confined to the cities during that time. My father would show my brother and me how to garden, plant seeds in tiny plots and teach us what he’d learned from his father. He was educated and trained in Odessa as a doctor, but later lost his medical license to practice when Jews were moved and confined to ghettos. When the ghettos got overcrowded the Jews were transported to other places. It became very unsanitary and people were always ill. So much sickness and hunger. No one cared to help us, or treat the sick. By then there were no seeds of anything to plant. We were just thankful to get food, clothing, and clean water to drink.”

“The Romanians put in charge of the Jews kept us all isolated. Fences were erected and places sealed up. Then the Nazi soldiers came and ordered the liquidation of the ghettos. The Romanian soldiers aided them in helping to carry out the massacres and deportations.”

“My older brother, Joseph died of typhus, like so many others. I got very sick, and my father squeezed out one night through a hole in the wall. He told my mother he was going out to find us food, and medicine. But, he was gone for days. We did not know where he was. We heard shots so thought they had found him, killed him. Then soldiers came for all of us, to transport us to Transnistria. They thought there were others who had escaped, searched everywhere, sealed up everything, and marched us all out of the ghetto with guns to our backs.”

“I was seven when the soldiers came to transport us to the concentration camp in Transnistria.”

“They shot all the sick, the old ones and any who were not strong enough to work. The old and weak ones were the first to be killed, thrown into ditches, or burned alive while crammed and locked into storage sheds. Some were hung up alive by meat hooks. They threw screaming babies and children into the fires until their cries were silenced. Some were  thrown from high windows onto the street, while the mothers were made to watch, wanting to die with them. Many were asphyxiated in mobile vans as they were shoved in and the gas turned on through exhaust pipes.”

“Grandmother Magdalena was one of the old ones that could no longer work. She was about the age I am now when they shot her in the back as she ran screaming into the freezing waters of the Dniester River. I watched as her body jerked violently from the bullets, then went down under the ice floes exploding from machine guns.”

“The younger ones that could work were forced into cattle cars packed so tight they could barely breathe. My mother and I were in that group. She held me up over her shoulders to keep me from being trampled. Many suffocated and died, their bodies all bunched together. We had to step over them to get out. People were fighting for just the air to breath. They could not get out fast enough climbing over the corpses. Those who were not taken by train to Transnistria were forced to march the rest of the way through the icy waters of the Dniester, and frozen steppes in nothing more than the rags they wore, or put on ferries.  People sold or gave away their clothes to anyone in exchange for food. The rest of our time was spent at Transnistria waiting the day when they would kill us all, or leave us to starve to death.”

“What about your mother, and you? Were you together at the camps?”

“When we got to the camps in Transnistria the children were yanked away from their parents and separated, some never seeing one another again. A soldier pulled me from my mother’s arms and she screamed at him as he hit her repeatedly. I was dragged away. They would not let us say goodbye, hug or anything. She started crying out, “Yeshua, Yeshua!’” His voice broke, trying to hold back sobs as he pulled out a handkerchief and blew his nose.

“Finally, when the Russians advanced westward in their pursuit of the German army Transnistria was liberated, and the Germans and Romanians retreated.  The remains of thousands of Jews murdered lay wherever they were killed. We never learned where my brother’s or my father’s bodies were. To prevent the spread of more disease there were mass graves dug, or bodies burned in piles to cleanse the areas. My mother was still alive when the camps were liberated, but her skin hung loose over her thin bones. Her eyes looked sunken in her drawn face. I remember how beautiful she was once…long dark hair, soft clear skin, eyes that laughed when… well, before all that happened.”

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To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter XIV, (14), Part 2 ‘Jacob’s Story’

Note: The below portion of ‘Jacob’s Story’ is Part two of a lengthy chapter. It will be continued in Part three, maybe four. The entire story, The Informant’s Agenda is fiction, but is based on actual facts and the history of ethnic and German Jews from Russia, and much of my 30+ yrs. of research on my own paternal German family from south Russia.  My story characters and plot are fiction, and were created to better tell their story. I want to thank those who are following the story, or just reading bits or pieces as they visit here and hope you have enjoyed the story. All comments, questions and feedback are always welcome. In between chapters posted here there will be other varied posts of poems, photos, misc. prose and writings with a few Christmas related ones coming up in the next two weeks.

Joyce E. Johnson

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‘Jacob’s Story’, Part two

“I will tell what I know. But, I was very young…when my father died, so…”

 “That will be fine. If you can start from the beginning of their settlement period that will help fill in the gaps of history I don’t have. Do you mind if I run my recorder while we talk?”

“No. I guess that is alright.”

“They came from Prussia, Germany, Wurttemberg, and other East European countries. They were given sections of land to farm by the Czarina, Catherine the Great in the late 1700 s. They first settled in Grigoriopol, but later migrated to villages in Bessarabia, or southwest Russia, a part of what is now known as Moldova. It joined the countries of Ukraine and Poland that was eventually partitioned and divided up between Romania, Prussia and Russia, all a part of the ‘Pale of Settlement.’”

“Was your family Jewish, then?” I asked.

“Yes. The Jews lived near the ethnic German colonists in villages of their own.”

“Has your family always been Jewish, or did they convert at some time?”

“They came here as Jews, but was told the Czar tried to conform them, make them convert to the Orthodox Russian faith. When the new laws were sanctioned the Czar claimed all the Jews and Germans must dress, talk and be educated alike, but neither group liked that. They wanted to keep their own culture, language, and traditions.”

Jacob continued.

“Many Jews converted to the Lutheran religion. When they were baptized, their names were modernized, their traditions, kosher diet, culture, all changed. It was during the “Age of Enlightenment,” when there were a lot of changes and reforms. Others refused to convert and kept to their Orthodox Jewish dress style and laws. They became known as the Hasidic Jews, very devout.  They were targeted by everyone because they were ‘different’. So, the pogroms continued. They were later blamed for all the wrong in the anarchy, for starting the revolution, Bolshevism, even assassinating the Czar.”

“What about your grandmother, Magdalena? Did she convert?”

“No. She did not want to be baptized.  Jews suffered terrible things when the pogroms came. She denounced God and would not believe in the Messiah sent to save us. She said, ‘There is no God that can change those things which we Jews have suffered.’”

“When the Christians talked about their Messiah we did not judge them if they did not judge us. God is the creator of love and does not judge us for our ignorance. When they continued to preach to us, we just continued to listen, patiently, even if we did not want to hear,” he said with a slight smile on his face looking at me.

“The Jews listened to the stories about a ‘Cross of Redemption’ which the Christians spoke about, teaching them from their Bible. Some tried to help the Jews and were kind in their heart, not just in deeds. When the Jews lived in the colonies the Germans taught them how to farm, grow gardens, harvest crops. They told about the Messiah sacrificing his life to save all.”

“But, my grandmother thought one must die first to be worthy of being saved. She said she felt as if she ‘died when the Cossack soldiers came’ and violated her, and said she, ‘lived in a hell that only the Jews could know.’ She could not understand how a man would give his life to die for the sins of all so that all would be reborn if only they believed”.

“The Czar’s laws were made to force restrictions on the Jews that would not convert. They could not own property, attend their synagogues, go to schools or universities, work as agriculturists any more, or reside in their villages. They were forced to move to the large cities. Revision Lists were drawn up forcing taxation, even when they lived in poverty”.

“It seemed at the time all the Jews were getting baptized so they could be like all the other Germans who were much better off. But they were really not much better off when the Bolsheviks came to power because even the Christian Germans were being taken away to Siberian prison camps by the train loads and most starved to death or were executed. That included Jews who were baptized if they became Christians. The Soviets took away all our freedom, our faiths and right to worship and closed down the churches and synagogues. It did not matter if you were Jew, Gentile or Christian. They all were taken away. Our family was spared that, though. I don’t know why. Maybe, because they still outwardly lived like Jews, because they were not Christians. But we were not spared later when worse horrors came”.

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To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

 

The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter XII, ‘Journal Entries’

English: Aquatint print of a Don Cossack.

English: Aquatint print of a Don Cossack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter 12

Journal Entries

After spending that afternoon at the Odessa archives filming, indexing and copying files we headed back to Tiraspol, to a Lutheran parish library for more records, then back to Grigoriopol to Olga’s. Irina dropped me off and left.

The first thing I did was send a priority message to Jeremy telling him to contact our cousin, “Jessie” and could he please send me his e-mail address as I had forgotten it and no longer had it with me. This was mine and Jeremy’s prearranged set up “message alert” to let him know we needed to switch to the alias account for e-mail messages, and attachments. When done, I reviewed and updated files, sent reports, e-mails and blog posts, then noticed the priority icon highlighting the one from him. I opened it last, giving it more time and attention.

[M, – got your files on those journal entries. Sending comments along with the transcriptions. Interesting stuff. Get a big cup of Olga’s ‘sludge’.]

When I had made myself a cup of hot tea, I got comfortable, and read the file comments he’d sent along with the transcriptions. He had transcribed the scanned copies of the more difficult journal entries I needed help on. Each had a date or year and initials at the bottom of each entry.

 Sept. 1868

We work hard to gather in the crop. It is harvest time. The winds are not yielding. There is no mercy in them. The winter will soon be here. The warm sun will soon not shine its heat upon our labors. We must hurry the harvest. We work while our bellies are full, content and store away what we will need to save when we are in want, hungry. We pray the locust swarms will not come this year or find other fodder upon which to feed. Elisabeth gave birth to a beautiful daughter today. Praise His Holy name. We named her Magdalena.    J.M.

Oct. 1884

They rode away as fast as they came, Cossack soldiers riding on fast steeds. It was the Sabbath. They tore through our village with whips and rods, fierce eyes piercing our soul like hot pokers. They held their bottles high with its evil amber fluid, praising the Czar. One mocked me covered in my prayer shawl, laughing, taunting. I stood rooted in fear. He ripped it off me and threw it into the fire burning our barn with our stored grain, then laughed like a demon from hell. My legs could no longer run, my voice no longer could be heard above a whimpered cry to eternal God. The harsh cold winds fed the fires, raging on our threshing floors. Then it swept clean the tracks of the murderous Cossacks as if they had not come. All that remained of their presence was the foul-smelling bottles of their drink. We gathered to mourn our loss. Our village destroyed, our food gone, our horses stolen, our livestock killed, our women violated and our loved ones we bury. Forgive me God. I cannot praise you today.   J.M.

 1885

We cannot help our dear Magdalena. She has recurring nightmares of that day. She wakes, screaming, rolling in pain and anguish. She says she still sees the Cossack’s face, his lascivious look. I too cannot bear to remember the horrid deed to our child. Her belly is distended, full with child of that evil man. I sit in despair and write these words. Eternal God, do you not hear our wailing cries? Where is your mercy to we, your people?   J.M.

 1888

The Czar says we must convert, be baptized and become Russian Orthodox Christians, learn their religion, speak their language, wear the clothes of their people. If we do not obey his commands we will be sent away, work in a labor camp, be exiled. I will do as he says, so I can save my family, keep us together, but it will not save my soul. My soul was dead to our God when he forsook us. David has run away. He refused to serve in the army. We do not know where he has gone. I think he has gone into hiding. They are looking for him and hold us responsible. I feel certain we will face another pogrom, more horrible than any in the past if we cannot get out of Russia.   J.M.

 1925

Rail car doors were pushed open. The empty, black space was cold and dank. The smell of cattle excrement and rot was overwhelming. The Bolsheviks shoved guns at their backs as they pushed and forced them inside. Mothers screamed, their children pulled from their arms. They raped the women, pillaged and set fire to their homes. Stole their horses, drove off the cattle, and sheep. Then beat or shot the men who tried to stop the carnage. I begged for mercy for the Christians. But the Bolsheviks would not listen. They said, ‘There are no Christians in Russia. Only good Soviets.’” A.G.

 I read Jeremy’s comments at the end of the transcribed entries.

[When families migrated west for immigration into the U.S. I believe they found people more tolerant toward the Jews. There were so many diverse ethnic groups coming over on ships it was a mixture of every nation and color. They just blended into the masses. Unless noted on their passports that they were East European Jews they most likely told officials and everyone they were Protestant since they had been baptized, and officially “converted” before leaving Russia and the ‘Pale of Settlement.’]

I hit the ‘Save’ button and transferred the transcriptions along with Jeremy’s comments into my document folder under a password protected file with the name, ‘Journal Chronicles’. My brain felt as if it was on overload. After reviewing and studying the Cyrillic and Hebrew letters and script from the video and photos of the graves I compared it to initials, birth dates and deaths, period era and village locations. Could it really be the Mengelder family? There was no proof. It was only my ‘theory,’ unproven, yet made me think that what I had found was a chronological record of my own grandfather Jacob’s family history.     

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To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

‘Yearning to breathe free’. Friday Fictioneers photo prompt

It has been over nine months since I’ve participated in Friday Fictioneers (due to other priority writing projects and time involved), but often read and comment on other writers’ stories. This week, however I decided to add one into the mix. Friday Fictioneer stories can be found at Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s blog, at http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/ Because of the current piece of work I am editing and posting chapters of now (a novel, The Informant’s Agenda) this photo prompt seemed appropriate to my writing genre and story theme, so here is my contribution this week for this prompt.  The interesting thing is that although my current novel is fiction, this little story has a lot of truth in it as it is based on factual truths found in my novel. 1) My grandfather Jacob’s family were immigrants from Odessa, Russia, and were German Jews. And after over thirty years of research I am now writing a story similar to their own. And 2) I did visit Russia and cities in Ukraine in 1989 where I visited several cities in my novel, and took the photos below this story of the Babi Yar Jewish Memorial in Kiev, 1989 which is a sad, unforgettable site. Information on the Babi Yar can be found in Wikipedia and elsewhere.  Any comments and feedback are always welcome, and thanks for reading.

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The Babi Yar Memorial of the 33, 771 Jews massacred on September 29 and 30, 1941 by the German SS in Kiev, Ukraine

The Babi Yar Memorial of the            33, 771 Jews massacred on September 29 and 30, 1941 by the German SS in Kiev, Ukraine

  I took the photos above of Babi Yar in 1989 while touring Ukraine, Russia : Joyce E. Johnson (1989)

Below is my story to go with the photos above and submitted for the week’s Friday Fictioneers story.

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I thought of Grandfather Jacob and his family coming ashore in 1889, yearning to ‘breathe free’, to live in a land where ‘pogrom’ and persecution were foreign words, not ones to be feared.

The words of one from the Babi Yar memorial to the thousands of Jews massacred in Kiev came to me.

“My mind reeled with the images. My heart wept for their pain. Where did it all begin? Why no end to their suffering? Where would they find acceptance? A place where peace would reign?”

It seemed fitting to end my journey here upon my return from Ukraine.

____________________

Joyce E. Johnson

The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter IV – Lyudmila

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The above photo is one of mine. It is actually not a photo of Kharkiv, but one of Odessa, Ukraine I took when I traveled to those cities in Ukraine in 1989. I did not have a good picture of Kharkiv to fit this particular scene and chapter so chose to use this photo. Another note concerning the name and spelling of the town of Kharkiv. The old spelling in Russian was Kharkov, but the newer and correct version and spelling is Kharkiv in the Ukrainian. I have used both spellings at times, but is technically correct spelled Kharkiv.

Chapter Four (Part I)

Lyudmila

Kharkiv, Ukraine

With the interest in family histories and popularity of genealogy clubs and organizations the national archives and data bases became burdened with files and information on the migration and immigration of ethnic groups. Documented stories recounted the immigrants’ trek and journey, across continents by train, or boat. Upon their immigration to North America those affording first or second class passage came, declaring all their possessions aboard in trunks, stowed away in the hold of the ship while they were shown to cabins, or quarters stacked with bunks.

Enduring hunger, and inclement weather those less fortunate traveled thousands of miles from all directions, across open terrain, rugged mountains, or through raging rivers by foot, wagon or whatever mode they could afford, often stopping and staying for weeks or months at a time to rest or replenish their provisions before reaching their port of embarkation. Hamburg, Germany, and Liverpool, England became inundated with refugees, and transients waiting to board a ship bound for American shores. Carrying all they owned the weary and destitute trudged up ramps with cloth bundles tied together, thrown over their backs, and then proceeded down dark steps into steerage. Families with children, vulnerable, and trusting, small hands clutching tightly to a parent huddled together in the hold of a ship, rocked violently by lurching waves. Infectious disease consumed hungrily its victims, like the passengers who snatched up their food. Meager rations were passed through the lines as hands received their measured portions. None was wasted. None was sanitized. Weary from their long journey they stood waiting to be processed through the lines only to find themselves turned away, or deported once they reached their port of entry. Because of the failure to pass the physical examination, on entrance to the U.S. many were not allowed beyond the arrival gates.  With no financial means, sponsorship or assistance to support their existence, once registered, or some other technicality unacceptable to immigration officials, they returned to their country of origin.

After World War I, and during the heightened regulations of the Bolshevik period the rate of immigration from Russia was reduced considerably when Stalin and the Communist regime clamped down on ethnic groups, sending thousands to the gulags and work camps on the frozen Siberian frontier. Thousands more starved during the Holodomor famines in the 1920’s – 1930’s when collectivization farms ruled a tightly controlled market of goods and products produced solely by the German colonists.

When the dissolution of the communist regime came in 1990 it opened the door for thousands of German and Russian dissidents to leave,  immigrating west into Europe, North America, north into the Canadian provinces, or south into the countries of Brazil and Argentina, many coming out of incarceration, or exile.

For surviving Jews of the Holocaust still in East Europe and Russia it allowed those remaining to immigrate to Israel. With the changes and newly independent former Soviet bloc countries it opened up opportunity and access to family and ethnic histories, census records, and immigration files. The search for missing relatives and locations of surviving family members was now possible through participating international archives and databases.

The pressure placed on local government officials gave reporters opportunities to tour the gulags and speak with guards of the former KGB on the incarceration or release of those kept as political prisoners. Their records were made accessible.

It was in Kharkiv where I met Lyudmila and heard her story.

Like thousands of others she was unable to immigrate to America because she got caught up in the ‘sweep of injustice,’ a term used to describe the period when Joseph Stalin swept up millions in the U.S.S.R. for all termed ‘disloyal to the party,’ or unfaithful in serving the ‘Motherland.’ of Russia. Thousands were executed. Thousands more were sent off to labor camps. Few survived the camps. Those who did were relocated to homes where they could live out their lives in relative comfort.

My agency in the U.S.  learned of Lyudmila’s existence and where she was relocated upon release, but when contacting the Ukrainian official in Kharkiv to arrange my visit with Lyudmila they told me that her, “health was not good, that she was not a strong woman to sit through an interview.”

Using my reporter instincts and prowess I protested, promising to be careful to not tire her. They finally agreed.

My taxi pulled up in front of an old, white-washed concrete block building, in need of paint and patching on places where walls were chipped, or pitted from its exterior finish. Located within a section of old Kharkiv early residential city limits, it looked like a former clinic, or small hospital converted to a nursing home with as few staff members as needed to run the place and look after their elderly residents. After showing them my identification papers, passport and press card needed for permission to interview they let me in.

The woman was frail, her voice weak, her sight, failing. Her birth record listed her born in 1922, her age now, 90.

The nurse made her comfortable, propping her up in a worn, upholstered chair, then sat a container with water, and a glass on a small table beside her.

When I was given permission I clipped a tiny microphone to Lyudmila’s gown, then positioned a video cam on a tripod by her chair, and checked her image on the display screen. When satisfied with its position I turned it to, ‘record’ and sat down in another chair facing her. The nurse gave her some water through a straw, then took a seat near her, waiting for me to begin.

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To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson

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 – 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 – 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

        

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.

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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

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