Memorial Day Story

Here’s a short story that seems appropriate for today. Hope you like it!

Not Always the Way You Hoped

The steep driveway

Emily still trudged around the curve and down the steep gravel driveway to the mailbox as she’d done every day she could remember. Routine. The hope she’d get some sort of notification about her soldier son had turned into routine. She maneuvered back up the gravelly drive thinking about the vast deserts of the Middle East, the awful battle and attacks she’d seen on TV. As she climbed the porch steps to the front door, she abruptly smeared away tears and forced up a thought of time. Too much time had passed for good news.

Inside and in the kitchen, she laid the silly catalogs on the counter. After a few minutes, she shook her head in disgust; angrily, she internally shouted at herself to stop fixing her attention on that damned phone. She’d nearly died from birthing that boy, she’d helped him with his homework, she’d got him a bike he’d went nuts over. With no daddy to help, she’d even showed him how to use a bow and arrow and stuff like that. She halted that recurring train, derailing it. Maybe it would have been better if she’d died.

In an effort to keep busy, she cleaned up the mess in the house systematically. Finding a sealed bag of chocolate chips that had fallen behind the shelves put her into auto. Before she knew it, a cookie sheet, mixer and mixing bowl had appeared on the counter. Cookies? Lordy, Chet had craved chocolate chip cookies, stuffing them into his pockets and all. The chips were close to expiration and needed to be used…

She sat stiffly on a kitchen chair dragged between the counter and the front door. She gazed steadily at the pile of cookies, smelled them, felt the heat from the oven. She did not hear the van pull up but did respond to the furiously barking dogs. She went to open the door. A van? The side door slid back and a woman with a child about two years old, maybe more, got out.

A’Dila had a strong accent but knew English very well. The little boy the woman had passed to her snugged in closer as she nudged the front door shut with her foot. When A’Dila dragged another chair over, the boy raised his head and the stack of cookies grabbed his mind. Emily reached and tugged the plate closer.

Emily had nearly finished reviving the spare bedroom in a steady and controlled manner as A’Dila described how Chet had been a prisoner for quite a while, how he’d escaped, how the wide area had been shut down with no communication allowed in or out. They’d decided to become a family. After a halting sob, she finished with how her dearest love Chet had been shot in the head as he planted vegetables in the sandy yard. Then more clearly, she added how a charity group had rescued her and her beloved son.

That night, watching some sci-fi series episode, Emily closed her eyes and thanked the Lord, God and all Heaven as she heard little Chet pull a cookie from his pocket and then bite a big chunk off.

Anticipation!

Fruit is on the way! Apples of several varieties, a couple kinds of peaches, a fair-sized group of blueberries and already prolific strawberries! The cherries, lemons and grapes may take longer but are doing well, too.

The lemons are potted so I can keep them inside in the cooler months. They sat inside in through the winter and early spring, nearly leafless. I fretted their continuance. Then a blossom coincided with a warm day. Outside they went and so in and out until mid-May, when the night temperatures were good for them. I got one lemon last year…how many this year?

Curiously Curved Trees

As many are aware, I live far out in the Kentucky woods on 100 acres of wild forest in a log cabin I designed and built. From the get-go, I have wondered why there are trees of several types that mysteriously start bending, usually a few feet up the trunk, and continue or even twist as they grow larger. Examples:

Sure, if a new tree is growing on a hill or monkeys start swinging on them, they’ll bend. These don’t fall into either category. There are many more around here, too. So why this Shag Bark Hickory or that Post Oak? Mystery indeed!

A while back, I published a series of books called ‘Take-A-Break Shorts’. They each have a few short stories, grouped by the type of story; about a dozen eBooks at only $0.99. There’s a story, a sci-fi answer set at the end of the Civil War called The Curiously Curved Trees. Read the whole story here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085161BHG/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p2_i5

Possible Hope?

Striving to help the light and dump the dark

Trying to keep busy sewing dresses, skirts, jackets

or painting on canvas

Weeding the garden

Making bread, yogurt, cookies

Writing…

Job ripped from me, no friends, no pay, alone

Reason for eating regularly?

Reason to keep my heart beating?

Reason to imagine soaring sheep?

Sheep bleating in the clouds – yes, I could pull another crazed story from my brain. Forget it.

Today? Cozy in my homemade jammies and housecoat, what about today? Get dressed!

Too much sewn , I don’t need more bread or yogurt, nowhere too hang anymore paintings, all outside is dormant. Another story or book? Nobody reads them, so why?

In the early morning sun’s shadows, I walk to the end of the long gravel driveway and see the wild yellow narcissus plants budded out. I look closer. Many new ones, the established ones have big, tinted buds, and there! There are a few in bloom! Spring’s grand harbinger! Possible hope? Barky nudges my knee for a pat and wags her tail.

The Tragic Wreck of the USS Possama

“Sir, the last communication with the submarine occurred at 0331 on the 5th of this month. May I play the message now?” Lieutenant Matthew Masert acknowledged the Captain’s nod and ran Captain Arnold’s message:

“Alert! We are being surrounded fore, aft, starboard and port by Russian subs. This started when we completed our Kamchatka assignment. Now we’re halfway to …”

Captain Ensano frowned. “That’s it?”

A week later, no further word from the Possama nor had any searches succeeded in discovering any reason for the boat to be missing. Russia denied any activity around the sub at all. The USS Possama became another lost submarine in the Pacific, flags at half-mast.

Captain Arnold laid his cards down with a grin as the other three officers of the Possama fanned their hands out in defeat. The Captain took the last package of chocolate cookies and quietly secured them in his satchel. His comm unit vibrated. He reached for it and held it close to his ear. He replied in a whisper, “We’re ready but do not make any outside communications yet.” He pulled the cookies out slowly and opened them with a shove to the officers as he rose and went forward with care to not pant too loudly. Perhaps this ultra-silence could end soon!

Later that evening, Lt. Masert trotted to the Captain’s quarters and knocked, hoping Ensano hadn’t hit the sack yet. When the door opened, Masert stood at attention and stated, “The USS Possama is now found.”

Captain Ensano clenched his hands before his chest, almost as a prayer. “Is the crew alive?”

“Uh, Sir, the submarine just pulled into Ballast Point, all alive.”

“San Diego? That boat is out of Hawaii! Que Demonios?” His arms fell limply to his side.

“Admiral Musavel wants us to make way to San Diego for an update with no mention of this to anyone.”

Ensano stepped lively on his way forward on his Destroyer USS Kentucky and reached the Control Room. Soon they were in the lane to southern California. He laid on the power as this he did not wish to miss!

The meeting room had past Admorals’ pictures in an array around the walls. Captain Arnold stood at the podium in full dress uniform and greeted his old friend Pablo Ensano, Admiral Musavel and several others not familiar to him. When they all got seated, he began.

Arnold straightened his lips side to side and closed his eyes for a couple seconds, then appeared more relaxed and spoke. “Welcome all. First, I apologize for causing anxiety over our lack of any signals. I have a reason and I believe the ruse was absolutely worth it.

“We took photos and recordings at the Kamchatka mission site. As we left, Russians ganged up around us and tried driving us to the west. We did not want to end up in their custody, so we opened our torpedo hatches and were immediately fired at. We pushed the reactor as high as it would go and sent out a decoy. It worked but we pretended it did not, with us opening some valves to let out bubbles. We settled into a low spot and cut all services. At least one Rusky sub observed us for nearly a week before leaving and thank God for that as the O2 had gone down to beetle crap. We eased on some vital services and searched for any sign of Rusky presence. None! We left as swiftly yet secretly as we could and beelined here.

“They probably kept monitoring south in case we tried to get back to Hawaii, so we came here due west with as much stealth as we could muster. You see, we caught proof of a temporary installation of Ruskies near Alaska, under an extending shelf with buoys floating around above them that were not left by fishermen. I have all the data including cryptic signals being reviewed now.”

Arno stared at the attendees and tapped his right foot. “No comments?”

Ensano stood. “You went back into your days in the country! You played possum!”

Arnold smiled big.

Ah, Playin’ Possum!

Where’s the Nearest Spaceship Repair Shop?

HURRAY! I got my newest book published and available on Amazon! So far just in print, working on the eBook. In short, the Alefinna is a standard biped ET outfit that roams the galaxy looking for customers and sellers for the Galactic Hub. The Hub is the nexus for trade, entertainment, communications and any other activities to share among the solar systems. They invite a strange group aboard to discuss joining, but the strangers instead blast their navigation systems thoroughly with acid. The Alefinna barely land in one piece in the U of L football field.

Cardinal Stadium, Where the Alefinna Spaceship Landed!

From there onward is a study in how different parts of Earth social fabric assess and treat these ‘Galactics’. To complicate things, one of the crew (Dez) had been to Earth before as a surveyor. The idea was to measure the love and light index and the things that make Earthies unique. In the early 1960s US, L&L looked great with the big peace movements. In the 1980s much had changed; all but his love for his 1960s sweetheart. He did not know that liaison resulted in a daughter.

How would NASA respond? Ultraconservative haters? University Astrophysics majors all over the globe? Governments around the world, especially when the Alefinna offer the US high-level technology to build a repair facility for them. Is your mind spinning with widely varied reactions already? Read how our ambassador spins the story at the United Nation meetings.

Talk About A Bigshot!

The Lieutenant briefed the team and put me in charge. HooYAH! The job entailed performing a solidification of a submarine’s radioactive filtration resin while at sea. It seems the shore solidifiers could not keep up with the drums and drums of the radioactive resin such that warehouses were filling with them and the resins were partially caking up to make pouring it into the solidification drum would be very tough.

They set up the area at the lowest HP deck, worried about a spill?  The method included having the dented resin drum on a holder rack that could tilt it up so it could pour into the new drum that had a stir bar in it. As the resin stirred, concrete powder would be sifted in via a PCV pipe with a steel bar twisted like a screw to move it in evenly.

The first trial! We checked all the parts twice and then once more. Commence! The resin poured in well. The concrete did not. Then the pipe broke, the steel had knotted up. The photo is the actual steel screw that was removed, decontaminated and painted black. Ahhh, the Dixon Auger Eaters!

The Auger Eaters Plaque!
A Closer Look at the Inscription

We soon worked it out, got it done with a metal pipe at a better feed angle, did a few more, reported it and went about our business. About a month later I was called to the Captain’s office with officers all about the place watching.

As I stood at attention, the Captain stood to tell me to expect a ceremony in the morning at 1000 hours. I needed to get a clean and spiffy dress uniform ready as I would be present. Dismissed.

Yikes, where had my bravery run off to? A ceremony? Why tell only me and not everybody? Quit worrying and get the danged uniform ready and the shoes shined! While I busily buffed, the word did come over for all to hear.

The entire crew not on duty stood on the main deck in various formations to suit the equipment that could not be moved. All the officers certainly appeared clean and spiffy. I went to line up with my department. The Master Chief pointed forward and walked me to the center area where two older crewmen stood. They said nothing as a helicopter landed at the pier and an entourage boarded the ship. The Captain greeted them and they all arranged themselves in from of us.

The Entourage Chariot

One guy was called up for 30 years of service or some such, I admit to being more than a bit nervous. The Captain congratulated him and shook his hand. The other guy, the same. Then the Captain stepped back and the visitor fellow with tons of decorations on his uniform took the spot. He called my name. I forced myself not to shame the entire crew! I strode up and saluted perfectly. He saluted back. Being thin and tall, I didn’t mind standing at attention as long as I didn’t lock my knees.

I don’t recall all he said. His talk included hard work, ingenuity, teamwork, professionalism, saving the Navy millions of dollars and such. The solidification process we altered, tested and reported was transmitted across the Navy! His aide approached with a small box. He opened it a removed a medal suspended from a colorfully striped ribbon. Loudly he stated that I had earned the Navy Achievement Medal and the whole ship should be proud of me. Then he whispered, “I can’t reach into your shirt to pin it on. Here, you do it.” I did. The crew and visitors saluted me and I returned the honor. Without collapsing. I smiled at the Secretary of the Navy and got back in line with the 30 year guys. Lesson: I can stand up to anything!

Heartfelt thanks to all the veterans who have serve this wonderful United States of America. None of us are perfect, but when we need to, we shine! That includes many in my family, including my Sailor father who served on a minesweeper he called the Ellie Mae during the Korean Conflict and my Sailor uncle who served at Pearl Harbor and went on leave the day before the Japanese attack that started the Pacific’s WWII.

And, I can’t help it …

Hooray for the US Navy! Anchors aweigh!