Standing on a Soapbox

Does it bother anyone else that presidential hopefuls begin their rhetoric two years before the election in November 2016? 

This morning I got up early when the house was quiet. I fed the pets and made the coffee for the day, and then I turned on the television and voila–Donald Trump and the other Republican boys were the lead story. The local station reported Scott Walker was in Iowa. Why is he in Iowa instead of Wisconsin? Did he quit his day job? But perhaps it’s a good thing he’s out of the state. At least he won’t be destroying education, health care for the disabled, and breaking more unions.

I think this early campaign stuff is disgusting. It’ll be a year before they will impart their plans for our future. In the meantime they will put other candidates down as they dig up dirt on each other.

And what’s this “The American People” phrase? Every time I hear those three words it sounds like the speaker is separating his/her self from the rest of us. Are they ashamed to be part of The American People? Have they elevated themselves above us poor slobs who elect them? Perhaps they are. Once in Congress, they are set for life with self-legislated pensions and healthcare benefits. On top of that, they legislate their own raises. Who in the private sector can do that?

When our forefathers put this government together, they never imagined it would be a full time job for the rest of their lives. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and the rest of the Revolution boys must be pulling their hair out if they are observing the ridiculous campaign and election process which has evolved.

And another thing, once a person makes it to Washington, he/she is sworn in, given an office, and expected to work for “The American People” they love so much. Right? Well, it ain’t necessarily so–once elected they immediately start planning for their re-election. Then they plan their time away from Washington. It’s a miracle if anything gets done. Right?

I could go on, but I won’t because then I’d sound like a politician



Chapter 3

Paris, France–January 1942—Emma suffered beatings and torture which broke most men. Day after day she protested she did nothing wrong. Six weeks since her arrest passed slowly. She sat in darkness most of the day, and shivered from the cold most of the night. Emma remained strong. Her only fear involved Marta. Did she do enough to protect her?. The Nazis already proved a young woman like Marta made an easy target.

On January 15th Emma’s trial commenced. Her captors led her into the courtroom and stood her in front of a Gestapo officer pretending to be a judge. The charges against her were subversion and espionage, but after months of looking for evidence to prove she provided false identification papers for people fleeing France, the Gestapo investigators could not substantiate the charge. However, the subversion charge stayed because the Gestapo found the French resistance newspaper in her apartment.

Emma stood straight in her chains before the judge. He spoke in a monotone voice. “Young woman do you wish to say anything in your defense?”

In a clear strong voice, Emma answered. “Yes, your honor. Since my arrest, I never uttered a word of truth to your interrogators. I concocted a web of deceit to protect my friends, not to exonerate myself.”

The judge shook his head in disgust. “You will be confined for the maximum period of three years in a Gestapo prison to be named later.” He slammed his gavel on a wooden block, and a bailiff dragged Emma away.

Marta witnessed the sham of a trial from the gallery in utter dismay. Emma appeared so thin and gaunt Marta barely recognized her. Her long hair had been cropped with a dull scissors, and her face appeared battered and bruised. But even though she appeared beaten, her strong voice showed her spirit had not been broken. The German thugs achieved no success in breaking her. At that moment, Marta’s love for Emma grew exponentially.


After the trial, the Nazis immediately transported Emma to a prison in Anrath, Germany–a city near Dusseldorf. The train arrived in Germany after midnight. A bus awaited the prisoners for their final leg of their journey. After a twenty mile bus ride, the vehicle stopped at a building surrounded with barbed wire and bright search lights.

The bus driver turned off the ignition and stood to face the downtrodden women. “Stand and file off one-by-one.”

The clanking of dozens of chains was the only sound as the women shuffled off the bus. Everyone kept her head down.

A female warden received them. She wore a stern expression like someone woke her from a sound sleep. She yelled at the prisoners to form a queue and led the women into the prison to another matron who stood behind a desk.  This stout woman with a square face and hateful eyes glared at Emma. “Name?”

“Emma Schiller.” Emma said in a strong voice.

“You are not Emma Schiller any longer, frauline. You are now prisoner number 3103. From now on you will answer to this number.”

Emma stared straight ahead as another guard dragged her to a six-by-six cement cell in another dark, dank basement. The guard unlocked her shackles and pushed Emma inside the cell. A small cot with bare iron springs would serve as her bed. A bucket sat in the corner, which would serve as her toilet. She thought surely the guard would drop by with a mattress and blanket later, but he never did.

When morning arrived, the cell remained dark.  Emma realized no natural light would ever penetrate the dungeon she would call home for the next three years.

Emma slept little her first night in prison. A harsh male voice jarred her from her thoughts. “3103, get up. It is time for your examination.” The guard unlocked the cell door with a large iron key. He shackled Emma and dragged her to the prison doctor.

Emma waited alone in a small white room. After being in the dark for so long, the brightness of the overhead light made her shield her eyes.

After she waited twenty minutes on the examining table, an old man in a white coat came into the room and asked, “Are you sick?”

Emma said. “No.”

“Do you have any diseases?”


“Then you are fit to work.”

He made his diagnosis without ever touching her.



Emma’s months of incarceration taught her how to cope with the cruelty and loneliness of being treated like a caged animal. She commanded her thoughts to focus on a routine. She needed to shelve the good times in her life because when she drifted into the past, her depression grew unbearable. Memories of falling in love with Marta in Paris or recalling Marta’s delight when they decided to live together in the city of lights brought thoughts of how much she lost. If she pictured Marta’s smile, Emma broke down.

Her experience in the Paris prison showed her the best defense against her captors was never showing the guards see her soft spot. She needed to stay detached, cold, uncaring, and strong enough to endure her sentence. Emma realized she had to live in the moment to get through the next three years.

Everyday the police paraded Emma and other prisoners down the middle of the street on their way to the factory. On-lookers glared at them with disdain. Their stares puzzled Emma, but when she passed a window of a dress shop and caught a glimpse of her reflection she understood. She had become a wretched creature like everyone else in her group. Emma choked down the tears and marched forward with a blank expression on her face.

The work the prisoners did was dividing large skeins of rayon thread and then wrapping it by hand onto smaller spools. Rayon dust hung in the air like poison gas. Workers swallowed the fumes with every breath, and the toxic air made their throats so dry swallowing became difficult. Civilian workers, who sat beside Emma, sipped from bottles of fresh water during the course of the day to soothe their thirst, while prisoners needed to endure their work hours with dry tongues. A water fountain hung on a nearby wall, but prisoners were forbidden to take a drink. One day a woman prisoner attempted to drink from the fountain, and she received a beating which left her bloody and unconscious lying on the floor. All of these hardships were intentional to get the women to breakdown and die.

Even with the many rules and hardships, which destroyed prisoners everyday, Emma’s tunnel-vision determination and strong spirit helped her get up and report to work. After studying the operation of her work for a few days, she discovered how she could continue her Resistance work while in prison.

Her job required her to tie flat weaver’s knots when rayon skeins were joined together. Any other knot would jam the looms and cause costly downtime for the weavers at the parachute factory. Emma made sure her spools included lumpy knots to cause a fine mess for the German weavers, but she hid her sabotage by making sure the outside of her spools appeared smooth, neat, and correctly tied.  Every time she turned in one of her spools she imaged the frustration of the weavers when her sabotage jammed the looms and set production back. This self-satisfaction served as Emma’s purpose to stay alive.

Chapter 4

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-January—After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Josie joined the Army Nurse Corps. War meant her surgical nursing skills were needed overseas a lot more than her tedious clerical work the Allis Chalmers factory. She thought any LPN could do the work she did, keeping charts, taking out slivers, washing debris out of eyes, and bandaging small cuts. The most exciting event every week occurred when Mario came in with his weekly phantom ailment. After a month, he finally invited Josie to a movie, but she had already made plans with Donna for Saturday evening. He went away dejected but he was not a person easily discouraged.

Josie received her letter of acceptance to the Army Nurse Corps in January. In a month she’d be sworn as an officer. But now she faced the hardest part–telling her parents she had enlisted.

The perfect time to tell her mother presented itself in the kitchen one snowy afternoon.

“Mom, I need to tell you something important.”

“What’s that Josie?” She said absentmindedly as she stirred a pot of soup.

Josie took a deep breath and blurted, “I joined the Army.”

Mrs. Schneider laughed. “You’re such a kidder, Josie. They don’t let girls into the Army.” Her mother turned away from stirring her soup and stared at her daughter. She recognized Josie’s stone-like expression which told her daughter wasn’t kidding.

“Mom, I’m serious. I joined the Army Nurse Corps. I’ll be training in Arizona in a couple of weeks.”

Her mother’s face dropped. “No!”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Oh my God! You can’t do this, Josie. Isn’t bad enough that Johnny is gone?”

“Now that we’re at war, Mom, the Army needs medical personnel to serve the needs of our soldiers. I possess the training they need. I need to go.”

“I thought you liked your factory job.”

“Mom, any monkey can do that job. My surgical skills will be in high demand. Thousands of soldiers are wounded every day. What if one of them turns out to be Peter or Johnny? Wouldn’t you want a nurse like me to take care of them?”

Her mother shouted.  “Don’t say such things! I can’t think about my sons being wounded.” She sucked in a deep breath and plopped down in the nearest chair. She held her head with both hands choking down tears. Josie stood beside her mother and rubbed her shoulder. “Oh Mom.” She said quietly. “Please don’t cry.”

In a few minutes Mrs. Schneider composed herself.  “I’m sorry, Josie. When I think about my children going to war, the thoughts are too vivid.” She stood and faced Josie. “I guess I can only blame myself. I always encouraged you to follow your heart. If this is what you must do, you be the best damn nurse in this man’s Army.”

“You mean this ‘woman’s’ Army, don’t you, Mom?”

Her mother hugged her. “Yes. I guess I do.”




2 thoughts on “Standing on a Soapbox

  1. I’m going to leave just a quick note before the paint starts to dry. I was thinking about you yesterday and wondered why I hadn’t heard anything from your corner of the world. I must not be getting notification so I’ll sign up again. Don’t want to lose you again! I just don’t do politics. They are almost all worthless in my book. How do you tell if a politician is lying? His lips are moving.

  2. I don’t do politics either — its part of the reason I never advanced very fast in the corporate world. When I had to speak in front of the Public Works Committee this summer, I held my own, but I would have rather took a spanking. Even on a local level politicians in general seem to be looking out for themselves.It sickens me. I’m so glad you missed me. If you look at previous posts, you’ll see I’ve been posting chapters of the second edition of my first novel. Tell me what you think.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s