Tag Archive | creativity

Blue Skies Are Shining on Me

The title of this post might be a little confusing even though there’s not a cloud in the sky. The title does relate to what’s going on today. For the last three days, the landscaper has been turning our backyard into a park I’ve been striving to achieve since we moved in here thirteen years ago. I’m not posting pictures because, of course, the work is not done — but that’s half of the beauty. I have learned to be patient as we’ve moved through the different projects this year –the kitchen, the living room, the utility room, and who could forget the “Taj Garage.” As the old comes down and the new goes up, the process is fun to watch — although I admit the Taj Garage did push me to the limits.

I’ve seen the finished backyard in my mind’s eye for over a year. It started with the installation of the fence last year, and now continues with a retaining wall, new plants and cleaning out some of the weeds and old plants and replacing them with updates. The anticipation of the yard being finished is exhilarating.

I thank the weather for cooperating for the past three days — I bet you’ll probably never hear me say that again! But rain has been taking a path north and leaving our area dry. Perhaps it will rain when our landscape is finished for this year. Next year, I’ll tackle the front.

Like all the cliches predict — It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. Sorry. Just had to say it.

Have a good day with blue skies shining on you!

######

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – (CONTINUED)

Chapter 19

Budapest, Hungary – December—The winds of war changed direction. With the Nazis on the borders of Hungary, fear mounted in the Jewish community. If Budapest Jews fate followed the Nazi treatment of Jews in other countries, time would be short before they would be deported.

Rabbi Weismann’s deal with Eichman would diminish once the Nazis overran the city; worst of all he couldn’t keep his promise to protect Heidi and the children any longer. He went to work on a plan to help them escape. If he moved fast enough, they might stand a chance.

Part of the preparation for their journey required the car to be in good working order. The Rabbi hid the Rolls in a neighboring barn for the past three years, and the vehicle needed work. Sitting dormant for so long might become troublesome on the road. The worn tires and cracked hoses needed replacing; and of course, they needed enough gasoline to get to Switzerland. Everything they required was in short supply, but as always, the Rabbi solved the problem. His connections with the black market got him anything for a price.

Heidi also needed a good traveling companion.  The man Rabbi Weismann chose was a trusted Hungarian friend.  Dominik was a perfect choice because he spoke fluent German. When he was small, his father worked in a Nuremberg factory and he learned the language then. His family moved back to Hungary after his grandfather died, and Dominik’s father took over the family grocery business. When the Rabbi told Heidi of his choice to accompany her, she agreed. Over the past three years she met Dominik on many occasions and she trusted him.

Dominik agreed to the plan and mapped out a route which would keep them off the main roads for much of the trip. The route added several hours to the journey, but Dominik believed they would be less likely to encounter German troops on the back roads. The most dangerous part of the trip required them to drive through the Alps. The changeable weather at high elevations provided more danger than any checkpoint. When Dominik shared his plan with the Rabbi, the two men agreed putting safety first  outweighed the extra time the journey would require.

Gavriella packed enough food and water to last for the duration of  the journey. Another friend of the Rabbi’s stole enough petro to drive all the way to Switzerland.  The Rabbi even arranged a false marriage certificate for the couple and a baptismal certificate for David. David could not be Heidi’s child because of his age, so he became her nephew according to the false documents.  The two younger children named Heidi and Dominik as their parents on birth certificates. To be on the safe side, Heidi once again dyed the children’s dark hair blond.

Before they left at dawn, the Rabbi prayed over them. “Almighty God, please go with Heidi, my adopted daughter on this perilous journey. With your protection, and Dominik’s keen intellect, I put them all in your hands as they make this journey to Switzerland. Please ride with them during their journey.” He paused after he finished the prayer and gazed at Heidi with wet eyes. “My dear girl, you will remain in my heart forever.”

“Oh Rabbi, perhaps I should stay with you.”

“No. You must keep the children safe. You promised their mother.”

Heidi nodded. She understood making this trip would save David, Ruthie, and Jacob’s lives, but saying goodbye to the Rabbi proved to be one more difficult task since she met the Gesslers.

The Rabbi said in a calm voice. “Now, Heidi, we’ve been over this. You must go. You are the best hope for the children. If you stay, even God cannot protect you.” He hugged all of them and backed away from the car.

“I will never forget you.” Heidi said.

The Rabbi waved farewell as Dominik started the car.  “Take good care of them, Dominik.”

“Do not worry, Rabbi, I will protect them like my own family.”

Heidi and the children waved until the Rabbi disappeared in the distance.  The silence that followed for the first few miles hung  like a thick fog. Once again they left a safe home for something unknown. Dominik headed west and everyone remained silent.

After a few miles, Ruthie spoke first. “Heidi, are you our Mutter again?”

“Yes, sweetheart. I am you Mutter forever and ever.”

“Good. I like you as my Mutter.” She leaned against David and closed her eyes.

Book 6 – 1944

Chapter 1

Anzio, Italy – January, 1944—Josie and the rest of the medical staff rang in the New Year in a tent. For the past three years she celebrated the first of January with the medical staff in the same way with a bottle of beer and a cigarette.  She had been transferred from Sicily to Anzio, Italy, but this time her move came with a promotion to First Lieutenant. She made the trip on a ship headed north for the 95th Evacuation Hospital. And like her other encounters with beach landings, as soon as she set foot on the sand, air raid sirens sounded. The nurses took cover near the trucks which would take them to their new location.

After the “all clear” whistle sounded, the driver and the nurses traveled to a field in the middle of nowhere. Josie yelled to the driver. “This can’t be right. Check your instructions private.”

The driver considered her comment insulting and condescending. He hated taking orders from some broad. “I put you where the brass wanted you. Get out of my truck!”

Josie scowled. “Who’s your commanding officer, private?”

“Captain James Smith.”

“He’ll be hearing from me.” Josie jumped from the truck’s passenger seat and motioned for everyone to get out of the truck. She decided reasoning with this hard-head who thought women should stay home and pop out babies would be an exercise in futility. But as soon as she could, she’d let Captain Smith know about his insubordinate driver.

After the driver left, Josie took charge and gave an order to the corpsman in their group. “Charlie, radio headquarters and confirm if we are in the correct location to set up our facility.”

Over an hour later, the corpsman made contact and confirmed Josie guessed correctly.  The knucklehead driver dropped them in the wrong place. “HQ is sending another truck. We are to wait here.”

Josie threw up her arms. “Great!”

One small building stood in the middle of their location. The nurses and corpsmen scattered and fell on their bellies inside the weathered building while shells flew overhead with a sickening whine.

Josie joked, “Nobody can deny the Krauts throw a hell of a welcome party.”

Her tongue-in-cheek comment broke the tension in the shelter and everyone laughed. By now, scattering for shelter due to air raids became routine for these field-tested nurses.

An hour later, another truck picked them up and took them to Nettuno to establish another field hospital. Nettuno was a small town south of Anzio and a short distance from the main road along the beach. The beautiful, park-like surroundings seemed too good to be true. The tents sat on lush grassy fields. The serene location offered a pleasant change from their last assignment which only offered cold, wet, dirty sand. The nurses didn’t even complain when they dug the necessary foxholes under the cots. Josie set up the operating tent to prepare for the wounded who would inevitably come.

As they worked, “Screaming Meenie” shells from the biggest German guns miles away, whistled a foreboding sound overhead on their way toward the coast. As the tents went up and the hospital got organized, combat sounds of machine gun fire, shells whistling, and grenades exploding-seemed all too close. Josie wondered if this peaceful location offered safety or a threat to her nurses and patients.

After their long day of setting up the new hospital, Josie and the others flopped down on their cot hoping for a good night’s sleep before the wounded would appear. The long day left them exhausted, but another air raid blast caused them to dive into the foxholes under their cots. They listened to the sounds of war for most of the night. Planes flew so low Josie swore they would fly through the tents. Dee Dee, a new nurse in the group whimpered. Josie thought, “Poor girl, this must be her first time near a combat zone.” But even as a seasoned veteran, Josie never experienced this kind of fire. Her fear stuck in her throat. She held her breath. The shelling went on for until midnight before they crawled out of their foxholes. The nurses laid in their cots muddy, cold, and scared. No one slept that first night.

The shelling at Nuttuno continued to be a nuisance, so a week after they arrived, headquarters made a prudent decision to relocate Josie’s unit closer to the beach near the other units. The location would be a half mile away from any military target, and clearly marked as a medical unit with big red crosses on the tents.

Any time a hospital needed to be moved, nurses usually grumbled. Tents went down. Instruments needed to be packed in sterilized bags. Corpsmen evacuated the wounded to the new location. Afterward they helped fold the cots and put all of the equipment onto the awaiting trucks. Even though moving a hospital was a tremendous undertaking, no one complained. Everyone agreed their  park-like Eden was hell disguised.

*****

Winter months in this part of Italy brought ugly, bone-chilling cold temperatures. Rain and a wind made a tough job even more difficult for the medical staff. Tent flaps whipped open and put patients in jeopardy of exposure. Even worse, the war-torn tents had become riddled with holes from German strafing and flak. Keeping patients warm until they could be evacuated became a losing battle.

Witnessing fear in the wounded when the sirens sounded devastated Josie and the nurses. Patients well enough to put on their steel helmets and crawl under their cots to avoid flying shrapnel did so. Nurses and corpsmen lifted others to the ground while other patients who couldn’t be moved stayed in their cots with a caring nurse holding his hand until the shelling stopped.

Chapter 2

Anzio, Italy – January—To speed up the slow pace northward through Italy, Allied commanders planned a landing behind the German line in an attempt to break the stalemate at the Gustav line–an imaginary line which ran across the Italian “boot” from sea to sea. The landing commenced on January 22—a cool but sunny day. The break in the weather came as a welcomed relief from the cold and rain, which had plagued the area since the Italian campaign ensued.

The beach landing at Anzio–some one hundred miles south of Rome–was a surprise to the Germans, and men and supplies came ashore with little resistance. The Allies intended to establish a foothold in Italy, fight their way north, and capture Rome. Mario’s unit practically strolled onto the beach. The situation proved to be eerie with so little resistance. The men breathed a sigh of relief, and by midnight, some thirty-six thousand men, thirty-two hundred vehicles, and a vast store of supplies reached the beachhead. Any soldier killed the first day fell victim from Stuka bombers which strafed the beaches and dropped bombs as they dove out of the sky.

During the American landing, the Germans pulled back from the beaches and regrouped to prepare a strategic response for the unexpected Allied offensive. In a week’s time, the Germans mustered enough troops to counterattack what Adolf Hitler called the “Anzio abscess,” and for the next four months, Americans encountered some of the most savage fighting of World War II.

Mario’s regiment got trapped on the beachhead.A strong German ground attack and brutal air attacks from the Luftwaffe kept the Americans in their foxholes. . One evening an incoming shell exploded near Mario. Shrapnel riddled his chest, neck and down his legs. Blood poured out of him like a leaky sieve. Medics treated him with bandages to stem the flow of blood before the stretcher bearers got to him to the evacuation hospital.

The nurse who met Mario at the hospital resuscitated him and started an IV with non-cross matched plasma. He required immediate surgery and a strong desire to live. The nurse shoved another needle in the opposite arm for fluids and the drugs he needed during surgery. If Mario lived through surgery, he would receive whole blood when time allowed to properly determine his blood type.  Like so many other wounded soldiers, Mario faced a race against the clock. Doctors stabilized him and spent hours removing the metal shards throughout his body. Mario slipped into a coma after surgery. The sooner he awoke the more likely he would fully recover. Mario faced the most important fight of his life.

It was two days later when Mario finally managed to open his eyes  He saw a pretty nurse standing beside his bed.

He looked up at her and whispered, “Where am I?”

The nurse said, “You’re in the hospital. We’ve been waiting for you to wake up, sleepy head.” She smiled.

He tried to smile but his face didn’t respond. He wanted to banter with her, but he didn’t possess enough strength.

She said, “You’ll be leaving us now that you are conscious.”

“What?” Mario’s parched throat made talking difficult.

The nurse said, “You’re scheduled to evac to Naples. Patients go there to get better care than we can provide here. Don’t worry. You’re going to be just fine.”

The pretty brunette nurse gave him a warm smile. She was kind, but Mario wished it was Josie standing beside him.

“Oh.” Mario wished another pretty nurse named Josie was taking care of him. He closed his eyes and went back to sleep. Say five words used most of his strength. He moaned from the pain.

The nurse gave him a shot of morphine. “This should help, sweetie.” She patted his hand. “Good luck, Mario.”

 

That afternoon Mario was transferred onto a hospital ship headed for Naples. At the hospital there, he would receive the intensive medical care he needed to make a full recovery.

 

When Two Brains Are Better Than One

When a person has a debilitating disease, he/she is always on the lookout for something to cure his/her curse or at least make a life a little bit better. Because we live in a “drug” culture, help often come in a pill or a syringe, and other alternatives seem to be ignored.This morning on CBS This Morning, they presented a story about some research going on at Duke University. They interviewed a researcher who is exploring how a damaged brain and a healthy brain of another person can be networked to overcome the disability.

Sounds a little like science fiction, huh?

Well, they have had success with primates, getting the monkey to do things monkeys are not supposed to be able to do. But the research is preliminary. The power of the mind involves 100 billion neurons in our brains and capturing their power is limitless. Just think of the implications this new approach could mean for brain injuries and diseases. If we can eliminate brain diseases — and there is a very long list — wouldn’t that be a miracle? If this research offers a cure for stroke patients, wouldn’t that be a blessing?

I don’t think people should live forever, but I do think those patients who slip away a little piece at a time or lay in a nursing home because the treatments have been exhausted is inhumane. Generally, our culture doesn’t condone assisted suicide, so people who are stricken with brain injuries or disease must wait for death to release them from their pain and disabilities. This situation is not fair to the patient or the family who cares for them. If brains can be networked with a small device, and a better life can be achieved I truly think we have advanced the entire human race.

What do you think?

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 16

Sicily, October—The winter rains in Sicily usually began in November, but in 1943 they came a month early. The medical staff struggled to maintain adequate sterile facilities under wet canvas tents. A severe storm in Salerno knocked down the tents of the evacuation hospital, and Josie and the other drenched nurses needed to move over a thousand patients to an abandoned tobacco warehouse. This enormous undertaking needed to be completed quickly to prevent patients from developing complications from exposure.

The weather continued to be dreadful into November, which caused problems on the ground as well as in the air. For the first three weeks of the month, Josie met Anna almost daily on evacuation runs. The few precious minutes together in this foreign place reminded them life offered more than mangled young men and the stench of bodily fluids.

Josie always looked forward to Anna’s arrival, but when she didn’t make an appearance during the first two weeks in November, Josie’s intuition told her Anna must be in trouble. At first Josie thought perhaps Anna was transferred, but Anna would have told her about such a change.  Josie’s concern deepened when Anna didn’t show up for the special Thanksgiving dinner.

Rumors filled the camp that a hospital transport plane lost radio contact during one of the recent bad storms. The crew never returned to base.  Josie didn’t want to believe Anna might be on that plane, but her intuition told her otherwise.

Chapter 17

Albania – November—The hospital transport plane took off in heavy weather, and once in the air, the compass of the plane failed. The pilot became disoriented, and his confusion caused him to head east when he believed he was flying south. After a couple of hours, the plane’s wings iced up and the plane ran out of fuel causing them to crash in the Albanian mountains behind German lines.

Even though the descent was terrifying, everyone except the pilot survived. The medic and nurse suffered a few lacerations and bruises, and the four patients on board lingered in a state of shock. Terror set in when armed men dressed in ragged clothes surrounded the plane. Anna studied the chiseled, dirty faces of the rag-tag bunch of grubby men out of one of the small plane windows. A flashing thought told her this might be the end of the line for her and the others.

The guerrilla group forced their way into the plane, and one of them spoke English.

“Americans?”

Mike, the medic on board, stepped in front of Anna and answered. “Yes.”

The scruffy man pointed to his chest. “I help.”

Mike continued as the spokesman for the Americans. “These men are wounded. We need to get to a hospital.”

“No hospital, but we take you to safety.” The man replied.

Mike and Anna realized they couldn’t stay in the plane, but should they trust this crusty bunch with their safety?  Anna and Mike stared at each other. The only good choice seemed to be to trust the hooligans. Mike made the decision. “Okay. We will go with you.”

“The journey is long.” the man said, “But we must go now before Germans find you.”

Mike nodded.

Anna whispered. “Are you sure about this?”

After a slight pause Mike turned to Anna and said, “You realize our options are severely curtailed, right?  We’ll freeze here. If the Krauts catch us, we’ll all be POWs. and then all bets are off.”

As much as she didn’t want to admit it, Mike was right. “I guess we need to take a chance, huh?”

“Right.”

Anna went to work. She bundled up the patients with the extra blankets on board and packed their meager supplies in a duffle bag.

The Albanian leader ordered, “Follow me. Go to farm. They help.”

The scruffy saviors carried the wounded on the stretchers. Anna and Mike stayed behind to set the plane ablaze to eliminate any evidence they might have survived the crash. As the flames licked through the fuselage, Anna clenched her teeth and wiped away tears. She feared the coming days and for several minutes she thought about cuddling with Tommy at home before a roaring fire. Would she live to see the day?

Mike and Anna walked away from the plane. They ran to catch up with the rest of the group. In the background a huge explosion nearly knocked them off their feet as the remaining fuel caught fire. The snowy landscape made the mile journey tough. Just about the time Anna was ready to fall down for good and go to sleep in the snow, the leader announced, “We are here.”

A farmer and his wife met them in the yard of a ramshackle house. They led the group to a large round barn which sat behind the house. The farmer opened the door to reveal a roaring fire in a pit in the middle of the circular barn. A hole in the roof let he smoke escape. Donna and Mike moved close to the flames and rubbed their hands together to get warm.  The Albanian men gently lowered the wounded near the fire too.

Anna dropped her guard. She turned to the leader. “Thank you for bringing us here.”

The man nodded.

The farmer’s wife served them thin potato soup and some crusty fresh bread. She offered each of them a bowl and spoon and motioned for them to eat. Anna let the warm soup defrost her inside. With hand motions and gestures, the Americans communicated their appreciation to their hosts.

After the patients ate and fell asleep, Anna went to the leader who rescued them. “Thank you again.” She said. “What is your name?”

The scruffy man smiled. “My real name too hard. Call me Jack.”

Anna smiled. “Okay, Jack. Call me Anna.”

“Anna, you are a very brave. Journey is dangerous. You sleep now. I stay awake. In morning we leave.”

“Where are we going, Jack?”

“Bari. Americans there.”

Anna nodded and moved to the other side of the barn where Mike slept. She lay in the straw and prayed. She wasn’t religious, but after living three years with Josie, she thought she would give praying a chance. “Thank you Lord for watching over us with these brave strangers. Please keep us safe on our long journey. Keep me strong. Please don’t let anything happen to my men. Amen.” It was a prayer she would repeat many times.

*****

The band of guerrilla fighters, Anna, Mike, and four wounded soldiers left the following morning before sunrise. The farmer gave them a cart and a small amount of food. Overnight, one of Jack’s men found a couple of donkeys to haul their gear, and he also brought some Albanian clothing he insisted Mike and Anna wear. The farmer’s wife offered Anna a boiled wool hat.  Anna tried to refuse the gift, but through Jack she learned the farmer’s wife insisted because Anna would need the extra warmth for the long journey.

Bari, Italy was eight hundred long miles away through mountainous terrain. The first morning of the journey began with the sun shining, but by evening the temperature dropped and snow fell from the dark clouds. The group sought refuge in a cave where Jack’s men built a fire.  Anna gave everyone a MRE pouch. She planned to save the small amount of food the farmer’s wife gave them after the “Meals Ready to Eat” ran out. After they ate and warmed themselves by the fire, the group minus one lookout fell asleep.

On average the group covered about thirteen miles each day; when the weather cooperated, they covered about fifteen miles. Storms in the mountains came with little warning, but somehow Jack found adequate shelter to wait them out. Once he found an abandoned building, which protected them from a blizzard. Another night they found a cave large enough to build a fire and shelter them from another snow storm.  Mike joked, “Hell must be frozen over, and we found it.”

When they exhausted the food they brought with them, Jack’s men proved they were excellent hunters. They hunted deer, elk, and rabbits which kept everyone from starving. Mike learned how to butcher the kill, and Anna learned how to cook the wild meat. Jack devised a method to melt snow, which gave them plenty of drinking water. With such a strenuous, long journey ahead of them, they took nothing for granted. Anna insisted they all say a blessing before every meal and even Jack’s men participated by bowing their heads.

About a month into their trek, a blinding snowstorm forced them to live in a cave for several days. When the storm cleared, Jack and the group needed to trudge through deep snow drifts which made the next few days drudgery. Tramping through knee deep snow slowed them to a crawl, but so far, they eluded any German.

They abandoned the cart the farmer gave them because lugging the thing through the deep snow wasted too much of their energy.  Fortunately Jack’s practical genius provided a solution.  He rigged sleds out of rough timbers and the canvas stretchers. Then he hitched them to the donkeys to pull the wounded men through the snow. Anna, Mike, and the other guerrilla fighters carried supplies on their backs. No matter what obstacle they encountered, Jack always came up with an idea to pull them through.

During the two-month trip, Mike feared one of the guerrillas might try to take advantage of Anna, so he protected her at all times. He kept no secret he slept with a pistol and made sure Anna slept next to him every night.

About the time Anna thought she couldn’t endure any more, Jack announced with great exuberance, “We are here!” He pointed to a bunch of tents in the distance. “We are here!”

Tears of joy rolled down Anna’s cheeks when she caught a glimpse of the American flag. The weary, filthy vagabonds made a nurse scream at the sight of them. Soldiers with machine guns encircled them.

Anna spoke first. “We are medi-vac personnel. Our plane went down in Albania behind the German lines and lucky for us, these men helped us get here.”

The colonel in charge met them at the gate, “You want us to believe you all walked eight hundred miles ?”

Anna removed her fur hat and shook out her blond curls. “Sir, I am not aware of the mileage, but I can tell you our journey’s been a damn long one.”

“Well I’ll be damned. This war always has its share of surprises. Come this way.” The colonel escorted Anna and the men to the hospital. Their Good Samaritan, Jack the Albanian, pulled them through alive, just like he promised.

After Anna, Mike, and their saviors took off their outer clothing, the medical staff found Mike contracted pneumonia, and Anna suffered from dysentery and jaundice. The wounded men, who made the eight hundred mile journey on gerry-rigged stretcher sleds, required treatment for bed sores and injuries due to exposure. The Albanian men and all the Americans suffered frostbite, fatigue, and hunger.

After recovering for a few days, Jack announced he needed to leave. He stopped by Anna’s bedside to say goodbye. “Anna, going to be okay?”

Anna smiled. “Thanks to you, Jack, I’m going to be just fine. Are you leaving?”

“Yes. But I say goodbye first. You brave as any man. Tough and never complain. A good woman.”

“Thank you, Jack.” She blushed. “Are your men well enough to travel so soon?”

“Yes. We must go back and continue the fight.”

“But how will you get back? You’re not going to walk, are you?”

Jack laughed. “No Miss Anna. the Colonel give us jeep. We travel alone. No Americans to slow us down.” He snickered. “If Germans catch us, we say we stole the vehicle.”

Anna laughed and started to cough. “I owe you my life, Jack. How can I thank you?”

“Win the war, Miss Anna. Help me kill Nazis. They are very bad. Killed my whole family.”

“I will do my best.” Anna smiled and her tone got serious. “Jack, bend down.”

He obliged. Anna kissed his cheek. “Go with God, Jack.”

Her show of affection moved him. He took her hand and kissed it. Then he walked away. Anna never saw him again.

Chapter 18

A small town in Italy, November 1943—Mario’s unit went into a mountainous village in northeastern Sicily near the coast. Their assignment required them and a second unit to scout the town and clear out any Germans before the Americans moved north.

The groups split and headed in opposite directions. When they lost sight of each other unit, a Tommy gun ripped off several rapid shots in the distance. The men jumped into nearby ditch.

Marco said, “I bet Porter’s trigger finger got itchy.”

“You wish,” his sergeant said. “Shut up and get down.”

The shots rung in Mario’s ears. An odor of burned ammo hung in the air.

The men lay still and listened intently. The village grew quiet. No gunfire. No voices. The sergeant slithered out of the ditch and knelt down on the cobblestone road. He turned his head in both directions then Sergeant Riley motioned for the men to follow him down the street. Their senses shifted into high alert with the possibility of  danger lurking  around the next bend in the road.

Mario whispered to the guy in front of him, “Doesn’t this remind you of the movies?”

Sergeant Riley turned around and scowled at Mario. “Shut up, soldier.”

When the patrol came to an intersection, Riley peered around the corner and pulled his head back with a quick jerk. He paused and took a longer look. He spied Porter and his men at the end of the street. They walked along the road strung out with a few feet between each man. The two patrols met in the middle of the block. “Did you fire?” Riley asked Porter.

“Yeah. A couple of Krauts ran up the street. We ran the Tommy on them, but I don’t think we hit anything.”

“Did they fire on you?” Riley asked

“No, they just turned tail and ran. Probably got separated from their unit.” Porter laughed. “I think they’re still runnin’!”

“How do you get so lucky? The Krauts we meet always want a fight.” Riley grunted.

“Keep your head down, Riley!” Porter waved as his patrol fell in behind him.

“Same to you, bucko. Keep a safety on those Tommy’s. You scared the shit out of me!”

“Will do, fraidy cat.” Porter saluted Riley and joined his men.

Riley lead his patrol in the opposite direction to search the rest of the area. As they walked toward the outskirts of the small village, fewer houses appeared, and those standing got farther apart. When the road curved, houses appeared on the left side of the road with the mountainside on the right. A series of plowed terraces with olive trees produced a scene of green stripes in black fertile earth.

Mario spied two civilians vanish into a nearby house. “Sarg,” He pointed to the house with two fingers raised. The patrol stopped. The couple had retreated into a two-story stone building with a large unpainted wooden door. The windows were boarded up. The patrol prepared to attack. Riley dropped to one knee with his rifle pointed at the door. Mario assumed the same position with his Tommy gun. No one spoke. The sergeant used hand motions to position the remainder of the unit. George reached over and tried the doorknob. Locked.

Everyone stared at the door. Riley nodded. A guy named George banged the door with the butt of his gun. Almost immediately a woman began to scream. He banged again. Her screams became hysterical. “Tedeschi!”

Mario understood. He whispered to Riley. “She thinks we’re Krauts, Sarg.”

The woman shrieked, “No!’ No! No!”

Riley said, “For godsakes, Mario, get her to shut up!”

Mario shouted something in Italian with a fierce voice. The woman immediately stopped screaming. The patrol waited. A petite middle-aged woman with long black and silver hair peaked out from behind the door. “Americanos?”

Riley answered, “Si.”  Yes happened to be the only Italian word he understood.

She opened the door fully and cried. She put her hands to her cheeks as she went from man to man, hugging and kissing them.

When she came to Mario’s, she said, “Lei parla Italiano?”

He answered, “A little. un po’.”

She kissed him on both cheeks before she scurried into the house and came out with an overflowing basket of grapes. She gave every man a handful.

“Hey Mario, you need to tell our new friend this isn’t a social call. We’ve got work to do.” Sergeant Riley said.

“Yes sir.” Mario faced the woman. “Mi dispiace. Dobbiamo lasciare.”

She blushed and smiled before she moved toward the house with the empty basket. “Grazie!, Grazie. Vai con Dio.” She smiled and waved goodbye.

Riley ordered. “The party’s over, gentlemen. Let’s get going.”  Everyone waved to the woman and turned down the road heading out of town.

“What did she say, Mario?” Riley said.

“She said thanks, go with God, sir.”

“Amen to that!”

 

 

 

Will Machines Make Us Obsolete?

I’ve been a fan of Science Fiction for a long time. As a writer, I admire people who can look into the far future and present a story that has the possibility of coming true. All good science fiction has this element. For all you Trekkies out there, you understand. Just look what has happened since William Schatner portrayed Captain Kirk.

“Communicators” have become cell phones. A stun gun is a close relative to the phaser. The crew used electronic tablets–guess what? We do too–ever heard of the I-pad or a Kindle? Remember the touch screen on the television series? Voila! Windows 10 to the rescue! A scientist in Japan has made a look-a-like robot he sends to locations to give speeches when he can’t attend. Remember “Data?” Then there’s there’s the whole matter/anti-matter thing that I really don’t understand.

Why on earth am I thinking of such things. I got inspired last night as the finale of “Extant” aired. If you’re not familiar with the plot, it spins a tale of aliens and machines taking over our world. Far-fetched? I don’t think so.

I’m not going to address the alien part of the story because so far we haven’t even determined whether there is another Earth some where in the galaxy. I will address the takeover machines are making.

Every time I see or read about a machine filling in for humans in the work place, I become leery and frankly, a little scared. So many devices are filling our world and most people welcome them with arms outstretched. They take our jobs. They fill our factories and businesses. They even live in our pockets and purses. Machines run our world already. Satellites connect us and then pull us apart. Other satellites run our computers and even our gas pumps. Wonder if all of the connected and went on strike? Where could that leave us? The growth of technology is supposed to make our lives easier, but do they?

I know the program “Extant” is just so much TV magic, but it makes one think. At least I hope so. I can tell you one thing, if a machine tries to take my job, I would pull its plug!

 

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 6 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 4

North Africa, May—Josie rose early and went about her routine. She worked harder than any nurse under her supervision holding herself as accountable as any nurse in her command.  She earned her title, “Nurse Ironsides” and smiled every time she overheard someone refer to her with her “title of distinction.”

A corpsman met her at the mess tent one morning and saluted her. “Ma’am, beggin’ your pardon, ma’am.”

She returned his salute. “Yes private?”

“The colonel wants you to stop by his tent ASAP, ma’am.”

“Thank you soldier.” Josie left her meal and went straight to the colonel’s tent.

Josie removed her helmet as she entered the colonel’s office and saluted him as she stood in front of his desk. “You wanted to see me, sir?”

“Yes, Lieutenant. Please sit down.”

Josie sat in the chair opposite the side of the desk of where the Colonel sat.

“Josie, you are one of the most integral members of our staff here. The nurses here are a fine team, and that’s on you. Every corpsman, officer, and doctor holds you in high regard.”

“Thank you sir; I’m just doing my job.”

“Well, the brass recognizes your accomplishments too and issued new orders for you.”

“Sir?”

“You’re being transferred to the tenth field hospital in Sicily. They need a nurse like you to head up operations. For accepting this combat assignment, you will receive a pay increase, but unfortunately, no bump in rank. I wanted to promote as well, but the brass seems to think you’re a little too young and not seasoned enough to merit a promotion.”

“Yes sir.” Josie remained stone face serious, but inside she dreaded this move. “When am I to go, sir?”

“You’ll leave tomorrow.”

“Yes sir.”

The colonel rose and saluted her. “Josie, I’m very sorry to lose you. You’re as tough as any man and yet you possess the gentleness of a good woman. Keep your head down lieutenant. And God Speed.”

“Thank you sir.” Josie returned his salute, turned on her heel, and left the colonel’s office replaying his words. I need to leave tomorrow? Why so quickly?

Immediately she made plans to inform her staff and appoint an interim replacement until the Army officially appointed someone. She remained with her thoughts about the move. I guess I always wanted to go to Italy because Rosalie’s father got a faraway look in his eye every time he spoke about “the old country.” And now I’ll see for myself, but I know it will be anything but a vacation.

*****

The next morning a driver picked up Josie at 0600 to bring her to the dock where the ship for Sicily would disembark. Josie readied herself to enter another active combat zone and worked to mentally prepare for her new assignment.

At the edge of the base hospital, all fifty-nine nurses, the corpsmen, and the doctors lined up at the edge of the road and saluted Josie. The driver stopped as the nurses sang the “Army Nurse Corps” song as their goodbye and tribute to Josie. Their gesture spoke loudly to what extent the medical personnel loved her. Tears of joy and sorrow covered Josie’s face. She jumped off the jeep and hugged everyone thanking them for their hard work. She got back and the jeep, waved and shouted, “I’ll miss you guys!”

Josie remained silent the rest of the way to the dock. When the jeep finally stopped, the corpsman got out of the vehicle and hugged her. “Keep your head down, Josie. I’ll miss you.”

“I will, Jack. Thanks for the lift.” She wiped away a pesky tear that escaped from her left eye. She marched with confidence and her equipment on her back toward the ship which would take her into battle once again.

*****

U.S. and British troops invaded Sicily on July 9, 1943. The medical staff needed to arrive three days later, but even with the slight delay, the nurses found themselves in the thick of combat.

As they landed on the island, German Stuka dive bombers sprayed machine gunfire on the troops below. Doctors and nurses dove into slit trenches and foxholes. As Josie crouched in the trench, she thought of the large number of wounded soldiers having to wait for treatment while the enemy kept her pinned down.

When the sergeant in charge told his troops to move out, Josie followed. They made their way into a small town the allies held. The church served as the hospital and Josie was right. Many new casualties waited for help. A nurse triaged the wounded; when she saw Josie she smiled. “Are you Josephine Schneider?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“They need you in the back. Dr. Bachman has his handful without a surgical nurse assisting.”

Josie knew all medical units came equipped with at least one surgical nurse. “What happened to the nurse I’m replacing?”

“She died from shrapnel wounds after a bomb went off in the center of town. Store your gear in the room to the left and then report to surgery – stat!”

“Yes ma’am.” Josie gulped and went to work.

Chapter 4

Paris, France-June 1943—A whole year had passed and there was still no information about Emma.  Marta wrote letters every day hoping a kind prison matron at Anrath prison might deliver her correspondence. It was therapeutic for Martha to keep writing about daily events because discussing them in a letter in the same words she might speak at supper helped her believe Emma still lived. In the back of her mind, she also realized Emma might never be given her letters.

On a hot day in June, Pierre passed Marta on her way to work. He fell in step beside her and greeted her with daily pleasantries. “Marta! How wonderful to see you again.”

“Likewise, Pierre. How are you getting along?”

“As well as to be expected.” Pierre answered as he tipped his hat to a Nazi standing on the corner of the street.

After they got out of ear-shot of the German soldier, Pierre said, “A surprise for you, mademoiselle.” He handed her a newspaper.

“A surprise?”

“Inside, a train ticket to Vichy is for you. I am sending you on a little vacation to the South of France.” Pierre winked at Marta.

“Really?” Marta wondered why Pierre said such an odd thing.  “Why?”

“Someone wants to meet you.”  Pierre said in hushed tones. “Get on the train today. Take little with you and stay at the train station until you are contacted by one of my people.”

Marta’s body stiffened and her eyes widened. “What’s going on Pierre?”

“Just do as I tell you, Marta. You will be very happy if you follow my instructions.” Pierre raised one eyebrow as he puffed out his chest. He slipped her a newspaper which held her train ticket. “Take this with you, mademoiselle. The story on page six is most stimulating.” He smiled at her and walked away with a swift gait.

Chapter 5

Montpellier, France – June—After her encounter with Pierre, Marta turned to go back to her apartment. She packed an overnight bag and called her superior at the Louvre to say she had been called away for a family emergency and would miss the next few days at work. The train would leave the Paris station at noon.

Marta wondered why Pierre wanted her to make this trip, but because Emma trusted Pierre with her life, she would too. She took the bus to the Paris train station, boarded the train to Montpellier, and chose a seat next to well-dressed young woman. The woman appeared to be about her age, She wore a stylish white suit with matching shoes, a large hat, and a large diamond ring on her left ring finger which proclaimed her wealth.  Marta recognized no ordinary citizen wore such beautiful clothes, and she instantly put up her guard. It was likely this woman was a German sympathizer.

The woman greeted her. “Bonjour!”

Marta smiled. “Good morning, to you too.”She folded her hands across her handbag resting her lap.

“Are you going to Montpellier?”

Marta asked in a soft voice. “Why do you ask?”

The woman’s spoke nonchalantly. “No reason. Just curious. I like to visit with my seat mate when I travel. The trip does not seem to drag on so when I talk with the person sitting beside me.”

Marta really didn’t really want to engage in conversation with this stranger. She didn’t want to take a chance because a bit of her German accent lingered in her voice, and she didn’t want to raise any suspicion.  Plus, instinct told Marta not to trust the beauty who sat on the adjacent seat. Marta wanted to be sure she didn’t divulge anything about her mysterious trip. “I am very tired. I do not want to be rude, but I do not wish to visit. I would rather sleep.” Marta smiled and closed her eyes.

The French countryside whiz by the window as Marta wondered why she Pierre insisted she make this trip. In six long hours, she would understand.

*****

Marta allowed herself to fall asleep which served two purposes. She would be rested when she arrived at her undetermined destination, and the silence fended off any further conversation attempts by the woman beside her.

The train pulled into the station, and after it came to a stop, Marta filed off behind the well-dressed woman. As they left the train, the conductor offered his hand to female passengers aiding them as they made the large step down off the train to the platform.

The well-dressed woman said in a too pleasant voice, “Bonne journ!”

“You enjoy your day, too.” Marta smiled and strolled in the opposite direction.

Now at the train station Marta didn’t understand the plan Pierre set in place for her. She studied the train departure and arrival board as she anticipated her contact. Then she strolled from one of end to the station to the other. A tall man dressed in casual white slacks and sear-sucker blazer approached her.

“Hello, Marta.” He tipped his straw hat.

“Hello.” She said shyly.

“I am your driver. Please follow me.”

Marta hesitated. “You’re a friend of Pierre’s?”

“Yes, mademoiselle.

The mysterious man escorted her to a small car. He pulled away from the station and drove through the unfamiliar countryside to a sleepy Mediterranean coastal town. Marta breathed in the fresh salt air as the coolness of the breeze coming off the sea brushed across her body. A fishy odor permeated the beach area, but in a strange way, she found the scent pleasant. She never saw seaside scenery, and Marta enjoyed the picturesque view. The sapphire colored water, the gentle waves lapping the shore, boats bobbing at the pier transported her to a foreign land she loved at first sight.

The driver stopped in a quiet residential area about three city blocks from the coast. He turned off the engine and smiled. “We are here.” He jumped out of the car, opened Marta’s door, and offered her his arm.

Marta received his gesture, carrying her overnight bag and purse in the other hand. They walked on a cobblestone walkway flanked by beautiful red roses on both sides. Marta’s heart pounded harder against her ribs with every step. She wished the man would tell her why he chose this place. He led her up a flight of stairs to the door labeled Apt. 212.  He unlocked the door to reveal a sunlit cozy flat where a bony old woman rocked in a chair near the window. Marta’s brow wrinkled as she stared at the frail woman struggling to stand up to greet her. Without a word, the tall man put the key to the apartment on the table next to the door and left without a word.

The old woman spoke first. “You do not recognize me, Marta?”

The sound of her voice, told Marta the identity of this stranger. She gasped and put her hand to her mouth. “Oh, my God! Emma?”

“Yes.” Emma nodded as her eyes moistened.

Marta moved closer. “My Emma? How? When?”

“I am free at last. Let me feast my eyes on you. You are so beautiful!” Her voice quavered. Emma welcomed Marta into her bony arms.

Marta didn’t move. How could this woman be Emma?  She stared at this stranger.

Emma consoled her. “I understand my appearance is wretched, but I will recover now that I am with you again.” Her eyes told the truth.

“Oh, Emma. What did they do to you?” Marta moved closer as tears collected at the rim of her eyes.

“Someday I may tell you.  But for right now, I just want to be happy we are together again.”

Marta blinked again and again to ward off the tears wanting to escape as she stared at this poor, bone-thin woman struggling to move. Seeing Emma in such bad condition broke her heart. Her healthy, athletic, beautiful Emma now appeared as a battered, broken woman. Emma put her skeleton arms around Marta and hugged her. Marta didn’t expect her to be so strong.

After standing close for several minutes, Emma kissed Marta’s cheek while her eyes glistened. “I thought we would never be together again.”

Marta caressed her gently. “Welcome home, Emma. I missed you so much.”

 

 

 

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.

#####

 

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.

#####

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.

#####

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.

 

How to Have a Good Day

Good morning everyone! It’s going to be a good day. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and temperatures are in the low 70s. But that’s not why I know it will be a good day– but it certainly helps.

How do I know that? Because I think it will be a good day. It’s as simple as that. Believing it will be a good day is a self-fulfilling prophesy.

No matter your circumstance, healthy or ill, rich or poor, young or old–we all create our own world. Isn’t that great?

I know. I know. You’re thinking I’m putting on my Pollyanna cloak, but I’m not. I’ve learned if I think positively and believe I’m going to have a wonderful day, I will, It doesn’t matter if I’m going outside my home or just staying in. I will find happiness because I demand it.

Conversely, if I’m tired and crabby and negative, I may as well go back to bed because I certainly will have a bad day. I confess every once in a very long while, I want to be cranky and have a pity party. I’m human after all. But thank god, I never dwell on negative thoughts for too long.

I think we all have a responsibility to live a life that is full of wonderful days. So drink your coffee, go through your morning routine, and then face the world with a smile. It works. Believe me.

#####

I’ll  APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

 

 

Chapter 9

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-December 1041—A two o’clock on a sunny, cold December 8th afternoon Angelo and Rosalie listened to their radio to hear President Roosevelt’s address to Congress. The newspaper reports about the Japanese Empire bombing Pearl Harbor the day before were sketchy and they wanted to hear how the President would handle the attack. Everyone was sure he intended to ask congress for a declaration of war.

Gina played with her building blocks as her parents listened and held their breath.

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – A date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons commenced bombing Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands caused severe damage to our American naval and military forces. Many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships reported they got torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan, therefore, undertook a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States already formed their opinions and understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always we will remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war exists between the United States and the Japanese empire.”

After the speech, “The Star Spangled Banner,” played. Angelo and Rosalie stood at attention with their hands over their hearts. Angelo’s eyes filled with tears and his chest grew tight because he knew his brother Tony was stationed at Pearl Harbor.  Instead of crying, Rosalie prayed. She understood Angelo’s fear. Tony’s ship the USS California might be in the harbor where the attack occurred.

Chapter 9

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—December—The Armani family went about preparing for Christmas like they did every other year, until two naval officers knocked on their front door.  When Mrs. Armani saw their sad eyes, she broke down in sobs and fell to her knees. “No, not my Tony. Please God, not my son Tony!”

The officers stood stone faced and one of them took her hand. In a soft voice he said, “The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your son, Anthony Armani is missing in action at Pearl Harbor.”  Then they handed her a banner with a Gold Star appliqued on a white background.

Mama Armani rubbed her hand over the gold star and wept. Tomorrow she would hang the flag in her living room window to show the world her son gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. But now she would weep as a piece of herself perished.

Mr. Armani called Angelo and Rosalie to come to the house immediately. “We got news about Tony.”

Rosalie grabbed Gina, and Angelo backed the truck out of the driveway throwing gravel in all directions.

He parked in front of his parent’s home and ran to the front door leaving Rosalie and Gina behind. He opened the door and found his mother sitting in an upholstered wing back chair sobbing. In an instant, Angelo realized Tony died in the Japanese attack. He fell to his knees and put his head in his mother’s lap. “Oh Ma, it can’t be true.”

She ran her hand through Angelo’s curly hair. “Itsa true, my son. Itsa true. Tony is gone.”

Rosalie and Mr. Armani witnessed the pain of a mother and brother realizing there was nothing they could do to ease their loss.

“How is he ever going to get over this?” Rosalie thought. “I can never fill such a big void in his life.”

Mr. Armani looked away with tears in his eyes. He walked out of the house and sat on a swing on the back porch. He did his grieving for his oldest son in private. He asked God why he needed Tony so much. He stared at the statue of the St. Francis in his flower garden and prayed for all the other families who lost a son at Pearl Harbor.

 

 

 

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!”

 

 

 

Hunkerin’ Down in the Heat

This summer didn’t show up until a few weeks ago. our temperatures were in the high 60s and low 70s–PERFECT.  But since Thursday, things have changed. Wisconsinites are not used to temperatures in the 90s, and the temperatures soared into the 90s with little “warm up.”

Usually when temperatures get this hot, we have a big thunderstorm and it cools off. Not this time. Oh, we did get a thunderstorm bad enough to haul out Ernie’s “thunder jacket,”  but instead of cooling off, the temperature returned to its intensity. As MS patients don’t do well in the heat, Ken and I are marooned until the weather gets more like Wisconsin instead of Florida. Luckily, we don’t have a problem keeping busy because we both have our own distractions. Even so, we do much better when we can get out and enjoy our friends. So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed the temperature will drop and we will be able to escape our four lovely walls.

I hope all of you are surviving this goofy weather that seems to be happening all over the country. Have a wonderful weekend, and if you’re indoors like we are here’s the next two chapters of APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3.

Chapter 25

Paris, France-October 1940—By autumn, the French people stood in line for food rations. Gasoline for cars and coal for heating required specific stamps to purchase any quantity. Electricity service became sporadic. Parisians even suffered a shortage of fabric and leather which caused department stores’ racks to be empty. The German occupation provided a lack of everything but fear.

The outside world never realized the reality Parisians suffered. Other countries never read stories about French citizens standing in long lines to receive weekly ration tickets for potatoes, carrots, and any seasonal fruit every month; they never realized the rations allotted amounted to a third of what they received before the Germans took control.  The rest of the world thought the French were soft because the Germans rolled over them so easily.

Marta wondered how much time would pass before Jewish property would be confiscated, and the owners would be deported on trains.

Marta carried her fear with her; she wanted to leave Paris and go somewhere else. But where? All of Europe fell under German control. And why should she leave?

The morning after Marta’s confession she might be pregnant, Emma felt compelled to avenge her.  She intended to join the French Resistance. Her German background would be a great help to the movement, and her fluency in French would pass for any native.

For some time she surmised her boss Pierre to be a leader in the movement, so when she got back to work after Marta recovered, she walked into his office. “Pierre, I must talk to you.”

“Yes, mademoiselle?”

“I need to speak to you in private.” Emma’s voice dropped.

Pierre turned on the radio. “What do you need?”

Emma said in hushed tones. “I want to get involved. I need to get involved. How do I start?”

Pierre smiled. Emma worked in the office making identity cards, passports, and other official papers, so her help would be essential to the cause. If a German officer requested to look at a citizen’s identification papers, he or she needed to produce them on the spot. Emma would now produce false papers for people needing to escape Paris. “You start from where you are already.”

Emma nodded.

“You possess numerous invaluable skills, Emma. Your penmanship is exemplary. Your ability to write with your right and left hands will also come in very handy. Above that, you speak German. Someday we may even need your translating skills. I am pleased you want to help.”

Emma agreed she would be very good at forgery.

Pierre rubbed his goatee as if deep in thought. “You are quite convinced you want to be involved in this dangerous work?”

Emma nodded. “I am most serious, monsieur.”

Pierre smiled. He hoped someday Emma would come to him and volunteer her exemplary her skills. “Beside forging identity cards when they are needed, you will also deliver documents and communiques in the confines your bicycle. Can you do that?”

Emma shook her head. “Yes, Pierre. I will do whatever you need me to do.”

“Good.” He handed her an identity card he received from another operative. “I need you to deliver this. Where is your bicycle?”

“Out behind the building.”

“Good. Show me.”

Emma went down two flights of stairs with Pierre in tow. She opened the ground floor door and pointed out her bicycle. “There it is.”

Pierre went right to work, schooling her on how to conceal documents in the handlebars of her bicycle. He removed the rubber grips, rolled up the documents, and slid them into the hollow tubing. As soon as Pierre secured the identity papers, he handed Emma an address. “Meet Edward Gessler at that address. He is a German national on our side. He got stranded in Paris after the Nazis attacked Warsaw. He realized he would be a dead man should he return to his homeland, so he wants to flee to England.”

“I’ll be back in about twenty minutes.” Emma rode her bike down a back street in the red light district. She went around the back of the building to meet the contact. A very tall man with blond curly hair appeared. He spoke fluent French. “Please miss, might you spare some bread for a hungry man?”

He used the correct password. “Of course.” She pulled a baguette from her basket and removed the handlebar grips to remove the documents. The man stood close to her as she transferred the documents in a slice made on the baguette.

“You are so kind.” He smiled.

“I am happy to help.” She smiled at the stranger and wondered would become of him.

He disappeared into the darkness and Emma pointed her bicycle in the opposite direction. After her encounter with Mr. Gessler, she experienced a moment of clarity. She vowed the resistance movement would be part of her life as long as the Nazis remained in France.

*****

Her next assignment came the following week. She met the mayor and police chief to procure their signatures. Her heart bounced inside her chest as she looked each man in the eye, but she remained cool and under complete control leaving them both with a smile. They just gave her what she needed to forge important documents.

Emma always kept to herself at work. As a lesbian, other French people didn’t wish to interact with her, which worked to her advantage. Even if someone ever suspected her as a spy, they wouldn’t tell for fear the Gestapo might associate them with her.

Emma thought it best not to burden Marta with her new role in the Resistance. This way, if Emma ever got arrested for her activities, Marta would be protected. The Nazis would learn nothing because she didn’t know anything about the operation. The strategy might save her life.

Chapter 26

Paris, France-October, 1940—Marta didn’t want to think about being pregnant. But every morning when she vomited, and every afternoon when she needed a nap in a closet at the Louvre, she realized denying her situation would not be an answer. She couldn’t let herself think about the mass growing inside of her as a baby; soon her body would give her secret away.

Emma stayed patient with her and did small favors to make Marta comfortable. She took the burden of preparing meals, cleaning the apartment, and other small chores off of Marta’s shoulders to allow her enough time to come to terms with herself. Marta appreciated Emma’s efforts to let her decide how to proceed without voicing her opinion.

Under the pressure from the Germans, the puppet government in Vichy passed a law making abortion a capital crime in France. Marta never thought she would break any law, but now she faced the realization if she terminated her pregnancy, she would do just that. But how could she in good conscience carry Franz’s Reinhart’s bastard child?

When she told Emma she had made the decision to terminate the pregnancy, Emma hugged her and rejoiced. “You did not disappoint me. I believed given enough time you would not want to carry this child of rape. I understand how hard this decision is for you. For what it is worth, I believe you chose wisely.”

Marta’s eyes filled with tears. “If the situation happened differently–

“But it did not, Cherie.” Emma embraced her and said in an understanding soft voice, “You are very brave.”

Marta cried. “But how do I get rid of it? How do I do this? Everything I tried failed. I lifted heavy weights; I douched; I punched myself in the abdomen, but I am still pregnant.”

“Some of those methods are old wives’ tales, Cherie, and they are not reliable.”

Marta replied. “I cannot think about shoving a coat-hanger or a knitting needle up myself, either.”

“You should never think about hurting yourself; there are other means.”

The two women stared at each other as if searching for answers from each other.  Emma spoke first. “I do not want you to be angry with me, but I learned about a housewife in Cherbourg by the name of Marie-Louise Giraud who performs abortions in her home. I understand she is quite expensive but very effective.”

“We can barely get by now. Where will we get the money?” Marta said.

“Money is a problem.” Emma agreed. “But if we need to, my friends will help.”

“Before we borrow any money, what do you think of this?” Marta handed Emma a recipe.

Ingredients:

  •  Fresh parsley
  •  500 mg pills of Vitamin C
  • Treatment should last three days only: DO NOT EXCEED 3 DAYS!!
  1. Insert a fresh sprig of parsley as far as possible into the vagina. Parsley induces contractions. Change every twelve hours. The parsley will become soft and may be difficult to remove, but this is not dangerous.
  1. At the same time, drink parsley infusions. Two to six tablespoons four times daily.

To make the infusion: Boil 2 1/2 cups of water for every ounce of parsley. Add parsley to boiling water, remove from heat and cover. Do not boil parsley in the water because the infusion will be less effective. Steep for at least twenty minutes to two hours. (The longer the parsley steeps, the more potent it will be.)

3. During the three days (or until your period starts) take high doses of Vitamin C orally–500 mg every hour up to 6000 mg a day. You can continue using the Vitamin C for up to six days. Vitamin C can bring on menstruation even three weeks after a “late” period.

 

If successful you should start to bleed in two to three days. You may experience severe cramps.

High amounts of Vitamin C can cause loose stools. You may also experience “hot flashes” – A side effect of Vitamin C.

Watch for signs of toxicity specific to parsley: Nausea, hallucinations, vomiting, vertigo, hives, paralysis, swollen liver, scanty and darkly colored urine, and tremors. Contact a doctor if any of these symptoms occur.

After Emma read the instructions, she said, “The hardest thing about this will be to find the Vitamin C, and you are more than three weeks late.”

“A pharmacist comes to the Louvre often. I will ask him where to get it.” Marta said.

“This is worth a try.” Emma said. “If the treatment does not induce a miscarriage, then we will pursue Marie-Louise Giraud.

Marta sighed. “All right.”

Emma said something totally unlike her. “Amen!”

*****

The Friday after their conversation, Marta came home from work with a bottle of Vitamin C her pharmacist friend gave her along with a bunch of parsley Brigetta brought from her home garden.

Emma boiled the water on the hot plate and waited. Marta thought the water took an unusually long time before Emma removed the boiling pot from the heat. Marta tossed in the big bunch of parsley.

Emma looked at her wristwatch. “Six o’clock. We’ll begin in two hours. Are you ready?”

Marta looked at her with determination. “Yes. I want my body to be my own again.”

Emma nodded. “You are very brave, Cherie.”

Marta stuffed her vagina with the fresh green herb, and took six vitamin pills. She poured herself the required amount of the hot parsley water and kept up the procedure every four hours through the night. She slept periodically between doses, but when she woke, she prayed God would forgive her for ridding herself of this child.

The cramping started the next morning. Marta cried with pain and rocked on the floor holding her stomach. Emma shared every spasm. In any other circumstance, she would fill a hot water bottle to relieve Marta’s cramps, but in this situation, they wanted Marta’s uterus to contract and expel the fetus.

Marta continued the process all weekend. The pain grew in its intensity. Marta cried in pain. “He still is hurting me, Marta.”

Emma held her. “I know, darling. But the treatment appears to be working. Perhaps you will not suffer much longer. Hang on. Let’s put you to bed.”

Marta rolled back and forth unable to find a comfortable position to fall asleep. When she did sleep, nightmares of the rape haunted her. She cried out, sending Emma to Marta’s side.

The third morning, Marta cried from the bathroom. “Emma, come here!”

Emma raced to the bathroom and found Marta pale and breathless. “What is it, Marta?”

“Look.” She pointed to the water in the toilet where a bloody mass floated.

“Oh my god, the treatment worked!” The two of them cried in each other’s arms.

Marta flushed the toilet and put the most horrendous chapter of her life right where it needed to be.

Success is Found in Failure

It’s a beautiful day again today, which means I always feel guilty for staying in the house. I’m pretty much a “hot house flower” because I have such a limited temperature range. I’m comfortable and happy between 60 and 80 degrees, of course the humility has to be lower than 50 percent. Today is such a day. But I’m throwing off the guilt and will try to finish this post quickly to go out and enjoy the day.

If there is any regret in my life, it’s that I didn’t take up my Aunt Mary’s invitation to live with her in San Diego when I was about eighteen years old. But youth is wasted on the young and I made a decision to come back to Wisconsin. What a dope, right? The place offered the weather I loved everyday.

I like to believe I’m a risk taker, but that quality is cultivated by failing, and at eighteen I wasn’t ready to fail at anything. So, I came home and lived the life other people wanted me to live.

I threw off that mantel after a close friend died at age 38. I was about 33 at the time, and a stay-at-home mom, with a desire to do something more than stay at home. I created a successful doll clothes sewing business for Cabbage Patch dolls. I went to area craft fairs and made hundreds of dollars. But like all fads, in a couple of years the dolls ran their course, and I knew it was time to find another endeavor. So far, I hadn’t failed.

I entered college at 35 and heard from my mother, “Well, this is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done.” My husband didn’t want me to go either because my study time took away from my household slave labor work. He also didn’t give me any money to pursue my degree, so I needed to find a part-time job–which required even more time away from home. I believe he thought if he made my desire to graduate college difficult, I’d quit. The opposite happened. I dug in my heels and went forward.

On campus I found Barbara again. I wasn’t somebody’s daughter, wife or mother. I was just me, and guess what? I liked that person. I jumped over all the hurdles people in my life put before me and graduated Magna Cum Laude in four years. To date it is my proudest achievement.

I just wish I hadn’t wasted so much time fearing failing. Initially, failure is tough to take, but in that effort there’s always a nugget of courage. Trying again and again to achieve the goal is success in itself.

 

 

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 18

 Berlin, Germany – August 1939—The few words Marta wrote about her escapades in Paris cheered Liesel. Every word Marta wrote transported her to the lovely city. Rereading Marta’s letter helped relieve a bit of her boredom. Only two months passed since she left Berlin? On top of missing her two girlfriends, Leisel’s father added to her disappointment when he forbade her to sit for the university entrance exams. He viewed this action contrary to the beliefs of the Nazi hierarchy. Instead, he announced Leisel would attend finishing school at Schwanenwerder near the Wannsee Lake outside Berlin. At the beginning of September she would spend six weeks at this prestigious finishing school. The emphasis of the program prepared high society girls for marriage.

Leisel did a slow burn when he told her the news. “You want me to go to a bride school? Honestly, Vater. How cruel can you be?”

Colonel Fuchs slapped her. “Frauline Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, is the best. I am giving you the best a German woman could receive. You will be away for six weeks learning the skills to become a good wife for an SS officer.”

“I do not want to go!” Leisel screamed.

“I do not care what you want. You are my daughter and you will be schooled properly. You must learn domestic chores like washing, cooking, childcare as well as home design. “He clicked off activities as if they compared to math, science, and writing.

Leisel suffered in silence. She fought tears wanting to roll down her cheeks. She never wanted her father to think her weak. She stared ahead and closed her mind.

He yelled. “You will also learn social niceties to hold lively conversations at cocktail parties.”

Leisel decided to give her argument to sit for the entrance exam one more try. “Father my excellent grades in secondary school put me at the top of my class. I am more valuable than just a breeder of Aryan children. Would you not be proud of me if I qualified for higher education? Would you not be proud of me as a professor of astronomy at the University of Berlin? Would not a career like that fill you with pride? I want to teach, Vater. I will be successful!”

As she protested Herr Fuchs faced turned beet red, and he yelled. “I forbid any more talk about the university. You will attend finishing school. I will hear no more on the subject.” He stomped away.

As soon as he left, Leisel eased herself onto the floor and let her sobs come to the surface.

Her mother went to her to try to ease her pain. “Liesel, darling. Please don’t cry. Your father wants the best for you. He worked hard to secure a place for you at this special school.”

“Oh, Mutter, how can you be so blind?” She screamed and ran upstairs to her bedroom. She threw herself on the bed and cried. Her mother followed her and after Leisel calmed herself, she embraced her daughter. “Do not be so upset, my darling.”

Leisel wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. “Don’t you understand, Mutter? Father wants me to be a breeder of children and a slave to a home. He believes education at the university would be a waste of time because I am a girl. He never considered my feelings on this issue. He never even told me of his intentions until now.”

“Now Leisel, that is not true. He wants you to enjoy a good life. Being qualified to become a wife of an SS officer is important in our new society. This school will give you ample opportunities to pick the man you want.”

“Do you not think I can get the attention of any man on my own?”

Her mother stood. “Yes, I believe you might. But this school assures you of a good match, and you’ll only be away such short time. You must do as your father dictates.”

Numbness pass through Leisels body like a wave in the ocean. She accepted her father’s edict as a prison sentence.

*****

Her mother tried to quell Leisel’s unhappiness. She made a fuss of having tea and cookies with her every afternoon and would praise Leisel for the smallest accomplishment. Her mother used their time together to sing the praises of what a wonderful experience the bride school would be for her. Leisel hid behind a mask of interest, but her mother’s daily compliments fell on deaf ears. Leisel wanted so much more for her life.  Now she would be required to attend ceremonies, swim at a private club where SS officers went, and dance at weekly parties all so she might snare a handsome SS officer. She lived in a world she didn’t want and worst of all, she saw no way out.

Leisel wrote to Marta and told her about her father’s plans for her future. In the spirit of finding a husband. She asked Marta if Franz wrote to her while she visited Paris. Leisel wrote Franz would be a boy her father would approve, so if Marta had no designs on him, she planned to entice him to be her beau before she left for school in September. As long as her father required her to marry an SS officer, Franz would be her choice after his year in the academy. She didn’t tell Marta she thought Franz possessed a smoldering sexuality which attracted her. His shoulders widened, and she loved the color of his eyes that variegated from deep blue to the color of glaciers. He was so appealing in his uniform, and Leisel thought seducing Franz might be a fun challenge.

When Marta answered Leisel’s letter she didn’t share her thoughts about Franz. Marta responded she didn’t carry a torch for him, so if Leisel wanted to start a relationship with him, she should. She would need to find out for herself what a crude bully Franz Reinhart could be.

#####

Colonel Fuchs hated he treated his only daughter so harshly, but he didn’t understand her ridiculous endeavor to continue her education at the university. He wanted to smooth over her disappointment, but he truly felt he was doing his best for her future. He couldn’t stand how she stared ahead and acted like he was invisible. Any suggestions he made to her fell on deaf ears, even when he encouraged her to take part in the Hitler youth activities to build new friendships, seeing Marta and Heidi chose activities outside of Germany.

Colonel Fuchs took Leisel to the community center where an outdoor party for Hitler’s youth was going on. “I expect you to be home at eleven o’clock sharp. Here is some money for you bus fare home.” He handed her a few coins. “Now go and have a good time with people your own age.”

“Yes, Vater.” Leisel took the coins, got out of the car, and didn’t look back. Her smoldering anger made being civil to her father nearly impossible. She followed the sound of a polka band and entered a garden where paper lanterns hung around the periphery of a plywood dance platform. Teenagers sat at wooden picnic tables covered with red flags sporting a black swastika in the center. A few people shared mugs of punch as they sat on park benches situated under the trees. The sizzle of bratwursts grilling on the outdoor fire pit filled the air with a spicy aroma. A table close by the grill offered hot potato salad and cold punch. Leisel took a seat on a bench which provided a good vantage point to view the crowd. She didn’t recognize a soul and her shyness paralyzed her and she positioned herself against the fence.

The boys attending the dance wore Hitler-Jugend khaki uniforms, in contrast with the girls who wore frilly, colorful party dresses. Couples appeared happy as they waltz by. Leisel began to wonder why she consented to come to this party. Clearly, she didn’t belong.

She stood what seemed to be an eternity and no one approached her to dance or join their party of friends, so she decided to leave. As she strolled toward the exit Franz Reinhart laughed with three other comrades at a table near the exit.  In the moonlight he appeared so handsome. His blonde hair and ice-blue eyes made him a perfect specimen of the Aryan race.

Leisel gathered her courage and walked toward Franz and his friends. Her shapely legs and swaying hips always got the boy’s attention. She faked a smile and tilted her head as she said, “Hi Franz.” Her body quivered with uncertainty. Usually she never approached boys.

Franz didn’t look up from his food.

“Don’t be an ass, Franz.” The boy sitting next to him slugged Franz in the arm. “This beautiful frauline greeted you.”

“Shut up, you dum kopf!” He glanced at Leisel and said in a flat voice, “Hello Leisel. What brings you over here?”

“You’re the only person I recognize, Franz. My father made me come.” The second the words flew from her mouth, she hated herself.

“Oh.” He went back to eating his dinner.

Leisel turned and walked away with tears in her eyes.

One of Franz’s friends said, “Man you are the dumbest shit on the planet! That girl is prettier than anyone else here. Go after her.”

“She is Marta’s best friend. Believe me when I say her legs are sewn shut.”

“You are a crude bastard. Is sex all you ever think about? Given half a chance, she probably is a hungry lioness who would like to devour you. It is two months since Marta shut you down. If a beautiful piece of strudel like her said hello to me, I wouldn’t stay here with the likes of you.”

“Hmmh.” Franz stared at his comrade.

“Go get her, man. Be nice.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m sick of listening to how Marta wronged you. Start over. What better justice than to replace Marta’s place with her best friend!”

“Perhaps you’re right.” Franz wiped his face with the back of his hand. He caught Leisel before she boarded the bus. “Leisel, wait!”

Leisel turned around. “I’m leaving Franz; I do not belong here.”

“Aw come on, Leisel. I’m sorry. My parents made me come too, and I took my wrath out on you.” He smiled at her. “Would you do me the honor of dancing with me?”

Leisel blushed. “Thank you, for the apology, but I do not want to dance now.”

Franz found her unwillingness to dance a challenge. “Your hair put up that way is very attractive. You look sophisticated.”

“So nice of you to say.” She smiled.

An uncomfortable silence settled between them like a heavy fog. Franz led her to the center of the party.

“About that dance.” He pulled her into his body and twirled her onto the dance floor. He stomped around like trained elephant with heavy feet. The fast polka made Leisel hang on tight to make the best of his clumsy dancing.

“You are very light on your feet, Leisel.”

“You, too, Franz.” she lied.

When the music stopped, she gasped for breath.  “Would you be so kind to fetch me a cup of punch? The dance made me so thirsty.”

“Let us leave this place. Neither of us wants to be here. So let us leave this dead tanzenir and go for a drive.”

“My parents would not approve. I must present you to my father first.”

“Forget your father. Presenting a beau is old fashioned. Consider this our first date.” He grabbed her hand and steered her toward the exit. His forceful decision overcame Leisel.  Why shouldn’t I succumb to this handsome Nazi boy? Isn’t that what Vater wants for me? She didn’t protest when he took her hand. She looked into his large blue eyes some something inside of her came alive. “Well, if you promise to get me home by eleven o’clock, I will go.”

Franz licked his lips. “Great!” He led her to his father’s Volkswagen and jumped into the driver’s seat expecting Leisel to climb into the passenger seat by herself. “Are you coming?” He yelled through the open window.

Leisel hesitated. Gentlemen opened doors for their girls. If her father witnessed Franz’s behavior, he would ream him with a stern rebuke. She jumped into the passenger’s seat as Franz started the car. The thrill of defying her father energized her. Driving away with a “bad boy” like Franz made her sit on the edge of the seat.

“Relax, Leisel.” Franz said as he glanced at her. “You’re safe with me. We will find more fun at the place I am taking you–guaranteed.” He flashed a smile which melted her.

Disobeying her father like this thrilled her. “Where are we going, Franz?”

“A quiet little place where we can talk. Besides, they serve me beer because they think I am twenty-one.” He grinned before he added. “And you are with me, so they will serve you too.”

She nodded. Leisel never drank alcohol, so this trip would be one initiation into adulthood.

They entered a building which looked like a shack in the woods. The interior carried on the rundown theme with a small counter with stools and a few tables. Franz led Leisel to a table in the corner. The bartender greeted him and brought two large steins of beer to their table.

Franz smiled. “Dunke” Then he lifted his stein gesturing Leisel should do the same. “Skol!” He clinked his stein to hers.

Leisel followed his lead and took a big gulp of the bitter brew. Her face contorted.

“What is wrong?” Franz laughed. “Do not tell me you never drank beer before? What kind of German woman are you?” He paused and took a gulp of the brew. He wiped the foam off his face with the back of his hand. “Don’t worry, Leisel, you’ll get used to the taste. When I tried the beverage the first time, I did the same. After a while, you’ll crave the brew.” He took another hearty gulp from his stein.

Leisel forced a smile and tried again. The beer didn’t settle any better the second time but she took a big gulp anyway. In a few minutes, her head started swimming, and she giggled. “This drink makes me happy.”

Franz smiled. “Drink some more, my sweet frauline.

“I better not.”

“Where’s your sense of adventure, Leisel?” Franz teased.

“My father squashed my my dreams with his edict I attend a bride school. He keeps me under lock and key. I am accountable all of the time.” A sly grin passed over her face, “But not tonight. I am here with you tonight drinking a stein of lager and I do admit, the beer makes me feel good.”

Franz laughed. “You’ll get used to the taste, sweetie. Do you want to dance?”

Leisel remembered being embarrassed by his lack of finesse on the dance floor. “No. I’d rather talk to you.” She slid her chair closer to him, so she could whisper into his ear.

“Sure. If that’s what you want.” He finished his stein and ordered another. In thirty minutes, Franz downed three steins of beer. He said very little in between sips while he surveyed other girls in the bar.

Leisel worked on her second beer and wondered why she sat with a boy who didn’t seem interested in her. Did he find her boring? Did she not live up to his standards? The awkward silence which settled between them reminded her of the way her mother and father didn’t communicate. Her “date” with Franz seemed to be a disaster.

Leisel tried to start conversation again. “Marta and I keep in contact through letters. Did she write to you?”

“No. I hate the bitch.” He growled. “Did you learn how she treated me?”

“Yes. But even so, hate is a strong word, Franz.”

“So what? She treated me like a peasant.” He took another hearty gulp of the beer. “Her father and I planned everything. He gave me his blessing. And what does she do? She heaves my ring across the yard and runs off to crazy France! I am better off without that hudin.

Listening to Franz bad-mouth her friend made Leisel uncomfortable. Marta hurt him, but to put on such a display seemed to be overkill. She said in a soft voice, “Truthfully, Marta lacked the fire you need from a girl, Franz. She never seemed interested in boys at all.”

Franz looked at her with icy blue eyes. “She put herself above me. Do you believe that? I am one of the top candidates for the academy.”

“I say she’s the loser.” Leisel put her hand on his face. “You are so strong and handsome. I think she’s crazy to turn you down. I would never treat you so badly.”

He stared into her sapphire blue eyes. “You are really beautiful, Leisel. How would you like to go on a real date on Friday? I will take you out for dinner and dancing. I promise I will be in better humor. I apologize for my anger tonight. I’m just in a bad mood and none of this is fair to you.”

A broad smile spread across Leisel’s face and her eyes sparkled as she admitted they would make a beautiful Aryan couple. “That would be wonderful, Franz!” She slurred her words.

She glanced at the clock across the room which appeared out of focus. Only fifteen minutes remained before her curfew. She stood holding onto the edge of table to steady herself. “I really must get home, Franz. If I miss curfew, my Vater will be very angry with me.”

“If you insist.” He took her hand and guided her to the car which looked like a mechanized beetle. Leisel’s fair skin appeared translucent in the warm moonlight. At that moment, Franz thought he never dated such a beautiful girl. He wrapped his arms around her and pinned her up against the car. He bent down and placed a serious kiss on her lips. “You are so beautiful Leisel. I think I am falling in love.” He kissed her harder, with an open mouth. Stale beer lingered on his tongue, but she still responded to his kiss. He pulled her body closer. A large bulge in his trousers sent a sudden chill down her spine. She squirmed when he put his hand on her breast. He writhed against her, and when his hand slid up her leg and rested between her legs he aroused in a way which scared her. Her body grew hot and her breathing became more rapid than usual. She wanted his touch. She wanted him to be her first, but not in a parking lot. Not tonight. She needed to get home. She pulled away from his embrace. “Franz, we should stop. I must get home.”

He stepped back and glared at her. “You’re nothing but a little cock tease. You work me up and now leave me like this?” He grabbed his crotch.

“Franz, please do not be crass. I like you. I want us to go on a real date. I want to become your girl, not your whore.”

“You want to be my girl? Really? Why would you let me go so far?”

She began to cry. “I guess I am a little drunk. I did not intend to lead you on.”

Anger poured out. He stomped around the front of the car, ripped open the door and flopped behind the steering wheel. He started the engine and drummed the steering wheel with his fingers as Leisel climbed into the passenger seat. He left the parking lot with the tires throwing gravel in all directions. Neither of them said a word as Franz sped toward Leisel’s house. He parked in front of her house and growled. “Here you are.”

“Aren’t you going to walk me to the door?” She asked.

“Why should I?” He still stung from her rejection.

“Because that is what boyfriends do, Franz.”

“When I become your boyfriend, frauline, I will walk you to the door.”

“I am sorry our first evening together disappointed you.” She opened the door. “Please behave like a gentleman and walk me to the door.”

Franz exited the car, slammed the door, and made a sweeping gesture with his hand for her to get out. She stood and grabbed his hand while she rocked unsteadily on her high heel shoes. He rushed her to the door. “Good night, Leisel.” He turned on his heel to leave.

She ran after him. “Don’t be like this, Franz.” She put both of her hands on either side of his face and kissed him with an open mouth. “Please don’t be angry with me. Leave Marta in the past. I guarantee you will not be disappointed next time we are together.” Leisel turned and went into the house, leaving Franz staring after her.

 

Chapter 19

Minneapolis, Minnesota – September, 1939—Josie stood in lines during her first week on campus. Lines for registering. Lines for class selection. Lines for buying books. Lines for cafeteria meals. Lines. Lines. Lines.

A girl named Anna from a very small town called Hayward, Wisconsin turned out to be her roommate. Five foot two Anna seemed like a ball of fire—strong and full of energy. She wore her strawberry blonde hair in a ponytail, and like Josie, she didn’t bother with make-up. Anna’s perfect oval face and flawless porcelain complexion attracted special stares from boys as she strolled through the corridors of the different buildings. From their first introduction, the girls connected like close sisters.

Josie acquired all of the classes she wanted and purchased the required books and unused school supplies. Anna and Josie used the few days before classes began to map out the locations of their classes. They tramped from building to building, getting lost more than once, but they corrected their course in order to boost their confidence for the first real day of classes.

The semester began at a snail’s pace, but in a few weeks, the pace quickened and Josie and Anna studied every waking hour. A dorm full of active, noisy girls didn’t lend itself to serious study, so the library became their home away from home.

Josie’s mother wrote every week, reporting on the activities of the farm. Betsy took sick, and they called the vet twice, but now Josie’s prize cow continued to improve. Josie’s brother Peter took a job at the local Autolite factory and her older brother Johnny enlisted in the Army Air Corps to become a pilot.  Johnny would leave for basic training around Christmastime to train at Randolph Field in Texas. Her mother also wrote his girlfriend, Mary came to the house deeply upset with his decision.

Donna and Rosalie wrote about the latest news from their perspectives. The letters helped Josie overcome the homesick bumps in the road her mother prophesied. She gained confidence with Anna by her side as the days passed. Before they realized it, several weeks of classes proved to both of them that they were in the right place.