Tag Archive | communicating

No Words for Today

I wrote a couple of lines this morning which are nothing to cherish. My brain is as dull as the gray skies and pelting rain. So, I deleted my lamenting over my unfinished household projects, and am going to just give you the next three chapters of the second edition of APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS. I promise tomorrow will bring some inspiration for your inquisitive minds. I’ll keep my mind and eyes open today to recognize a new topic. Promise.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 28

 Lacrosse, Wisconsin – December—The weather suddenly turned cold, and Rosalie worked to find new ways to keep the house warm for the children. Like everything else heating oil became rationed. She dressed the babies in several layers of clothing and piled blankets several inches thick to keep them warm at night. While the other parts of the house remained chilly, the kitchen stayed warm with the radiant heat from the oven.

By now Rosalie internalized the time the postman dropped letters in her mailbox. A good day brought letters from her brothers, Angelo, and Josie. A bad day brought bills and no letters. She saved any letter for the quiet two hours in the afternoon when both babies took naps. In November, Mrs. Schneider told Rosalie and Donna Josie got on a ship headed for somewhere in Africa, and today she found a letter from her brave nursing friend.

October 28, 1942

 Dear Rosie,

 Hi pal! So good to get your letter. Your words brightened my day, and I love the pictures of baby Angelo Jr.! He looks so much like his Daddy. Incredible! Angelo certainly sure can’t deny that boy!

 I’m somewhere in Africa, but even I don’t understand where. One thing is for certain, this nursing experience is something I never expected. In my worst dreams, I couldn’t have conjured up such conditions. Our “hospital” is a war-torn building; honestly, it’s a shack so bad, the rats don’t want to live here.

 I’m glad I made the decision to join the nursing corps because so many wounded men need our help. We do what we can, but so many lay in pain while we assessed their injuries, At least now we have adequate supplies to treat them. When we first landed, the fighting on the beach held up the morphine, either, and other drugs that we really needed. The wounds of war are horrific–burns, missing limbs, and so much more. For the first time in my life I felt inadequate. But I tell you this. Everyone should be proud of our boys because we found no cowards among our ranks. They writhed in pain but no one complained. These boys are the bravest souls in the world.

 All of us are learning to cope with the challenges of combat nursing on the fly. We wear steel helmets and combat boots in surgery; corpsmen hold flashlights while doctors operate at night; the windows are covered with blankets because snipers are all around us. (If you talk to my mom, don’t mention the snipers, okay?)

 Our commanding officer require us to be feminine looking, but as tough as nails. That means we need to appear neat and clean, with curled hair and a bit of make-up. He believes not doing so would deflate the boys’ morale. We improvise all of the time . . . like using our helmets for sinks and a glass jug for a mirror. The boys have enough challenges so we don’t want them to put up with an ugly nurse! (ha, ha) Every time I wash up, I think of Donna putting up with these conditions. This environment would make her go AWOL for sure!

 Life is tough here, and I’ realize everyone has a breaking point when the stresses of this life become too much.  Last week Sally got so upset when the snipers fired at our “hospital;” a sergeant needed to forcibly restrain her from going outside to give the GD sniper a piece of her mind. Needless to say, she transferred to receive treatment for shell shock. 

We work long, hard hours. Most nights the sixty nurses and handful of doctors collapse on the floors from exhaustion under scratchy woolen army blankets. But our sacrifice is no comparison to what so many boys give for our country. Our boys are brave, so we girls need to be brave too.

 Please say “Hi” to Donna and tell her I will write to her next time, but it might be a while depending upon what the Krauts dump on us.

 Give Gina and baby Angelo a kiss. When I think of home (which is much of the time) you, Donna and my family are on the top of the list.

Sending you my love, Josie

 Rosalie slipped Josie’s letter back into the envelope as a wave of guilt washed over her. How could she complain about oil shortages or having to cook around rationing when her best friend looked war directly in the face every minute of every day? Josie put everything in perspective for Rosalie.  Daily inconveniences didn’t matter when people she loved struggled with the horrors of combat. She bent her head, folded her hands, and whispered a prayer to the Blessed Mary to bring everyone she loved home safe and sound.

Chapter 29

Hawaii, December—After a few weeks at the Pearl Harbor hospital, Bobby and Angelo both got up on their feet and began learning to walk again between parallel bars. Each step proved to be challenging and tiring.

“This is the damnest thing! I learned how to walk as a baby, and here I am struggling how to move my feet one after another all over again.” Angelo said. “If I don’t get better, little Angelo will pass me up!”

“No worries, pal. You get stronger every day. Look at your arms! You look like Popeye in the comic books.” Bobby said.

“Is that the only stuff you read?” Angelo teased.

“Hey, the stories are great! Don’t think you’re superior, my friend. I bet you picked up the new “Wonder Woman” comic in the day room.”

“No. Who in the hell is Wonder Woman?” Angelo thought Bobby might be pulling his leg about a female super hero.

“Of course I’m serious. Wonder Woman is a hot chick who fights Nazis.”

Angelo laughed. “Too bad she doesn’t fight Japs. Then maybe we wouldn’t be here.”

Bobby said. “Better here than some damn jungle.”

“Amen to that, brother!”

“Hey Ang?” Bobby said.

“Yeah?”

“Is it really only been a year since the war started?”

“Huh?”  Through their months together Angelo got use to Bobby’s constant chatter, and like a seasoned parent, he tuned him out a lot of the time.

“You’re not listening to me, are you?” Bobby said.

“Of course, I’m listening, little brother. For the Americans.  Yeah, it’s only been a year. But it seems like I’ve spent a lifetime in hospitals. Doc wants to operate on me again to remove a piece of shrapnel near my spine. He says I might walk better if I have the surgery. There’s also a possibility I might never walk again if I have the surgery. What do you think I should do? ”

“Geez, Ang. I had no idea. You’ve had so many surgeries already. It’s a gamble one way or another. What will happen if the shrapnel moves?”

“They don’t know. I just want to go home.”

“I think you have your answer then, huh?”

Angelo nodded. Bobby affirmed what Angelo thought. Sometimes the kid was really smart.

 

*****

Bobby and Angelo received Purple Hearts for the wounds they sustained on Guadalcanal, but more importantly, they received orders to continue their therapy in the states. Angelo told the doctor he would take his chances by not having more surgery, and the doctor said he needed to contact the medical facility on the mainland before Angelo could be released.

The doctor believed Angelo would struggle the rest of his life with a bum leg without the surgery, but he also understood the marine had gone through so much already it was impossible to face another surgery and the recovery it required. He approved Angelo’s release from Hawaii.

Angelo read his orders with a big grin. “I’ll be home for Christmas!”

“Yeah, Christmas. I suppose you’ll want to play Santa for little Gina and little Angelo, huh?”

“Good thought. I wonder where I can get a Santa suit.” Angelo grinned as he thought about hugging his kids and kissing Rosalie for the first time in almost a year. “And you can be my number one elf!”

Bobby laughed and threw a comic book at Angelo.

*****

            A week after Angelo and Bobby received their medals their next stop on the road to recovery turned out to be at Camp Pendleton in California. They would finish their physical and occupational therapy at the base hospital. Every day they challenged each other to dig deep, work through the pain, and succeed at the exercises which would free them to go home. Their military careers neared the finish line. The only remnants of their time in the South Pacific were occasional nightmares for Bobby, and a piece of shrapnel near Angelo’s spine.

Chapter 30

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-December 1942—Donna and Rosalie spent the week before Christmas decorating the house in festive colors of red, gold, and silver. At two years old, Gina found the pretty tree in the house a curiosity and learned quickly not to touch the delicate glass ornaments or the hot glass light bulbs.

Two nights before Christmas, Donna and Rosalie sat by a warm fire sipping eggnog.

“This is such a treat, Rosie. How did you ever make eggnog?”

“Mrs. Schneider helped me out. I remember the first time I drank eggnog at Josie’s house. We were about eight years old. We came in from sledding for most of the day with red cheeks. We took off our rubber boots, wet snowsuits and ice-coated mittens in the back entrance, while we jumped around to get warm again. Just thinking about that day gives me shivers. We hung our snowy mittens and hats on that little wooden clothes rack in the mud room and our coats on hooks. Remember?” Donna took a sip as she drifted back to a happy memory. “Mrs. Schneider sat the three of us in front of the fire with a hot cup of eggnog and a plate full of warm chocolate chip cookies. Just thinking of it makes me warm inside.”

“Mrs. Schneider always loved all of us. Remember at their Christmas party they always put two bowls full of eggnog on the table –one for kids and one for grown-ups. I guess the grown-up version contained some brandy.”

“Not to disappoint, Donna, but I made the kid’s version.”

Donna laughed. “Between you and me, I like this version better, but if you tell anybody I don’t like brandy, you’ll pay with your life. A girl’s got to maintain an image.” Donna fluffed her hair and threw her head back.

A knock on the front door interrupted their conversation. Rosalie got up from the chair and walked to the door. “Who in the world is out on such a dark and cold night?”

“You better check. I’ll get the baseball bat in case they turn out to be perverts.”

“You’re in rare form tonight.” Rosalie laughed. She opened the door to find two soldiers on her doorstep. “Can I help you boys?”

Angelo said, “I dreamed you missed me and hoped you might let me in with a big kiss.”

The moment he spoke, Rosalie realized the skinny soldier with the cane was Angelo. “Oh my God! You’re home!” She fell into his arms and didn’t let go. They kissed until Bobby cleared his throat after several minutes.

“Can we take this inside, you two? I’m freezing.”

Angelo laughed. “Sweetheart, this is Bobby. He’s the kid who insisted on being my friend.”

Rosalie blushed. “How rude of us, Bobby. Of course. Come on in. Donna and I are enjoying some eggnog. Would you two like a cup?”

Bobby smiled. “Eggnog?”

Angelo said. “You’ll love it. My Rosie is the best cook in the kitchen.” Rosalie laughed because her inexperienced cooking seemed to be a source of jokes in the family.

The boys dragged their duffle bags into the living room where Donna waited. Angelo went to her and hugged her. “Donna! It’s so good to see you again!”

“Likewise, Angelo.”

“How can I ever thank you for taking care of my girls?”

“You can’t. No thanks are necessary.” Donna smiled. “Auntie Doe Doe is on the job!”

Angelo dropped his embrace and turned toward Bobby. “Donna, this is my friend, Bobby.”

Donna smiled at the boy. “Not the famous Bobby!”

Bobby blushed. “The one and only, but don’t hold the rumors against me ma’am.”

“Only if you call me ma’am again!” She laughed.

Rosalie took control much like her mother would. “You boys make yourself comfortable, and I’ll get the eggnog and cookies.”

“Cookies?” Bobby said. “This Christmas is the best ever!

Angelo laughed. “Out of the mouths of babes.”

 

Critics and My Soul

One thing I’ve never told my blogging friends is my love of classical music. It started back in high school when our choir sang pieces by the old composers like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. I had a dream someday I might sing on Broadway, but I listened to the dream dashers in my life and went on to work in an office instead of pursuing MY dreams in college.

Years went by and as a young mother, I was invited to join a semi-pro group of singers which performed entire movements by the same composers I enjoyed in high school. Up until then, I always had the best voice in the whole choir. Now I was surrounded by sopranos who could sing as well as I could.

After a year in the group, I figured it was time to let the director know I wanted to sing a solo in the Schubert Mass. He agreed and assigned me the Kyrie. I learned very quickly the piece required more skill than I possessed because every time I opened my mouth, unpleasant noises came out of me. As hard as I tried, I could not successfully sing the solo. Luckily, one of the women in the group was a voice teacher, so I asked her if she would take me on as a student. I knew getting help was necessary, but my ego got bruised admitting I didn’t know everything about singing.

Weeks of exercises, vocalises, and hours of practicing got me in shape to sing the Kyrie. When the big moment came, the first couple of bars were a little shaky, but after that, I relaxed and the high notes floated out on pitch. After the concert, the compliments came my way and I felt accomplished, but I wanted more chances to stand out so I continued my voice lessons.

At that point in my life, I needed to be recognized and my voice was the only tool I had. People wanted to listen to me, and that fact made me happy. I was something more than a daughter, wife, and mom. My voice let me be me. And if anyone ever criticized me, I felt wounded. Later on I confessed this fact with the director and he said, “Of course a negative comment would hurt you, Barb; it’s the artist in you; it’s your very soul.”

I don’t sing regularly any more; my arthritic hip doesn’t allow me to stand in one place for an entire hour. Instead I’ve carried my thirst to be special in my writing and in my art work. I “work” at both endeavors and luckily my soul has grown a thick enough skin to let the critics take their best shot because I know every time I sit at the keyboard or at the easel, whatever I produce will be better than it was in the past. It’s called growing. When you think you know it all, dive in and you’ll realize how little you really know.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 22

North Africa-November—When Josie completed the training in Arizona, she left Camp Young feeling strong, confident, and ready to get to work. She easily adapted to Army life, attributing her easy assimilation to growing up on a farm where she experience hard work and waking in the early hours of the morning.

After four weeks of Army hardening, Josie’s orders sent her to an Army hospital in Topeka Kansas. She cared  for retired and wounded veterans who returned home for rehabilitation. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, she would be one of sixty nurses attached to the 48th Surgical Hospital Unit. This would be her first job as a surgical nurse. She also was chosen to supervise the activities of ten other nurses. She called her mother as soon as she got her orders for deployment to North Africa.

“Hi, Mom!” Josie said with excitement in her voice.

“Josie, how wonderful! How are you, sweetheart?”

“I’m fine. I’m calling to tell you I received new orders.”

Mrs. Schneider held her breath. “Oh, that’s nice, dear.”

“I’m assigned to the 48th Surgical Hospital.” She took a deep breath before she uttered the next sentence. “We’re going Africa.”

“What?”

“Please be happy for me, Mom. I finally get a chance to use my training.  I’m going to be a surgical nurse!”

“You’re going to Africa? Isn’t it really hot there?”

“Of course the weather is hot in Africa; that’s why we trained in the Arizona desert for six weeks. I ship out in two weeks.”

Mrs. Schneider’s stomach churned. “Will you come home before you leave?”

Josie recognized a quiver in her mother’s voice. “Now, Mom. I’ll be fine. If I can survive boot camp, I can do anything.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“Yes. The Army is sending me home for a few days before I ship out. I bet after being under your feet for a few days, you’ll be glad to send me packing after you see what the army has done to me.”

“You aren’t going to sound revelry, are you?” Her mother forced a laugh. “A bugle will scare the chickens!”

Josie smiled at her mother’s attempt at humor. “I love you, Mom. I’ll be home soon.”

“I love you too, Josie.” Her mother sat down on a kitchen chair and took deep breaths. She closed her eyes and forced herself not to think her little girl going to war.

Chapter 23

New York – October—After flying from Kansas to New York City, Josie and sixty other nurses met at the dock where a transport ship would take them and hundreds of soldiers to the coast of North Africa. Once they boarded the ship, the nurses learned they would be part of the first wave of Operation TORCH to hit the beach in North Africa.

On the morning of November 8th, Josie climbed down an rope ladder on the side of the destroyer to a Higgins boat bobbing in the surf below. She and the other nurses were dressed in fatigues, army boots, and four-pound steel helmets. They were  indistinguishable from the men except for the Red Cross patch they wore on their sleeve. Instead of a rifle and ammunition, each nurse carried a backpack of medical supplies, a small canvas bag with a shoulder strap called a musette bag, a gas mask, and a canteen filled with drinking water, which hung on a belt around her waist.

The boats sped to the beach and dropped the ramps in waist-high water; soldiered ran ahead firing as the nurses followed them onto the beach. Gunfire whizzed by, and the unarmed nurses got down on their bellies and crawled on their elbows to the nearest sand dune. Josie huddled with five other nurses as the enemy snipers shot at anything moving. The girls lay pinned down for hours with no escape. When darkness fell, a handsome lieutenant and his patrol escorted them to an abandoned shack along the shoreline where casualties of the day waited for treatment. Josie gasped she got close to the shack they used as a hospital. Thoughts swam in her head. “How are we ever going to keep instruments sterile in such a place? Will our supplies be enough? How in the world am I going to organize such a dump?”

When they entered the “hospital” the odors of filth, dirt, blood, and urine lingered in the air. Seeing the deplorable conditions made several nurses gag and vomit. They soon learned the building had no electricity and running water. Worse yet, the medical supplies they ferried in on their backs didn’t provide nearly enough to properly treat every wounded man. Josie looked beyond the horrid conditions and took command. She assigned two nurses to cover the blown out windows with rough green army blankets to prevent snipers from picking them off in any light. Next she triaged the wounded, and  at her direction corpsmen  moved the most severely wounded upstairs to the make-shift operating room. The rest of the wounded  laid in pools of their blood on the concrete floor while nurses bandaged what they could while rats and other vermin nosed about. Some men cried out, but others bit their lips trying not to cry out in pain. None of them complained.  They understood help  finally was within reach, and they thanked the nurses for any kindness or pain relief.

Doctors operated by flashlights held by corpsmen in the make-shift operating room. Surgical nurses stood beside doctors for hours repairing what they could with the limited supplies they carried ashore. When the doctors closed the wounds of one soldier, another wounded GI took his place. Surgery went on through the night. As the sun rose, six more soldiers held on for their turn on the table. But supplies dwindled. Morphine and either got to critical levels. The continued fighting on the beach prohibited getting the much needed supplies to the hospital. In the meantime medical personnel did their best to keep the men alive.

The doctors and nurses hung on for two days. With no sleep for forty-eight hours, Josie collapsed where she stood. A sergeant hoisted her willowy frame and laid her down on a blanket in the hallway. As she slept, a surging anger fired combative dreams. Why would any nation inflict such suffering and misery on so many?

Chapter 24

Anrath, Germany – December—Prisoners at the Anrath facility toiled sixty hours per week, while civilian workers only worked forty. They worked in abhorrent conditions. Rayon dust produced breathing problems. Vapors from the highly acidic material nearly blinded workers. If a civilian worker complained, she received treatment immediately, but prisoners did not get such care. German overseers forced prisoners to stay at their machines until they went totally blind.

As Emma toiled, the wardress stood in front of Emma and announced, “You received a letter from Paris, frauline.” She waved the envelope. In a glance Emma recognized Marta’s distinct handwriting. She lunged at the wardress and tried to snatch the letter from her. The witch pulled back and laughed. “You cannot read this, frauline. Remember no letters allowed. I just wanted to tell you that you got mail.”

Emma slumped back into her chair. She lowered her head as her vision blurred with tears. Up until now, nothing defeated her, but seeing Marta’s letter and not being able to read her words defeated her to the point of not caring any more.

*****

Viscose burns were a constant source of agony for the women who worked in the rayon factory. Civilians received gloves to protect their hands, while the prisoners received none. Working with bare hands produced cuts and blisters. Emma’s left hand developed six viscose wounds and her right hand suffered from three. The acid ate into her untreated wounds, making them swell and blister. She endured excruciating pain, and if she complained, the guards would beat her.

The wounds on Emma’s hands got worse as the weeks passed, but the factory doctor still considered her fit to work. She needed water to make a dressing for her wounds, but prisoners received no water for wounds or thirst.

After returning to her cell after a ten-hour day, Emma tore a strip of cloth from her work dress hem and soaked the fabric with her own urine. Then she wrapped the wet rags around her hands. Much to her surprise, the pain eased, and she fell fast asleep. After that first night, Emma repeated the process every night.  In a few days, her hands began to heal. The improvement empowered her to fight on. She outwitted the cruelty of everyone in power at the prison. Her cleverness brought a small miracle.

*****

Weeks after Emma’s hands healed, her eyes got so bad from the vapors, she not only experienced blurred vision but suffered debilitating stabbing pains in her irritated eyes. Splitting headaches accompanied the lingering neck pains. Then blindness and the pain made it impossible for her to work. Emma complained to wardress and didn’t care if she received a beating. Her reflection in the store windows attested she appeared half dead already.

The overseer shook his head and dragged her to the factory medic. The doctor probed her eyelids with filthy fingers. He deemed Emma unfit for work, but instead of receiving treatment for her injuries, she found herself in a group of women who suffered the same injuries.  The pitiful women sobbed in pain; Emma wanted to cry with them, but her pride wouldn’t let her. Worst of all, the time away from her machine gave Emma time to think. Of course, her first thought wondered what Marta wrote in her letter. Part of her wished to ignore the letter’s existence, but she consoled herself that now with inflamed eyes, she probably couldn’t read it anyway.

 

 

A Milestone

I’ve been blogging since 2011. This is my 450th post. (I did take a whole year off to produce a novel, so I’m not a slacker.)  I haven’t repeated any “words of wisdom” during that time, so you might imagine writing something interesting can be a challenge.When I’m really dry, you might have figured out I talk about the weather. Sometimes I even enlist Ken to help with an idea. I hoped I could reel in more than 1500 folks during this four-year endeavor, but I refuse to pay to attract more readers. On average, I only get two or three folks who will take the time to write a comment on the post of the day. That’s a bit disappointing too because I spend at least a good hour putting “the thoughts of the day” down in writing. Oh well. People are busy. I understand. I’m not complaining, nor am I bragging.

This morning I wasted almost two hours playing my computer games that are all basically the same as Candy Crush. If I was efficient and savvy I would delete these time stealers from my Kindle and just use the tablet to read novels. But I guess I’m not as proficient as I like to believe. For some reason I can’t pull the plug on the games. It’s digital crack.

I started playing these games during commercials. I think I’m right when I say there are more commercials on television today than ever. When I fill the time designated to hawk products and services, I turn my attention to these challenging games. (Believe me, after you to get level 150 on all of them, it’s a challenge to win.) Of course, there’s always the option to spend money to by tools or extra moves, if you so want to invest. And I confess. I resort to such foolishness when I get really stuck on a level I’ve grown tired of.

Well, will you look at that! I actually came up with a topic for discussion this morning just by writing — I only  hope I haven’t wasted your time.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 18

 Paris, France – September—Emma’s whereabouts continued to be a secret. After exhausting her attempts to find her, Marta visited city hall to speak to Pierre, Emma’s former boss.  She entered the office where Emma used to work and spied another woman sitting at her desk. Seeing a replacement for her dear Emma brought tears to Marta’s eyes. She walked up to the woman and requested to speak with Pierre.

The stranger asked, “May I tell him who you are?”

“My name is Marta Schiller. I am a cousin of Emma who used to work here.”

“Wait here, please.” The woman got up and opened a door down the hallway. In a couple of minutes the stranger reappeared.  “You may go in. Third door on the left.”

Marta smiled. “Merci.” She walked down the hallway and knocked on the door. She heard a man say, “Come in.”

Pierre stood up behind his desk to greet his visitor. “How can I help you mademoiselle?”

Marta moved toward him and in a low voice said, “Pierre, I need to find Emma. Do you know where she is?”

Pierre’s forehead wrinkled and he scratched his head. “Why do you think I would posses such information?” He turned on the radio and classical music filled the office. Then he put his finger up to his lips.

Marta moved closer and whispered, “I thought perhaps you might know where she is serving her sentence in Germany.”

“Marta, when Emma went to prison the authorities did not tell me where they took her.”

Marta studied his eyes and realized he held something back. “I wish you possessed more information. I am going crazy.”

Pierre discovered the Gestapo had bugged his office so sharing information with Marta at the office was impossible. In a normal tone he said, “I am sorry to disappoint you.” He paused. “The Germans do not inform employers if their employees get in to trouble.” He led Marta to the door and whispered. “Meet me at Moulin Rouge tonight at eight o’clock. I will tell you what I know.”

Marta nodded. “Thank you for your time.” She turned on her heel and left.

After meeting Pierre, Marta went back to her apartment with a glimmer of hope. A letter from her mother lay on the floor. Her landlord always thrust her mail under the door. She ripped open the envelop anticipating good news. She said a short prayer hoping her mother found Emma. Or even better, she got Emma released.

August 15, 1942

 My Dear Marta,

 How wonderful to get your letter, dear. I miss you so much, especially now.

 Yesterday I received a telegram informing me your father died at Stalingrad.  and I can’t stop weeping. We spent over  twenty-five years together, and I can’t think of living without him. This terrible news is too hard to bear. I realize you questioned his political choices, but I hope you understand how much he loved you under his false bravado.

 About the other matter. I spoke with my friends and can only tell you your cousin is at Anrath. I will try to get more news, but all of us must be careful. I wish I could tell you more, but I cannot. With your father gone, I am only one more woman living alone in Berlin.

 Love, Mutter

Marta fell into her favorite chair and wept. She wondered whether her father’s body would be returned to Germany or whether he lay rotting on a battlefield somewhere in Russia. What a dissapointing fate for such a proud, stoic soldier.

*****

Promptly at eight o’clock, Marta strutted into the Moulin Rouge in her best dress. She scanned the theatre and found Pierre sitting at a small table in a dark corner. He greeted her with a smile and a kiss on each cheek before he led her to his table.

“I am so glad you accepted my invitation,  mademoiselle.” Pierre smiled.

Marta played along as Pierre pulled out a chair for her to sit. She smiled up at him. “I would not miss an opportunity to see this show, Pierre. I do not get to come here often.” She flirted with him understanding German officers sat at a nearby table drinking heavily.

Pierre bent close to her. “I learned through our channels Emma is imprisoned at Anrath. Do you know about the city?”

“No.” Marta snuggled closer to Pierre still promoting their clandestine rendezvous.

He smiled at her, then whispered in her ear. “Anrath is a moderate sized city near Dusseldorf in the Northern Rhine area.”

“I understand.” She sipped her cognac. “Can the Resistance rescue her?”

“Perhaps.”

“That is encouraging.” Marta brightened.

“I cannot tell you more for your own safety.” Pierre hesitated then added, “I must not endanger my family.” He kissed her, ordered two more drinks, and they both settled into watch the show.

Chapter 19

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands – September—Ordinarily, a soldier in Angelo’s dire condition would be airlifted to a base hospital after the doctors stabilized him in the field hospital, but the marines on Guadalcanal didn’t enjoy the luxury of a close enough base to evacuate severely wounded soldiers. The Japanese fleet overwhelmed the American navy, and to be able to fight another day, the battleships fled to regroup.

When the Japanese finally emerged from the jungle, they fought to the death. The Marines on the beach, fought hand-to-hand and casualties quickly mounted. Medical personnel did their best to provide adequate treatment for the wounded in a tent hospital, but without better facilities and the ability to airlift critical patients to a better facility, large numbers of men died. Worst of all, the situation wouldn’t get better until the navy came back and secured the island.

While the fighting went on the beach, Angelo lay in a coma spending his twenty-first birthday in a state of unconsciousness. His weak body battled fever and pain. Nurses tried to keep him comfortable with cold compresses and heavy doses of pain medication.

In the distance bomb blasts sounded like kettle drums. Cots rocked and IV bottles swayed on steel poles with every strike. Close by the rat-tit-tit-tat of automatic rifles caused medical personnel to wear steel helmets as they treated their patients. Screaming wounded men who lay waiting for help sent shivers through everyone in the hospital.

Two weeks after surgery Angelo opened his eyes. His return to consciousness elated the medical personnel because doctors originally gave him less than a fifty percent chance of survival. His recovery lifted the spirits of the nurses who attended so many young lives who died too soon. Angelo’s spark of life renewed their purpose to provide the best medical care with the meager tools and facilities they had.

After Angelo woke, his first thought was about the Rosalie and the children. His second thought centered on Bobby. He remembered he had been assigned to Red beach. He listened to conversations of medical personnel and learned Red Beach was the place the heaviest fighting took place.

In his waking moments, Angelo prayed Bobby would be one of the lucky ones. No sixteen year old should face battle. But Bobby wanted to fight bad enough to lie about his age. Angelo realized Bobby believed nobody cared if he lived or died, but Angelo did. If he should die on that beach, it would be unfair because the boy never got a chance to go on a date, or make love, or be loved.  Instead his father sent him off to military school with no tenderness where Bobby endured loneliness and harsh discipline. Angelo hoped God listened when he prayed, but then thought God must be very busy listening to requests like his coming from around the world.

Once the fierce fighting started, the battle went on around the clock for days. A constant stream of wounded men filled the hospital at all hours. Medical staff slept little.  Angelo lay sweating as the nurses scurried around him. They buzzed with caffeinated energy doing their best to make the wounded comfortable.  When darkness fell, they took on the appearance of the walking dead, instead of pretty twenty-one year old girls.

A week after Angelo regained consciousness, a man in a body cast lay in the bed next to him. The poor guy had IVs in both arms and cuts and bruises on his face. His sun-bleached blond hair made Angelo want to vomit because he realized the limp body in the next bed belonged to Bobby.

When a nurse came to check on Angelo, he asked “Nurse, what happened to him?”

The distracted nurse said, “He’ll tell you later, soldier.”

Angelo persisted. “Please, tell me. He’s my little brother.”

She appeared incredulous as she compared Bobby’s fair complexion and white blond hair to Angelo’s deep eyes and dark brown curls. “Your brother, huh?”

Angelo gave her his winning grin. “Aren’t we all brothers and sisters, nurse?”

“Your “brother” got injured on the beach. A Jap bayoneted him through the kidney and a bomb blast broke his back. He’s in pretty rough shape.”

Angelo swallowed hard. “Oh, my God.”

The nurse turned away. “Indeed.”

*****

Bobby woke a few hours later screaming and thrashing with pain. A nurse rushed to his bedside with a syringe,  swabbed his arm with alcohol on a piece of gauze, and injected him with morphine.   “This will help.”

Bobby whispered, “Thank you, nurse” before his body went limp.

Bobby’s dreams brought memories of the pain which pierced his ears-like ice picks plunging into both ear canals. He experienced the shaking earth knocking him down. He breathed in hot white smoke and smelled the sickening odor of rotten eggs. When he took a breath, instantly he got a headache worse than a hangover from drinking cheap booze. When a shell landed too close, his bones felt like metal being struck with a sledgehammer. He crawled through sand where body parts of his buddies lay around him. The guys he went with on night patrols lay dead with blank stares into nothingness.

Nightmares like these plagued Bobby every time he drifted off to sleep. He lived again and again the horrific battle ending with a scene of his friend Tommy taking a shot to the face, His headed exploded. A headless Tommy fell forward into the sand.  Bobby froze. The sight paralyzed him. Before he realized a Jap with a bayonet loomed before him. He struggled with the boy about his own age before white lightning streaked up his backside and everything went black. Smudgy, dirty faces of two medics appeared above him. This was the part of the dream when he woke screaming.

*****

Bobby drifted in and out of consciousness as the days went by. Angelo did his best to make his stretches of consciousness longer.  “Hey soldier! What brought you in here?”

Bobby recognized Angelo’s voice and opened his eyes. “Now I’m sure I’m definitely not in heaven. Angelo’s here!” It took all of his energy to make a joke, and he fell asleep smiling.

Later in the afternoon, Bobby woke again. “How’d I get here?”

Angelo smiled when he heard Bobby’s voice.  ” You got here the usual way.” He answered. “By stretcher and ambulance.”

“I don’t remember anything about getting here.”

“That’s good.” Angelo said. “I don’t remember anything either. All I know is some damn Jap bomb bore my name.”

“A Jap bayonet got me.” Bobby said. “What do I look like, Ang?”

“Like hell.”

“That good, huh?” Bobby tried to laugh and put his hand on the cast. “What the hell did they do to me?” He knocked on the plaster body cast.

“I guess they thought plaster would put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

“How long was I out?” Bobby asked.

“A couple of days. They tell me I took two weeks to wake up.”

“Sure, you always need to one-up me, don’t you?”

“What are big brothers for?” Angelo smiled. “Did you enjoy sweet dreams when you traveled to coma-land?”

“No. Just the same damn nightmare playing again and again like a bad movie. What about you?”

“Actually, my brother Tony visited me. We went home together to help Rosie plant a garden in our backyard. We grew whopper tomatoes and cucumbers. And I even got a peak at my new baby boy.”

“No kidding?”

“Honestly, Bobby, I went home. My beautiful Rosie brought me my son, and she told me she named him Angelo. The little tiger even looked like me with my dark eyes and curly hair. My sweet little girl, Gina, put her arms up wanting me to hold her. Do you suppose Rosie’s spirit visited me?”

“Sure Ang, and Santa Claus is a real guy living at the north pole.” Bobby chuckled and then cringed. “I need to stop doing that to myself.” He took a shallow breath. “No wonder you didn’t wake up for weeks, especially if you rendezvoused with your wife.” He smiled. “I wish I didn’t get wounded, but I’m glad we’re together again.”

“Just getting a look at your ugly mug made my day kid.” Angelo said, “I guess God just doesn’t want us yet.”

“He definitely doesn’t want me. He’ll probably never want me.” Bobby closed his eyes.

“Don’t be stupid. He’ll want you someday. But not now. You’re too young to die; you’re whole life is ahead of you.”

“Yeah, like what?”

“Like having a home, a girl, and a family.” Angelo’s thoughts went to Rosie.

“What girl would want me? I’m a wreck.” Bobby knocked on the cast which encased him.

“You’re young. You’ll heal. And I think my little sister would think you’re a catch.” Angelo said.

“So, you’ll introduce me when we get stateside?”

“Of course. I’ll introduce you to my entire family and all of my friends.”

“Thanks, Ang. You must really love me, bro.” Bobby teased.

“Probably–” Angelo chuckled.

Bobby changed the subject. “Do you think they’ll send us home?”

“I hope so.” The conversation tired Angelo. My two year hitch is only half over, so I don’t know what’ll happen.”  Angelo’s pain began to escalate. “The doctor told me yesterday as soon as our planes can land here, we’ll be airlifted to Sydney.”

“Do you think they’ll send us back to the field?’ Bobby’s voice quivered.

“Like I said, I don’t know what will happen.” Angelo hesitated and then asked, “We’re damaged goods. Are you disappointed?”

“Nah,” Bobby said. “I broke my back and lost a kidney on this damn rock, so I think my country is satisfied they got my pound of flesh.”

“Amen to that, little brother.” Angelo said.

“Ang?”

“Yeah, Bobby.”

“I like you calling me your brother.”  The boy drifted off to sleep.

*****

Bobby and Angelo turned out to be two of the first Marines on Guadalcanal to be airlifted to a hospital in Sydney, Australia in September 1942. After their rehabilitation, they would be sent to Pearl Harbor where this whole ugly war began.

 

Computer Woes

I’m going to keep this post very short because I am struggling with two computers which are not behaving. I telll them one thing and they do another. It’s like coping with disobeying children. My old computer is locked saying its “Logging Off.” It’s been logging off for three hours now. I wish I could give it a pep pill, and order it to work.

My new little baby is also being stubborn. I’ve been trying to load my HP software for my printer/scanner/copier,  and I can’t get it to accept the software. Perhaps it’s too old? It works on my husband’s computer so I don’t know why I can’t bring it up on mine. Then I tried to set up an email address and got more frustration. Both chores should have been easy, but today its not. So, I’ve found the best course of action is to wait for another wave of patience and try again later.

If this strategy doesn’t work, I’ll be forced to contact the Geek Squad and pay them to straighten out these two bad boys.

######

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 16

Lacrosse, Wisconsin — August 7th—Exhaustion ruled Rosalie’s day. The heat stayed oppressive, and her due date sped by without stopping. She thanked God Gina still took an afternoon nap, so she could put her swollen ankles up on the ottoman while she listened to the afternoon soap operas on the radio. Rosalie also .planned their meals around the foods which would be available in the grocery store for that week. Rationing made meal preparation a science, but the government’s monthly meal-planning guides offered menus using the available food, and Rosalie found them helpful.  Rosalie made sure dinner was ready when Donna got home. Dining together was good for both of them. Rosalie didn’t need to face the hardest part of the day alone. And Donna’s first two weeks on the assembly line made for interesting conversation. Her keen ability to relate a story in a humorous ways kept Rosalie’s laughing. The other source of joy came from little Gina who gave both of them a constant source of entertainment as she learned how to talk.

As it turned out, Rosalie’s parents got so involved in the war effort they didn’t have time to help her. Eduardo volunteered to head up the scrap drive at their church and worked tirelessly hauling scrap metal, paper, and rubber to the recycling center. He also volunteered to be the block captain for air raid drills. Mama Lombardo ran the restaurant. Rationing deeply affected their menus, but Mama made an arrangement with Mrs. Schneider to get extra eggs from their farm to make pasta. So far, flour didn’t disappear from the grocery shelves.  When Mama wasn’t making pasta, she canned spaghetti sauce with the fresh tomatoes, peppers, and garlic they grew in their garden. Eduardo planted twice as many plants this year, anticipating shortages.  At night, she “rested” winding bandages for the soldiers with the Red Cross.

******

The first Saturday in August Donna planned a picnic at the riverfront to help Rosie cool off. Both girls needed a break from the stifling August heat wave. Donna drove Angelo’s truck because Rosalie’s pregnant body no longer fit behind the steering wheel. They parked at their favorite spot along the riverside park and all of a sudden Rosalie held her breath.

“Rosie, what’s going on?  Donna’s voice grew concern.

“Nothing. Just little twinge.” Rosie said.

“What kind of twinge?”

“It feels like a little tug across my belly.  I’m fine, let’s enjoy our picnic.” Rosalie grabbed the picnic basket and drew in a deep breath as she bent over. “Ow!”

“Tell me when the next one comes, okay? Promise me, even if the twinge is a little one, you’ll tell me.” Donna ordered.

“Why?”

Donna answered. “Because I want to time them. I think your twinges are the beginning of labor.”

“But, I don’t feel anything in my back like last time.”

“Of course, not silly. Labor isn’t in your back.”

“Gina’s labor was.”

Donna reminded her. “Every baby is different. Maybe this one wants to come into the world face down.”

Rosalie grabbed her belly. “Oh–Wow!”

Donna stood up on the blanket and picked up the picnic basket. “Come on!  We’re going. I’ll drop Gina off at the restaurant with your Mom, and then you and I are going to the hospital.”

Rosalie protested. She wanted to be at the beach all week. “But–”

“No buts, I’m not arguing with you.” Donna piled everything back into the truck, picked up Gina with a kiss, and got behind the wheel. “Get in the car, Rosie.”

Gina kicked and screamed, “No, Auntie Doe-Doe. Go Swim!”

Donna smiled at the sweet child. “I’m sorry, sweetie. Mommy needs to go to the hospital to bring your new sister or brother into the world..”

“No! Go swim!” Gina stomped her feet and cried until Auntie Doe-Doe gave her a gentle swat on her butt and wedged her between herself and Rosie. Gina cried all the way to the restaurant.

Donna took the wailing child into Lombardo’s restaurant and found Rosalie’s mother in the kitchen. When Mrs. Lombardo saw Donna with the distraught Gina, she wiped her hands on a towel and motioned to Donna to hand over the child. “Donna, what are you doing here? Come here, bambina. Nana will fix. Do you want a cookie?”

Donna gasped for a breath. “Rosie’s in labor. I’m taking her to the hospital.”

“Oh, my God!” Mrs. Lombardo said. “I must call Eduardo. You go. He will come to the hospital and meet you.”

“Okay.” Donna ran to the truck, patted Rosalie’s hand, and squealed the tires as she left the parking lot.

A nurse shortage required Rosie to be put in a labor ward with a dozen other women. Moans and screams echoed through the halls as mothers and sisters stood by trying to coach the woman in the bed through her agony. Only one man held his wife’s hand.

Rosie promised herself she wouldn’t scream this time; instead she planned to offer up her pain up God so He might protect Angelo.

Donna wiped the sweat off of Rosalie’s forehead and shared every labor pain as they ripped through Rosie’s body. She wondered if Angelo experienced the same helplessness she felt now. Donna held Rosalie’s hand and told her to squeeze hard when the pains came. After two hours, Rosalie appeared surprised.

“What’s wrong, Rosie?” Donna asked.

Rosalie whispered. “I feel like I need to poop!”

Donna said, “Do you mean you want to push?”

Rosie nodded yes.

“I’m going to get the doctor.” Donna ran from the ward and flagged down the only nurse in the hallway.

The nurse gave Rosalie a quick check. “Mrs. Armani, you’re ready to delivery your baby.” She helped Rosalie into a wheelchair and headed for the delivery room.

Like all good husbands, Donna got banished to the father’s waiting room.

Fifteen minutes later, the nurse came back with good news. Rosalie had a boy.

Donna stared at her. “A boy? What the hell are we going to do with a boy?”

The nurse gave her a strange look and took Donna back to Rosalie’s bedside.

“I hear Angelo put the stem on the apple!” Donna said.

“What?” Rosalie said with weariness.

“The baby’s a boy!” Donna exclaimed. “And everything is all right?”

“Everything is perfect.” Rosie whispered as a single tear rolled down her face. “I want Angelo, Donna. He needs to hold his son.”

“Oh, Rosie. What can I do?” Donna said as Rosalie cried and held her son close.

Donna bent down and peaked at the baby. In a soothing voice she spoke to the new mother. “Holy Cow! He’s about as big as a loaf of Wonder Bread! Can I hold the little tiger for a minute? You look so tired.” Donna consoled.

“Sure.” Rosalie handed the baby to Donna with a smile. “You’re his Auntie Doe-Doe after all.”

Donna cradled the new born with a surge of love she never experienced before. She peeled back the blanket to reveal a perfect baby. The nurses arranged his dark curly hair in a kewpie-doll twist on the top of his head. She counted his fingers and toes and noted he came with the right number of digits. “He looks just like his Daddy, Rosie.”

“I know. I see Angelo’s eyes when I gaze at him, so he’ll get his Daddy’s name, too.”

Donna whispered. “Welcome to the world, little Angelo.” She kissed the baby’s forehead. His newborn scent settled in her nose. Donna wondered at that moment whether she might want a baby of her own someday.

*****

Eduardo entered the room as Rosie slept, and Donna rocked the baby boy at the side of her bed.

Donna whispered, “Mr. Lombardo, come in.”

Eduardo crept into the quiet scene.

Donna pulled back the blanket to reveal the baby’s chubby face. “Meet your Grandson Angelo.”

Eduardo’s chest seemed to expand two sizes. “He looks just like his Papa.”

Donna smiled. “Yes he does.”

Eduardo faced Donna and said, “Thank you for taking care of my Rosie. I will always be indebted to you for your kindness.”

“No thanks is necessary, Mr. Lombardo. I love Rosie, too.”

Eduardo hugged Donna and finally understood why Rosalie considered her such a dear friend.

Chapter 17

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands – South Pacific—On August 7, 1942 at 0600 hours the American Navy started shelling Guadalcanal Island. Intelligence told the Americans the Japanese intended to finish an airfield, so their planes didn’t need to rely on their aircraft carriers. The Americans needed Guadalcanal airfield to begin bombing Tokyo and other major cities in Japan. Angelo and his unit ate a hardy breakfast of Spam and powered eggs before the first marine division landed at 0730. Securing Red Beach seemed simple enough during the briefing, but most men on the ship never faced combat before. Most hid their fear in bravado or silence. Their unknown future proved to be more of a threat than the enemy.

Angelo fidgeted and paced the deck. After weeks of sea sickness, tedious work, night watches, plus drilling every waking hour, the time finally came to put his killing skills to work.

The only Marine who didn’t appear anxious was Angelo’s young friend Bobby.  He sat alone taking deep drags on a cigarette. His youth and inexperience blinded him from the realities of battle. Angelo guessed Bobby viewed their assignment as a game. Or, maybe Bobby didn’t give a damn if he died because he thought nobody loved him.

The Marines descended the net ladder to the Higgins boats which bobbed in the surf. When the unit filled the boat, the driver headed for shore. This time the ramp would lower. This time they all would run for the beach. This time they would encounter the enemy. Everyone stared ahead with their private thoughts.

After the ramp dropped close to the beach, the marines jumped into the waist-high water with guns held high. They expected bullets to impede them, but no shells or bullets greeted them.  Angelo breathed a sigh of relief. His first landing proved to be a cinch. No enemy. No casualties. No death. He looked up to the sky and said under his breath, “Rosie must be doing some hardcore praying.”

Bobby scowled with disappointed after the quiet landing. The sergeant in charge yelled, “Hey kid. Put your rifle down and get busy unloading supplies.” Bobby saluted and walked back into the water to accept supplies coming ashore.

The beach became cluttered with too many men and too much equipment. Chaos ensued because inexperienced steersmen in the landing boats didn’t get specific instructions as to where the supplies should be located, and men on the beach stood together with their hands in their pockets clueless what to do first.

A couple landing parties advanced inland toward their target—the Japanese airfield. Angelo served in one of the units selected to enter the jungle. The marines knew the Japanese were still on the island. But where? As the men advanced into the jungle thicket every sound seemed threatening. Angelo and his unit felt like they were stalking a ghost.

Once in the jungle, the men met an enemy they didn’t expect. The climate. The oppressive tropical heat and steamy humidity defeated the unprepared soldiers in many ways. Men who carried rocket launchers and other heavy supplies stumbled and collapsed from heat exhaustion in the first hour. The officers discovered the dampness and humidity raised havoc with the radios. Messages from the jungle to the beach didn’t get through. Worst of all, everyone suffered from dehydration which produced weakness, headaches and a powerful thirst none of them experienced before.

*****

While Angelo’s unit moved closer toward the airfield, Bobby and his unit continued to haul ammunition from the battery to the ammo dump near the beach. The first action the boys on the beach encountered happened at noon. An air raid siren warned the men to take cover when a few Japanese planes were sighted. Three planes strafed the Americans working on the beach, while a few more Japanese zeros dropped a payload of bombs near the ammo dump. On sea, the transport ship named the USS Elliot took the fire of a suicide bomber who flew his plane into the ship killing its crew and sinking the ship.

When darkness fell, a pesky sniper fired from the foreboding perimeter of the jungle. These small skirmishes sent a message to the American boys the Japanese still occupied the island, and they intended to fight to stay there. These tedious pesky attacks put fear into everyone on the beach. The boys got jumpy at the slight sound or movement. They wildly fired into the jungle even when they couldn’t see the enemy. The Japanese held a psychological edge over the untested Marines. Not being able to pinpointing the enemy’s location got to be unnerving causing the Americans to keep alert at all times. Bobby remembered the officer’s warning on the ship about being thankful for a clean rack and a good night’s sleep. He realized it might be a long time before he’d ever sleep in a real bed again.

The marines had to cut through the jungle in order to make a road to get to the airfield. The first day of swinging machetes cutting down the thicket of tropical plants took the sap out of the young soldiers. They fell into foxholes at sundown and slept until the morning sun poured the heat on them. The second day brought more of the same tedious work, but the second night, brought them the ugliness of a tropical storm.  A downpour went on for hours, making sleeping in foxholes impossible. Once the rain stopped, the marines emerged muddy, wet, and sticky. Even thought the Japanese hadn’t attacked, throngs of mosquitoes and ants did. Soldiers were peppered with irritating bites that burned and itched. Angelo never remembered a miserable time in his life.

Cutting through the thick jungle with sharp machetes proved to be slower than estimate;. it took three days to cover six miles. In some places, the dense tree canopy prohibited the sun from shining through, making the jungle even more foreboding. The deeper into the jungle they went, new animal sounds and different musty scents made every man wonder what was really in this place. A peculiar sweet, musty odor surfaced after the rain. As the unit slugged through the jungle, they discovered the source of the peculiar odor; it came from rotting coconuts which fell beneath unattended coconut groves.

With all of the challenges the jungle provided, the unquenchable thirst proved to be the worst. The small amount of water in their canteens needed to last until a water purification system could be installed on the banks of the Lunga River. Angelo’s dry lips cracked and his parched throat nearly choked him as he longed for a tall, cold glass of Rosie’s lemonade.

*****

Angelo’s unit arrived at the airfield on the third day of their trek through the jungle. The marines thought for sure they would encounter the Japanese as they secured the half-finished air strip, but the enemy still remained a ghost. The truth was the Japanese didn’t expect the American landing on Guadalcanal and they didn’t possess enough weapons or manpower to overcome a large landing party. The few soldiers that occupied the island retreated deep into the jungle. In their hasty retreat, they left behind several useful pieces of heavy equipment.  The Americans confiscated bulldozers, wheel loaders, and excavators and went to work to repair the runway. Completing this strategic airfield needed to be accomplished as quickly as possible so American planes could launch air attacks on other Japanese-controlled islands.

When Washington D. C. and Canberra in Australia learned the Marines captured the Guadalcanal airfield in such a short time, the brass celebrated. Little did they realize the Japanese possessed no intention of giving up the island without a fight.

*****

While Angelo labored in the jungle, Bobby experienced the war he dreamed about on “Red Beach.” A bomb fell from a Japanese plane, landing near his position. The island shook hard enough to make men fall, and the deafening explosion pierced his eardrums. Bobby escaped the bombing unhurt, but he now realized war was no game. His fertile imagination gained an inkling of what future attacks might hold in store for him.  Strikes like these put the Marines to work digging four-foot deep foxholes for protection. As days went by, it was not usual for men to lay in their foxholes thirteen or fourteen hours per day waiting for the enemy to appear again. Daylight bombings and night time skirmishes got to be tedious as they all wondered when the big fight would come.

Bobby hated night patrols, comparing this duty to fighting the boogie man in a bad dream. He wished he and Angelo hadn’t been separated because Bobby conceded he was stronger with Angelo at his side. When Bobby went off on an imaginary tangent, Angelo always brought him back to reality. Now he was alone. He stayed alert, cataloging his surroundings.  He learned to let flies, birds, and insects alert him to head for cover. Every time the air raid sirens sounded, he ran to his foxhole where small animals and insects already occupied were there. He called them his advanced warning system.

******

Because the Japanese Navy controlled the sea around Guadalcanal, the Marines on the island were trapped with no other American support. Japanese “zeros” took off from carriers and impeded progress the marines had made the day before.  Again, the Japanese held the psychological advantage. Marines working on the landing strip got frustrated and discouraged when one pass of a Japanese plane undid their hard work.

Like Bobby, Angelo made mental notes of his surroundings. He recognized the tat-tat-tat of sniper fire at night, and the high-pitch whine of the Japanese Zeros in the distance. Instead of watching the animals and insects like Bobby, Angelo believed if he stayed attentive to the sounds around him, he could anticipate the enemy’s attack and stay alive by heading for cover with time to spare.

Angelo operated an excavator or bulldozer, leveling the sandy, rocky land to complete the runway. As a little boy he dreamed about using such equipment, and this duty looked a lot easier than a host of other jobs on the island. Unfortunately, the loud grunts of the heavy equipment drowned out the very sounds he wanted to hear. Air raid sirens cut through the equipment noise, but they limited his time to head for cover.

On August 10th, the air raid sirens blasted and Angelo looked up. Three Japanese zeros appeared out of nowhere. He shouted and waved to his workmates “They’re coming! Run!”

All three men ran for the ditch beside the runway, but they couldn’t out run the bomb the plane dropped. The force of the blast threw all three of them into the air, leaving Angelo writhing in pain from shrapnel and burns. Body parts of the two other men littered the airfield. Angelo felt his life drifting away as he lay in his own blood.

After the bombing ceased, a small patrol of corpsmen accompanied by a medical officer jumped in a jeep ambulance to survey the airstrip for any wounded men. By the time they reached Angelo, the medic moved quickly to keep him alive. Blood poured from the shrapnel wounds all over his body. In an instant, the medic removed the sulfathiazole tablets in the medical kit, lifted Angelo’s head and forced him to swallow the pills. Then the medic sprinkled sulfathiazole crystals into the multiple wounds to help prevent infection. Two corpsmen stuffed sterile gauze into Angelo’s abdominal wound to stop the bleeding, and after a shot of morphine to ease the pain, the corpsmen lifted Angelo onto a canvas stretcher and secured him onto the ambulance.

The driver raced to the northeast end of the airfield where a make-shift wooden building served as a field hospital. They sprinted into the building with their unconscious patient. A doctor immediately started an IV and plasma flowed into Angelo’s right arm. Then he started another IV in his left arm to administer saline and other drugs necessary for surgery.

Angelo’s survival now depended upon whether the surgical team could win the race against the clock. If Angelo got through surgery, his will to live needed to take charge.

 

 

A Shrinking World?

Yesterday I talked with my good friend Catherine who moved to Florida about three years ago. Her move was difficult for me because we had lived within an hour’s drive of each other for over twenty years. But the move was necessary, and I accepted the fact I might have lost her being close, but now I had a nice place to visit.

During our long conversation, Catherine asked me whether I thought her world had shrunken. I thought the question was queer, so I asked her why she would think such a thing. She told me another good friend of hers said Catherine was wasting away in the land of boredom.

I was shocked. How could a long-time friend say such a thing? Even if their life styles were different, I couldn’t imagine one friend being so cruel to another. I saw the comment as a lack of respect and knew Catherine was stinging from it.

This friend had just retired and was embarking on a new adventure and retiring in the Virgin Islands, so she probably saw Catherine’s day-to-day life at home as mundane. But even so, I told Catherine such a comment was cruel, and I reminded her never let someone else define her.

For years Catherine and I have followed a similar path. We even worked together on two different jobs. Now we are caretakers for our husbands, but our choice doesn’t by any means make us boring. In fact, we both have embarked on another course in life which is slower and more meaningful than when we battled every day in the nonsense of the corporate world. She’s adjusting to a new place to live and is learning how to navigate different people and surroundings. Believe me, at 65 that’s not easy. I don’t think I could do it.

Her friend, on the other had, never suffered job losses like Catherine and I did, which resulted in having to raid our retirement investments just to stay alive. Her friend never had to care for a sick husband. Her friend never had to reinvent herself, as both of us have done. In my book, her friend is the boring one!

It’s too bad such falling-outs happen, but I have found whenever your life takes a different turn, sometimes even old friends fall off the cart. It’s sad we can’t maintain every friendship we’ve ever cultivated, but that’s truly unrealistic, isn’t it? We bring friends into our lives because we gain something from them at that particular time in life. In turn, we also give them what they need from the relationship. If a friendship works one way –one is always giving and the other doesn’t reciprocate, it’s not a healthy friendship.

Who knows if Catherine and her friend will reunite again. Fences need to be mended if they want to regain what they had in the past. It’s always sad to let a long time friends go, but sometimes it is necessary. The good news is, another person will fill the void–not in the same way, of course–but in a new and exciting way of sharing and caring. It’s the way the world works.

######

 

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 14

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—July 1942—The mail proved to be a lifeline for everyone during the war, even though the government censored correspondence. The stringent rules prohibited writing anything about what factories produced or where goods might be shipped. All enlisted men and their officers needed to keep their whereabouts a secret. No one could write about weather conditions. Even private codes between couples shouldn’t be used because such messages might be some kind of espionage attempt, and censors would take them out. Consequently, most letters became a diary of everyday happenings. Rosalie guessed her news must seem uneventful and unimportant in the world scheme of things, but she wrote to Angelo every afternoon while Gina napped. Angelo wrote about fellas on the ship and tried to follow in his big brother Tony’s footsteps by keeping his stories light and humorous. Only their letters reached across the world and attempted to keep them close. Whenever Rosalie’s mailbox produced a letter from him, she couldn’t get in the house fast enough to read his lines.

July, 1942

My dearest Rosie,

 I’m sweating buckets out in the South Pacific, but I imagine you’re doing the same in our little house, too. The daily monotony of life at sea is over.  The officers tell us to enjoy the monotony of drilling because when we go ashore we’ll beg for a clean rack and a hot meal.

I think of you and Gina every minute. With all this time to think, I am glad you invited Donna to stay with you. She’s a good egg, and I can relax a little because you’re not alone. I’ll eat crow and admit she is so much more than a “good time girl.” I’m grateful she is helping you with Gina and the other household chores. I laughed out loud when you wrote about Gina calling her “Auntie Doe Doe.”

 I dream of you, too, sweetheart, but we both know why I’m here. I love our life together, and in order to keep living with the freedom we enjoy, I must pitch in and do my part.

 I’m proud you can handle everything at home, but please ask my parents and Eduardo for help. They need to help as much as you probably need them. Please my darling, do this for me.

 Do me one more favor, okay? Would you write to my new friend Bobby? He’s a kid from Wisconsin with no family contact.  His father is an SOB and his mother only writes once in a blue moon on the QT. He’s a good kid and deserves better.

 By the time you get this letter, I’ll probably be a father again. How I wish I could be with you. My heart breaks when I think of not being able to hold our dear new baby.  Oh Rosie, we built such a wonderful life together in such a short time. I promise I will fight hard to come home again to be in your arms again.

 I love you sweetheart. Kiss Gina for me. And give Donna a hug, too.

 Loving you forever, your Angelo

Rosalie put Angelo’s letter down and sighed. Because there were weeks between sending and receiving letters, her beloved Angelo might be facing an impending battle somewhere in the South Pacific. Rosalie prayed for his safety and vowed she would search the newspapers for any news about his division. She decided to keep a scrapbook about the war in the South Pacific, so she could remain close to him.

Rosalie’s due date came and went, and she felt as big as a whale and as hot as a furnace. She wished she could write to Angelo and tell him he needed to pass out cigars again, but this baby decided he wanted to be close to his mother for a few more days. With Angelo away, she needed to name the baby. She chose to honor the two bravest people in her life. If the baby happened to be a girl her name would be Josie, and if a boy Angelo.

Chapter 15

 Lacrosse, Wisconsin – August—Two days after she received Angelo’s most recent letter, she received another. Getting two letters so close together surprised Rosalie.

July, 1942

 My dearest Rosie,

By the time you get this letter, what I’m telling you will be long over, but I wanted to write and assure you I am well. I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to write again, so I’m taking this quiet moment to tell you I love you so much.

I can’t say anything about where I am. But I can tell you soon I’ll be on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. Everybody is a little jumpy, wondering what will be in store for us once we land on the beach.  Hopefully, the Japs got wind of our intent to land and will turn tail and run home.  (Ha,ha)

 I keep a picture of you and Gina close to my heart – right under my dog tags. The thought of getting back to your loving arms and our sweet little daughter keeps me going.

 Don’t worry about me, sweetie. I’ll be okay, and I’ll come out of this first encounter just fine. Tell Ma I’m keeping my head down.

 Love, Angelo

Rosie folded the letter and realized Angelo probably experienced his first taste of battle. Reading between the lines she understood he was scared. Fear took a hold of her too. She wiped away one tear rolling down her cheek.

After Rosalie finished her prayer for her husband, Donna blew threw the back door.

“Donna! You’re home so early! What happened?

Donna never hid her feelings. “Yeah.” Her snarl communicated something big.  Clearly she got ticked about something. “I’m sorry Rosie, I didn’t mean to take my frustrations out on you.”

“Tell me why you’re so upset. I get the lemonade.”

Donna plopped down on the kitchen chair across the table from where Rosie sat waiting for her explanation. “I quit my job.”

 

Rosie’s face dropped. She counted on Donna’s rent to make the house payment. “Why? I thought you liked your job.”

“I couldn’t take Bates any more. He is a bastard in the first degree.”

“But Donna, you’re a skillful secretary! What are you going to do now?”

Donna took a long swig of her lemonade and wished for a shot of vodka. “I went over to Autolite and got an assembly job. They’re paying women almost as much as the men!”

Rosalie didn’t understand. “But why would you want a factory job especially after you just got promoted? I thought you liked secretarial work.”

“The work is fine. But it’s HIM. He’s stupid! He’s gross, and I’m done!” Donna took another long sip of her drink. She behaved like she couldn’t quench the fire burning in her. “Everybody is contributing to the war effort except me. Even you, Rosie. You cook around rationing; you tend a victory garden; you write countless letters to your brothers, Josie, Angelo, and his friend Bobby. And what do I do? Nothing. Well, I’m changing that baby. I got on board today. Besides, I’ll make twice as much on an assembly line as I do in the office. The money will really help us.”

“You should think of more than just the money, Donna. Working in a factory is hot and dirty. Are you sure you can take that?”

“The office is hot too, Rosie.” Donna said, took another swig of her lemonade and then continued, “And I won’t need to put up with Bates groping me.

“He grabbed you?”

“Yes. He came around the back of me and grabbed both of my breasts. I turned around and hit him with a right cross. And then he threatened to fire me. I said, ‘I’ll save you the trouble! I quit!’ Then I stormed out of the office slamming the door behind me.”

“I certainly understand why you don’t want to go back there. But the factory? Really? You?”

“Working in the factory is good. I won’t worry about wearing fancy clothes or caring whether my nylon stocking seams are straight.” She plunked a large bag on the table. “All I need to do is wear this.” Donna stood up and pulled out a navy blue pair of baggy coveralls. “Aren’t these all the rage?” Donna laughed through her tears.

“Such a shame your new outfit will hide all your curves, but if you wear that ugly outfit, I got just the thing to complete your ensemble.”  Rosalie ran into the bedroom and returned with a red bandanna. She tied the scarf around Donna’s beautiful blond hair. “There. Now you look just like Rosie the Riveter!”

Donna laughed. “You’re so good to me!” She pranced around the kitchen with the bandanna on her head, holding the coveralls full length down her body. “I’m ready for the factory runway, don’t you think?”

“You’ll be a smash!”

The two friends laughed until their sides ached. Donna put down her “uniform” and said, “I’ll only be as ugly as the next girl, but what the hell. All the good-looking men are in the service anyhow, and the worst of the summer is almost over. Bates the Octopus can go to hell. What’s done is done. I start on Monday.”

“Well, then, let’s party!” Rosalie smiled.

“Yeah, I want to get a tan on the beach and get my nails done and . . .” she stopped in mid-sentence. “Well, maybe we won’t go to the beach; you probably don’t own a maternity swimsuit, do you?”

Rosalie said with a straight face, “No I don’t. Godske Tent Company stopped making them due to war production.”

Both girls laughed even harder than before. Laughter got them through whatever came their way.

 

 

Happy Saturday?

One thing I struggle with since I “retired,” is realizing what day it is. With every day presenting itself primarily the same without a work schedule, Ken and I ask each other “What day is it?”

Years ago I would have thought such a question was ridiculous. But unscheduled time is something a person must absorb a little at a time. If a person doesn’t watch out, they will become lazy and never accomplish anything. Working outside the home provides a ready-made schedule. When you’re at home, the schedule is up to you. I’ve never been a buttoned-up scheduler, so I struggle with the concept. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact my time is my own. I can be as productive or as laid-back as I want. But that doesn’t say I’ll accomplish the goal on the right day of the week.

My computer and phone keep me on the correct date, but neither tell me what day of the week it is. I guess that’s why we have calendars–huh? Just match up the date to an old fashioned paper calendar and a retired person will stay on the right day.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 9

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – April—Angelo always handled the family finances, but now the responsibility of paying bills and keeping a checkbook balanced fell on Rosalie. She also assumed the sole responsibility for Gina and would face giving birth to another baby without her husband.

In April 1942, the government set up a program so no American would go hungry during the course of the war. The rationing program provided a booklet of stamps which gave the bearer the right to purchase certain foods. Rosalie quickly realized being in a war meant daily sacrifice for everyone. People living “in the lower 48 states” couldn’t escape the fact the United States was at war. In the post office posters released by the Office of War Information said, “Do with less, so they’ll get enough.” Another pleaded, “Be patriotic, sign your country’s pledge to save the food. Rosalie’s pregnant body and empty bed was her personal reminder of her personal sacrifice.

Almost overnight basic stables disappeared from the grocer store shelves. Sugar and coffee were the first items to go. Rosalie’s favorite Coca-Cola also vanished. Rosalie wondered how she could face another nauseating pregnancy without an ice-cold Coke to settle her stomach.

One afternoon Rosalie heard a knock at the back door while Gina was napping. She couldn’t imagine who would be calling her at this time of day. When she opened the door, Donna Jean stood smiling. “Donna, what on earth are you doing here? Aren’t you working today?”

“I took the day off to go to the school to sign up for the rationing program. I thought you might like to go with me. Are you well enough to go today?”

“Actually, I’m doing fine. You must be a mind reader.  I didn’t want to go alone.”

“Let’s go together. We’ll make the excursion fun.” Donna smiled.

“Right after Gina wakes up. She’s a holy terror if she doesn’t get her beauty sleep.” Rosalie laughed. “Come on in and share a cup of tea with me.”

“Sure.” Donna slipped into the kitchen and sat down. For the next thirty minutes the girls enjoyed each other’s company.

Gina woke up in a happy mood. When Rosalie brought her into the kitchen on her hip, the little girl reached for Donna.

Donna’s heart swelled. “Come here to your Auntie Donna.”

The baby cooed and giggled.

Rosalie looked at the two of them with a smile. “You know, you are the only one beside her Papa she goes to.”

“She probably knows I’d let her get away with murder.”

“Probably.” Rosalie laughed. “We’d better get going. I think the school is only open until three o’clock.”

Donna rose with the baby and followed Rosalie out to the garage. She pulled the baby stroller and Donna put the baby in the seat. The two girls jabbered on as they walked the four city blocks to the school to sign up for the program. When they arrived, they waited in line over an hour to register. Forms needed to be completed which required their name and family size, so people would receive the proper war ration coupon book.

Donna studied her coupon book as she left the school. “Boy, this really makes everything real, doesn’t it?”

Rosalie answered quietly. “Yeah.”

“I’m sorry, Rosie. Sometimes my mouth and brain don’t work together. With Angelo gone, you already realize how real the war is. I’m so sorry sweetie.”

“Oh, Donna. Don’t worry.  Angelo is coming home after boot camp in a few weeks and that’s what I’m focused on. I’m going to think positive from now on. No more nervous Nellie.”

“That’s the spirit.” Donna said. “I need to tell you something?”

“What?”

“I think you’re the bravest person in the world, Rosie. I would be scared to death to give birth without my husband standing beside me.”

Rosalie smiled. “I think the bravest person we both love is Josie.”

Donna put her hand on Rosie’s as they pushed the stroller together. “Yeah, you’re right. But your tops in my book. Lots of people don’t really approve of my choices, but you can always depend on me. You just ask, and I’ll do whatever you need.”

“You’re so sweet, Donna. Thank you.” Rosie said with a warm smile.

Rosie offered Donna a cool glass of ice water when they got back to the house. They examined their coupon books at the kitchen table. Different colored stamps stood for different types of food. Each stamp specified a certain number of points and an expiration date. A “Red Stamp” coupon allowed the purchase of all meats, butter, fat, and oils, and with some exceptions, cheese. A “Blue Stamp” covered canned, bottled, and frozen fruits and vegetables, plus juices, dried beans, and processed foods like soups, baby food, and ketchup.”

“This will take some getting used to.” Donna said.

“Yeah, but the program makes sense. Food rationing will make sure people don’t go hungry. No one can hoard food.” She sipped her water. “Now that spring is here, I want to plant a victory garden to supplement the rationing stamps.”

“That’s brave of you. My experience with farming is very limited.”

“Oh Donna, you’re so funny. A victory garden is not farming, silly, it’s gardening.” Rosalie said. “You want to help me? We can grow all kinds of fresh vegetables and then can them in the fall.”

“Are you trying to domestic me, sweetie?” Donna said with a grin.

Rosie grinned back. “One can try.”

“I’ll help, but you might not want my brown thumb around.” Donna took a sip of her water and changed the subject. “When we stood in line at the school, I spied a flyer on the bulletin board advertising a training session to learn how to shop wiser, conserve food, and plan nutritious meals. Would you like to go?”

“Sure. I can always learn new things.” Rosie said absentmindedly. Then she turned to Donna and said, “I want you to think about something.”

“What’s that?” Donna said.

“Would you consider moving in with me after Angelo ships out?”

Donna never expected a question like that. “Are you serious?”

“The whole upstairs could serve as an apartment. There’s a bedroom with a huge closet and another room you can use as your private living room.”

“Why would you want me around?”

“I can’t think of any other person I would like to live with. We’d both be safer together, and to be totally honest, I’m afraid I might lose the house because Angelo’s marine wages are nowhere near what he made at the factory. I can’t work because of this new baby coming–at least not for the foreseeable future. And–,”

Donna interrupted. “I’m honored you want me to live with you. My lease is up in July, so I can come then.”

Rosalie got up and hugged Donna. “You are the best friend, ever.”

Donna hugged her back. “That goes both way, Rosie.”

Chapter 10

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June—Angelo came home unannounced before he needed to ship out for two years. He dressed in the Marine service uniform of green trousers with khaki web belt, short-sleeve button-up shirt, garrison and black shoes.  The marines shaved off his beautiful black curls along with his mustache. He peered through the back window to catch a glimpse of Rosalie before he knocked on the door. He saw her feeding Gina in her high chair, Angelo smiled and knocked for a second time.

She got up, wiped her hands on a dishrag, and opened the door. “Can I help you?”

The soldier smiled.

Rosalie stared at the stranger’s eyes before her face lit up.  “Angelo! You’re home!” She flew into his waiting arms.

“I’m home. I’m home.” He whispered as he held her baby-swollen body and kissed her. “Oh, Rosie. I missed you so much. Look at you!”

“Look at me-Look at YOU! They turned you into a grunt!” She laughed.

“You said it!”

She kissed him again and again. “Are you hungry?”

“You are such a good Italian girl.” He laughed.

The couple went into the kitchen hand in hand. Angelo moved toward Gina and tried to pick her up, but she screamed and kicked at him.

“What’s wrong?”

“She doesn’t remember you, Angelo. You look so different from when you left. Just give her a little time.” Rosalie said.

“She doesn’t remember me? I don’t believe it.”

“Babies sense of time is very different than ours.”

Rosalie thought ‘that’s what you get for leaving us.’ Instead she said, “Don’t worry. She’ll warm up to you.”

Angelo sat at the kitchen table disheartened. He waited six months to be with his family again and now his little girl, the apple of his soul, didn’t want to sit on his lap.

Rosalie picked up the baby. “Come here, sweet girl. This is Daddy. He loves you very much. You remember Daddy.” Rosie tried to put Gina in Angelo’s lap and again Gina screamed and clung to her mother. “I’m so sorry, Angelo.”

“I can’t believe she doesn’t remember me.” Angelo wanted to cry.

“A lot changed since you left us.” Rosie tried to change the subject. “Why don’t you call your parents and invite them over for tea and cannoli?”

“Sure.” Angelo picked up the phone and called his parents.

*****

Three days after Angelo’s return, Gina ran into the living room and eyed him from across the room. She stood on the fringe of the carpet. Gina appeared to be wondering where this stranger fit into her life.

Angelo put his arms out and kept his voice soft.  “Come to Daddy, sweetie.” Much to his surprise, Gina moved toward him. “Da-da?”

Angelo cried, “Yes. Da-da.” He picked her up and hugged her gently.

She put her chubby little arms around his hard body and cuddled into him.

Angelo held her close. “My sweet little Angelina. I love you so much.”

Gina gently slapped his face and smiled. “Da-da.”

Angelo’s heart soared. He kissed the top of her head as he prayed, “God please, no matter what happens, please let her remember me.”

He went to find Rosalie.  “Rosie! She finally remembers me!”

A slice of a smile crossed Rosalie’s face. “I’m happy for you, Angelo. I knew she would.”

*****

The week with Angelo being at home went way too fast. The day before he left, Rosalie approached him holding a large yellow envelope. Her stern face matched her determined eyes. Angelo never witnessed such seriousness in her before.

She handed him the envelope.” Angelo, I need you to sign some papers.”

“What papers?”

“Some legal papers. I learned wives with husbands in the service, especially a husband going off to war need to take legal steps before he leaves.” Rosie cleared her throat as her eyes filled with tears.

Angelo stared at her. “I’ll sign whatever you need, sweetheart.” He released the metal closure and pulled out the legal documents. The envelope contained a last will and testament, a power of attorney, and a deed to the house. “Geez, Rosie, is this really necessary?”

“Yes.” Her voice quivered. “Please sign the dang papers, Angelo. I must do this because of your choice to avenge Tony.” Rosalie’s true feelings rolled over her like a snowball going down a steep hill. “I don’t want to be alone, but I must. I don’t want to give birth alone, but I must. Just sign the GD papers, Angelo!” She took a deep breath pushing down the hidden implication of the documents.

Angelo signed the papers while Rosalie stood like a sentry next to him. Then he handed them back to her.

She said in a flat voice. “Thank you.” Without looking at the death documents, she slipped them into the envelope.

Angelo stood up and embraced her. “I realize my decision has made our lives harder, but I want you to realize I’m proud you’re taking steps to prepare for what might come.” He tipped her chin and placed a tender kiss on her lips. “I also want you to understand I will crawl on my belly for a thousand miles to come back home to you.  If you need these documents someday, well–” His voice cracked. “I love you Rosie. You’re the only girl for me.” He avoided her eyes, dropped his embrace, and headed for the backyard. He pulled a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket. He took a long drag before his eyes moistened. Rosie thinks I’m not coming home. Oh my God, what did I do?

*****

After the document encounter, Rosalie relaxed and cherished the little time left with Angelo. She attempted to remember his scent, his touch, and his kisses. They made love every night and fell asleep entwined. She woke during the night and listened to him breath. She stared at him sleeping peacefully and wondered what he would endure for the next two years. She prayed for his safe return home and put her head on his chest to listen to his heartbeat.  She went to sleep and dreamed the Marines didn’t want him after all.

Angelo’s mother came over way too often during Angelo’s one short week of leave. Rosalie understood her wanting to spend a lot of time with Angelo before he left, especially after losing Tony at Pearl Harbor. Angelo’s father vowed to protect Rosie. Gina, and the new baby; no one said goodbye. The word “goodbye” meant a finality nobody could face.

*****

 Rosie insisted she accompany Angelo to Chicago on a bus. She wanted to be with her husband as long as time would permit. Only God knew when he would be home again. She concentrated on saying “when” instead of “if.”

Angelo welcomed Rosalie’s company for the long bus ride to Chicago.  He needed to hold her as long as possible. He cradled her as she laid her head on his strong shoulder. Sitting so close together reminded him of their high school dating days when they sat in the car for hours watching the “submarine races” on the river. How did two years pass so quickly? High school seemed a lifetime ago.

As the bus roamed through one small town after another, Rosie and Angelo talked about everyday things– what she planned to do to keep busy, about names for the new baby, and how they imagined Gina might behave once the baby came. Rosie told him Donna would be moving into the house in July to help with the expenses and the new baby. Even though Angelo didn’t approve of Donna’s party girl reputation, he relaxed because she offered to stay with Rosie.

Rosie jabbered on about how she planned to can the vegetables growing in her victory garden and how her father helped her keep the plants healthy to make sure of a good harvest. Angelo recalled funny stories about different guys in his basic training group, and what life was like in a barracks full of guys from around the country. They avoided speaking about the war.

Rosalie walked Angelo to the gate where he boarded the airplane to fly to San Francisco. She kept her eyes fixed on him as Angelo walked to the plane across the tarmac. She held her breath as he walked up the ladder and disappeared into the belly of the plane. Rosie lost the battle of keeping her tears away. She waved until the plane taxied away and then let her tears of their unknown future roll down her cheeks. She boarded the bus which would take her back to Lacrosse and stared out the window for much of the trip. Her Angelo was headed for war against a ferocious enemy.

As Rosalie headed home, Angelo fastened his seat belt waiting for the plane to lift off for San Francisco. Through the small plane porthole, he prayed. “Oh God, please take care of her while I’m gone. Please give her an easy time when the baby comes. Please be with her always. I love her so much.”

 

 

Deciding What’s First

When I went to work outside the home, I always put the most demanding or disgusting chore I had to accomplish as the first thing I’d tackle. I figured I was strongest in the morning after I had my coffee and breakfast, but since I’ve been working at home, I forgot that discipline.

On Monday, I reinstated that technique by filing the letter I received from the city attorney to allow the city the required easement for my garage construction. I’ve never been comfortable with the courthouse and city hall environments, so I had put off this necessary evil for almost a month. A call from the attorney kicked me in the butt and I got this chore done–first thing. After I completed this task, I took the day off.

Tuesday was dreary around here. The temperatures didn’t climb anywhere near 70 degrees and the skies remained gray. I don’t do well with gray skies, so I kept the curtains drawn and painted for most of the day. I had no energy for a hard task today.

Wednesday’s first chore was to take out the garbage because we’re on a weekly pickup schedule for that day. Who wants filled bags of trash taking up space, right? So, I put that chore first.

Today I’m writing my first blog from my new computer. I’ve been dragging my feet because experience has shown starting from ground zero never goes well. But I need practice to get used to the smaller keyboard and screen. I also wanted to  download “Chrome” because I prefer that browser to Explorer. Mission accomplished. The next important task was to move a few files  from the old computer to the new one so I had what I needed to complete my blog post. As you can see, I’m up to speed for today.

What’s the moral in this dissertation? I’m encouraging you to put your hardest task of the day at the time of day when you’re strongest. For me, it’s first thing in the morning. For you, it might be later in the day. Figure it out, and I guarantee you will enjoy a satisfying day all day long.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 5

Camp Young, Arizona–February—Josie said goodbye to her parents in the kitchen at breakfast the day she left for nurse’s training. She couldn’t bear to see them crying at the train station, so she asked Rosalie, Donna, and Mary to take her to meet the train for Minneapolis. Once in the city, she would take a bus to the airport. She found the gate with little trouble and waited for her flight to be announced.

As she climbed the stairs from the tarmac to board the plane, Josie’s chest tightened. She never flew before and the whole idea of flight scared her. She preferred her feet stay on the ground.

Her travel lasted all day. The pilot set the plane down in Kansas City and then again in Denver to refuel.  As the plane took off and landed, Josie compared the sensation she experienced to the ups and down with her favorite roller coaster at the country fair. When the trip ended in Phoenix, she understood why Johnny became a pilot.

Before Josie disembarked the plane in Arizona, the captain announced the current temperature to be 101 degrees. When the attendant opened the door, a blast of hot dry air took Josie’s breath away. She thought she just walked into a blast furnace as she descended the steps of the plane to make her way across the tarmac and into the airport. She wondered how any place could be so hot in February.

She boarded a bus which would take her to Camp Young, Arizona–the training center where she would spend the next four weeks. She and the other recruits were dropped at a guard house where they needed to sign in. Jeeps brought the girls to headquarters. On the way they got a good look at the base which consisted of an odd collection of old buildings and endless rows of tents

.A male officer welcomed the bus load of women to Camp Young and waved them to a table where  a female officer handed everyone a uniform, a pair of heavy leather boots, a steel helmet, and a canteen belt.

Next they received a tent assignment. The tent she was assigned to stood on a wooden platform. Four cots and orange crates to store their personal items would serve as home for the duration of their training. The surroundings reminded Josie of a similar tent she encountered at Girl Scout Camp when she was eleven years old. Her three bunk mates were already storing their gear.

Josie introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Josie Schneider from Wisconsin.”

A pretty blond shook Josie’s hand.  “Come on in, Josie. It’s nice to meet you, Josie; I ‘m Theresa from California.”

A redhead continued the introductions. “I’m Maggie from Maine.”

Finally the tallest girl with the darkest hair Josie ever saw came forward. “And last but never least, my name is Joan. I’m from the great state of Texas. I bet you never experienced the desert in February, did you sugar?”

Josie laughed and played along. “You’ve got me, Tex. This Yankee never even dreamed February anywhere was this hot.”

Joan laughed with her. “Don’t worry sugar, You’ll get used to it and eventually you’ll wonder why you weren’t born here. I heard snow is highly over rated.”

Josie laughed. “I understand we’re to report back to headquarters as soon as we’re settled. Then we’ll have supper in the mess hall at 1700 hours.” She looked right at Joan. “That’s five o’clock, Tex.”

Joan put her arm around Josie. “Well, bless your heart. I guess we’d better git a wiggle on then. Come on girls. Snowball here seems to have become our fearless leader.”

Headquarters overflowed as two hundred nurses filed in. A hush fell over the female chatter when the male commanding officer stepped up to a podium. “Welcome to Camp Young, ladies. I’m Major Henderson. While you are here, it is the army’s intent to put you through drills and other activities you never imaged. This training is tough but necessary. It is our job to prepare you for some of the experiences you may encounter in the field. At this time, we are not aware where your orders will take you; our job as training officers is to prepare you for combat situations. We’ll begin tomorrow at “0600.”  Your instructors are responsible to train you properly. But before we begin to whip you into shape, we’re providing some good chow tonight. Enjoy it. After tonight, you will be eating MRE’s and other field delicacies. Don’t be late. Dismissed!” The major left the building and the nurse’s chatter resumed.

“What the heck are MRE’s?” Theresa asked.

Joan answered. “It’s army talk for meals ready to eat.”

“Yum.” Maggie said.

Josie chimed in. “Yum, indeed.”

*****

When the women reported for duty at  six o’clock the next morning, Josie realized her extensive Girl Scouting experience, even survival training in the woods, didn’t prepare her for Camp Young.

Their first assignment was to take a tent down, move it 10 kilometers and then put it back up again to prepare them for moving a field hospital. They were instructed on the measures they needed to take to keep equipment sterile in the most adverse conditions.  After lunch, they experienced how to handle handle poisonous snakes and scorpions, not to mention fire ants and other poisonous insects.

Joan, Maggie, Theresa, and Josie climbed into their cots after an exhausting day.

Maggie sighed. “I suppose I’ll dream of snakes and other creepy crawlies tonight.”

Theresa added. “I think I found muscles my body never used before.” She paused. “Hey Tex, I thought the desert got cold after the sun went down.”

“Who told you that, chickadee?”

“I think I read it somewhere.”

Joan quipped. “I wouldn’t go back to that library again if I were you. Let’s just shut up and get some shut-eye. God knows what they’ve got cooked up for us tomorrow.”

Josie had the last word. “For once we agree, Tex. Pleasant dreams.”

*****

For the first week of her stay at Camp Young, Josie wondered if she had made a mistake by enlisting. Arriving from a cold climate made the dry heat harder on her than some of the other women–especially Tex. But day by day Josie adapted. She learned how keep her body hydrated to prevent fainting or suffering sun stroke. She learned to work steady and pace herself to conserve her energy. She complained about the heat but she wouldn’t let a simple thing like weather defeat her.

Every morning began at 5 a.m.  The nurses reported to the exercise yard for calisthenics and weight lifting before chow. After breakfast, they hiked twenty-miles in fatigues, steel helmets, and combat boots, carrying thirty-pound backpacks, mess kits, and gas masks. After lunch, they attended classes on how to camouflage themselves to blend into their environments. Other classes taught them how to improvise when the didn’t have normal equipment to do their jobs like making a bed pan from a newspaper and stretchers from trousers. They even learned how to chlorinate water.

Some of the training required they breathed mustard gas and other lethal chemicals in order to identify them. They even crawled on their bellies over seventy-five feet through a tear-gas chamber and learned how to extinguish incendiary bombs.

One of the final tests required the nurses to maneuver through a “no man’s land” of trenches and barbed wire. Charges of dynamite exploded on either side of the trench, while machine gun bullets zinged a few inches over their heads. The nurses became skilled at triage techniques for incoming wounded soldiers.

Everything they endured at Camp Young served a purpose. The army brass wanted to ensure the girls got tough enough to face the hardships they would experience after they deployed.

The four short weeks at Camp Young simulated the hell the women would experience in field hospitals. The army did a good job preparing them physically; however, no program could prepare them for the sights, sounds, and putrid odors of battle and death. They would learn those elements on the job.

Chapter 6

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—March—The last time Rosalie felt sick in the morning, she turned out to be pregnant, and today she started her day in the bathroom vomiting. She didn’t want to think she might be pregnant again, especially with Angelo gone. How would she face a birth alone when Angelina’s birth left her so depleted? She missed one period already but attributed it to the stressful goodbye she said to Angelo over six weeks ago. When she missed her second period, her fears proved to be right.

After another week went by, and Rosalie found herself sitting in Dr. Ward’s office again. When the nurse called her name, Rosalie took a deep breath and braced herself for the news she expected to get.

The doctor did a pelvic exam and said, “Well, Rosie,  Gina will be a big sister about six months from now.”

“Are you sure doctor?”

“Quite sure, my dear.”

Rosie’s eyes welled up in tears. “How am I going to do this?”

The doctor helped her sit up on the examining table. “Don’t cry, Rosalie. Everyone who loves you will help you get through this pregnancy. Don’t worry about a thing.”

“But Gina’s birth was so hard last time, doctor. It took me months to recover, and Angelo helped so much. Now he’s gone and I have Gina to care for as well as a new child..”

The doctor raised his eyebrows. “Your husband enlisted?” ”

Rosie nodded. The doctor continued. “You must really miss him, but everyday women come in here and must face having a baby without their husband by their sides.”

“I suppose.” Rosalie said in a low tone. “But I don’t want to go through a birth without Angelo.”

The doctor took her hand. “I’m afraid you will must.  I will take good care of your health. You’re in a safe place, and you’ll be okay. When times seem too hard to go on, think about the women around the world who are having their babies in jungles and bombed out buildings. At least your baby will be born in a clean, safe hospital.”

“I must sound like a baby. I never thought about that.” Rosalie hung her head.

“You’ll be fine, Rosalie. Mark my words.”

Rosalie dressed and left the doctor’s office ashamed she showed the doctor her self-pity, but she still stung from Angelo’s decision to enlist. Now she needed to tell him she was pregnant again through a letter.

After Gina went to bed that evening, Rosalie wrote to her husband.

March, 1942

 My dearest sweetheart,

 Everything at home is fine. I do miss you so much, Angelo, I find my body actually aches for your touch. Some nights I dream your arms are wrapped around me, and you are whispering secrets into my ear. Then I wake and must realize you still are away.

 I’m writing to tell you I’m pregnant. That’s right, sweetheart, we’re having another baby. I went to the doctor today to confirm my fears. The baby will come in August. 

 I’m looking forward to you returning home after boot camp, and I pray everyday your drill sergeant won’t kill you before then.

 Sending all  my love, Rosie,

 

 

In With the New

After looking at my new computer for almost a month, I got brave yesterday and plugged the cord into the electrical outlet. Completing the set-up was pretty easy, as the machine walked the user through simple commands. But that was all that was easy.

What I never anticipated a smaller keyboard would drive me nuts. The new computer doesn’t have a 10-key layout so my hands automatically went to the wrong keys. I never expected this fact when I purchased the machine.

I did expect the Office Suite of programs would be challenging, and boy, where they! I haven’t upgraded those programs since version 2003, which means I’ve been working on the old version for over ten years. I hoped I’d pick up the ins and outs of the updated programs like I have programs in the past. (So far, I’ve taught myself all the programs I’ve ever used.) The new programs proved I’m not so smart. EVERYTHING changed. To give you an idea–it took me several minutes of searching to open a new document!  Between the smaller keyboard and the changes in the program, I was spent about ten minutes to write a new paragraph. I understood going any further would require a pile of patience.

I think a person gets old when he/she doesn’t want to learn about new technology. So far, I’ve been pretty good at staying young. But this upgrade might be my undoing. And yes, I’m posting to my blog on my old, comfortable laptop that has been used so much “n” and “c” are completely worn off.  After yesterday, I’m not ready to retire her any time soon.

After my baptism, I promised myself I will boot up the new beauty once a day and spend at least ten minutes of frustration while I absorb Windows 10 and Office 2013. Wish me luck. I bet you can’t wait until I upgrade my phone!

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5

Chapter 1

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-January—Tony’s death plunged Angelo into a deep depression. He found happiness in nothing–even the funny antics of his precious toddler Gina didn’t bring smiles to his face. He stayed distant. He put himself in a place where the girls in his life couldn’t go.

Rosalie remained patient as Angelo went through his grieving. She made his favorite meals and provided anything else that might bring him a smile. Angelo appreciated her efforts, but he couldn’t shake the emptiness in his heart.

One day Sunday afternoon he said, “Rosie, sweetheart?”

“Yes Angelo.”

“You understand I love you, more than my own life, don’t you?”

“What a silly thing to say. Of course I know.”

“Since Tony’s death, I’m–

She filled in his sentence, “You’re lost.”

“Yeah. I can’t stop thinking about him and everyone else in my life. I need to do something to avenge his death.”

His words puzzled Rosalie. “And that is?”

“I’m going to join up. Most of the guys my age at the shop are enlisting.”

Rosalie couldn’t believe what he just said. She asked him to repeat himself.

“I’m going to join the marines.”

“But, sweetheart,” she said with a gentle voice, “Most guys your age are supporting a wife and a baby girl.”

“Rosie, I feel useless.”

“Useless! Whatever do you mean? You put a roof over our heads and food on the table. With Tony gone your parents will need you more too. Did you think about any of us? How can you enlist and leave us?” Rosalie’s voice rose higher.

Angelo said in a soft voice. “I talked to my Pa about how I feel.”

“And what did he say?”

“He said the final decision is mine, but he wants me to stay home.”

Rosalie’s stiffened. “Good. Your father is a smart man. You should listen.”

“Pa also said he understood why I want to fight the Japs for Tony.”

Rosalie didn’t believe him. “This makes no sense. I don’t believe your father would ever say such a thing.”

“I realize accepting this decision is hard, Rosie. But sooner or later they’ll draft me anyway, and I want to do this on my own terms.”

Rosalie folded her arms across her chest and stared at Angelo directly into his eyes. Her tone became stern. “Men with children are not being drafted.”

“This is a huge war, sweetheart. We’re not only fighting the Japs, in the South Pacific, but we’re fighting the Krauts in Europe, too. The military will eventually draft me. They need me.”

“I need you!” Rosalie screamed. “Doesn’t that count for anything?” She ran to the bedroom and threw herself on the bed.

Angelo followed her and took her in his arms. “I love you, Rosie. I don’t want leave, but don’t you understand? I need to do this. I can’t hide behind your skirt.”

“No! I don’t understand!” Angry tears covered her face.  “You’re being selfish and irrational.”

He said softly. “Please try to understand. I don’t want to go to war with you hating me, but I must to do my part.”

“Just because Tony died doesn’t mean you need to go off to war and die too. Angelo, think! I can’t live without you, and Gina needs her Daddy!”

He took her in his arms and she sobbed into his chest. “Don’t do this, please!”

*****

A month later Angelo left. The whole Armani and Lombardo clans came to Rosalie’s house to send him off. Josie and Donna and a few friends from the Autolite plant came too. Rosalie’s friends imagined how hard Angelo’s departure must be for her. With so many people in the house, Gina kept putting her arms up for her Daddy to hold her; somehow she sensed her father leaving. Angelo held the toddler close while he tried to visit with everyone who came to wish him well.

The bus picked up Angelo up at one o’clock in the afternoon; Rosalie prayed they wouldn’t come, but the damn vehicle showed up right on time. She wished everyone would go away, so she could spend the last minutes with her husband alone.

The driver honked the horn summoning Angelo’s departure. He picked up his duffle bag and shouted goodbye to his family and friends. Rosalie walked him to the back door and kissed him long and hard. He held her so close he almost squeezed her breath away. Rosie’s tears flowed freely. How can I say goodbye? We’ve been together for so many years, but we’ve only been married for two. How will I tell Gina her Daddy is off to war and may never come home again?

Rosalie looked up at him. “I love you so much Angelo. I don’t agree with you, but I love you. Please take care of yourself.”

“I will sweetheart.” He kissed her again. “I’ll write everyday.”

The bus horn honked again. Angelo let go of Rosalie, opened the door, and ran to the bus. He took one last, long look back at the home and the people he loved. He waved to everyone with a tearful smile.

Rosalie turned around to find her Papa at the top of the stairs. He held his arms out to her. She ran to him and sobbed into his chest.

“Oh, Papa, this is so hard.”

“Oh bambina.” Eduardo’s heart broke as he witnessed his little girl suffer such a huge loss. “Oh honey, you will be okay. Papa is here.” He thought saying goodbye to his sons going off to war was easier than watching the heartbreak of his little girl. His sons volunteered.  Rosalie did not.

Rosalie collapsed in a kitchen chair. A systemic numbness ran through her body. Her world just collapsed. Josie and Donna sat with her in silence. Eduardo went into the living room and escorted all of the other guests out the front door.

After Josie and Donna hugged Rosalie and assured her they would stay close, a crushing stillness filled the room. Eduardo approached his daughter who still sat in the kitchen with dead eyes.

“Rosalie?”

Rosalie let out a deep sigh. “Yes, Papa.”

“I want you to remember Mama and I are right down the street, and we will help you. All of the Armani’s are also with you.”

“Yes, Papa. I know.” She forced a smile.

Eduardo kissed the top of her head and left. He realized at that moment some hurts even a father couldn’t fix.

With everyone gone, Rosalie sobbed. Her body already ached for her husband.

Gina toddled to her mother’s side and pulled on Rosalie’s skirt. “Mama cry?

She picked up her daughter and held her close. “Yes, Mama is sad. But I’ll be okay.” Then she said whispered, “Somehow.”

Gina put her thumb in her mouth and rested her head on her mother’s shoulder. Rosalie walked to the nursery and placed Gina in the crib covering her with her favorite blanket. Rosalie stared at the child’s innocence and realized she now would do the job of two parents. Without Angelo, she needed to stay strong and provide for her daughter.

Rosalie slipped back into her bedroom and embraced Angelo’s pillow trying to memorize his scent before it would fade away into nothingness. She wondered how she would ever fall asleep without being in his arms.

Chapter 2

Paris, France–January 1942—Rations in Paris became critically low, and Marta often went to bed hungry. She walked through her life everyday in a daze. Pierre learned Emma whereabouts and shared the news with Marta.  In the French prison she couldn’t receive anything from the outside.–no letters, no visitors, and no packages. Marta couldn’t imagine how Emma would survive confinement in a small cell. She told herself Emma was strong but even her spirit would break with enough abuse.

One afternoon when she picked up the mail, Marta found a letter in her box written from her father.

Jan. 15, 1942

My dear Marta,

I regret I got angry with you for staying in Paris with Emma. A young girl should decide her own life and enjoy a chance to explore a little before settling down in the humdrum of adulthood. I am sorry, Marta.

In retrospect, you are probably safer in France than you would be in Germany. I fear our Fuhrer made a terrible decision by sending us into Russia and declaring war on the United States. Our ranks will be stretched to thin.

When all three million of us boldly marched into Stalingrad six months ago, we anticipated the campaign would be over in six months. We wanted to be victorious before winter, but our calculations did not come to pass. We are fighting an awesome beast, plus the weather is colder here than anywhere on earth. I fear I will never leave Russia alive. I wanted to fix what went wrong between us before I die.

I want you to understand I always loved you, Marta, as much as I love your mother. Please remember the good times.

Your loving Vater

After Marta read her father’s apology, her eyes filled with tears. The tender times of her childhood flashed through her mind. Her father always championed her desires, but he became unreachable ever since he joined the Nazi party. What really troubled her was knowing her father never would write such a letter unless he found himself sick or injured, even though he never mentioned such a situation in his letter.  His stoic behavior took over when unpleasant events came along in his life. Marta returned the letter to its envelope and said a silent prayer for her estranged father.

 

Morning Exercise

Since I vowed to get back into the habit of blogging each morning, I have been true to myself. The worst thing about putting the laptop on my lap while I sip my first cup of java is wondering what to write about. I’m sure you all are thinking right now . . . I can see you’re stalling!

When I taught writing, one exercise to get going was to sit and write for two minutes. The pen had to stay on the paper and it had to keep moving for that length of time. No stalling. No thinking. Just writing . . . anything. The exercise was to help students see that even though they had nothing to write about at that moment in time, the thoughts came as they scribbled away.

This morning I’m having trouble finding something profound to say. I could tell you Ken woke early and felt well. That would be a good story, right? I could tell you about a video of a mama bear and her three cubs enjoying a wading pool in the backyard of a New Jersey home. I saw that story on the morning news. I could even tell you about being woke up with a hug from my pug.

But I won’t. Promise.

Instead I’m showing you to break the drought of writer’s block you have to write. If you produce crap, so what? Nobody knows but you. And then there’s the waste basket or the delete button.  Two great inventions.

The success comes because you produced something. The good words will come.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

Chapter 4

Minneapolis, Minnesota-May—Josie’s completed a three-year nursing program in two years because she accelerated her program by attending summer classes. In a few days she would receive her diploma and graduate with honors.

Her parents took the train to Minneapolis on the Friday before her graduation. Josie went with Tommy to pick them up at the station, while Anna stayed back to clean the Schneider’s overnight sleeping quarters.

When Josie saw her parents, she realized how much she really missed them. She ran to her father and hugged him in the middle of the station. Such public display of affection appeared to be uncomfortable for him because he received her show of affection with his arms at his side not knowing how to react.

Josie backed away. “I’m so glad you’re both here! Anna and I arranged for you to stay in a dorm room in our building for the night.” Josie announced.

“That’s nice dear,” her mother said, “I’m sure we’ll be very comfortable.”

Her father muttered, “I’m just glad we only need to stay one night.”

“Oh come on, Dad, I told the girls living on that floor they can’t run around in their underwear because you’ll be there.” She giggled.

“Gee, thanks, Josie.” He smiled back at her. “You eliminated the one thing I might enjoy.”

Mrs. Schneider playfully slapped him on the arm.

Josie introduced her parents to Tommy, and the men shook hands. Tommy directed them to his jalopy. Josie’s parents sat crammed in the backseat of the coupe, and Tommy drove straight to the campus.

Josie thanked Tommy for the lift and directed her parents to their room. She unlocked the door and said, “Why don’t you two get settled in, freshen up, and dress for the parent’s dinner while I go upstairs and get changed. The administration planned a special meal for parents who came long distances to attend the graduation ceremony.”

Josie handed her father the keys to the dorm room. “I’ll be back with Anna in thirty minutes, okay?” She smiled from ear to ear.

“We’ll be ready, sweetheart.” Her mother said as she entered the room.

Josie ran up three flights of stairs to her room. When she got to the top, she wasn’t the slightest bit winded. She smiled because she had come so far since the first day when she nearly died lugging her heavy trunk up the staircase.

When Josie opened her door, Anna stood half dressed staring into the closet. “Your parents got in okay?”

“Yeah, I just left them. Dad’s not enamored about staying in the dorm.”

“Don’t worry. He’ll be fine. I think he just wants to give you the raspberries. Anybody can endure a dorm for one night.” Anna giggled.

“I hope you’re not going to the dinner like that!” Josie teased.

Anna gave her a dirty look. “You smarty pants!” She threw a pillow at Josie.

A half an hour later, the two girls emerged from their dorm looking like they stepped out of the pages of “Everyday Woman” magazine. Both dressed in smart little black dresses. Anna wore glass pearls she found at J. C. Penny’s and Josie showed off her slim boyish frame with a silver belt. Anna topped her ensemble with a pill-box hat with sheer netting that covered her eyes.

Josie’s dad whistled when he saw the two girls. “How am I going to escort all of you beautiful ladies? God only gave me two arms!” He joked.

The balmy night allowed students and parents to stroll to the cafeteria without sweaters. Usually this early in May Minnesotans enjoying such warm weather was a rarity.  Josie hoped the good weather would hold for tomorrow when she would “walk the plank” in her cap and gown.

When the girls entered the building, the class president of the Junior class greeted them, gave them name tags, and then escorted their party to an assigned table. Josie didn’t recognize the place where they ate most of their meals for over two years. Round tables covered with gold linen table clothes replaced the long utilitarian banquet tables.  Candles and bouquets of maroon carnations sat on mirrors which reflected a soft, warm light to make the cavernous cafeteria more intimate.

Just after Josie, Anna, and the Schneiders sat down on metal folding chairs, the event began. The chancellor strolled up to the microphone. “Good Evening everyone! Please take your seats and we’ll get started. I want to call up our campus chaplain, Steven Samuelson who will say the blessing.”

A young man in a black suit and white shirt with a chaplain’s collar stepped up to the microphone and asked everyone bow their heads. In a strong, confident voice he prayed. “Thank you Lord, for bringing all of our graduate’s parents safely to our campus. We thank them for producing such a wonderful crop of graduates who will go off into the world very soon to do your work. Thank you for the food we will eat tonight and bless everyone when they travel back home. Amen.”

Everyone repeated the word “Amen.”

As the chaplain left the stage, servers dressed in school colors served plates filled with roasted chicken, baked potato with butter and sour cream and green beans. Bread sat in a basket on the table. The chef made the simple main course appear like it came from a five-star restaurant. When the guests didn’t think they could eat another bite, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies came out of the kitchen for dessert. After dinner, the Scholastic award winners went to the stage to receive engraved plaques.

When the festivities ended, the crowd flooded the grounds as they leisurely strolled back to the student housing buildings. The perfect night ended with a breathtaking sunset; the sky was ablaze in shades of pinks and purples.

Josie lagged behind with her mother as Anna and Mr. Schneider walked ahead of them. Mrs. Schneider put her arm around her daughter’s shoulder. “I’m so proud of you, Josie. You worked hard and gave up so much to graduate.” Her eyes filled with proud tears.

“Mom, I didn’t graduate yet.”

“Oh yes you did. Sure “Pomp and Circumstance” hasn’t played yet, but you’ve graduated already. You grew up and became a beautiful, educated woman. Do you realize you are the first person in our family to complete college? And with honors, no less. I couldn’t be more proud.”

“Oh, Mom.” The two women hugged. “Without you in my corner supporting me all through high school, I would never accomplished this.”

“We both know that isn’t true, Josie, but thank you.” Her mother kissed her cheek, and they caught up to Anna and her father.

Chapter 5

Minneapolis, Minnesota, May—Graduation ceremonies proved to be bittersweet for Josie. The endless essay papers, all-nighters before exams, and the anxiety that went with both had ended. The dances, pantie raids, bonfires, and long talks with Anna in the darkness would cease too. With college completed, adult life would set in. The saddest part about leaving campus and going home would be the separation Josie and Anna knew was inevitable.

Peter drove the family truck to campus to haul all of Josie’s things back home. Mrs. Schneider hugged Anna before she climbed in the truck. “You plan on coming to Lacrosse, Anna. Any time is just fine. You’re always welcome in our home.”

Anna held her tears back. “Thank you” was the only two words she could produce.

Josie waved to her folks as they drove away. She would take the train back to Lacrosse in the afternoon because the truck cab didn’t accommodate four of them.

A few hours later Anna, Josie, and Tommy stood on the platform waiting for the train to arrive; the girls stayed quiet for fear tears would start falling. The reality of not knowing when they would meet again seemed to overwhelm both of them.

Tommy broke their silence. “I think this is your train, Josie.”

Josie nodded. “I sure will miss you, Anna. Promise to write. I want all the gory details about your adventures with Tommy this summer.”

Anna brushed a tear a rolling down her check.  “No problem.” She hugged Josie like they were saying goodbye forever. She whispered, “Come and visit me, okay?”

Josie nodded. “Take my mother up on her invitation, okay? I’ll try to get up north, but everything depends on the job I find.”

Anna nodded as any of her words seemed to be lodged in her throat.

The girls’ show of affection made Tommy uncomfortable. “Come on you two. This is not the end of the world. We only live about one hundred fifty miles from each other. Come on Jos, you gotta go.”

The conductor just sounded the last call to get on board.

Josie broke away from her two friends and disappeared through the last car of the train. She found a window seat before the train chugged forward. She couldn’t see Tommy holding a bereft Anna on the platform. During their three years on campus they became closer than sisters. They laughed, cried, and went through the trials and tribulations of going through a college curriculum, and they both wondered how they would ever get along without each other.

Josie readjusted herself in the seat and thought about going home.  She looked forward to sleeping in her own bed that evening, and waking up to the sweet scent of hot cinnamon buns her mother often made. She planned to decompress for about a week, and then turn her energies into finding a surgical nursing position. Above all, she looked forward to seeing Donna and Rosalie again. After all, they stepped in as her sisters before Anna came along.

When Josie finally arrived home, she opened the back door to the lovely old farm house and shouts of “Surprise” greeted her.  Relatives and friends filled the house. Rosalie and Donna had decorated the room in her school colors of maroon and gold. She got hugs and congratulations from everyone, but best of all, in the midst of the crowd, Johnny stood in his Army Air Corps dress uniform. He lingered on the periphery of the crowd and hugged her last.

Josie cried, “You’re here! Oh Johnny!”

“In the flesh!” He kissed her cheek. “I wanted to get to the graduation celebration, but my plane ride didn’t get there in time.”

A table laden with gifts wrapped in colorful wrapping paper waited for her in the corner of the living room, while a table filled with chaffing dishes filled with different Italian dishes waited. Mr. Lombardo waited in the background. “Little Josie,” he said. “Ima so proud of you!” He kissed her old world style on both cheeks and then went to work behind the overflowing table to serve the guests.

Rosalie stood near. “Papa insisted he cater your party.”

The shock of everyone’s generosity and desire to celebrate her accomplishment thrilled Josie. “How do I ever thank all of you?”

Donna teased. “You can’t, silly. Just go through the food line so the rest of us can eat!”

Josie laughed. “Same old Donna.” Everyone at the party laughed with her.

Rosalie’s little fifteen-month Gina walked around the legs of the adults like a wind-up doll in a frilly pink dress. Josie last saw the baby at Christmastime. “Rosalie, Gina’s so darling! She’s gotten so big!”

“Well, you’re home now; you can watch the little weed grow.” Rosie laughed.

Donna Jean handed Josie a beer, “I hope college gave you an appreciation of the good stuff.”

“Good stuff? Pointe beer is not the champagne of bottled beer, you know.” Josie joked.

“So now you can distinguish the difference!” Donna laughed.

“Leaving Anna was hard, I am so happy to be hone with you two again.” Josie said.

“We’re happy our trio is back together too.” Donna clinked the neck of her beer bottle to Josie’s bottle and Rosie’s Coca Cola.

“So what are your plans now?” Donna said as she took a long drag on her cigarette.

“When did you start smoking?” Josie snarled.  “Do you realize you’re destroying your lungs?”

“No lectures, today, kiddo. I asked you what your plans are.” Donna said.

“I guess I’ll go be a nurse somewhere.”

“No kidding.” Donna cajoled. “Are you going to take any time off?”

Josie answered. “About a week; I got so used to working all of the time, I think by then I’ll be ready to hit the pavement.”

Donna reminded her, “You promised me you’ll come and stay at my place for a few days.”

“Me and my big mouth. Maybe next weekend. I’ll need to rest up to keep up with you, Donna.”

Donna laughed. “Good plan. You’re going to need it!”

 

 

 

What’s in a Letter?

Yesterday I received a letter from a childhood girlfriend who has lived around the world. She married a sailor and her military life took her places neither of us ever envisioned when we were girls. As she will retire in a few months, she decided she’d rather write about her plans than talk about them on the phone. And I understand.

When I was young, I loved writing letters. I started when I was in grade school writing to my Aunt Mary who lived in San Diego. In high school I wrote to a cousin in Colorado. She was an extraordinary girl. At sixteen she was the only girl on the ski patrol at Aspen. It was fun learning about a sport I never tried to conquer.

When I met a boy from a different county, we corresponded through letters in between our dates on the weekend. After high school, I wrote to friends who moved away from home. I wrote to the boy next door who opted to join the Marines after high school. Through letters I stayed in touch and learned about living in different parts of the country. Whenever the mailbox coughed up a response, it was always a good day

What I learned from writing letters is people say things in writing they don’t speak in words. Letters are also a permanent record of a space in time, and people write about things that are on their mind from their hearts. That’s why I’ve included numerous letters in my novels between characters.  (Also, the only correspondence during the war years were letters.) Soldiers a world away needed to keep their loved ones close through letters. And letters and answers to them gave the boys a slice of home.

Nowadays email. Skype, and digital phones discourage letter writing because we have morphed into a culture which demands immediate satisfaction. Time to write a letter is too long and waiting for an answer is even longer.

But I do miss letter writing. Sometimes I’ll drop a line to a friend just for fun. The anticipation of getting an answer to my letter still does it for me.

######

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

Chapter 1

Budapest, Hungary-January 1941—The Rabbi came into the classroom Heidi set up for the children. He waved a letter in the air. “Heidi, a letter for you!”

Heidi couldn’t hide her surprise at his announcement.  “Who is it from, Rabbi?”

“Open the letter and find out.” He seemed as excited as she.

Heidi’s hands shook as she ripped open the paper envelop and read aloud.

December 1940

 Merry Christmas, my dear niece, Heidi.

 I hope this letter finds you well and safe. I got your letter just a few days ago. Thank you so much for writing. You must be very proud, Heidi, because I do believe you saved the lives of the Gesslers. I hope you are still safe with the Rabbi. I imagine life in Budapest is very different from Berlin.

 Life in Warsaw changed a lot since you left. The Germans bombed the city almost to oblivion as they pushed forward. Unlike the Parisians, I’m happy to say we Poles fought back. I developed blisters on my hands from digging trenches and erecting barricades as the Nazi leaflets fell from Luftwaffe planes ordering us to cease or evacuate. We did our best to hold the invaders off, but I our fight seemed hopeless from the beginning.

After the battle cooled down and the Germans controlled the city, non-Jews received a chance to enjoy the same benefits as German citizens only if we signed the Volkliste – a declaration of membership and loyalty to the German racial and cultural community. I did not sign such a document. My reward for not signing turned out to be a sentence to work in a labor camp, but I am holding on.

 The Nazis took my poor neighbor Helga away. The bastards used her and other neighbors as guinea pigs for medical experiments. This is the worst nightmare of my lifetime, and it goes on awake or asleep.

Even though my situation is terrible, I am not suffering like my Jewish friends. The first thing the Germans did after they paraded down our streets was to  force Jews to identify themselves by wearing Star of David armbands. Then they forced them to live in a walled off section of the city. The resulting ghetto is filled with starvation, malnutrition, and disease. Jews live with hopelessness is in their eyes. I am sure Mrs. Gessler and her children would never survive such terrible treatment. It is a blessing you and she took the children away from here.

I am happy to tell you that your parents consented to take in my children until my situation changes. I rest easy because they are far from the bombs and hunger. I also sent your letter on to your parents because they are very worried about you. Please understand my sweet niece; you are brave beyond your years.

Somehow we all will get through this nightmare. Sending you my love,

Uncle Hans

Chapter 2

Paris, France-April—A year passed since the Nazis marched into Paris. Tension, hunger, and suffering lay beneath the facade of normalcy. The “Resistance,” a small secretive army, fought to undermine the invaders. Unfortunately, the movement only mustered a small irritant to the massive German military regime. Savage beatings and killing of local people working for the Resistance usually discouraged others from joining the clandestine fight.  His Maquis arm of the resistance movement supplied the Allies with vital intelligence reports, as well as, created a huge amount of sabotage to disrupt the German supply chain and communication lines within France.

Emma served in any capacity the movement needed. She delivered documents, forged identify cards and carried messages to other factions of the resistance movement in Paris.  She never told Marta of her activities, but Marta recognized Emma often got preoccupied with thoughts she wouldn’t share.

One afternoon before Marta got home, Emma heard a knock on the apartment door. When she opened the door, two men clad in black stood with grim faces.

“Mademoiselle Emma Schiller?”

“Yes.” Emma said with apprehension.

One of the men flashed a badge and said, “German police.”  We need to carry out a small search of your apartment.” The two officers pushed Emma aside and barged into her home. They emptied drawers, closets, searching all the usual hiding places people used. Their efficient and systematic behavior told Emma such a search must be a normal occurrence for them.

Under a false bottom of her underwear drawer, one of them found a copy of “Resistance” the underground newspaper published by a Parisian group headed by Madame Agn Humbert.

“And what is this?” The officer stared at Emma with disdain. “So, you are part of the resistance against Germany.”

Emma stared ahead and didn’t answer. The larger of the two men handcuffed her hands behind her back, and shoved her out of the building. Neighbors closed their curtains after seeing the strangers in long, black trench coats escort Emma away.

One of the men pushed her into the backseat of a large black car waiting at the curb. Emma tasted real fear for the first time in her life. She assumed her arrest stemmed from her resistance activities, but they didn’t let on the real reason for her capture.

The car skidded into traffic and drove to the other side of the city. They entered a brick building with thick iron gates. When the car parked in a courtyard, the taller of the two men dragged her from the car and hurried her into the building. She stood in front of a tall desk where a SS officer glared down at her from above.  “Mademoiselle, you are arrested by the Gestapo for acts against Germany. You will be held here until your trial comes up.”

Emma stayed silent.

The officer screamed. “You do not contest the charges?”

“I will wait for my lawyer.”

All of the uniformed men laughed. “She thinks she is entitled to a lawyer! What an idiot!

The officer at the desk pointed to a door on his left. “Take her to holding.”

Emma was dragged down a flight of stairs and thrown into a cold, dark, cement room with one bare light bulb hanging by a single cord from the ceiling.

“Welcome to Prison du Cherche-Midi frauline.” Growling and laughing the two arresting officers left her alone and locked the door behind them.

Emma sat on a small wooden stool. A thick chain wrapped around her hands and waist was secured with a padlock. Every time she moved the chains pinched her skin and the clanking sound broke the heavy silence of her isolation.

Hours later a tall, burly Nazi pulled her to her feet and escorted her to a six-by-six foot cell. He slammed the iron bars and locked them with a huge iron clad key. He threw his shoulders back and puffed out his chest. In a thick German accent he informed Emma of the rules of the prison. “You will get no letters, visitors, books, cigarettes, newspapers, or food from the outside. Furthermore, you will be subject to a regime of “extreme harshness” if we are not satisfied with your answers to our questions.” He turned on his shiny heel and left her alone, still shackled.

Alone in the damp darkness Emma allowed a second wave of fear to run through her. She imagined how they might torture her. She began preparation for the coming days. Over and over she repeated to herself she would not let her captors discover her role in the resistance movement, nor would she give them names of the others. She intended to die first.

*****

When Emma didn’t appear for supper, Marta’s intuition told her she might be in trouble. Emma often went out after their evening bowl of thin soup and bread, but she never missed a meal with Marta. When she didn’t come home by morning, Marta panicked. She went door to door in their building, asking if anyone knew what happened to Emma. One old man on the first floor told her in hushed tones he saw the Gestapo police put her in a big black car and drove away.

Upon hearing the account, Marta felt sick.  Why in the world would the Gestapo want Emma? What did she do? Where did they take her? How will I ever find her? 

Chapter 3

Lacrosse, Wisconsin–May, 1941—Rosalie and Angelo settled into a wonderful life with their little girl Angelina. The baby proved to be the main attraction at Eduardo’s restaurant whenever Rosalie worked as a hostess. Her proud Grandpapa set up a playpen in the back storage room where the baby played and napped when Rosie worked.

The staff called the baby Angel saying the never met such an alluring baby.  The tiny girl smiled and gurgled at anyone who held her. Waitresses flipped coins for who would feed or change her the next time. But more often Edwardo overruled all of them, proclaiming a Papa should care for his bambina.  Needless to say, Angelina didn’t use her playpen very much. Rosalie soon realized her baby must be the most spoiled grandchild ever.

With Angelo’s promotion at the plant, and Rosie working again, the couple put away a little bit of money each month. Angelo said they should probably think about a bigger house, while Rosalie just wanted to accumulate a little stash for a “rainy” day.

One Friday afternoon after her shift, Rosalie picked up the mail and found a letter from Angelo’s brother Tony. Tony joined the U. S. Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, and his letters painted humorous tales about his life there. Tony and Angelo shared a close relationship, and Rosalie realized Tony’s letters meant the world to Angelo.

As soon as Angelo got home, Rosalie sat his customary cup of coffee and cannoli from the restaurant on the table. She had propped Tony’s letter up against the cup. Angelo kissed Rosie and smiled when he recognized Tony’s scrawl. He ripped open the envelope and read aloud.

My Dear brother Angie, Rosie and most importantly, little Gina,

Here I am in my skivvies writing to you before chow. I’ll be very busy all day as we will leave port this afternoon and sail the USS California to Pearl Harbor on Oahu. (That is in Hawaii, in case you slept during geography class.) I’m told the trip should last about four days providing we experience smooth seas.

A few guys are boasting about being in the islands before and they say Oahu is like the Garden of Eden.  Beautiful beaches, beautiful girls, beautiful sunsets, beautiful girls, lush green mountains, beautiful girls–oops said that already, huh?

I’m seeing palm trees in my dreams. I tacked up some pictures of the place in my locker. Those hula girls drive me crazy! I’ll be glad when this brutal boot camp is over. Somehow I always attract the attention of the DI and end up doing push-ups until my arms want to break. I can say “Yes, Sir!” with the best of them.

I’m about as trained as I can be. Nobody can expect miracles. After all Ma tried for twenty-one years to train me and most of her lessons didn’t take. (ha,ha) I’ll kill you if you repeat that last sentence to her.

While I’m in port, I’ll “post the guard” and be a gopher for the captain and executive officers. While we’re at sea, I will man a five-inch gun on the port side of the ship. (That’s left for you land lovers. Ha, ha.) Hopefully, while we’re on maneuvers I’ll get a chance to fire the GD thing.

That’s about all for now. My seasick pills and my “Mae West” life jacket are packed, so don’t worry. I’m fine. Looking forward to buying one of those loud Hawaiian shirts for you, brother! (Ha, ha), and I expect you to wear it when I get back home.

 Give my little beautiful niece Gina a kiss for me. (God, I love being an Uncle.)

 Until next time. . . Love you all, Uncle Tony

 Angelo laughed as he read his brother’s letter. “What a guy, huh Rosie? I think he’ll never change. Always an eye for the ladies, only now it’s on land AND sea! Angelo laughed at his own joke.

Rosalie giggled. “I don’t think he’ll find pretty girls at sea, unless he bumps into a mermaid!”

Angelo laughed at his wife’s clever rebuttal and took a bite of the cannoli. “Maybe you’re right.”