Archive for the ‘Sixties era’ Tag

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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To be continued

Joyce E. Johnson


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