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Women in War

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N: The horn still rings in my ears as I leave the base’s docks. My little black high heels always get caught in the grates as I leave the dock, but all of the other women are dressed so nicely that I have to show something off. I look down and see Mathew by my side, clinging like a piece of lint. We get to the top of the small road that leads down to the water. His four year old height is abnormally small so I lift him up and let him see his father take off. The ship is grey and larger than anyone I have ever seen. My husband is on board as a weapons technician, third class of course. He waves from the edge of the rail and blows us a kiss.
Mathew: “Mommy, can we get some ice cream?”
N: It is tradition that we go get Sailor’s Blue from Judson's Ice Cream Parlor after we leave the dock. Whether it is after James has left or has returned. Mathew pulls me into the shop and goes right up to the owner Bill.
Bill: “Well hello Mat. Haven’t seen you in a while,” says Bill.
Mathew: “Uh sailor blue,”
Wife: “Mathew, say hello. Sorry Bill he’s just so energetic today.”
Bill: “It’s all good.”
N: Bill dips the scooper into the bucket and pulls out a glob of blue ice cream. He puts it into a cup and hands it to Mathew along with a black plastic spoon.
Mathew:” Mmmmm”
N: I laugh and run my fingers through his long blond hair. That makes me think about getting him a haircut appointment which he would not enjoy too much. We sit at a small table by the window while Mathew finishes up his Sailor Blue. When he is done we walk out and it has started to rain. I cover Mathew with my long brown jacket yet his red and green plaid shirt still gets wet.
We reach the house after a mile and half walk. By now it has calmed down outside and I immediately go to the coffee pot and warm up some water.
Wife: “How about a bath bud?”
Mathew: “No,”
Wife: “Alright then.”
N: I walk to my bedroom and change into a nightgown. By now it’s eight at night and I am weary from the long day. I go out and make Mathew get into bed. When that is finished another hour has passed and I go pass out on my bed.
N: The next few days are normal, I take Mathew to school, I go to the grocery store, I go home and clean, I pick Mathew up, we play a bit outside, we go to bed. After a week it seems as though life is on another flat track.
It had been one month. On Thursday morning I wake up to a knock at the door. It’s an Officer of First class.
V: “Mrs. Nolls, I regret to inform you that James has lost contact with the communication office.”
N: I go blank for an instant. I try to take in his abrupt appearance and news. Without even knowing I fall to my knees. He stands awkwardly in front of me before leaving me on my front porch, alone. I am speechless and Mathew comes out to greet me telling me that he is hungry.
N: I cannot respond. I just get up and walk inside to the cupboard. I fish for the box of cheerios and pull something out that feels close enough. Wrong cupboard. Turns out it was a box of cat food, from when we had that old cat. I give up. I get a bowl and find the cereal along with some milk and set it on the table. Mathew stares at me with wide eyes. I go back to bed. My sheets form to each kink in my body. Mathew comes in and hops up on the bed. He and I both know that something is horribly wrong out there on the ship.
He sits with me all morning, never saying a word. I listen to each breath he takes and I can almost feel his ribcage expanding to fit his lungs.
N: After a morning of sleep and silence I take Mathew to get his haircut. Normally he screams when Lucy, the hairdresser, even touches his hair. Not today though. He holds my hand as she cuts his hair and squeezes it every now and then as if to make sure I am still there. We walk out of the shop when every hair has been cut. Each of us still in a daze, we walk down to the docks and watch the sun set. A pink haze lingers with the dark sky. A grey Chevy pulls up next to me and a man rolls down the window.
Bill: “Hey guys, can I give you a lift,”
W: “Oh, Sure. Mathew let’s go.”
N: I put Mathew in the back of the car and I get up front with Bill.
W: “Thank you. I guess I didn’t realize how late it really had gotten.”
Bill: “Well no worries. An address would be nice though.”
N: We both chuckle while Mathew settles in behind us.
W: “798 Hughes St.”
Bill: “Alright.”
N: There wasn’t much talk on the way to our house except for a bit about the weather. As we neared our driveway Bill sighed.
Bill: “Well here we are.”
N: I stepped out of the car and opened Mathew’s door.
N: Poking my head through the window,
Wife:”Thanks again Bill.”
Bill: “I hope you know that I’m praying for you. I know he’ll be back. Look if There’s anything I can do just call.”
Wife: “Thanks.”
N: Gripping the piece of paper that he handed me, I walk to the front door. I walk through the hallway listening to Mathew speaking.
Wife: “Mathew who are you ta-.”
N: Before I can finish my sentence I see James at the dining table with a beer in hand. I stand there with my purse dangling from my fingertips and then it finally drops.
W: “But how...when...what..,”
James: “Baby, it’s so good to see you.” he reached for my waist but I heave back.
Wife: “No, they told me, they told me just this morning. How did you get back?”
James: “What? They told you this morning! Baby our ship went down a week ago.
Wife: “A week.”
James: “Honey, we were hit by a Jap Torpedo. Luckily there was a Tug heading back to the base.”
Wife: “my god. Are you okay?”
James: “Oh I’m fine. I knew some beer would do the trick.”
N: He looks at me again and instantly I see him.
Wife: “James, you're drunk. Give me the bottle.”
N: I reach for the brown bottle.
James: “Awe come on baby, you want some?”
Wife: “James, stop. Now look you ruined my dress.” He stands and pulls me into him.
James: “Let’s dance baby.”
Wife: “James stops. You’re drunk.”
N: He rocks back and forth making me dizzy. He draws out some faint noise,
James:”da dada dada” (light humming)
N: He spins me around to face him and then shoves me away.
James: “You b****, you cheated.”
Wife: “What, no. James what are you talking about?”
James: “You know, you’re little sweetheart Bill.”
Wife: “No James. It isn’t like that.”
James: “Then what’s it like,”
Wife: “He was just giving Mathew and I a ride home.”
James: “Oh so you’ve got my boy wrapped up in this?”
Wife: “What, no.”
N: He walks over to the hallway entrance where Mathew stands.
Bill: “Hello.”
Wife: “Hello. I need you to come pick up Mathew. Please.”
Bill: “Oh, um yeah of course, is everything alright?”
Wife: “Yes, I just need him out of the house. Things are a bit complicated right now.”
Bill: “Okay, I’ll be over in a few minutes.”
Wife: “Thank you.”
N: With that I hang up the phone and I go to Mathew’s closet and pull out the green suitcase. I stuff some clothes in it and I pick up Mathew from his bed. I walk to the door and Bill is already in front of the house. I walk out of the house and put Mathew in the car first and then poke my head through the passenger window again.
Wife: “Thank you Bill. I am so sorry to be abrupt but, well you probably won’t believe me, but James came back and he isn’t well. Can you take him for a couple days? I’ll come by everyday if that’s okay.”
Bill: “Yeah sure, anything. I have to work tomorrow, but he can hang around there.”
Wife: “Thank you.”
N: Bill nods and gives me a smile. I wave Mathew goodbye and I expected him to have a fit, but somehow he understood what was going on.
N: The morning after James's return I wake up on the floor of Mathew’s room and the blankets all crumpled and messy. I go to get up, but my body aches. I slowly come to and find bruises on my arms. I remember last night.
*
N: He had walked in the room with a smirk on his face and he laid down next to me.
Wife: “James, stop I want to sleep.”
James: “Love me baby.”
Wife: “James...”
N: His rank breath flew to my nose and I squinted at the smell of beer.
Wife: “You are drunk and you need to stop.”
N: He keeps going and I move to flee. In doing this I fall of the bed and land on my elbow.
James: “Is it ‘cuz you got some new guy? I know your cheatin’ on Me.” he said with a slur.
Wife: “You are drunk.”
James: “Come on I know. Tell me.”
Wife: “Tell you what?”
James: “Why your love run away?”
Wife: “James what are you talking about? I love you”
James: “Now don’t lie to me; you know what I think about lying.”
Wife: “Stop.”
James: “I said don’t lie,” (yelling).
N: With that he flew off the bed and came at me again. He put his foot to my waist.
James: “You gotta stop it girl.”
N: He jabbed with his foot and I could feel my stomach’s containments rise.
*
N: I get up from the floor and walk out of the bedroom to the kitchen. I grab the can of coffee and start making a pot. I turn around to James staring at me blindly. Wife: “Thought maybe you grab that beer again.”
N: He doesn’t respond and sits at the table.
Wife: “James. Tell me.”
James: “He’s dead.”
Wife: “Who?”
James: “Erik. His quarter was the one struck.”
Wife: “James, you need some help. Look, I can get you an appointment with doctor Quick.”
James: “No.”
Wife: “Why not?”
James: “I’m fine.”
Wife: “Do you even realize what happened last night?”
James: “Yes.”
Wife: “Than how can you sit here and tell me that everything is alright. Do you know where your son is right now? Do you even care?”
James: “Stop.”
Wife: “Stop what?”
James: “Acting like you don’t know anything.”
Wife: “What are you talking about?”
James: “You and Bill.”
Wife: “James I would never do that.”
James: “Well Carson saw you the other night, get into his car.”
Wife: “He was just giving us a ride home.”
James: “Sure.”
Wife: “How can you do this to me?”
James: “It’s easy.”
N: I go to get my coat.
James: “Where do you think you’re going?”
Wife: “To get Mathew.”
James: “No. You’re staying here.”
Wife: “What?”
James: “I’ll get my boy.”
Wife: “No James. I know exactly what you’ll do. You’ll hurt Bill when all he has done is be kind.”
N: Walking to the door he runs after me and pulls my arm.
Wife: ouch
N: He pulls me to the bedroom and throws me on the bed.
James: “You will not be leaving.”
N: I try to get up but he pins me to the bed and then releases me. He walks to the door and turns around.
James: “Stay.”
N: The next few days I try to work with James. Explaining to him what has happened and try to wean him off of the alcohol. It doesn’t work. Every day the same thing happens and he falls into a trance, punishing me.
On Sunday I call Bill and check on Mathew while James is in the shower. When he gets out he is dressed crisply and walks towards the door.
Wife: “Where are you going?”
James: “To get my son.”
Wife: “James stop right now.”
James: “All you do is tell me to stop.”
N: He takes another step and I lurch I toward him grabbing the back of his jacket. He turns around twisting his jacket around my fist and throwing his arms at me once more.
I twist and crouch and he grabs my leg. I fall to the ground and shuffle myself back up.
I then see him for the last time. Mouth raging, sweat dripping and eyes racing. I can hear his heartbeat.



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