Here is a short story I wrote in response to this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Time Machine. Enjoy!
(In Madeline Milford’s point of view, a fictional character)
7 December 1941
World War II started when Germany invaded Poland on the first day of September, year 1939. I was 23 when my father volunteered to join the war and my mother and I was left home at South Carolina, harvesting fruits and hunting foods for our own. It was difficult for the two of us to work, since there were no men left in our small family. I have no other siblings, nor a cousin staying for evacuation. I am the only child. I’ve been working as a seamstress in my town from way back I graduated high school, sewing clothes for men, but mostly for women’s dresses. Since then, I was contributing to the household, on account of becoming an adult just as I reached eighteen.
1939 was the year where men left their girlfriends, wives, and families behind, and they were called by the army to become allies and train in camps. My mother couldn’t bear to see Dad marching in an infantry and sparing his life for the sake of countrymen. “George, are you sure about this?” Mom asked when she saw him packing his things. “Positive.” My mother slipped a family photo into his bag, between a set of tee shirts and boxes of raisins. I remember it was taken last summer in the old farm of my grandmother here in South Carolina.
Even though it’s the last month of the year, I never felt the Christmas air in winter mornings, or the smell of gingerbread lingering around. The air was never that pleasant for us to feel well, we only feel fortunate that our town is less affected than other areas in the north. The sky was never pleasing to our eyes, although it’s blue and bright from the sunlight, we know that somewhere out there, is a plane flying across the country heading towards a place of men in camo suits.
World War II is still not in its most active condition. Only a few were evacuating for their safety, few were volunteering for the war, and few were supplying themselves with stocks of food and water. My mother and I was one of the few – anticipating that something worse can happen, now that the fourth year of the war is approaching. We were assuming a dreadful attack from Germany but hoping that our expectations are not true enough. But this is not until the day the Japs attacked, and I didn’t see my father ever again.
The night before Pearl Harbor, sixth of December, my eyes drew open from a dream that I least contemplated. It was sad and grieving, but it wasn’t a nightmare. It was uplifting to see my father standing before my vision and welcoming me into his arms for a warm embrace that I longed for over a year. My dream wasn’t really empty. I was in a prairie of dancing daisies, and I recognize it as Aunt Lorrie’s garden, where I first grew up before we moved to Mayesville in Sumter County. As the man in my dream wrapped me in his arms, he whispered three familiar words along with my name, “I love you, Madeline.” It was my father’s last words back when he was about to take off to Pearl Harbor in a US Navy ship named Helen.
I woke up when he mentioned those words. “I love you, too, Dad.” I whispered to myself. I couldn’t sleep from that moment on, and so I waited for the morning to come. A few hours after, I looked out of the window to watch the flaming sun rise from its nest.
I was writing on my journal when I got distracted by a shout from outside of my room. “Madeline, are you awake?” I left my notebook on the table and went to look for my mother. She was getting herself busy in the corner of the kitchen, toasting two pieces of buttered bread. “What is it, Mom?”
She turned around and smiled warmly, “Oh good, you’re awake. I made you breakfast.”
I replied her with a nod and place a soft smile on my face. The sun was now on its highest peak and rays of light were passing through the windows, heating the area inside. My mother moved the curtain to its satisfaction and we finally took our seats by the table. “A letter from your father was sent last night.”
Well, that is interesting.
I forked a strip of bacon into my mouth and chewed carefully, satisfying my hunger with its enticing flavor. “What did he say?” I immediately questioned.
“He was stating that life in the camp was getting harder everyday, especially when he looks at our family photo that he fishes out from his pocket in his leisure times. He misses us so much that he can’t spend a day without writing on his journal, as if he was talking to us.” My mother couldn’t reach my eyes. She was bowing down to her food and consuming the mashed potato in innocence.
I looked at her for a long time before I answered. She never really agreed with my father joining the army. Everybody knows it’s dangerous and risky. She thinks that there’s only a tiny percent of chance that he’ll be getting back here. I didn’t realize that she was true.
“I never thought he has a diary.”
“It’s a journal.” she contradicted, decisively meeting my eyes. As she devoured the last bite of buttered bread into her mouth, she stood up and placed her plate by the dish. “You clean up here after you eat. I’ll be outside in the field to harvest the crops.”
I took a view of the grassland behind the glass window. Ever since we moved here, my parents began building a vineyard on the area that was once a vast, spacious lawn. The fruit crops were only Aunt Lorrie’s idea. She died earlier after we settled in.
As I took a sip from my glass of Milford red wine, which was freshly processed just two days before from our cellar, I brought the plates and utensils to the sink and wore an apron. I decided to listen to some rounds of songs so I went to the living room to get the radio from the coffee table where it is usually placed. I found the radio beside yesterday’s newspaper, and glanced a bit at the front page.
“RESTORE TRADITIONAL AMITY” – ROOSEVELT
Franklin Roosevelt asks Emperor Hirohito to withdraw all his forces, suggesting US troops could be sent to Vietnam to confront Japanese troops. Roosevelt mentioned that Japan’s invasion of Indo-China was “unthinkable” yet acquainted at sending American troops to Vietnam unless Japan abandoned Indo-China. More about the secret note on page 3.
Injured Sailor, Miraculously Escaped
John Capes, a British sailor, luckily escaped a sinking submarine, Perseus, which had been destroyed by a mine. Injured and awfully wounded, he attempts to rise himself up the waters from a depth of 170 feet and completely swims to the Greek coastline. Read his hopeful phenomenon on page 8.
Britain Declares War
Britain declares war on Finland, Hungary, and Romania, following the signing of the Tri-partite Pact and Finland’s alliance with Germany. See page 11 to 12 to continue.
I positioned the radio on the counter near the washbasin where I rinsed and cleared up the used platters. I hummed the tune of Jimmy Dorsey’s Yours that was playing in the radio station. “Yours in the gray of December, here or on far of distant shores.” I sang compassionately with sweetness and charm. “I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you . . . How could I? When I was born to be just yours.”
The song ended with the pleasing sound of jazz heard in the trumpets, and I smiled inwardly until the last note. I dried the kitchen accessories and allocated them inside the cupboard. I head out of the house to check on my mother, and I found her walking towards the farmhouse, carrying a basket of grapes beside her hips. “Mom!” I yelled from the distance. “Let me help you there.”
I spent the whole noontime with my mother, crushing the grapes with our feet, getting the juice out of them, and mixing them with special ingredients that are meant to be secret and for the Milford’s knowledge only.
Soon after, we went back to the house, laughing and chuckling in the top of our lungs. She was trying to remove the stain of mud on her dress – a peach haltered dress that I sewed six months ago for her forty-third birthday. As we entered, I went to the kitchen at once and grabbed a towel hanging on the back of the chair. I damped it with water from the open faucet and wiped the linen off from the dirt. I realized that I left the radio still playing on the counter and a song of Martha Tilton, I’ll Walk Alone, had just ended.
Something interrupted our little mother and daughter bonding when an announcement from the radio was reported. “I am sorry to interrupt this regular programming on this wonderful time. But wherever you are, I am here to report to you that we are unexpectedly attacked by the Japanese. The attack consisted of two aerial attack waves totaling 353 aircraft, launched from six Japanese aircraft carriers. The attack lasted for three hours or so, sank and damaged almost a hundred of US Navy ships, destroyed 188 aircraft, and killed and wounded over two thousand brave men.”
She looked at me with her eyes, glowing under the water of her attempting tears. She never looked more worried than before. She knew something that is too forbidden for anyone to think of. And we both knew something’s wrong. We knew that anxiety and apprehension was swimming around us – on our faces, on our behaviors, and on our emotions. “Mom?” I can’t help but call her name. She thought I was just grabbing her attention because she was staring at an area that is not particular. Yet, I was calling her name because I was getting afraid of a reason that I know nothing about.
“We’ll just wait for the message to arrive.” She spoke softly in a whisper and continued herself to the living room, deciding to sit on the sofa for comfort. I followed behind, peeking from second to second to inspect her face. And I saw something heavy. She wasn’t able to control the emotions that were mixing inside her. As I sat on her side, a tear fell from her eye and she wiped it away as quickly as possible so I wouldn’t dare to see it. “What message?”
I didn’t know why I was asking her this, but it was the only question that popped into my head. She knew that I had nothing left to say.
She didn’t respond and a sniff was the only thing I heard. I didn’t push her the inquisition. It wasn’t really that important. The place was dead quiet after that, and we waited for the officials to arrive.
At that moment, I realized that fear was becoming stronger than the war.
We were eating supper when we heard three mild knocks banging on the door. Before my mother can even rise from her chair, I got up and headed to the entryway. I opened the door to see a man in a green army suit standing before me. I smiled bashfully and greeted, “Good evening, Sir. How may I help you?”
From the spit corner of my eye, I saw a head turning instantly to my direction. He had his back leaning on the wall of the porch, burying his hands in his pockets. I was tempted to spin my head to where he was at, but the man in front of me, who I later on discovered that his name is Randy, snatched my attention back from my useless thoughts. “I’m here to send a message from the US Navy.”
My mother suddenly appeared beside me and waited for another word. “Are you the family of Commander Lieutenant George Milford?”
“Yes, Sir.” My mom only nodded. She couldn’t mutter a word.
“Just get straight to the point, Cooper. We have a lot more houses to visit.” his partner, the man standing on the porch, interrupted, sounding impatient and irritated.
Randy cleared his throat, “I could not bare to inform you that Comm. Lt. Milford is KIA. He was killed in action, Ma’am.”
And there goes the first tears that fell down my cheeks. My mother wasn’t crying, perhaps she was still entertaining the men and trying to let them get acquainted inside. The soldiers refused as they were running late with more messages and notes to send. “It is very nice meeting you, Ma’am Milford, but we should be going.”
“Well then, have a good night, boys.”
They traveled down the steps of the terrace and moved ahead to their next journey. I finally came to an agreement to catch up with them for I have something very important to tell. “Wait!”
I saw Randy’s partner rolling his eyes in annoyance, “What now?” as they turned around to meet me. That guy got some attitude that had to be sorted out.
I swallowed the uncertainty ruling inside me, and had conclusively made a decision to say, “I want to join the army.”
And that was the first time I saw men that has their jaws reaching the ground.
The story is originally written on my Wattpad account (@cynthiagreen) and it is actually the prologue of my upcoming book, “Old Glory“. But recently, I haven’t been updating this historical story yet, because I am still focusing on finishing my first romantic novel, “Love on Air“. Although, I am proud to say that my fans on Wattpad (that I call “Greenies“) are more than excited for me to continue this story, which have been “on hold” since the September of 2013.
I used this story for the weekly writing challenge this week, because I wanted to share it to all of you – since only a few percentage of the WordPress population have Wattpad accouts. Am I right? Or is it just me who thinks that Wattpad is not that popular to reach the WordPress border? Nah.
If you want to read more of my “unfinished” books, you can just follow my account on Wattpad that you saw just a while ago.