Posts tagged ‘romance’

A BELATED VANENTINE

A BELATED VALENTINE’S DAY GIFT

 

I had intended to post this yesterday, but transferring from one computer to another shut my goals down.

Finally here it is. I wanted to share with you a story of love, although you will have to read this short story to the end to see what I mean.

This is my first published story, published by Enigma. The location of the story is the Mid Atlantic Air Museum located in Reading, PA. Every year the present a fantastic show during the first weekend in June celebrating the men and machines of WWII. If you are drawn to history, to see aircraft of that era flying as well as reenactors and vehicles of the war we fought, I encourage you to attend.

I am member of the museum and have worked admissions for more than ten years. If you can locate me, when you make the effort to attend, tell me if you enjoyed the show, and if you can’t attend, tell me if you enjoyed the story.

 

                                                       REUNION

 

The June morning was brilliant and clear with just enough of a breeze to keep you cool despite the predicted eighty-degree day.  At the age of eighty-two, for Christopher Johnson, getting up in the morning was not an easy chore and had lately not seemed worth the effort.  He turned his head and looked at the pillow beside him.  “I miss you so much honey,” he said quietly.  His wife Peggy had died less than a year ago.  One night they went to bed as usual.  The last words he had said to her were the words he always said to her before falling asleep, “I love you.”  When Chris awoke, Peggy was dead of a heart attack.  A few days later he was looking into her grave knowing a large part of his life was now buried in the cold earth.  After almost sixty years of marriage, the pain of her loss was intense, almost as intense as the love they had shared all those years. 

With Peggy still on his mind, he sat up and began to stretch his arthritic limbs knowing the pain that would follow.  Next he stood up and took a few steps; those first steps, they were the worst of the day.  He winced with every movement, but soon his joints and muscles settled down to the constant pain that accompanied him these days. 

He had gotten up earlier than usual, for today, unlike most of his days, he had an appointment, something to do.  He opened his closet door and, in the back, he found what he was looking for: his U.S. Army ranger dress uniform, the one he had worn on his return home after being wounded during World War II.  With persistent pain, he maneuvered his body into the uniform that, after sixty years still fit his slender frame.  He looked in the mirror, and the toll of those sixty years stared back at him.  The hair on his head and his mustache had gone gray years ago.  His eyes, once admired by his fellow soldiers for their ability to spot enemy aircraft or fortifications before anyone else, now watered behind heavy bifocals.  He inspected his image, looking over the uniform for signs of moth damage.  The area of his uniform he examined first was his chest; there hung the Purple Heart and the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He was proud to have served his country, proud of his awards but knew, that in combat, a split second could mean the difference between a dead soldier and a hero.  Satisfied that his uniform had survived another year, he returned it to the closet and dressed in his usual summer shirt and khakis.

While Chris hung up his uniform, his mind still held the Medal of Honor and the events that led to its award.

The day was D Day, early in the morning of June 6th.  Chris was among a group of Army Rangers that would be the first to hit the beach.  Their objective was to climb and secure the cliffs overlooking the landing sites.  These cliffs held guns that could hazard the ships and soldiers, and the hazard needed to be removed.  German soldiers were stationed on the cliffs, ready to rain death on unprotected soldiers landing on the beach below.  Chris and his three buddies Frank Grimes, Larry Schwartz and Duck Dupont were together in the landing craft, along with twenty other rangers heading toward the beach.

Chris had begun basic training knowing no one.  Soon he gravitated to three other guys who seemed to be as lost and alone as he was.   The four of them gradually became friends and survived the ordeal together.  Of the three, he was closest to Duck Dupont.  Duck’s real name was Willard; he gained his nickname Duck during a basic training class.  The class was walking past the artillery area when a practice round went off.  Most of the class flinched, but Duck was on the ground with his head covered by his hands.  From then on he was known as Duck.

His thoughts returned to June 6th.

It was still dark and they landed unopposed.  The men quickly and quietly disembarked and headed for the base of the two hundred foot cliff – it would be quite a climb.  When everyone was in position, they fired ropes up the side of the cliff.  This brought the response they expected, Germans began firing down the cliff and rangers began to collapse on the beach.  Chris and his friends were to stay together and climb along with most of the rangers while the rest provided cover fire.  Soon the German fire lessened then ceased as the rangers continued their climb.

The four friends were the first to reach the top of the cliff.  What they saw sent a shiver through them all.  Before them, set back about fifty yards from the edge of the cliff, stood a series of three bunkers. The first light of dawn streamed through the trees beyond the enemy, and all seemed quiet and peaceful except for the machine guns projecting from behind sandbags.  They knew they had to act fast, for if they didn’t, the rangers coming up the cliff would be cut down as soon as they reached the top.  They split up into two groups; Chris and Duck went to the left – Frank and Larry to the right.  The two flanking bunkers had to be eliminated before the middle position could be attacked.  Each group approached the nearest bunker and tossed a grenade inside.  The simultaneous explosions sent German soldiers into action.  The rangers had missed one.  Along with fire from the third remaining bunker, a fourth bunker opened up along with mortar fire from behind the bunker.  The fourth bunker surprised the rangers and had a clear shot at them.  Duck was literally cut in half by machine gun fire.  Larry was attacking the third of the bunkers they had seen, having just pulled the pin from a grenade when he was shot.  They never did find Frank.  Chris entered the first bunker they had taken out, pushed aside the mangled German bodies and manned the machine gun.  He quickly took out the bunker they had overlooked before, creeping up to the last remaining bunker; he destroyed it with grenades.  The actions of the four men had saved the lives of the rangers now reaching the summit of the cliff and helped secure the landing site for the invasion.

           In the early morning silence, after the heat of battle, Chris collapsed on the ground part from fatigue, part from pain, but mostly from grief – his friends were gone.  Chris had shrapnel wounds in his left arm and hip.  At some point his helmet had taken a hit and deflected the bullet but the impact gave him a nasty scalp wound.  Blood now streamed down the side of his face and soaked his collar.                                                                                                                                                             

These are the memories that flooded into Chris’s mind as he put away his uniform and prepared to spend a weekend at the Mid Atlantic Air Museum as a guest of honor, something he had done for the last five years.  This would be his first year going without Peggy at his side.  He knew it would not be the same without her, but he still looked forward to the event.  

          The museum had organized a weekend devoted to the history of World War II for the last ten years.  It was a living history lesson with vintage aircraft flown in from all over the country, and encampments set up with hundreds of reenactors dressed in the World War II uniforms of the United States, England, France and Germany.  The museum also invited veterans from the war who would give first hand accounts of combat.  But none of them told what the war was really like for their memories were selective, cleansed by time, and they all carried within them that area of memory they would never enter again. 

World War II weekend started Friday morning and, although he wasn’t scheduled to give his presentation until Saturday, Chris always went Friday to wander the hanger and apron crammed with vintage World War II fighters, bombers, trainers and transports.  He could remember when the skies were filled with their kind.  Now there remained only a few of each.  On those warm Friday afternoons, he enjoyed walking through the encampments.  At one point he saw three men in ranger combat uniforms.  He smiled to himself, glad to see his branch of the army represented.  Chris loved strolling through the tents.  In his mind, there was nothing like the smell of a real canvas tent; the open flaps were your windows and the grass was your floor.  He had seen the tents his grandchildren used when they camped, it was like camping in a nylon bag, no smell, no character. In one of those old canvass tents, he could stand, close his eyes, and the memories of his days in the army would flood into his brain.

  Another reason he enjoyed the Fridays was the veterans whose attendance was heavy.  The old men and women enjoyed the smaller crowds and slower pace that Fridays afforded.  He enjoyed conversations with his contemporaries, reliving the past and recalling the days they were once young and involved in the great adventure they shared. 

Saturday morning arrived, the sky again clear and blue.  He went through his morning routine, slowly struggled into his uniform and waited for his nine o’clock ride to the museum.  Chris looked forward to the day.  Although he had never made a big deal about his award, one day bathed in the admiration of people who appreciated the sacrifices made during World War II did not hurt him, not at all. 

With his first lecture scheduled for 10:30, he was anxious to get to the museum.  He found the tent for his lecture.  There were about fifty folding chairs set up.  He took a moment and stood there alone, letting his mind recall memories that he usually avoided, memories that he would touch slightly, just slightly today.

As he waited at the speaker’s platform, the tent began to fill up. At the back of the tent, he spied the three young men in ranger uniforms he had seen the day before, standing together apart from the crowd.  Maybe today they would learn something about the uniforms they wore.

The chairs were full and people were standing in the back as Chris went into his presentation.  He shared with them the events of that early morning on the French coast, sanitized, but with enough action to keep the crowds attention.  After thirty minutes he was done and ready for questions.  Half way through the questions one of the men dressed as a ranger raised his hand and said, “Sir, I just want you to know we appreciate what you did for your country.”

  That brought a smile to Chris’ face, “I appreciate that son,” he answered.

The presentation over, the tent was cleared, and it was time for a little lunch and a chance to watch the vintage aircraft flying.  This was the part he most enjoyed.  The drone of the B-17 accompanied the whine of the Merlin powered P-51s.  He knew the planes were the big draw, not old men wearing old uniforms, but he was happy to be part of the show.

First to fly were the trainers, SNJs and T-28s.  Then the observation aircraft would fly, the L-19s, followed by the transports, the C-47s and a C-54.  Before the fighters and bombers took off, the reenactors took the field in front of the crowd.  To the left were the men in German uniforms, to the right the U.S. Army.

The uniformed men fired blanks and mock mortars at each other.  There were also smoke grenades thrown by both sides.  All this action took place in a grassy area between the runway and aircraft taxiway.  As usual, the fire department stood ready for the grass fires the smoke grenades always started, and this year was no exception.  The grass fires were more of a nuisance than a danger, and they were always rapidly dealt with.  In fact, the dense plumes were greater than any of the regular attendees of the show could remember, and the fire company quickly prepared to hose down the grass.  Chris stood there with the rest of the crowd as the shroud of smoke drifted over them.

Suddenly, he felt a tap on his shoulder.  It was one of the rangers, “Sir, we need your help.”

 “Sure son, what can I do for you?” came Chris’ reply.

  “Could you join us sir?” the ranger questioned.  The ranger started walking towards the smoke set off by the mock battle, flanked by the two other rangers Chris had noticed before, and bewildered, Chris followed.

Soon smoke enveloped the four men.  The crowd, watching the firemen putting out the grass fire saw the three reenactors on the field but could not imagine why an old man in uniform was traipsing in after them.  They saw the four enter the clouds of smoke and lost sight of them.

Chris walked, not knowing where the three young men were taking him.  His arthritis bothered him as he entered the smoke, but a few steps into the haze his pain was reduced, and then gone.  He noticed something else; he no longer wore his dress uniform but wore the ranger combat uniform, same as the reenactors.  All at once he was puzzled and amazed and had no idea what their destination could be.

The three re-enactors slowed down and Chris easily caught up with them.  “How in the hell are you, Chris?” asked Duck.  Frank and Larry were slapping his back and pounding his shoulders, his young shoulders. 

“We’re on a mission and need your help,” said Frank.  “We need the squad together,” he continued. 

“I’m your man,” said Chris taking off his helmet and running his hand through his thick dark hair.  His mind still could not wrap itself around what was happening.

Some of the crowd there to watch the flying saw four figures begin to emerge from the smoke, the figures of four young men.  The men entered another cloud of smoke before them and were gone.

Chris and his three buddies came out of the haze.  They were on a dirt road surrounded by a forest.  They were all holding rifles, but Chris could sense no danger.  They were on patrol and Chris felt better than he had ever felt in his life.  He was with his best friends, men he had missed all these years and men he loved.  The sky was so blue it almost hurt his eyes. The trees and grass were the greenest green he had ever seen.  He set out with his three friends, easily matching their stride.

Suddenly, Chris’ eyes filled with tears.  He did not know how, did not understand what was happening, but somehow he knew his young and pretty Peggy was waiting up ahead.

 

                                            THE END 

 

 

 

 

February 15, 2017 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

PORTRAIT OF JENNIE: A HAUNTING ROMANCE

As promised with my piece about The War of the Worlds, a romance would follow.

Here it is and I hope you pursue this haunting story.

The movie follows a starving artist, played by Joseph Cotton, during the Depression struggling to survive in New York.  An art dealer, played by Ethyl Barrymore, recognizes that he has talented and buys some of his paintings.  Then he meets Jennie, played by Jennifer Jones.  The book, written by Robert Nathan in 1940 and made into the movie, Portrait of Jennie, in 1948 is well worth viewing.  Nathan also wrote The Bishop’s Wife in 1928, made into a movie twice, beginning in 1947.

Now back to Jennie.

This has to be one of the most hauntingly beautiful movies ever made.  When Jennie is a child she and the artist first meet.  As the story progresses, Jennie rapidly matures.  Finally the artist paints her and that portrait becomes the highpoint of his career.  Jennie and the artist become an eternal love.  Jennie is the most haunting character I have ever seen.  Please watch this movie, sometime offered on TCM, if you have a chance.

During my last viewing I looked for the author’s name which was Robert Nathan.  Nathan, born in 1894 and died in 1984 wrote many novels, along works in other genre as we all do, but I feel Portrait of Jennie is exceptional.  I recently purchased to book and found, for the most part, the movie closely followed the book.

If you are a romantic, such as this author even though I write horror and science fiction, watch the movie when you have an opportunity.  And read the book and be mesmerized.

As a side note, I want to mention the enjoyment and importance I find in bringing to light past authors who are forgotten, unknown authors making a contribution to their art but whose name has been lost to time.

 

 

February 19, 2016 at 9:53 pm 2 comments

SCIENCE FICTION AND ROMANCE

WAR OF THE WORLDS

 

For my blog, I don’t write long pieces.  I want to make my point and hold my readers’ attention.  (Notice I use the plural, perhaps wishful thinking.)  Not boring those reading my words.

This may gain your attention.  The entry following this discusses a story of haunting romance, a story captivating me most of my life, along with classic science fiction.

I seldom watch movies more than once, but there are exceptions.  Every chance I get I watch War of the Worlds – the original starring Gene Barry.  For those who may have missed it, he also appeared for a moment at the end of the remake starring Tom Cruise.  In some respects the remake has details reflecting H. G. Wells’ classic novel closer to the original movie.  Let me discuss these comments in more detail.

The original, made in the 1950’s, scared the hell out of me when I was a kid.  The way the suspense builds is magnificent.  Unfortunately, after multiple viewings, I have found some incidents which make little sense.  For one, when to original ship lands it is too hot to approach, yet when Gene Barry, and his almost girlfriend use the wooden farm and another ship lands destroying part of the house, the structure does not catch fire.  Also, for the act which finally results in the death of the Martians is that they venture into a new world without any protective gear.  Would a civilization traveling through space take that chance?  Maybe, if you enjoy something, you should not revisit it multiple time, and keeping the love alive.

Now for the remake starring Tom Cruise. The weaknesses are strong, yet also keep true to the book.

If you watch the movie you may remember when Cruise and his daughter are trapped in a cellar with a character played by Tim Robbins.  I could wrong about it being Robbins.  I’ve been wrong before.  I believe the character Robbins represents is a minister who is killed by the protagonist in the book.  This act of murder is hinted strongly in the movie.  But before this event, Robbins tells Cruise the belief is that the Martian machines were buried on the Earth a million years ago.  I should mention that the Martians come to Earth by way of lightning strikes to power up their machines.  Here comes the ‘give me a break’.  It’s like burying a Model T, and in the meantime, your society develops spacecraft able to travel twice the speed of light.  Yet, to save your civilization, you use the Model T.  Don’t you think that the Martians would have used technology which currently existed?

To the remakes credit, they do depict the Martian’s machines closer in the book than what the original movie.  But overall, I feel the original movie is the best.

Now onto the romance.

February 7, 2016 at 10:12 pm 1 comment


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