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Letters From The Front
Author's note: This story is a continuation of a story I wrote for school in which the battle of Normandy is told by a German who saves an American soldier and deserts the Nazis. This story not only continues the story of the American, John Macoy, but shows the aspects of life that we take for granted and the things in this world that, when we look for them, mean so much more to us and carry, in a sense, a little magic and wonder.
Perhaps it was the the distinct clatter of a diesel engine, perhaps it was instinct on Angela’s part, whatever the case, she was out the front door and gliding down the driveway before the mail truck was parked in front of her mailbox. “Beat me again Angela, I have never had a more anxious mail recipient than you,” remarked the mailman, reaching into the cab passenger seat’s mail bin for her stack. “He’s deployed, Rob. You know very well that anything he writes is gold while he is out there,” she responded, her finger pointing to the envelope stack that Rob was handing over. “Well then, here is your collection of treasure,” he said, dropping the pile into her hands, “take care, Angela.”
“Take care, Rob,” she called as the truck puttered forward to the next home, its engine still clattering and humming its calling tune as it moved. She turned quickly and began to flip through the white envelopes, skimming over bills and notices, searching for a distinct letter as her heart beat. Her fingers halted suddenly as a Victory-mail letter with the name John Macoy printed across the sender’s line appeared. Immediately a smile spread across her face and her pace to the house hastened, her eyes still glued to the letter as she narrowly missed the red pickup truck in the driveway. The knob swung down and jumped back with a clack as her fingers pressed it down and pushed open the door, her free hand starting to work at the envelope’s flap. Her steps halted as she sat herself onto the living room sofa chair and proceeded to pull out the letter from it’s cover. Her eye ran across every word, every letter, the glimmering message unfolding as she read, not a single picture escaping her imagination as grins and frowns fought for dominance of her expressions. John spoke of the weather, dry days and warm nights with little rain parched the weary forces of his regiment. They were headed towards a town by the name of St. Lo, not far from the Normandy coast. “They have been saying that the fighting there already has been bloody. My group will be there soon too, fighting the Kraut’s. It’s not going to be pretty,” he said.
“Poor John, he’s probably scared to hell of that place already,” Angela thought, a worried sigh escaping her lips. “I have a feeling it will be alright. A little faith is all I need. After that miracle at Omaha, gosh, I think I have someone up there watching out for me. Just, say a few prayers for me Angela, alright?” answered John’s letter, calming her fears as if he had known they would arise. Angela looked up to the pin-board nailed to the wall above her chair, its waves of newspaper clippings and letters pinned upon one another and engulfing early papers but giving way to one letter in particular, another Victory-letter with the location Normandy written numerous times throughout its sentences. A horror story of witnessing rampant death on the once calm beaches of northern France was the theme of his letter that time, with the exception of one man, a German refugee, stepping out from the waves of tossing sand, bullets, and bodies to rescue John when his leg was riddled with wounds. She turned back to recent letter, its ending the same as the letter above, and the letter beside it, and all of the other letters that had come from the changing front that John was living in. “One day, I will return, Angela.” She remembered the day he had made that promise. Slowly the door had swung open, his footsteps light and his expression a mixing bowl of sadness, dread, and fear. But these had not drowned out the detectable air of trust and courage that she prized in his character. She had halted, shocked, at the news that he gave her when his small talk could not hide his intention and inner struggle. “Angela,” he soothed, “it’s not for me. You know I would stay, but there is more to life than living for God, loving a woman, and working a small town job. We all have a mission. And mine is to be a fighter. I chose this path, Angie. It’s my calling to liberate the oppressed, it’s what I want, to be a hero.” He ran his finger in between her eyebrows, taking hold of her right hand simultaneously. “Remember how we used to spend all our time in school, teasing and pranking one another, pulling jokes and not care to the world? Remember how we grew close? Remember our afternoons on park benches and nights gazing at the stars? Relive those memories and I will be here no matter where in the world President Roosevelt decides that Americans like me will fight for freedom.” Angela wiped two escaping tears as she gazed into John’s intent eyes. “Remember me Angie, and I will never leave you,” he said. “I know you will return,” she said then as she said now, to herself, tenderly as it breathed life back into her and the room. She smiled, as she had done then, her eyes closed and memories flowing through her, each sparked by another and all leading back to that night. As St. Lo was a center point for French roads so too was that memory the connection and beginner of all that stemmed from it in her mind. The latest Victory letter was pinned now to the board, another peak to another wave of the collection of her life while John was away. Across from her lay the daily newspaper, sitting atop her coffee table with a blaring headline, “Allies Gain in Normandy.” Beside it lay a gardening magazine, its cover dominated by a patriotic ad for the growth of Victory gardens. Angela’s eyes opened, her moment fleeting as she became aware of her growing desire for dinner. She pushed herself from the bouncy cushion of her well-used sofa chair, a spring protruding from the back side. She tapped her stomach and turned as she marched down the hall to the kitchen, not escaping a quick flash of her trickling tears and John’s warm hand on hers that had once been the scene in this corridor. She beamed a loving grin and stepped into the kitchen.
John grimaced as his hands pulled the boots from his blistered feet, trying to maneuver the leather shoe around his sores. “Gah! Another day like this and my feet won’t be anything but red lumps of skin,” he declared as he dropped the shoe to the floor and sat back on his cot. “Well if some Nazi happens to be a good shot, then you won’t have to worry about your feet anymore,” returned Private Joshua from the opposite cot, “you won’t always have a kraut turncoat to save your neck when one of his buddies decides to put holes in you.” John relaxed back, laying down on the rough bed sheet that itched and rubbed on his already harassed skin. “We are almost at St. Lo now,” he said, “our guys are bleeding themselves white to knock the Germans from every hedge, pit, and building that marks this land. We are going to be in it tomorrow. Doesn’t that thought alone shake some of that attitude you carry, Josh?” inquired John as his fingers tapped his hanging rifle back and forth above him. “After Omaha, I have seen enough men blown apart for one lifetime, it is something that no man should have to suffer. But by far that horror has done nothing but make me less horrified when men die,” answered the opposite cot, its voice muffled under its share of uncomfortable sheets. A grim frown rose on John’s face, the ingrained images of the Omaha beaches and cliffs flashing to his mind. He turned over and pulled the sheets over himself, shaking his head a few times to try and toss away the rising pictures before setting his head back onto his small, makeshift pillow of a folded sheet and some spare clothes. The night was harsh for John, nightmares ruled during the darkness and they struck swiftly, locking their victims and often striking more than once. The day the 29th Infantry division made a break in Nazi-controlled Normandy was the day that gruesome memories build a stronghold in the mind of John. Screaming shells and men, gun flashes and speeding bullets, and Angela, visible one moment, gone the next, disappearing behind pale faces and dark helmets. The dreams of John’s nights were the propaganda, the pawns of the invasion of the mental war on him. John tossed about the whole night through, an unfinished letter lay upon a K-rations box beside his cot.
The warm July sun was streaming through the bedroom window, rays of it creeping over and placing stripes of light across Angela’s bed. Hey eyes fluttered open, staring straight up at the illuminated, white ceiling. She turned to look at her clock, 8:38 AM. Angela pushed herself from her pillow, finishing the waking maneuver with a yawn. Her feet swung over to the side and plunked down onto her bedroom floor, her arm swinging around and reaching over to touch the framed photograph of her and John. Such an act that had been done so often so that the fingerprints were regularly required to be cleaned from the glass. She stood up from her slumber and stretched, scratching her side and dragging her waking bones over to the bedroom closet. With a creak it swung open, revealing a neat collection of shelves, hangers, and bins, each with folded piles of her simple supply of clothes and necessities. A small box, snuggly crammed beside her ornate jewelry box with its elegant curves and wavy corners, was the home of many small trifles and trinkets, polka-dotted ribbons, and black-and-white photos, all secured as Angela saw these odds and ends fit. She made a curious frown as she reached amidst the reds, blues, and green attire in the bin labeled, “Classy.” She settled on a purple dress as she couldn’t decide on blue or red being more appropriate. She reached over to the jewelry box after hanging the dress and retrieved a simple, silver-chained necklace, its single ornament a cross with white jewels and gold-tainted lining. It had been a gift from John, his only such gift that was not inside the case besides the jewelry box. She slowly pulled the small, wooden box by its black, metal handle from its cozy pocket. The box lid lifted open like a treasure chest, its sacred items and paraphernalia shining light in Angela’s eyes. Grinning as she pushed aside a photo of John and her standing in front of Patriot Point, a popular amusement park that they loved to spend time at, Angela retrieved a blue and black bow from the mouth of the objects. Her eyes ran across the objects quickly as they disappeared under the closing lid. She slid it back into place, back into its place of security. She turned to the door mirror, comparing the objects with the light of July enhancing the vibrant colors of her choices. Hanging above the mirror, held up by a strip of scotch tape slowly peeling away, dangled a poster of Rosie the Riveter staring, flexing a muscle as she fired a determined look down to Angela. Satisfied with her apparel, Angela reached for the closet door, returning a smirk to Rosie and closing it with another audible creak. Time found her quickly out the door, a light scent of perfume emanating from her as her usual cheery walk carried her to the red pickup that John had left in her care. There was an infecting air of frivolity about the morning. The bird’s chirps, the neighbor’s whistling to, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again,” and the steady hum of the engine of the truck all harmonized to Angela’s ear in a morning tune. She closed the door behind her, placing her hand on the gear and shifting it forward. She rolled backward and turned onto the street, shifting the gears again. The pickup cruised down the street, tuning into each yard’s morning song for a few seconds. She decelerated to a stop at the turn to let a car pass and gazed over to the stop sign on the curb. A boy, not more than thirteen was leaning against the sign’s pole, his hands in the pockets of his drab blue jeans, his eyes and smile directed at a girl, of similar age standing a few feet away from him. Their conversation was light, almost negligible in existence as their gaze swung from their surroundings, halted upon the other, and swung away again in awkward silence. It was a common moment of young love. “After all, weren’t we once in their shoes?” thought Angela. She lurched forward, turning left and leaving behind the two sweethearts, living an innocent form of intimacy, free of the hardship and tests of longing and truth.
John’s breath was heavier. His heart was beating quicker. The ground rumbled as the steel giant with a white star painted on either side and on its turret steamed through the hedge-grove in front of them, opening a path for the troops. “All right boys! Look sharp! Pockets of Nazi paratroopers have been reported setting ambushes from these hedge fields. These are not like the krauts we have been knocking out of foxholes and ditches, these are elites. And what’s more, they know how to hide. Be careful when advancing on a new field,” warned Sargent Matthews. John clipped a magazine into his M1 Thompson, pushing up the weapon’s sights and bringing his gun into a firing position, his eye surveying the gap ahead through the aiming piece. The Sherman tank plowed on ahead, allowing the squads to pour through the pocket it had created. “Laster, Macoy, Smithfield, Marshall, and Burns, on me!” called the Sargent. Five, “Yes sirs,” responded obediently as the six men grouped together and made for the north-eastern hedge hole, stepping away from the main advance of the regiment. John continued to look ahead through his weapon sights, his eyes scanning the hedges of the new field. It was not until he heard the strike of a match that his eyes drifted away and beheld Joshua, cigarette protruding from his mouth and the match lighting the end, a puff of smoke escaping the ignition. “Is now really the time, Josh? I’d pay more attention to picking out a swastika helmet in the thicket instead of staring down a smoke-stick if I were you,” scolded John.
“Chill, John. A smoke is what I need to calm my nerves,” retorted Joshua, “and I will still bag a kraut, since your so worried.”
“Want to make those paratrooper’s jobs a whole lot easier? Keep talking then,” silenced the Sargent. John’s head shook in dismay as his eyes returned to scanning the brush. The unit stepped through a small cut in the hedge, entering a battered field, shell damage breaking the light-green grass’s dominance with dirt holes and flattened trees. “Steady boys,” Sargent Matthews warned, “those ambushers could be here.” John observed the opposite hedge-grove intently, but was deterred as his hand’s tremors shook the gun too much for his eyes to focus. John lowered his weapon, trying to pull his nerves together. He stepped into a small crater as he did so, still trying to shake the assault of fear that was loosening his control. He looked about, Joshua was puffing away his cigarette, a smug smirk marking his attitude. Sargent Matthew’s fingers were inches away from pulling his weapon’s trigger, a heavy frown marked his end of the rifle he carried. Suddenly, an audible stream of machine-gun fire ripped through the forward brush and the silence that had been steadily building upon John’s nerves. John’s heart flew up in his body as his body tried to duck down, hitting the crater floor hard. Clumps of dirt and grass sprung from the ground in front of John’s crater with each bullet’s strike. Agents of death filled the air, shooting Joshua’s cigarette clean from mouth, his smirk and attitude dying immediately. Private Burns screamed and rolled back, multiple agents hitting their mark. Shouts and cusses arose from the diving men but were drowned out by the steady din. As the gunfire pummeled John’s vicinity, the Sargent returned a few retorts to the gun flashes, which drew the fire away. John sank as low as he could, his teeth clenched, but his fingers still violently shaking his gun. He noticed the sudden disappearance of the raining clumps of dirt that had been pelting him and took his chance. “God save me,” he breathed as he sprung up. He pulled all of his strength and fleeing courage together and jammed the trigger back. The gun sprang about in his hands, like a tiger fighting to escape its cage. He didn’t stop fighting his gun until every last bullet had left his weapon, ripping through the hedge where the fire had been coming from. As his gun clicked, his fingers released as he let out a huge gasp and the gun rolled from his hands, falling to the ground. But the machine gun had stopped. A body fell forward through the hedge, a black helmet with a red swastika painted on the side toppled into the open. “Good work, John!” called the Sargent as he and the others rose from their craters. Joshua’s eyes were wide, his face drawn back as he slowly pulled himself up from his hole. Finally John snapped from his state and stooped over, retrieving his weapon as his free hand reached for a clip from his belt. The Sargent was by the body of Private Burns now, the others joining him. “Poor man, didn’t even know what hit him. It’s probably for the better. He won’t have to suffer another second in this hell-hole,” remarked Matthews. John clicked another magazine into his M1 Thompson, his attention now to the brief memorial commencing for their comrade. Private Marshal silently reached over and took Burns’s gun, sticking it firmly into the ground with a grunt, its barrel disappearing below the dirt. Burns’s helmet was taken up and placed on the rifle butt, the last significant act that would ever be given to a man in Burns’s occupation. The team moved away silently. “Let’s take it slow now, we don’t want anymore surprises,” advised the Sargent, his voice devoid of its usual commanding tone. The others nodded in agreement. John looked back, his gaze falling upon the crude marker that was Private Burns’s tombstone. It was crude. It stood out. It marked an evil done. “Just like war,” thought John, as he returned to his cautious scanning of the brush ahead, leaving behind the scene. It was one that he knew too well. It was a scene that comes with the crude marker of human history, war.
“This has been the news report of the front, stay tuned for more upcoming news of the home front when we return,” relayed the nasally anchorman behind the radio speaker, his voice dimming with the command of Angela’s fingers on the volume dial. “I pray that God helps people keep promises. John’s is one that is going to be hard to keep by the sounds of the war in Europe,” she thought. She got up from her sofa, “Enough of the war,” she said to herself, “a walk would do me good.” She marched over to the foyer closet, opening the door and snatching up a pair of brown hiking boots. She fit her feet into the boots and stood up, her hand almost upon the doorknob when she stopped, the faint voice of a woman coming from the living room. She trekked over to the radio, taking hold of the power switch when the woman’s words caught her attention, “I’ll admit, it has been has been rough ever since Robert left for the war, not a day has gone by without me shedding at least one tear for him.” Angela’s fingers moved over to the volume knob, turning up the sound. “But it is my hope that that one day he will return, safe, and those tears will not be shed,” the woman continued. Angela stood, dumbfounded by the similarity of the situation that the speaker was expressing to her own. “Is there anything that gives you comfort in these lonely times, ma’am?” questioned the interviewer.
“If anything, it is only hope itself that comforts my fears,” she replied. “However, one thing, perhaps it’s silly but, one thing that I have found helps comfort me is this habit I have created since Robert left. I have left a candle in my front window every night, a personal tribute to Robert. To me, it is a sign of my hope for his return and safety.”
“Thank you for joining us, ma’am. Up next on...” ended the interview as Angela’s fingers commanded the power switch and silence filled the room. Her teeth shifted forward, biting her lip as she replayed the story in her head. Her statued form was only broken by her eye’s drifting gaze upon the pin board. All in one fluid motion the stillness was broken as the statue flew from its post and exited the residence with a click of a closing door. Angela walked down her street, her normally cheery trot sluggish under the weight of her thoughts. She found herself staring at the grey of the sidewalk and not the green of the tree tops as she usually would. She carried on, leaving her street and trotting down multiple others and ending up in downtown. She passed the park bench in the town square where she had sat with John, often sitting nights through, staring at the stars and constellations. Now that bench was occupied by the two young lovers from the stop sign, their eyes gazing at the stars in one another. She passed the high school where they had tossed erasers at each other’s heads. She passed a newsstand, two young boys eagerly buying a Saturday Evening Post, a Rockwell-illustrated story covering its front of an American soldier, his arm keeping a crutch close to his body as he examines a letter from his wallet. The statue form returned to Angela as she stood on the town’s beach front, carnival music playing in the distance from Patriot Point, the local boardwalk amusement park. The sun was dropping away now, a couple was strolling across the sand as a handful of juveniles dried off from a day of swimming. A smile beamed across the statue’s face, shining and true. Its ray bolted out over the town to the escaping sun as it dropped behind the horizon of the mainland. Angela waited for her messenger to disappear with her dispatch of love, it needed no paper, no ink, no words. The sun was constant and available to all. And so it fell away, its continuous work of message-delivery ahead. Its messages traveled to the west coast, to lonely men fighting on Pacific islands, to freezing prisoners in Siberia, to frozen Germans on the eastern European front, to thirsty men in the Saharan desert, and to scared soldiers fighting in the hedges of Northern France. “Be quick,” she whispered. She stared at the spot where it had once been, thinking, remembering. Looking ahead, she sighed, and began her journey back home, past the newsstand, past the boardwalk amusement park, past her high school, past the town square bench, past the front door of her home, past the pin board, and past the hallway where John had left her. That night, a small flame could be seen in the front window of her home, standing out in the darkness, standing as a beacon of hope. It was a piece of the light that she had sent with the sun to John but had kept for herself. It was a beacon of her heart. It was a beacon the surpassed the stormy waters of the atlantic with its treacherous U-boats. When the tireless messenger came marching over the horizon in France, John’s eyes met it, the message was received, and John took his pen in hand and wrote in reply.
The order to continue the advance upon St. Lo found Private John Macoy stooped over, writing out a letter on a C-ration box turned writing back. He hastily stuffed the letter and pen into his pocket. He picked up his weapon and fell into Sargent Matthew’s line. “We are now on the outskirts of St. Lo, men. The krauts will most likely pour hell upon us with their guns, so we will be moving cautiously as usual but spread out. I want the four men I had with me yesterday and five other volunteers. We will be advancing in units of ten today. Let’s move out!” Quickly the Sargent’s team assembled as the regiment was in motion around them. Their unit moved on the forward right flank of the force, sweeping hedge fields as they had the day before and many more before that. Each man eyed every direction, often the sky did not escape a check from the unit either. John looked to Joshua, his smug attitude had not returned to him, nor had a cigarette managed to reach his lips. “What’s the matter, Josh? Cigarettes suddenly caught up to you?” mused John.
“Listen, if someone ever wants to stop smoking, let them have another man shoot a cigarette from their mouth. I guarantee that they will never smoke again,” responded a serious Joshua. “Ha! So the krauts did you a favor too then?” continued Josh, receiving a deathly glare upon releasing the statement. They said no more as they both were silenced by a tense Sargent. “They have a group called the Girl Scouts of America for people like you who want to talk.”
“Sorry sir,” responded a scolded John. They continued, jumping hedges, scanning for danger, and waiting for death. They were playing a game, each new field was another square on the chess board of the battle. They were pawns, waiting with each step forward to trigger the strike of the opposing queen. Then one of the volunteer privates called out, his gaze set upon a low-flying aircraft above, its low buzz audible to the field squares below. “Doesn’t look like ours,” said the Private. “Lets duck away from its view to be safe. Move boys!” ordered the Sargent. Like ants the team darted for cover under the nearest respective hedge, sliding under the thick entanglement of leaves and branches. John laid under his hedge, listening for the buzz to disappear when he felt something poking his side and found it to be the pen and letter he had shoved in his uniform pocket. He took them both out, and then proceeded to read over his work. He thought of Angela, the dispatch he had been writing reminded him of her. He remembered the better days before his enlistment. “Only God himself,” thought John, “could send a man to work in a place of suffering like this.” His eyes drifted from the crumpled paper to the green and brown above him, his mind a daze as the buzz couldn’t be heard anymore. “Macoy!” Get yourself out of that cover and lets move!” barked the Sargent as John came to and scrambled up. “Lets hope that wasn’t a spotter plane for the Nazis,” thought aloud the Sargent, “better to be safe than sorry though. Dimaggio! Pull out your gear and get me connected to the brass.”
“Ay sir,” answered the radioman. Private Dimaggio reached behind his back and pulled the transmitter box from his pack. He set the box down, holding the phone piece as he turned the small knobs and cranks of the mechanism. He handed the piece over to the Sargent with a nod, but it never made it to his hands as the sky was suddenly filled with the moaning cries of rockets. Like a death siren they drowned the air and immediately the unit ducked for cover again. “Blast! It was a spotter plane!” thought John as he returned to his spot under the hedge. The moans grew louder, the screech of nearing death rang in every man’s ear as explosions erupted around their field and shook the ground, the hedges, and the nerves. A loud screech suddenly stood out from the rest as it fell directly on the center of their field, it exploded, sending shrapnel everywhere. John looked out from his cover after the smoke cleared, his view fell upon the metal parts strewn across the ground where the radio had been left. “We need a runner to get our position to the main force!” shouted the Sargent, “Dimaggio! Run for it now!” John was clutching his head, trying to not let the stronghold of enemy inside subdue him. He suddenly remembered the letter, he reached for it on the ground and managed to also retrieve his pen. In the spur of the moment he scribbled two words onto the letter in the remaining open space and reached out to grab Dimaggio’s leg as he ran by. Private Dimaggio looked down, a questioning look upon his face as John placed the letter in Dimaggio’s hand. “Get the hell out of here and deliver the messages,” he bellowed to the runner. Dimaggio sprinted, racing through a gap in the south hedge line and disappearing as two more moans from the sky came roaring down upon their chess square. The queen had struck the pawn.
Six days passed, six nights were lit by a solitary candle in the window, six meetings of the two young lovers came and went, and six days of no mail from John or the war plagued Angela. A fresh clipping of an article detailing the horrific struggle for St. Lo was pinned on the board. “Angela, why don’t you leave early today, you just aren’t yourself,” her boss said as he found her lost in a daze at her typewriter. She gave him a blank stare as he spoke. “Thank you sir,” was all that she could muster from her lips and churning emotions. She packed her bag and left, exiting the building without another word to anyone. Her walk home was silent, most of it was spent staring into the dullness of the gray sidewalk. When the grey became black, she reached into her bag and grabbed the keys to the house, placing the designated key into the lock and slowly turning it with a click. She suddenly took heed of the sound of a familiar diesel engine puttering down towards her lot. She quickly swung open her door and tossed her bag onto the foyer floor, turning around and flying down the driveway to meet the mail truck. She stood waiting, hoping, her foot tapping impatiently as her fingers raced across the metal top of the mailbox. “You’ll be happy to know,” started Rob as his truck rolled up to her, “that there is a letter which should put your wondering to an end.” A gasp escaped her lips as a surprised smile flashed across her face. “Are you spying on people’s mail again, Rob?” she responded playfully.
“Not unless flipping through my deliveries counts,” he grinned as he handed her her stack, “take care, Angela.”
“Have a good day, Rob,” she called as he drove off, grinning. Her fingers hastily flipped through the pile, weeding out the letter as she habitually moved up her driveway and into the house. She dropped the envelopes on her bag, holding onto only the letter as she took a seat in her sofa. Her finger tore the slip, her eyes aglow as she lifted the letter from its case to eye level. They drifted across the origin of the letter and the name of sender, then proceeded to take in the words of gold.
We are near the thick now. Each day is a fight of its own as we clear our way through the hedge fields. You should see the size of them. Tangles of sticks and leaves that look like green monsters. They need your green thumb to subdue them. Not a day passes without death peering at me from every direction from the lifeless faces of soldiers and friends who will never move again or the holes in their bodies and the tips of their guns. Everyday I think of you. I miss you now more than ever. I’m afraid that I may never live to accomplish my promise to you. How could I tell a lie to the most important part of my life besides God? The only comfort I receive now is the sun, as it rises over the horizon and brings warmth. I remember how we used to watch it sink below the horizon back in our hometown, back when life was pretty and innocent. But when the sun set, I still felt warm, I still felt love. Now, I fight the inner war. It’s a hell of its own everyday. I don’t know if I ever will get home, but I will make one promise that I will not break. I promise that I will never lose that light that we watched set in the evening and rise in the morning together. God may take me away, but he won’t end what he created. I know that….
The abrupt ending of John’s message sent Angela’s mind from relief and anticipation to questions and fear again almost immediately. She glanced at two scribbles some ways down the paper. In crude form, they spelled, “Remember me.” She sat back in her chair, confused, pondering the sudden closure of his from-the-heart message. Her heart raced as imagination poured thoughts into her returning questions, most frightening her. She returned to her statue form, her chin on her knuckle and her face trickling an occasional tear as the battle that John had written of fell upon her. The most frequent war, the continuous fight of men and women, is not the scar of human history in which kings and dictators march men on fields to shed their blood for power and riches, rather it is the siege of the mind by fear and evil. Such was the scene as bombshells and fear’s troops exploded and assaulted a distraught Angela.
“How’s it feel to see home?” asked Private Marshall from the driver’s seat of the jeep. The salty air of the atlantic filled John’s lungs and blew through his hair, his spirits rising with the sight of his hometown’s welcome sign rushing by. The buildings of downtown were rising towards him and his soul embraced them with anticipation. “It feels like heaven, especially after seeing hedge fields and swastikas for a while,” John answered, his voice rising in excitement.
“So do you have a place to stay?” continued the driver. John smiled, “I have two places that would take me in for the night. At least, as long as one of them has still a memory of me,” John said, the thought of Angela perhaps not remembering him dampening his surging spirit. They drove past the beginning of the downtown building strip and entered town square as the sun shone down over head, causing John to shield his eyes as he surveyed his beloved town. The jeep abruptly came to a stop at the intersection, John not allowing the chance to reminisce escape him. His eyes scanned the park, quickly pinpointing the bench where he and Angela had spent nights, star gazing and enjoying the warmth of one another. His hand made a grasping action as he recalled her soft, gentle hands in his. “Earth to John, John. Snap out of it man. Where are we headed day-dreamer?” inquired Marshall, pulling John from his hypnosis. “Oh, sorry William. I was just having a flood of memories all at once. That’s all,” apologized John.
“Is she pretty?” asked Marshall, “I mean, no man has his hand pretend to hold something during a memory and have it be that he was holding a baseball bat or candy bar when he gets home from a war.”
“Yes, she is very pretty, William,” smirked John, straightening out his hand and pointing to the right, “down that road is where I need to go.”
“Ok chief,” grinned William as he gunned the gas and sped around the curve, “I don’t want to keep you and your ‘girl’ waiting.” John shook his head, his smirk growing bigger than William’s grin. He stared off to the side again, watching the shops pass by where he had spent much of his childhood, relationship, and spare change. Suddenly the jeep jolted up, John’s right leg swung out against the jeep’s dash, causing John to gasp in pain. “Sorry John, I guess I shouldn’t be going as fast. Especially since your leg hasn’t entirely healed,” apologized William.
“Better to have one leg take some shrapnel than have the whole body receive it and be a corpse,” remarked John, rubbing the wrap on his leg, “but I find it as a blessing. Not only will it keep me out of danger for a while, but it is an excuse to be home.” They came to a halt again, a stop sign the cause. As John pointed right again down the street he knew well, he glanced at a boy and girl standing at the stop sign, their hands were locked together. He looked away, a large smile growing on his face as he forgot about his leg and took in the street. Everything was as he remembered. The row of tall oaks lined the street and shaded the lawns of each of the small, modern colonial homes. A mail truck was up in front of a driveway a few yards down, the driver conversing with a person he couldn’t see. “Here will do William,” said John, the jeep slowing to a stop at his command, “take care of yourself, William, it’s a lonely war out there.”
“See you around, John,” answered William. They shook hands as John retrieved his case from the seat and stepped back. William looked on ahead and shifted gears. His foot pressed onto the gas pedal, and he was gone. John watched him off, staring as the deep green of the jeep escaped behind the mail truck. He turned, case in hand and began his slow walk down the sidewalk. He looked up ahead, the birds above were flying at one another, their games and fights creating a ruckus of chirps and calls. He stopped suddenly as his gaze fell upon the person to whom the mailman had been talking to, it was Angela. She had just waved the mailman off and was staring away, envelopes in hand.
Angela scanned the envelopes, her hope searching for some comfort in the form of a simple letter. She had shed too many tears scaring herself by her questions. For some reason, she wasn’t ascending her driveway with her mail as she normally would. She felt as if her feet were weighed down, unwilling to move. Her heart sank as she finished flipping through the envelopes and found no letter, the weight of despair adding to her anchored feet. It had been six days since the last letter had brought about her worrying that had by now battered her hopes apart. She sighed heavily and looked up to the house, her candle was low, the wax had almost burned away. She was about to move when she heard a thud on the concrete and turned to see the cause. There, standing on the sidewalk was a suitcase, dropped by the owner, the owner in turn, was standing, his face beaming a large smile as he barely was holding in himself. Angela’s hands when limp, the envelopes falling slowly one by one from her hands and floating to the asphalt. “Don’t even ask Angela, no, I am not a ghost,” laughed John as he drew close. “What’s the matter, Angie, don’t you remember me?” All in one swift motion Angela screamed, flung herself from her locked position, and landed herself into John’s waiting embrace, her laughs rising to synchronize with John’s as tears that would have flown of desperation minutes later were shed early in rejoicing. They had departed from one another in tears, they returned in tears. He had left with a promise, he had returned, laughing, to fulfill it. He had remembered her, she had remembered him. There was indeed a relief that had come with the mail for Angela. The writer had shipped himself over, his letters were fulfilled. The two beacons that had shone from either side of the Atlantic were now united, their light shining like the sun that had been their daily messenger. They had become the messenger, the letters and the writers all wrapped up in the undying light of their relationship, the infinite warmth of affection, the eternal beauty of love.