Archive for the ‘Historical fiction’ Tag

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




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 – 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.

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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.

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To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson

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